Curbside Garbage Collection is Back on the Agenda

Robert Thomas

In an apparent case of déjà vu, the issue of curbside garbage collection is once again before Moose Jaw City Council.

At the January 13th budget deliberations, during a report on curbside/bi-weekly garbage collection, Council was asked to vote to extend the program, city wide.

Curbside garbage collection was a hot political topic in 2017, as Council approved it during budget deliberations but later backtracked, partially, after many residents vehemently opposed it and became publicly vocal on the issue. It was a heated debate that dominated numerous council meetings.

“We get this report (on curbside/bi-weekly), yesterday at 1:33pm, and we are at budget (meeting) until 4:30pm and there's virtually no time to look at it, especially recommendation number six in the report,” Councillor Chris Warren said.

Recommendation #6, in the January 10 report states, “that the City move ahead with full curbside implementation.”

Councillor Warren said that he was unaware of Council being updated on motions they passed regarding the initial attempt to institute curbside. “No survey, communications (with residents), I think it's a big mistake…a lot of this stuff was dropped off and stays status quo and now we say it's not going to happen,” he said.

Asked about a survey with residents, Communications Director Craig Hemingway said it would take six weeks of turn-around time to do a survey, but he had only approached an outside firm to make inquiries so far. The survey is to collect resident opinions and concerns regarding solid waste collection.

Council was told there were major changes to environmental rules, regarding the landfill, and to fulfill their recently issued permit, the city would now be required to cover the dumping area five times a week, instead of the previous three. To be in compliance, and keep their operations permit, it would cost the City an additional $436,000.

“My colleagues know how I feel on this. We are behind the rest of the world on this, how much time and money have we wasted? It's time for this Council to say yeah or nay,” Councillor Dawn Luhning said, adding that in the areas where there was manual collection, people were allowed to throw out more garbage than in curbside areas.

“To me that’s (throwing out more garbage than curbside areas) an abuse of the system,” Luhning said.

During his presentation, City Works Manager Darren Stephenson showed slides of large mounds of garbage piled up in manual collection areas. Stating it was inefficient and expensive to haul away such large piles of garbage in the manual collection areas of the city – approximately 500 homes – while in curbside areas, residents were restricted to what fits in the bin.

Stephenson also stated, in October, that the City only received six calls regarding curbside; two supported it and four were opposed. “It is what we expected. Initially it was just resistance to change; human nature,” Stephenson said initially, but later, during the discussion, he stated “all we are looking for, at this time, is direction.”

Councillor Don Mitchell said guidelines had been established through the vote of Council and needed public input. “To pursue this further, to change the current status without engaging citizens…to set this all aside is a very serious problem; and no consultation,” Mitchell said.

“We don't want to not say there is a fiscal challenge in the utility rate,” Director of Engineering Josh Mickleborough said.

Administration had also been hoping for an increase in solid waste collection fees from, $6.57 to $7.25 per month, largely to cover the costs of being in compliance with the new provincial regulations.

It should be noted, that, in order to remain compliant under new provincial regulations the landfill has, optimally, only 5-6 years left in its lifespan.

A GPS study of curb side pick-up showed that it was 18 per cent more efficient than back alley collection.

Despite an attempt by Councillor Dawn Luhning to move the entire issue to a Strategic Planning Session on January 15, the issue was moved to the next Budget Committee meeting, to be held on January 29. 

Under the City’s Procedural Bylaw, Strategic Planning Sessions are in-camera, and the public cannot attend, but unless otherwise stated, Budget meetings are open to the public.

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