Salmon Arm council reverses recycling decision

Mayor Nancy Cooper - Observer file photo
Mayor Nancy Cooper
— image credit: Observer file photo

Salmon Arm will be participating in a province-wide recycling program after municipal council learned the cost of not joining could be greater than anticipated.

At a special, down-to-the-wire meeting held Friday, Nov. 29, council reversed its decision to not sign a five-year contract with Multi Material BC (MMBC). The city will now join the Columbia Shuswap Regional District in taking part in a provincially mandated program for the collection of recyclable paper and packaging. Council had until the end of November to commit to the program, which will commence on May 19.

The decision to sign with MMBC was made after council received new information Friday in a presentation by the CSRD’s environment and engineering services deputy manager, Darcy Mooney, and waste management co-ordinator, Ben Van Nostrand. Their appearance was prompted by council’s vote on Monday, Nov. 25 against signing.

At that regular Monday meeting, council was told participation in the program would have provided the city with an annual financial incentive of $37.25 per participating household (approximately 6,000), $34 of which would have been credited back to the public through their annual recycling bill.

City engineering and public works director Rob Niewenhuizen said that overall, staff thought they could work with the proposed program, but recommended against signing the contract. In particular, staff were concerned the contract does not respect prior verbal and written agreements with MMBC, and contains an indemnity clause that would open the city to liability beyond its control.

At Friday’s meeting, Niewenhuizen said those “grey areas” of concern remain. He said staff contacted the CSRD after Monday’s meeting to see what the implications of council’s decision would be. What was learned, and what Mooney elaborated on Friday, was that the CSRD has budgeted to collect taxes from the City of Salmon Arm until May for the reloading, processing and long-hauling of recyclables. After that, the city would be responsible for arranging and paying for those services.

“If we choose not to go with MMBC, we will have to find, or work with the regional district or find another processor to receive our recycling, and that will come at a cost, whether it be from a private company, or whether it be from the regional district,” said Niewenhuizen.

Mooney said the city would not have another opportunity to sign a contract until the third quarter of 2015, and that wouldn’t come into effect until 2016. And, over that period, taking into account what Salmon Arm currently pays for processing, reloading and hauling, he estimated city taxpayers would be out up to $600,000.

Mooney concurred with city staff, that the MMBC contract is rigid in its wording, and he recommended council write a “strongly-worded letter” to MMBC and the Ministry of Environment expressing its dissatisfaction.

Van Nostrand added, however, that his experience with MMBC staff has been positive, and they have been receptive to the CSRD’s concerns.

Mooney added that one of the main risks with the contract, from the CSRD’s perspective, revolves around penalties associated with contamination of recyclables from garbage and unaccepted items. He said it is the CSRD’s understanding that there is a cap on penalties and, subsequently, the regional district has budgeted $50,000 towards that.

Couns. Chad Eliason and Debbie Cannon were again in favour of signing the contract, and Coun. Denise Reimer, who had also been in favour, was absent.

In light of the new information, Mayor Nancy Cooper and Coun. Alan Harrison, who had voted against the earlier motion, changed their minds.

“Based on the initial information, while there was a rebate to the solid waste management fee to our residents, it was money they were already paying, so my thought was we keep the price the same and avoid the risk,” said Harrison. “But now we’re talking about extra money, and that certainly puts it in a different light to me.”

Couns. Marg Kentel and Ken Jamieson, had also voted against the motion, but were not present at Friday’s vote.

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