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Recycling, forgotten soldiers among Ballwin meeting’s more serious moments

A meeting agenda doesn’t always predict what will come up at a municipal board meeting.

The Sept. 10 meeting of the Ballwin Board of Aldermen provided a case in point when both a lighter moment and discussions of more serious issues all came up in a 15-minute time span after items specifically mentioned on the agenda had been handled.

The unscheduled items arose during City Administrator Eric Hanson’s report and included his calling attention to the fact that it was Police Chief Kevin Scott’s birthday. Scott flashed an I-didn’t-know-this-was-coming smile while, in response to Hanson’s urging, Finance Officer Denise Keller led off singing “Happy Birthday,” with others at the meeting quickly joining in.

For the record, it was the chief’s 48th birthday.

Hanson also called attention to the efforts of Tony Ewing, a mechanic in the Ballwin public works department, in leading the recent effort to display 660 U.S. flags in Vlasis Park as a reminder of the number of suicides that occur monthly among military veterans.

Part of a nationwide grassroots effort, the “Flags for Forgotten Soldiers” display was set up July 21 at the intersection of Park Drive and Andrews Parkway and maintained there through early August.

Ewing and his wife’s leadership led to employees from all city departments helping to place the flags, Hanson said.

Ewing is a veteran and has two sons in the military.

In response to a question from Alderman Michael Finley [Ward 1] about the future of recycling programs in the area, Hanson noted that Republic Services, which handles trash collection in Ballwin and a number of other West County communities, has said it will continue to honor its contract to pick up recyclables.

The assurance came in the aftermath of a decision by another trash collection firm to discontinue that service, an action affecting a number of St. Louis area suburbs. That move stemmed from new restrictions enacted by China, formerly a major purchaser of U.S. recyclables, calling for much cleaner loads free of foreign objects and materials.

For example, a glass ketchup bottle is fine but not if it still contains a significant amount of the product.

Other nations that have purchased recyclables aren’t going to make up for the loss of the Chinese demand, leaving U.S. trash collection companies with growing stockpiles and mounting costs to get rid of what they have.

Hanson said it’s easy to foresee much tighter restrictions being placed on recyclables nationwide and a need for the public to change how it recycles.

Many communities already have implemented rules requiring homeowners and others discarding trash to place different kinds of items in different containers – paper in one container, metal cans in another, plastics in their own receptacle, etc.

Republic has its own recycling center to handle what it now collects but doesn’t have the extra capacity to take on loads from other firms, Hanson said. And with costs now exceeding the revenue generated by selling the materials, there’s no incentive to expand.

Absent any easy answers and quick fixes, all those involved in providing trash collection services, including cities that hire outside firms to handle the job, face the task of informing the public about the issue and what’s needed to address it, Hanson said.

On another front, Hanson also announced that work to place new light poles in medians on Manchester Road should begin soon.

Part of the Great Streets program that a number of cities along Manchester Road have implemented, the 42 poles are destined for installation in Ballwin and Ellisville and will replace ones removed early this year.

The timing of the project depends on final details being addressed by the Missouri Department of Transportation and the job’s contractor, but Hanson said he believes work will start within a month.

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