Grey Highlands council has delayed the implementation of a new system for garbage collection until public engagement sessions on the change can be held.
At its meeting on August 3, council voted 4-2 in favour of deferring the new system. A week earlier, at committee of the whole, council had accepted a staff report recommending the municipal garbage collection contract be awarded to Waste Management of Canada Corporation.
The switch would see residents of the municipality provided with two large bins for waste – one for garbage and one for blue box material. The current system of garbage bags and blue boxes would end on Jan. 1.
Coun. Dane Nielsen moved a motion to defer when it came time for a decision on the matter.
“Council has had a lot of comments directed at us since committee of whole,” said Nielsen, noting he heard from local residents who said the decision was being made too quickly and the public hadn’t been informed.
The issue generated plenty of discussion around the council table.
Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai warned that a deferral could be costly with the end date of Jan. 1 for the current garbage collection contract looming.
“I understand we haven’t had time to get public input, but we don’t have options here,” said Desai. “If we had multiple options, I would say yes, let’s go to the public. If we don’t have options, what are we going to do with the public input?”
Nielsen said a public consultation would allow council to speak to residents about weekly or bi-weekly pick up, the possibility of leaf and compost pick up, the bin system and the costs received in the RFP process.
Coun. Danielle Valiquette said in a perfect world council could hold a public consultation, but admitted she was worried about the deadline.
“This is a real tough one. I too am concerned with the risks associated with the timing,” said Valiquette, who asked if it is feasible for a public meeting to be held and staff to report back to council in time for the contract to still be awarded by Jan. 1.
Director of Environmental Services Shawn Moyer said there are a lot of moving parts to the award of the contract. If the contract is awarded to Waste Management, the contractor has to purchase two new vehicles to provide the service and they also have to acquire the bins and roll them out to the public. Their plan also includes a public engagement process in mid-September.
“The longer we wait, it jeopardizes the whole process,” said Moyer.
Coun. Valiquette also asked if they could mitigate some public concerns about the bins, by allowing residents to choose to receive a smaller bin size. Moyer said smaller bins are possible, but noted that larger bins were preferred in case the municipality does eventually switch to bi-weekly pick-up for garbage in the event full organics collection is introduced in the future.
Coun. Paul Allen said he was disappointed council was being asked to make a decision on a fundamental change to a service the municipality provides with little time.
“We received the report last week. I’m disappointed we’re expected to make a decision seven days later without any public input,” said Allen. “Residents shouldn’t suffer without any input. I don’t like being rushed.”
Allen also said the new system was not projected to start at an opportune time.
“The new type of collection is going to start in the worst time of year. We could have three feet of snow,” he said.
Allen also noted that Waste Management collects garbage in Chatsworth without using the bin system and he asked if it was possible for the company to take over the Grey Highlands contract using the existing system for up to a year before the bins are introduced.
In response, Moyer said Waste Management did not bid on the option to manually collect garbage bags. Moyer also noted that during the RFP process a number of companies indicated they are not interested in bidding on a manual collection system.
When it came time to vote, the motion to defer passed in a 4-2 vote with Desai and Coun. Cathy Little voting again. Coun. Tom Allwood was absent from the meeting.
After the deferral was approved, Nielsen suggested two public meetings be held with one in Feversham and another in Markdale or Flesherton.
Mayor Paul McQueen suggested members of council be ready to attend.
“Keep your calendars open,” he said.