White Rock residents brace for impending change to garbage pickup

Mixed views expressed at public information meeting on waste management

White Rock residents take a look at the city-provided kitchen catchers

White Rock single-family home residents saw some of the options the city is exploring for the future of garbage pickup at a public information meeting this week.

Around 60 people attended the open house Tuesday evening at White Rock Community Centre, which included information ranging from recycling and composting tips to details about Metro Vancouver’s organics ban and a ‘test your knowledge’ quiz to see how much residents knew about residential solid waste.

White Rock’s manager of operations and engineering Greg St. Louis was kept busy answering questions from residents, in large part about whether the city would keep pickup services in-house, or choose to contract them out to a private company.

In January, the city announced it would be “privatizing” waste pickup for multifamily residences and businesses effective July 1 – which resulted in a barrage of criticism – and that it would issue a request for proposals for contracting out single-family collection.

Information on display at this week’s meeting highlighted that proposals from the private sector are “exploratory,” a sentiment echoed by St. Louis who said reviewing the city’s services is “good business practice.”

Some in attendance Tuesday said they did not support the city privatizing garbage pickup; one resident, who gave her name only as Megan, told St. Louis she would be in favour of paying higher taxes to keep the service within the city.

“We should be keeping our services in-house,” she said, noting that the city already has skilled workers who are more likely to put money back into the local economy than outside workers.

“Our community becomes poorer when we decide to opt for the bottom line and save some money in the short term.”

Representatives from the city workers’ union were also on hand, rallying to keep waste pickup services local.

“Our guys do a top-notch service, and I hope people realize that,” CUPE 402-01 president Mike Guraliuk said. “I think a lot of them do, a lot of people aren’t happy about this.”

One group of East Beach residents at the meeting were gathering support for garbage to be kept out of the city’s works yard on Keil Street, suggesting that current practices – which include using the yard as a transfer station before waste is transported out of the city – are creating health and environmental hazards for residents in the area.

Diane Bradley told Peace Arch News she has collected more then 60 signatures from residents in her neighbourhood who are unhappy with the city’s use of the operations yard, noting that noise, vermin, mould, bacteria and strong odours – from the waste and diesel trucks – are among the concerns they are facing.

“They’re dumping rotting garbage, rotting kitchen waste in a residential neighbourhood,” Bradley said.

“There are health issues. We have to shut our windows because of the diesel, and the noise is outrageous.”

Bradley said the city’s current system is “redundant,” pointing out that city trucks bring waste collected curbside to the operations yard, where it is dumped into bins, to later be picked up by private waste haulers and taken out of the city.

“They’re just wasting time and money, the environment and our health,” she said.

“It just doesn’t make sense, it should be put on the curb and taken out, and I don’t care who does it. Just get it out of here.”

St. Louis said he is well aware of the East Beach residents’ concerns and communicates with them “on a regular basis” about ways to mitigate their concerns.

“We try to be good neighbours,” St. Louis said. “But it is our operations yard, even if you move the garbage away, you’re still going to have our crew there, we’re still going to have trucks and plows in the winter. There’s no getting rid of that.”

Tuesday’s meeting came on the eve of big changes to garbage service around White Rock. As of Wednesday, single-family homeowners pay an annual user fee ($175 for the remainder of 2015; $350 for 2016), which replaces an amount paid in the general-tax levy.

Wednesday was also the first day that multifamily units and businesses became responsible for their own solid-waste pickup.

The decision, made at an in-camera council meeting in December, sparked a backlash from multi-family residents, who rallied at city hall in March calling for the city to reverse its decision.

Despite the negative response, the city voted in April to stay the course and cease multifamily pickup as a city responsibility.

Options for the future of single-family solid-waste pickup are expected to be brought to council in the fall, St. Louis said.

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