By Doug Hallett
In a reversal of course, city hall staff are recommending that the city keep picking up yard waste from residences in the spring and fall.
“Residents want twice-annual yard waste collection to continue,” says Dean Wyman, the city’s general manager of solid waste resources.
He said city hall got this message loud and clear during public consultations on a new solid waste management master plan that was unanimously endorsed by city council Monday.
The updated master plan includes long-awaited recommendations to boost waste collection for multi-residential housing, including high-rises and low-rise condo developments that now use private collection. When city hall decided to move from bags to a fully automated three-cart system, staff’s plan was to end the city’s twice-annual yard waste collections to save money when the cart phase-in is completed in the fall of 2014. The only yard waste collection after 2014 was to be through residents topping up their green bins with yard waste each week.
Keeping twice-annual yard waste collections after 2014 could mean higher property taxes, though.
The new master plan says staff will propose an “operating budget expansion” for the city’s 2015 budget, which the newly elected council will debate early next year. In budget lexicon, a budget expansion is additional spending on top of the city’s base budget, and it pushes up taxes unless something else is cut.
Wyman said he’s not sure what it would cost to keep the twice-annual yard waste collections. He estimated $75,000 a year, “but we’d have to update that budget assumption,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
If twice-annual yard waste collection is kept, residents would still be able to add yard waste to the organic waste they put out each week in the green bins that go to the city’s composting facility on Dunlop Drive.
Wyman said the new master plan has two main focuses – the industrial, commercial and institutional sector and multi-residential housing.
Staff estimate it would cost an additional $325,000 a year to expand city waste collection related to multi-residential housing, as well as one-time capital costs of $595,000.
The capital costs would include buying big dumpsters for high rises, which would be collected by the city using front-end loaders, Wyman said.
“Historically, they have done very little (waste) sorting,” he said of high-rise residents. “So it will take a while to get them sorting as well as the established residents of the city.”
A key part of the new master plan is establishing a multi-residential waste diversion working group that’s to include property managers, superintendents, landlords, condominium owners, tenants and city staff, Wyman said.
“It’s about having dialogue with people who aren’t getting the service (city waste collection) and finding out from them what their challenges are.”
The city wants to hear from multi-residential developments that have never had city waste pickup. It also wants to hear from condo developments that have switched from city collection to private collection because of difficulties in adapting to the city’s new automated cart system, Wyman said.
The city will look at using different types of collection trucks for some multi-residential developments, if this is necessary to make city collection work for them, he said.
As for the possibility of using bags and manual pickup, instead of carts, for collecting waste from some multi-residential developments, Wyman said city staff will explore what is keeping these developments from using the city’s waste system.
“I don’t quite understand people saying they can’t use automated collection,” he said. “I would prefer not to” maintain any use of bags. “But if that is an option I have to take back to council at the end of the day, I will do so,” he said.
The new master plan was warmly received at council on Monday.
Ted Pritchard, an advocate for the city’s condo residents, called the plan “very good work.”
By Doug Hallett