City of Nanaimo staff provided an update on automated garbage collection at Monday’s council meeting at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, and advised of a complication with Phase 2 implementation. (NEWS BULLETIN file)

City of Nanaimo’s garbage collection rates could change again

City staff advises council about a complication with Phase 2 implementation

Garbage collection user fees, recently raised to $165, could change again.

City of Nanaimo staff provided an update on automated garbage collection at Monday’s council meeting at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, and advised of a complication with Phase 2 implementation.

Tracy Samra, chief administrative officer, said city staff learned in October that an anticipated contract wasn’t in place with Nanaimo Organic Waste, which processes kitchen and yard waste. She said she’s been told the company is near capacity now and would require equipment and facility upgrades to be able to handle kitchen and yard waste for the whole city.

“Staff are now looking at alternatives and costing out what the impact of the delivery of co-mingled [kitchen and] yard waste would be,” Samra said. “Where would we deliver it? What would the cost be? … We’re not able to answer that with any precision at this time.”

She said an implementation plan on automated solid waste collection, expected this spring, will include an update regarding user fees.

“Depending on how the contingency plans are and the metrics that we get from Phase 1, looking at Phase 2, there may be a change to the user rates,” Samra said.

The city’s 2018-2022 draft financial plan indicated user fees would be reduced to $130 in 2019.

Councillors were asked if they would support a garbage rate hike, and councillors Bill Bestwick and Sheryl Armstrong didn’t wish to answer a hypothetical question.

“Until we see that report, we don’t know if it’s going to go up or go down,” Armstrong said.

Coun. Diane Brennan also said she would defer making a decision until she’s seen the report, but said she’s not a fan of user fees.

“I think they’re inherently unfair,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or you’re poor, you’re at the same cost for essential services. That’s not typically the way Canadians see provision of services.”

Coun. Jerry Hong said he’s not in favour of the city collecting recycling or yard waste and said he won’t support an adjustment to user fees unless it’s a reduction.

A staff report on automated collection presented at Monday’s meeting noted “several deviations from council’s mandate,” including reconfiguring the truck fleet purchase and adjusting the cart purchase, resulted in the costs for the service increasing by more than $450,000.

“Staff acknowledge that failure to advise council of adjustments to the Sort Toss Roll program was an error,” notes the report, authored by Bill Sims, director of public works and engineering, and Charlotte Davis, manager of sanitation and public works administration.

Sims said he thinks the city is still on track with its timeline to have more new trucks arrive in early spring and have carts start rolling out in late spring. He said Phase 1 went more smoothly than his department expected.

“We’d still ask council’s patience and the community’s patience as we roll our Phase 2, because we know there’s lots of learning to do and lots of questions to ask and answer,” Sims said. “But we’re convinced a year from now, we’ll be in great shape and nobody will ever want to carry a can again.”

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