Cumberland Wrestles with Cost of Waste Management
County Council spent a large part of last night’s meeting discussing cost-cutting measures for waste management. Councillors are facing a number of proposals, but none are very popular with the decision makers.
Municipal Council has struggled with rising costs and indications from the province suggest new regulations are being considered that will only make matters worse.
County staff has reviewed the way solid waste management is offered to taxpayers. They report that regular garbage collection, special collections, and area transfer stations provide duplication of services that are also offered at the county landfill site at Little Forks.
Polling council, Warden Al Gillis asked for consensus on a series of options. Council did not agree with closing the transfer stations. They also said no to adding a fall version of the special spring clean-up collection. There was no consensus on countywide collection of organics, and certainly, no weekly green cart collection, not even as a summer measure for cottage dwellers.
The councillors did agree that those who use the transfer stations should pay for the service. That was the intention years ago, but the stations never did charge for the service because it would require expensive upgrades to be able to measure and collect tipping fees. The sites would require installation of weigh scales, electrical service, and internet service to allow patrons to use credit and debit cards. Council ruled out cash payments over safety concerns for a lone operator working off the beaten path with a simple cash box.
There was tentative agreement that an area tax rate could be levied in those districts that maintained a transfer station. That would place the operating burden for the Pugwash transfer station on the taxpayers in District 4, the area represented by the County Warden, Al Gillis.
The Warden said, “If it came to a question of opening or closing transfer stations, I would be in favour of closing them.”
The Deputy Warden, Joe van Vulpen from neighbouring District 3, warned that an area rate poses a heavy burden for local residents. He noted that outsiders dump for free while the district taxpayers cover the cost. Van Vulpen said, “If most of that is coming from other areas, we are unfairly charging a lot of people a lot of money through an area rate.”
It was clear that the area transfer stations are used by people who were never intended to have the service. People from Amherst, Colchester, and even New Brunswick are known to use the area dumps. Cumberland accepts building renovation waste in tonnage much great than the provincial average.
Council is also willing to consider a county-wide approach to solid waste management. Cumberland currently shares some waste management services with Amherst and Oxford. The County’s Chief Administrative Officer asked if council was willing to give complete waste management authority to Cumberland Joint Services Management which operates the county landfill and recycling operation at Little Forks. Council agreed it was worth discussion, noting that the two towns would also have to agree.
On an ominous note, most agreed that the Nova Scotia Government is considering major changes to regulations governing landfill operations and transfer stations. Stephen Rayworth, the manager of the county facility says if the province makes the changes they are considering, everything changes. Rennie Bugley, the county’s Chief Administrative Officer, says, “If the province makes the changes they are considering, they will make our decisions for us.”