Emterra will face fines starting Nov. 1

The City of Winnipeg will start fining Emterra $100 for every home it misses garbage and recycling pickup starting Nov. 1.

St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal, who chairs the infrastructure and public works committee, Vandal said he is not surprised to see a rough transition to the new citywide garbage pickup system, but there comes a point when it must improve significantly.

"If we're not seeing the standards that we had before reached within a reasonable period of time, after the month's grace, then we'll look at other options," he told reporters Wednesday.

Mayor Sam Katz confirmed that city lawyers are looking at what options are available when it comes to Emterra, which has been criticized for many garbage and recycling pickup delays.

"Maybe we should start looking at giving part of that collection to another contractor, so that they would have less part of the city and they can focus on getting that job done in a prompt manner," Katz said.

Emterra took over garbage, recycling and yard waste collection services for the entire city starting Oct. 1, as part of a revamped collection system.

But many residents and even some city councillors have complained of ongoing pickup delays, prompting the city to impose deadlines and threaten Emterra with penalties.

On Wednesday, St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes said several constituents who live south of the Perimeter Highway have not had their garbage picked up for weeks.

When Mayes asked Katz for an apology, the mayor said he would be happy to do so.

"It would be an absolute priority to apologize to those people and to publicly apologize to all the citizens of Winnipeg who have been inconvenienced," Katz said.

"I would have no problem doing that on the corner of Portage and Main, because that's exactly the way it should be."

Mayes said city staff had told him Emterra skipped homes south of the Perimeter because the company did not realize those areas were part of the city.

Vandal said Emterra has already been paying fines for every missed home in parts of the city that moved to the new system in August.

Katz said under the city's contract, Emterra has a 30-day grace period from the time that the new collection system started citywide on Oct. 1.

City lawyers are now looking through that contract to see what their options may be, the mayor said.

But until the grace period ends, Katz said there is not much the city can do.

"I'll be frank with you, I'm not even sure 30 days is a reasonable time. I think it might be too long," he told reporters.

"But it is what it is, and that's the contract that has been signed."

Meanwhile, city officials continue to defend their choice of Emterra for the solid waste collection contract.

Darryl Drohomerski, the city's manager of solid waste services, says officials agreed to a five-year contract with the company, at $11.9 million a year, with the option of two extensions.

Emterra submitted the lowest bid for the contract, beating out three other companies, according to city bid results obtained by CBC News.

The other companies' bids were:

BFI Canada Inc.: $17.3 million.

GFL Environmental East Corp.: $18.1 million.

Miller Waste Systems Inc.: $20.6 million.

Drohomerski said it was a natural decision to pick Emterra because its bid was millions of dollars less than the other firms.

"All things being equal, it's very hard to be able to take anyone but the lowest bid simply because the lowest bid's been qualified, as have the other bids," he said.

"If there was a reason that they wouldn't be qualified, then they would be excluded from the bidding process."

As for why Emterra's bid was much lower, Drohomerski said that can be explained easily.

"Where they had saved money relative to the other three bidders was that they provided natural gas-fueled vehicles," he said.

"The fuel is, I think, roughly a third or a quarter of the cost of diesel fuel."

Both Drohomerski and Vandal said the new garbage collection system is already working in terms of diverting waste from the landfill.

Drohomerski said the amount of trash that's been going into the landfill has been reduced by 30 per cent over this time last year.

Meanwhile, the amount of recyclables being collected in the new blue carts has gone up by more than 20 per cent compared to the same time last year, he added.

"These early numbers are already showing that the new recycling and garbage services will help our community keep more garbage out of the landfill and give residents more ways to reduce, reuse and recycle," Drohomerski said in a release Wednesday afternoon.

The city is urging residents to continue calling 311 to report any missed collections.

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