Skeptical audience at Grey Highlands waste collection meeting

·3 min read

A proposal to switch Grey Highlands to a bin/cart system for garbage and recycling collection was greeted by a skeptical and frustrated audience at a public meeting in Feversham on August 17.

Over the past few weeks, Grey Highlands council has been contemplating a staff recommendation that would see the municipality’s waste management contract awarded to Waste Management of Canada Corporation and the collection system converted from garbage bags and blue boxes to a bin/cart system.

The change would be implemented on Jan. 1, 2023. Council chose to defer the final decision on awarding the contract in order to seek public input from residents. The meeting in Feversham was the first of two public meetings on the subject.

Approximately 50 members of the public attended the meeting and support for the cart/bin proposal/concept was hard to find.

Residents at the meeting suggested the bins don't work in rural areas for laneways that are "800 metres long." Meeting attendee comments included "I disagree with these bins completely," and a suggestion to bring garbage collection in-house by "getting our own vehicle and having our own staff to do it."

Several residents at the meeting asked if the municipality could extend the contract with its current collection company to give more time to look at other options. Others questioned the size of the bins and requested an option to receive a smaller model. The plan, if approved by council, would see every home receive two 360-litre bins – one for garbage and the other for recycling.

Other residents urged council to vote in favour of the other bid the municipality received (from Mid-Ontario Disposal, the company that currently collects recycling for Grey Highlands) during its RFP process.

The other bid would see the municipality have bi-weekly garbage and recycling pick-up using the existing hand-collection method. However, the second bid came in $850,000 more than the current cost of collection and $250,000 more than the bid from Waste Management of Canada Corporation. The $850,000 represents more than an eight per cent increase to local property taxes.

Grey Highlands Director of Environmental Services Shawn Moyer did most of the speaking for the municipality at the meeting.

On the suggestion that garbage and recycling be brought in-house as a municipal department, Moyer said that was possible, but would take time. Moyer estimated it would take 18-24 months to procure the necessary vehicles with the right equipment and then the municipality would have to hire staff to do the work.

“It doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of time,” he said. “It’s not a solution for Jan. 1.”

Moyer also said there are possibilities for smaller bins/carts to be provided, but those details would have to be worked out with the contractor should council choose to approve the bin/cart system.

Doug Wilton, the municipality’s current garbage collection contractor, confirmed at the meeting that he could not extend the services beyond the end of the year.

“No, I can’t extend it. My trucks are worn right out. The manual work of throwing garbage is a thing of the past,” he said.

Moyer also assured members of the public that council will make the final decision on the contract.

“Staff has done its recommendation and now it’s up to council to listen to all of its 10,000 residents and make a final decision,” he said.

With time running short and the Jan. 1 deadline looming, the municipality has scheduled a special council meeting for Friday, Aug. 19 at 9 a.m. to make a decision on the waste collection contract. A second public information meeting will be held in Markdale on Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Centre Grey Community Complex in Markdale from 5 to 7 p.m.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca