Citywide Curbside Garbage Collection Just got the Green Light.

Robert Thomas

“I don’t believe this and what do I do to stop it?” That was the reaction from a resident, after a 4 -2 vote, in which Executive Committee decided to proceed with city wide curbside collection commencing June 1st.

In a debate reminiscent to several 2017 Council meetings, Executive Committee decided to forge ahead with the highly emotional and controversial item, despite a recent survey showing an 85 percent opposition to the plan.

Curbside Telephone Survey Results are in:

“It’s the industry standard in the province, with that said 15 percent of property will not allow this to take place,” City Engineer, Josh Mickelborough told the committee.

He said the $10,000 survey commissioned by the City by Insightrix was “comprehensive and objective data as to citizen’s views.”

Mickelborough said that “generally there is resistance to change…but we believe once change is implemented people do change their behaviour.”

Despite it being Council’s decision, he said it was “imperative to find every efficiency possible” and bring them to Council for a final decision.

The issue was tabled by Budget Committee at a January 13th meeting. Mayor Frasier Tolmie led the charge to institute curbside collection citywide, pointing out that it was industry standard, most communities use it.

“It’s made to save the citizen’s money, not only at the landfill but also the monthly fees brought forward,” Mayor Tolmie said. He felt the initial resistance was based upon the roll out of the initial program but the City had more time to get it right when proceeding.

“A lot of confusion was based upon the roll out of the program,” the Mayor stated.

Mayor Tolmie pointed to the environmental aspects of curbside and where the City was headed when it came to solid waste. “It’s a bit of an issue of walking the talk in this City…environmentally friendly as a whole,” he said, adding “not do this overnight. The engagement process is really an education process,” Mayor Tolmie said.

Councillor Don Mitchell vehemently disagreed with the Mayor’s position. “I disagree with a lot of that. I’m astounded we could do a survey and question that,” Coun Mitchell said, adding “but this isn’t a problem of education, people aren’t confused about what their concerns are.”

Councillor Mitchell questioned the true savings versus what citizens want. “On the flip side, we are looking at 80 cents per month in a utility rate (not to expand curbside further citywide)…alley scape, designs of their yards they are prepared to accept that cost,” Coun Mitchell said about the cost savings of implementing curb side citywide.

Mitchell spoke about the recent survey and the results showing a large majority of those surveyed opposed it.

“I just can’t believe with 80 percent (opposed) we would implement this…talk about misrepresenting the people we represent,” he said later, adding, “citywide implementation in a short time period would be a huge error and result in a huge push back.”

Regarding the drop in complaint calls and how a January 13 budget committee was told it was simply resistance to change, Mitchell said, “I have a different take on the stats on the volume of calls…in my opinion the calls went down because residents thought council is looking out for their best interests.”

Councillor Chris Warren spoke out against implementing curbside citywide. Going so far as to state that the City was fighting provincial cutbacks but at the same time was telling residents to “suck it up” when it came to curbside.

Councillor Warren questioned the Engineering Department’s report, stating it did not give the option of taking in the challenging criteria Council had agreed to in the debates in 2017. Those criteria included retaining walls, lots with more than two stairs to access and streets with no driveways.

“It’s not a matter of change with these challenging criteria now confirmed in the survey. People are having difficulty getting their bins to the curb and that’s a reality,” he said.

Asked about the change in savings, from converting to curbside which initially were $85,000 when curb side was introduced in 2017 and now were estimated to be $155,000 Mickelborough said it was from GPS data. In January Budget Committee was told GPS data showed curbside was 18 percent more efficient.

“Savings projections are based upon GPS info from garbage trucks. The savings are real,” Mickelborough stated.

Another saving projected from curbside is less wear and tear on garbage trucks by using paved streets.

Responding to Councillor Warren’s comments, Mayor Tolmie stated that he was simply quoting the report and wasn’t trying to insult citizens. “I do take exception to the comment of ‘suck it up’,” the Mayor said, adding he wanted to make it abundantly clear he would “not convey that to the citizens of Moose Jaw.”

“Admin has helped those who have had medical certificates and so on…I will not be quoted as saying to the community to suck it up,” he said.

"I don’t think that was the intention as to what your (Coun Warren) comments were, I just don’t want to have residents to paint that onto me,” the Mayor said.

He spoke about having time to implement citywide curbside, as the initial problems converting zones 1 – 4 were "communications and time span.”

“People can fault us from taking time on this we are actually doing the citizens a favour by doing this (slower),” he said.

Councillor Warren apologized for his “suck it up” comments, stating “what I was trying to relate with the overwhelming opposition against curbside, there are a number of reasons it would be remiss to approve full implementation of curbside as it is now. If we are going to a staged approach why couldn’t we look at the challenging criteria?”

Councillor Crystal Froese said she knew about the difficulties of moving to curbside but people have adapted.

“I know this has definitely been difficult for people,” Froese said, adding “there are definitely legitimate concerns but over time we know people adapt to changes as well.”

She spoke about going to the Avenues and the narrow streets where she thought there might be concerns but “people are complying to it.”

“Most complaints I’ve had are concerned about summertime and having smell issues,” Coun Froese stated.

She went on to state her number one reasons for the changes were the cost savings of bi-weekly collection plus “hopefully change to recycling bins more.”

Councillor Froese stated that moving into composting was what were many supported. “They’re asking about composting being part of this process as well…they’re pretty excited about participating in that as well,” she claimed.

“We have to do more to get people to do something else with their garbage,” she said.
It should be noted that, prior to being elected, Coun Froese was a member of the Environmental  Advisory Committee. Coun Mitchell has also been a member of that committee.

Councillor Dawn Luhning came out in support of expanding curb side citywide. “My opinion honestly hasn’t changed,” Coun Luhning stated.

She spoke about efficiencies and how the garbage truck has to stop and lift every can in the alley even if empty and that took time and money. “It’s different when you roll your garbage out (for curbside)…picking them all up in the alleys is not efficient,” she stated.

It needs to be noted that when the automated garbage system was introduced, the City asked residents to roll their bins out into the alleys for collection days but large numbers of people simply left them there. The City also planned to hire students each Summer to go and inspect bins and ensure each bin was with the right home but it never happened. Also city workers were suppose to help those who could not roll out the bins on their own which did not occur.

Coun Luhning spoke against the challenging criteria idea as it was too broad. Prior to roll out in areas with back lane pickup in Zones 1-4 there was 24 percent of areas already being collected by curb side and some would fall into the criteria.

A vote was taken and adopting the challenging criteria to rolling out curbside collection with 4 – 2 opposing it. Coun Mitchell and Warren supporting the motion. Councillor Brian Swanson was absent.

Discussion continued with Coun Mitchell questioning if it was necessary to proceed with citywide curb side at the present time.

“We have so many more higher priorities like the conditions of our streets and water main replacement. Why is it such a burning priority?” Coun Mitchell stated.

Mayor Tolmie made a motion for citywide curbside conversion to occur June 1st at a cost of $7.25 per month or $87 annually.

The motion passed 4 – 2 being opposed by Coun Mitchell and Warren.

The decision of Executive Committee must now go to the next Council meeting for final approval.

Following the vote Councillor Scott McMann asked about weekly collection in the summer.
City Works Director Darrin Stephenson said reverting to weekly during the Summer meant buying additional garbage trucks and needing more labour.

“It erodes 80 percent of the savings you might see (from bi-weekly collection), Stephanson stated adding more needed to be done in the way of people recycling.

Recycling Adds up to Big Savings