By Stew Slater, Staff reporter
Town Council was presented last night (Tuesday, July 17) with a recommendation to adopt a “user pay” system in the town’s transition to garbage/recycling “co-collection” by the Bluewater Recycling Association (BRA) consortium.
A report delivered to last night’s regular Committee of the Whole meeting suggested charging a base annual fee of $84 for the use of a standard 35-gallon bin for garbage — bins which are being phased in as a result of an earlier decision not to renew the safety inspection certificate for the town’s aging garbage truck.
(Information provided for last night’s meeting confirmed that the decision by the Town to cease its own garbage bag pick-up led to the release of two contract employees.)
According to Treasurer Jim Brown, administrators hadn’t yet confirmed as of Monday afternoon where exactly they would recommend the $84 charge be billed. He predicted, however, that a final option would be presented at last night’s meeting: either installments four times per year on the property tax bill, or six times per year on the water bill. A preliminary version of the report to councillors proposed a $14 charge on each water bill for the 35-gallon bin.
Speaking to the Journal Argus, Brown noted residents also have the option to choose two larger versions of the bin — which will be the only types of containers that can be picked up by BRA’s specialized trucks. Or, if they have their own means of disposing of garbage, they can choose not to receive a bin at all.
The report to Committee of the Whole outlines the financial basis of the town’s garbage collection and disposal. The cost for collection is estimated at $195,000, with an additional $160,000 for landfill operations. Additional costs that will eventually need to be paid for the opening of new landfill cells and closing of existing cells — which aren’t funded in the current budget, but are included for accounting purposes — bring the theoretical cost of garbage services to over $1.5 million.
“There have been many articles that have discussed the overburden of the municipal property tax system and the ability to meet the future capital infrastructure needs for their communities,” states the report to councillors. “The Province (of Ontario) and taxation experts continue to encourage municipalities to move to a user pay system when the services can be identified at a user level. The collection of garbage and the operation of landfills are examples of those items.”
According to Brown, the adoption of BRA as a garbage collection provider — coupled, pending approval by Council, with the $84 user pay model — “is a start in the right direction” towards building up a reserve within the Town’s budget to pay for the future costs at the landfill.
He stressed, however, that the user pay model is so far just a proposal. “Householders have got some options available to them in terms of the size of the bins they want to use,” he told the Journal Argus. “And, before anyone can make up their mind, they need to know what the cost will be. So that has to be the first step.”
Despite the fact the Town’s old garbage truck is now off the road, BRA continues to pick up garbage in bags in St. Marys. But Brown said that, barring unforeseen circumstances, all pick-up will be from bins effective Jan. 1, 2013.