County councillors kill attempt to drop garbage pilot project

County council continued its wrangling over rural garbage and recycling pick-up here on March 27 when the solid waste services committee recommended ending the rural pick-up project early.

That project was extended to a second year by council last fall, but with pick-up only every second week instead of weekly. Officials estimated it would cost $400,000 for the year.

The committee recom­men­ded the pilot project be termi­nated effective June 1.

It also recommended “some appro­priate form or service be provided to the residents of Guelph-Eramosa effective June 1, with no additional or special cost to the local municipality.” That motion came from councillor Chris White.

Committee chairman Bob Wilson said the issue was much discussed, and the committee would like to consider a way of finding a transfer station for Guelph-Eramosa residents, who have no other nearby op­tions if rural collection is drop­ped.

White said it would be un­fair to leave Guelph-Eramosa with no garbage options at all, and continuing it there would give the county time to explore other garbage service options.

But the committee was clear it does not want to continue collecting garbage in rural Minto. The latest figures to the end of January showed, once again, residents have little interest in the service. In rural Minto, pick-up was used by 15% of residents, while urban participation there was 25%. In Guelph-Eramosa, rural participation was 27% of households, and urban participation was 41%.

For recycling, rural Minto hit 27%, compared to 31% in the towns; and Guelph-Era­mosa had 42% recycling in the countryside, and 63% in the built-up areas.

The committee also showed the high costs of rural pick-ups compared to urban. Garbage from January to December 2007 cost $665 per tonne in the rural areas and $133 per tonne in urban areas.

Recycling pick-up was simi­lar, costing $924 per tonne in the rural areas, compared to $200 per tonne in urban areas. In January, the garbage cost in rural area was $385 per tonne, compared to $120 in ur­ban centres. Recycling in rural areas cost $536 per tonne in January, and $200 per tonne in urban areas.

White cited higher use in Guelph-Eramosa, and said the county should continue rural pick-up there “until we get some other solution.”

Councillor Rod Finnie ar­gued the motion was out of order on a procedural basis. He said it required a mover and seconder who voted in favour of the plan in order for it to be reconsidered, and also a two-thirds majority.

He also said the procedural bylaw states no motion can be considered more than once in a year.

“We said we’d review it in October,” Finnie said, calling the committee’s recommen­da­tions “extremely inappro­pri­ate.”

Councillor David Anderson said council had initially con­sidered ending the pilot project after one year, and he under­stands usage is very low in Min­to, but he felt the win­ter months might be skewing the latest figures.

He argued it is con­fus­ing to the public to make sud­den changes, and he also asked that council not leave Guelph-Eramosa with no ser­vice.

Warden John Green pointed out the recommendation did not make any changes to Guelph-Eramosa ser­vice, as collection there would continue.

Wilson argued in favour of killing the Minto pilot and said, “at best, we’re going to have a decrease in cost. The com­mittee looked at the num­bers and said the pilot has failed.”

He said continuing the pilot means “doing nothing for eight months for better service in Guelph- Eramosa.”

Wilson added, “We felt we should stop it in Minto. It wasn’t widely accepted there and those numbers show that. Why spend money to drive a truck around when we know what the result probably is?”

Wilson argued the effort not being expended in Minto could be used to imme­di­ately search for a collection solution for Guelph-Eramosa. “The soon­er you start that project, the sooner you get it done,” he said.

Councillor Lou Maieron was the councillor who led the charge to drop the Ospringe transfer station proposal after coming on to county council in the 2003 election. He was also a driving force behind the rural garbage and recycling pilot project.

He argued the county can­not keep changing its decisions, and council ought to continue both pilots until it makes a decision in October. He argued there was a six month delay in getting blue boxes to the rural areas, and said Guelph-Eramosa’s user rate keeps increasing.

Maieron also noted Guelph-Eramosa taxpayers pay $650,000 to solid waste ser­vices in taxes and the pilot will cost about $200,000 and, “We want to take it away. I don’t think that’s fair. They’re subsi­dizing transfer stations in other parts of the county.”

He also noted that in Minto, there are 6,000 urban residents and 2,000 rural residents, and “It seems that neither of them wants service.”

Wilson said he would not comment on Maieron’s tax figures.

Maieron argued, “Ask them what they want for service. They’re paying for it.”

Council then went into a pro­cedural wrangle about if it could reconsider its October decision, and finally decided it could – with a two-thirds maj­ority – reconsider a motion from 2006. Wilson moved to re­con­sider, seconded by councillor Brad Whitcombe.

Maieron then argued that only those who had voted in favour could move or second such a motion. That left Wilson out; he was not even on that council.

Chief Administrative Offi­cer Scott Wilson explained the rules allow council to  consider such a motion, but it requires a two-thirds majority.

When the vote was called, the motion was defeated, and the pilot will continue until council makes a decision in October.