Unanimous Vote Ends Curbside Conversion

Robert Thomas

In a unanimous vote Moose Jaw City Council has decided to not only halt plans to expand curbside conversion city-wide but also to restore back alley service for homes that have been transitioned to curbside since June 2017. 

At an Executive Committee two weeks prior, city-wide curbside expansion was approved in a 4 – 2 vote but then reconsidered at Council.

The evening saw seven residents give, what were at times, passionate pleas to stop curbside conversion.

Curbside conversion was first proposed during the 2017-2018 budget deliberations, when in a six-to-one vote, with Councillor Brian Swanson opposed, the controversial garbage collection plan was erected.

First to speak was that outspoken resident, Rick Walker, who, in a presentation that was often combative, questioned whether Council was democratic, after 85 percent of 400 residents in a recent telephone survey said that they opposed curbside.

“I have spoken to many people in Area 1, where I live, who are opposed, and honest to Jesus I haven’t met one who wants curbside,” Walker told Council.

He spoke about his own conversations with Chief Engineer Josh Mickleborough where he claimed that he had requested details on the $152,410 in savings touted by curbside conversion but had not received a clear answer.

“It all boiled down to it’s a mess.”

Walker spoke about the recent March 2nd and 3rd heavy snowfalls and the difficulty in wheeling the bin from the back yard to curbside.

“It was a challenge for me and I know my wife would never be able to do it.”

 Rick Walker

Rick Walker

Walker gave anecdotal information about other cities in questioning whether curbside was the “industry standard.” He spoke about relatives in Edmonton who all have back alley collection, including one with a home only nine years old.

Walker spoke about giving up his recycling bin and convinced others to do the same in protest when his neighbourhood was converted to curbside. 

“I gave up my recycling bin the day they went to curbside,” he said, adding “we have always recycled.”

He agreed that residents needed to roll their bins in from the back alleys if Council agreed to vote to return that service and to “help out.”

Walker called on Council to have “respect for the taxpayers of Moose Jaw.”

Janice Wray opposed curbside on practicality given how in the Winter she would have to place the bin in front of a three foot snow bank which was difficult with medical problems.

“For people with a medical disability curbside doesn’t work,” Wray stated.

She went on to question how many cars would be damaged by the garbage truck if the bins were placed on the street plus how much would it cost to fix roads from heavy garbage trucks.

“It’s a lot cheaper to run a grader down the back alley then repair the roads.”

“We the taxpayers are getting stuck with the bill,” Wray said.

Bob Shillingford likewise mentioned medical conditions as a major reason why he opposed curbside. 

 Bill Morell

Bill Morell

Shillingford said he had shoulder surgery on October 6th and would have personally been unable to move the bin if his home had been converted to curbside.

“To move the bins from where they sit now is only 15 feet and not 150 feet pulling it through snow and other crap,” he told Council.

He called the move to curbside “ridiculous” as he wasn’t going to be putting the bins in his front yard like many have done since converting.

“In the summertime, I don’t want those things in the front, it’s ridiculous. It’s not a matter of convenience it’s a matter of common sense.”

Shillingford spoke about the recent survey results of 85 percent opposed to curbside expansion or how the majority of 51 percent were still opposed after the savings as a sign for the next civic election.

“If an election was held tomorrow there would be a new lot of you” he said about Council, adding “why spend $10,000 to phone and not listen?”

Resident Beth Longworth also spoke about the survey results and how the majority of Council “voted to go ahead anyway.”

“Where are the cost savings coming from?” she asked.

Parking was also an issue mentioned.

“If someone parks too close, at no fault of the homeowner (the garbage is missed), you will not make a special trip to pick it up.”

Longworth mentioned bottle pickers and their going through the bins.

“The mess we see from bottle pickers in the back alley we will now see it in the front…the bottle pickers are coming into the yards anyhow.”

“The citizens of Moose Jaw have spoken and you should listen.”

Marge Morrell also questioned the cost of the survey and how Mayor Fraser Tolmie had “just flushed $10,000 down the drain.”

She questioned the wisdom of putting heavy garbage trucks on streets with pavement not designed for them.

“How long until the Mayor will have to make another announcement that we are going to have to put the streets back to gravel, as we don’t have money to repair roads?”

Bill Morrell attacked what he viewed as an undemocratic council and claimed the survey was designed to “skew the results.”

He spoke about what he said were “heavy handed and dictatorial methods” by some on Council. 

“It’s devious, coercive, blackmail and extortion then what’s the difference the taxes were going to go up anyways” he said about the survey.

Morell said Council needed to consider older areas and how back alleys were part of the City’s heritage and curbside had turned many boulevards into a “blight of blue and green bins.”

Linda Gaetz said her family had purchased their home five years ago and designed the yard and built a garage to accommodate back alley collection. The yard has limited space to roll the bin out for curbside.

“It’s unfair to have to sell my house but this is what I would have to do.”

“The City commissioned that survey to get clear, communicative feedback on the matter of curbside pickup…accurate and not biased representation of how residents feel about curbside collection,” she said, adding “we believe this is a democracy…we voted for you to represent us you work for us the residents.”

She spoke about the 86 percent of residents in the survey who said they were well aware of curbside and did not require any further communication plan.

“You have certainly broken our trust. It was jaw dropping to hear.”

Councillor Don Mitchell zeroed in on the survey results.

“We didn’t have a lot of discussion on the survey,” Coun Mitchell stated, adding he was surprised with Administration recommending for city-wide curb side.

“The cost savings in this are not worth the angst, upset and resistance within the community,” Council Mitchell stated.

Councillor Crystal Froese said a main reason for curbside was to spur people into recycling. And how Saskatchewan has the worst record in Canada – only 13 percent of residents – recycling.

The landfill, which is nearing capacity, needs residents working together to divert waste. 

“We have to work together. We look to you for your help and support…we cannot treat it as a convenience.”

Mayor Fraser Tolmie thanked residents for coming out and expressing their opinions but noted that the garbage problem in Moose Jaw needed to be addressed.

“We need to do more and cooperate more and think about the next generation,” Mayor Tolmie said.

Referring to the curbside, which he had supported throughout, the Mayor said “democracy isn’t always easy, sometimes it’s messy.”

In the end, Council voted unanimously in favour of restoring garbage collection to back lanes, where it had been previously available prior to June 2017 and the areas yet to be converted would remain as they are at present. 

Also, Council decided to offer weekly garbage collection from June 1st to September 30th.

A motion to allow residents to petition-in curbside by a simple majority was also defeated unanimously.

Residents will also be required to roll their bins into their yards the day after collection.

A final motion asked Administration to report back with how much the monthly cost will now be once it is determined.

Terry Gabel from Citizens Advocating Sustainable Taxation (CAST) praised Council’s decision in an interview with MJ Independent following council.

“I’m happy to see Council has decided not to divide the community any further,” Gabel said.

Asked about how close the City had come to a referendum on the issue Gabel said “I suspect there would have been a referendum challenge and CAST would not have started it.”

No timetable was given as to when residents in the areas returning to back lane collection will need to move their bins into the back lane for collection was announced.

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