Gray Highlands Council has delayed the implementation of a new refuse collection system until public engagement sessions on the change can take place.
At its August 3 meeting, the board voted 4 to 2 in favor of postponing the new system. A week earlier, in committee of the whole, council had accepted a staff report recommending that the municipal garbage collection contract be awarded to Waste Management of Canada Corporation.
The change would allow residents of the municipality to have two large bins for waste – one for rubbish and one for blue box material. The current garbage bag and blue box system would end on January 1.
Com. Dane Nielsen moved a motion to postpone the timing of a decision on the matter.
“Council has given us a lot of feedback from the full committee,” Nielsen said, noting that he’s heard from local residents that the decision was made too quickly and the public was not informed.
The issue generated a lot of discussion around the board table.
Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai has warned that a postponement could be costly with the January 1 end date for the current garbage collection contract looming.
“I understand we haven’t had time to get public comment, but we don’t have options here,” Desai said. “If we had several options, I would say yes, let’s go to the public. If we don’t have options, what are we going to do with public input? »
Nielsen said a public consultation would allow council to talk to residents about weekly or bi-weekly pick-up, the possibility of leaf and compost pick-up, the bin system and the costs received through the RFP process.
Com. Danielle Valiquette said a perfect world council could hold a public consultation, but admitted she was worried about the delay.
“It’s really difficult. I too am concerned about the risks associated with the schedule,” said Valiquette, who asked if it was possible for a public meeting to take place and for staff to report to the council in time for that the contract still be awarded by January 1st.
Environmental Services Manager Shawn Moyer said there were a lot of moving parts in the awarding of the contract. If the contract is awarded to Waste Management, the contractor must purchase two new vehicles to provide the service and he must also acquire the bins and deploy them to the public. Their plan also includes a public engagement process in mid-September.
“The longer we wait, the more it jeopardizes the whole process,” Moyer said.
Com. Valiquette also asked if they could alleviate some public concerns about bins, by allowing residents to choose to receive a smaller bin size. Moyer said smaller bins are possible, but noted that larger bins are preferred in case the municipality eventually transitions to bi-weekly garbage collection in case full organics collection is introduced in the future.
Com. Paul Allen said he was disappointed that council was being asked to make a decision on a fundamental change to a service the municipality is providing in a short period of time.
“We received the report last week. I’m disappointed that we’re supposed to make a decision seven days later without any input from the public,” Allen said. “Residents should not suffer without any contribution. I don’t like to be in a hurry.
Allen also said that the new system should not start at the appropriate time.
“The new type of collection will start at the worst time of the year. We could have three feet of snow,” he said.
Allen also noted that Waste Management collects rubbish in Chatsworth without using the bin system and he asked if it was possible for the company to take over the Gray Highlands contract using the existing system up to a year before the introduction of garbage cans.
In response, Moyer said Waste Management did not bid on the manual garbage bag collection option. Moyer also noted that during the bidding process, a number of companies indicated they were unwilling to bid on a manual collection system.
At the time of the vote, the motion to defer passed by a 4-2 vote with Desai and Coun. Cathy Little votes again. Com. Tom Allwood was absent from the meeting.
Once the postponement was approved, Nielsen suggested holding two public meetings, one in Feversham and the other in Markdale or Flesherton.
Mayor Paul McQueen suggested that members of council be prepared to attend.
“Keep your calendars open,” he said.
Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca