5 On Your Side has been investigating claims by St. Louis city residents that city garbage trucks are causing thousands of dollars worth of property damage. And homeowners say, they're left to pick up the bill.
Now, for at least one homeowner, the battle is headed to court.
"I came out and I found all the bricks and everything out in the alley," said Michael Brown, owner of a home on Virginia Avenue. It was mid October last year that Brown came home to find an entire wall of his garage had collapsed.
So what happened?
Turns out, there was a witness to piece things back together.
"He heard a loud crash, said he heard the refuse driver call in and say 'I put the dumpster down and the wall caved in,'" said Brown.
Brown said city workers soon came to clear up the mess of debris blocking his alley, But within a matter of days, the city condemned his garage. He had no choice but to have it demolished.
Estimates he's obtained to have it rebuilt range around $40,000. In a letter, the city denied they were responsible for the damage.
Brown was livid.
"The dumpsters are doing damage and the city is not doing anything in response to it," said Brown.
For months, Five On Your Side has been talking to homeowners who all claim that city refuse trucks damaged their property, claims that the city denied.
The overwhelming reason? According to the city attorney; lack of evidence.
Just ask property owner Stan Foerstel. He says he has $800 worth of damage to his garage, after he suspects a refuse truck backed into it.
"All I got was a letter of denial. Then I appealed it and I got another letter that it was denied. Each time they said it was because I didn’t have a witness," said Foerstel.
Last time we spoke to the city operation's manager, Todd Waelterman, he told us about an special incentive program for his garbage truck drivers: Drive one single month without an accident and you get a bonus. But according to the city's own records, In the past five years, not one city refuse driver ever qualified for that bonus.
Waelterman said the program has recently been scrapped.
"Anyone can have an accident. I'm not saying they're not good or qualified, but they should've reported it, that's my point," said Foerstel.
Waelterman declined an on camera this time around, but during our last interview in February, he admitted the damage his drivers can do.
"You can see where you'll maybe tear down a cable wire to the point where you can knock a garage over," said Waelterman,
"If the city suffers no consequence for doing something like this, they have no incentive to improve their processes," said Brown.
That's why Brown is now suing the city of St. Louis to the tune of $40,000. But even if he wins, his legal fees will not be covered. He's trying to decide how long he will fight.
Waelterman said a new incentive program for driver is in the works. In the past, he's mentioned the city's trucks are past their useful life and can be hard to maneuver.
Local legislation has been proposed to replace the city's garbage trucks. That would be in the ballpark of $20 million. The bill will likely be discussed again this session at City Hall.