The board chairman says it’s “uncharted ground,” but Valley Waste has officially cancelled fall cleanup and leaf collection this year to help reign-in the budget.
Valley Waste Resource Management board chairman Mark Pearl and general manager Ross Maybee visited Kings County council in advance of council voting on the Valley Waste budget. In an effort to bring an anticipated 20 per cent budget increase down to just over 11 per cent, several cuts had to be made. These include fall cleanup and leaf collection for this year.
“There will be garbage put out that won’t be picked up,” Pearl told county council, pointing out that there could be “other issues” arising as well.
Pearl said they have a budget to educate the public of the changes and most waste resource authorities have only one cleanup per year. However, the fall cleanup and leaf collection for this year have already been promoted in the Valley Waste calendar. Pearl said there is no co-ordinated effort at this time on the part of the nine member municipalities to make people aware of the change.
“I’ll make sure we get it to the table,” Pearl said.
Municipalities are able to fund their own cleanup if they wish, but Pearl said they should discuss this with Valley Waste first.
Maybee said he isn’t aware of any unit reinstating the service, but added that if any were interested, Valley Waste could act as a broker. He pointed out that a disposal location is still available and people are being asked to maximize the spring 2015 cleanup, which is still scheduled. There will be a 20-item limit at that time.
Warden Diana Brothers said villages expressed concern with the loss of the fall cleanup.
Maybee said Valley Waste is aware of these concerns. He said the cancellation was a “tough decision” that “wasn’t taken lightly.”
“I envision a public relations nightmare,” Maybee said. Although approximately $700,000 in budget cuts have been made, most are “invisible” to the public but this will have an impact.
The budget increase would have been approximately 13.71 per cent if they continued with fall cleanup. The fall cleanup costs about $118,220. With fewer tonnes being delivered to the landfill in Chester, Valley Waste’s cost per tonne will increase since they share in Chester’s fixed operating costs.
Coun. Emma Van Rooyen expressed concern over the possibility of more illegal dumping if the fall cleanup isn’t held.
“Undoubtedly we’ll see some of that,” Maybee said.
However, he said people seem to getting more in tune with reporting such activity. Although illegal dumping still happens with spring and fall cleanups, there has been a “continual decrease.”
Although Deputy Warden Brian Hirtle moved to have staff bring recommendations on a fall cleanup in September, the motion didn’t get a seconder.
Council approves budget
A Valley Waste board representative said there were “gasps” around the table when people realized the authority was facing a 20 per cent budget increase.
Coun. Dale Lloyd said the authority has returned about $1.3 million in surpluses to municipalities over the past 15 years, but suggested perhaps excess funds should be placed in an operating reserve.
Council voted to recommend approval of the 2014-2015 budget. The nine member municipalities have to pay a combined $7,162,628, with the county’s share at just over 58 per cent at $4.1 million. The county’s contribution will increase by $396,000 this year, although a higher increase was anticipated and $490,000 was budgeted.
Coun. Kim MacQuarrie said council passed a motion in the past that all Valley Waste surpluses are returned to the municipality. She asked how the authority was able to use last year’s surplus of $87,250 to help reduce the increase to this year’s budget. The county’s share would be approximately $30,000.
Chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan said Valley Waste received legal advice and suspended the policy to return the surplus. Because this is by policy and not an agreement, it was legal. An amendment to the inter-municipal agreement will be sought, MacEwan added.
Other measures to reduce the budget included deferring filling the manager of policy and planning position, eliminating the compliance inspector position, increasing tipping fees and deferring capital purchases.
The authority will investigate the possible elimination of curbside collection for apartment complexes with three or more units and options for collection services in cottage country.
Opening of the popular Last Re-Sort Reuse Centre at Valley Waste’s Kentville headquarters was delayed until June. The store will be open on Saturdays until mid-December from 9 a.m. to noon.