By Trevor Busch
An option put forward by administration allowing residents to request larger waste carts for garbage for an additional monthly fee has been roundly criticized by Taber town council.
During discussion of Fee Bylaw 12-2016 (amending previous Fee Bylaw 18-2015) at council’s May 9 regular meeting, public works director Gary Scherer noted one of the requested changes to the bylaw would allow residents to request larger bins for garbage.
“Basically, all we’re doing is taking the bins out and putting the carts in. Now we’ve given residential three carts. We want to promote more recycling, more organic collections. The additional rates for residential are if you want a bigger waste container. There are no additional fees or charges to any of the garbage or recycling rates, there’s an additional fee if you want a bigger cart, that’s all.”
Sect. 1.1, regarding new garbage fees for larger bins at a resident’s request, met with objections from members of town council. As presented to council on May 9, under Bylaw 12-2016 residents pay a flat $20.62 per month fee for garbage, but may request a larger waste cart — 240 litres for an additional $10 per month, or 360 litres for an additional $20 per month.
“This is the first I’ve been aware this was available,” said Coun. Andrew Prokop. “I thought initially when we were implementing the project, that there was not going to be any additional cost to the residents of Taber. Is that something brand new? Did we ever discuss this?”
CAO Greg Birch described the proposed additional fees for a larger garbage cart, if requested by a resident, could be viewed as a “penalty” for those who choose not to recycle or compost.
“If you chose as an individual to say recycling is a waste of my time, and so is composting, I’m just going to throw it in the garbage — then you raise the rate for everybody else. So the idea here behind the bylaw proposal, is that if you’re going to raise that rate, you should pay for that. So that’s the logic behind it. It’s up to you — it’s a penalty for not recycling compost is really what it is, and it lands that cost back to the individual that’s doing it, as opposed to everybody averaging out. It’s really kind of a user-pay fee.”
Prokop indicated that the town’s pitch to the community had not included any additional fees for implementing the three-cart municipal solid waste initiative.
“I understand the concept, but we didn’t talk about this as a possibility. Number two, the ‘sell’ was that there would be no additional cost to the user, and that was part of the ‘sale’ that there would be no penalty to the residents of the Town of Taber for this new process, which there are still a lot of people not in favour of it, and it’s going to take some time to adjust for a lot of people. So I don’t know how we justify if there’s an option to get a bigger container, when we said in the last year or so that there would be no additional cost implementing this new system.”
Scherer reiterated that the larger waste carts would only be available upon request, which would precipitate incorporation of the additional fees, depending on size.
“We’ve had probably 400 calls, and not one person has asked for a bigger garbage bin. We’re giving them the option, is all we’re doing. And if council would like to pull that out, that’s fine.”
Removing this option would be consistent with the town’s initial message, added Prokop.
“In all fairness, I don’t know how we don’t, because we never discussed it until this came out for tonight’s meeting. That to me is not remotely fair to the taxpaying resident in implementing this new system.”
Mayor Henk DeVlieger was also luke-warm to the proposal, which he suggested town council should have had an opportunity to discuss prior to its proposed implementation.
“It’s unfortunate that this comes out now. It’s never been discussed — I’m not necessarily against it — because I think if you discourage people from using the brown bin is a good thing, but if nothing else they should have an opportunity to think about it. Personally, I think we should leave it for now without charging extra, and bring it up later some time to discuss.”
Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux agreed.
“There might be a demand later on. There might not even be a request for this larger garbage bin. I’d say let’s delay this for a while and see what happens.”
Scherer was confident the option would not present a problem for the town moving forward.
“This is just an optional cart we could do. I don’t anticipate too many.”
Coun. Randy Sparks didn’t share Scherer’s optimism about the potential demand for larger waste carts once the public learns this could be an option at an additional cost.
“I tend to disagree, because now that the cat is out of the bag, I think there may be more than one. I don’t think that cat should have been out of the bag until council had the opportunity to discuss whether they wanted this option previous to this meeting. Because maybe without this bomb just being dropped on us here tonight, we could have had a discussion and maybe not made that option available, because of what this new program is supposed to be doing. I’ve never been under the assumption that people could have the right, or the opportunity, because they decided not to compost or recycle, to have a bigger bin.”
Another proposed bylaw amendment, Sect. 1.2, incorporates a new $75 fee for the Confederation Park Stage that will be under construction in 2016.
“We’ve had several requests or inquiries about the new stage that’s being built in Confederation Park, and what the fee would be for that,” said recreation director Aline Holmen. “We decided on a $75 per day fee, and that includes power.”
Objections were also raised over the rental figure proposed by administration, which was considered to be too high by several councillors.
Following discussion on May 9, town council voted unanimously (6-0) to table a decision on Bylaw 12-2016 to a future date to allow for further consideration of the issue.
Coun. Jack Brewin was absent from the meeting.