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Bin changes coming to garbage collection in Grey Highlands

The changes will see garbage and recycling collection change to a bin/cart system and garbage will now be picked up on a bi-weekly schedule
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Grey Highlands has voted in favour of moving to a bin/cart system for garbage collection.

The bins are coming to Grey Highlands.

The Municipality of Grey Highlands is switching to a bin/cart system for waste/recycling collection and will also implement a bi-weekly pick up schedule for garbage. In addition, council voted to use 240-litre (64-gallon) bins/carts for garbage rather than the recommended 360-litre models. The recycling bins/carts will remain at 360-litre.

At a special meeting of council held on August 19, council approved - in a tight 4-3 recorded vote - a recommendation to award the municipality’s garbage and recycling collection contract to Waste Management Corporation of Canada. The debate about the garbage collection contract consumed close to three hours for council’s time at the special meeting.

After considerable discussion, that at times was emotional and tense, several amendments and a recorded voted councillors Cathy Little, Danielle Valiquette and Dane Nielsen and Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai voted in favour of the bin system and moving to bi-weekly pick up for garbage and recycling. Currently, Grey Highlands picks up garbage weekly and recycling bi-weekly.

The decision was tricky for council as the municipality’s RFP for waste collection resulted in two bids, both with significantly higher price tags than current collection costs. Waste Management bid $1.6 million ($600,000 more) for the contract using a cart system. Mid-Ontario Waste bid more than $1.8 million to continue with a garbage bag collection system (more than $800,000 more). Also, public opposition to the change was strong at a pair of public meetings held in Feversham and Markdale earlier this week on the subject.

The decision by the majority of council to amend the staff recommendation to move to bi-weekly pick up for garbage will save approximately $147,500 on the annual collection costs, pushing the total cost to just over $1.45 million annually.

“The financial implication of the decision we’re making today is significant,” said Nielsen. “Waste management is a controversial topic in any municipality. I understand change is difficult.”

Nielsen added that he felt the most responsible decision at this time was to switch to the bin/cart system, as it was likely that would happen in the future with the old method of collecting garbage bags and throwing them on trucks becoming obsolete.

“To make the decision now is financially responsible,” he said.

Mayor Paul McQueen and councillors Tom Allwood and Paul Allen voted against the motion to award the contract to Waste Management. Both Allen and Allwood expressed support for awarding the tender to Mid-Ontario in order to continue on with a garbage bag/manual collection system, but no resolution to that effect came forward.

“I’m not just looking at the budget numbers. I’m looking at services to our residents,” said Allen, who expressed concerns that the bin/cart system would discourage waste diversion and be a “step backwards” for Grey Highlands.

Valiquette said there are valid concerns in the community about switching to the bin/cart system and she said she understood the prospect of a new collection system was “stress-inducing.”

“There are people in our community that are going to require help with this change,” she said. “If this change is nothing to you, I’m asking you to look to your right and look to your left and help your neighbours.”

Valiquette said during her deliberations on the decision, she had reached out to charity organizations like the United Way and the local poverty task force and she had also spoken to staff at the Township of Southgate (which has had the bin/cart system for close to 20 years) about how to help mitigate the concerns of some residents about the new system.

“Some of the solutions are more creative than others,” she said.

During the debate, members of council raised concerns about the impact of the bin/cart system on areas of the municipality – such as those homes on private roads – that currently have special or common collection areas for garbage and recycling.

Director of Environmental Services Shawn Moyer assured council that staff would work with the contractor to ensure continuity of service.

“Some negotiations would have to go on with either contractor to ensure pickups are maintained as they are now,” said Moyer. “Once (the contract is) awarded, staff will be engaging with the contractor.”