Arkansas Business Owner Sues Over Government Garbage Monopoly

X-Dumpsters owner Steven Hedrick.
Screenshot (YouTube)

In May, Reason wrote about Steven Hedrick, a resident of Holiday Island, Arkansas, who rents out roll-away dumpsters. Renters get a dumpster delivered, which they fill, and Hedrick hauls it away. Business was good—until April 2022, when the Holiday Island City Council passed Ordinance 2022-004, mandating that residents and businesses use Carroll County Solid Waste (CCSW) for all trash pickup and disposal services.

Last week, Hedrick filed a lawsuit against the city in the Carroll County Circuit Court on behalf of himself and his business, X-Dumpsters, claiming that the provision violates the state constitution.

The lawsuit says that Hedrick offers "different and supplementary" services and does not compete with CCSW's weekly trash pickup service. Hedrick initially believed that as a county-licensed solid waste hauler who doesn't provide weekly trash pickup, the ordinance did not apply to his business. But the city said otherwise, and he received multiple notices threatening him with citations if he provided any further services within Holiday Island. Letters from the mayor and the city's code enforcement officer "asserted that the presence of his dumpsters on property not his own was sufficient to violate the Ordinance."

Since receiving the letters, Hedrick has ceased operating in Holiday Island, renting only to county residents outside the city. In May, Hedrick told Reason that he was turning down "two or three jobs a week" due to the ordinance. Worse still, he felt a "moral obligation" to refer them to his competitor even though CCSW "is not prompt with their deliveries."

In a video produced by the Goldwater Institute, the free market public policy and litigation organization that is representing him, Hedrick said this was "the most frustrating part," that "I've got to send my business to my competitor that's actually got their boot on my neck."

In his lawsuit, Hedrick contends that the ordinance constitutes a monopoly, which "violates the anti-monopoly clause and the due process clause of the Arkansas Constitution." Article II, Section 19 of the Arkansas Constitution states that monopolies "are contrary to the genius of a republic, and shall not be allowed." Goldwater Institute staff attorney Adam Shelton told Reason in May that while the state can require people to use a particular trash pickup service, "what the government can't do is say that that person has the exclusive right to collect all solid waste, and no other individual or no other business entity can collect solid waste in the city."

After the ordinance passed, Mayor Dan Kees wrote in a blog post that it was necessary "to mitigate the growing problem of illegal dumping in Holiday Island" since "the City does not have the resources to supervise the operations of several other haulers." But Hedrick's lawsuit says that he is licensed by the county and "is in good standing." It further contends that Holiday Island has not provided "any rational connection to the public health, safety, welfare, or general prosperity" to justify the monopoly.

An email to Kees requesting comment received an out-of-office reply that referred senders to another city official, who had not responded by press time.

Hedrick is seeking a declaratory judgment finding the ordinance unconstitutional and an injunction against its enforcement. Past that, he only seeks nominal damages, attorney's fees, and the freedom to continue his work. According to the lawsuit, he "simply wants to provide Holiday Island residents reliable and affordable ad-hoc solid waste removal service."

"If it's not something that is causing damage or harm to others," Hedrick says, "you shouldn't have to ask permission to put food on your table."

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