Leaf and yard waste services here to stay

·3 min read

Leaf and yard waste pick-up in Chatham-Kent is here to stay after C-K Council voted down the idea last week.

Staff was recommending that all leaf and yard waste pick-up services be removed starting January 1, 2021, and the corresponding leaf and yard waste levies be removed from all residences.

Prior to amalgamation in 1998, nine communities received service that included some level of leaf and yard waste curbside pick-up provided by the Public Works Department. These communities include Wheatley, Tilbury, Blenheim, Erie Beach, Erieau, Ridgetown, Bothwell, Thamesville and Bates Subdivision. The services remained in place after amalgamation and were never expanded to other communities in Chatham-Kent.

According to staff, all budgeted funds for the service are area-rated to the community, with any variance to the budget absorbed by the general tax base through the Public Works budget. If the municipality were to stop the service, the $475,245 leaf and yard waste levy would have been removed from the tax assessment of the residents of the nine communities, with $453,579 accounted for in the general tax base and $21,666 removed from the lifecycle budget.

Ward 3 Councillor John Wright, who voted against the motion, said he wishes there would have been more notice with information reports and open meetings prior to making a decision.

“We had this (service) before amalgamation, we’re paying for it in taxes, it’s area rated, and it should be left,” said Wright.

West Kent Councillor Mark Authier echoed some of Wright’s frustrations.

“I hear it every day, ‘I can’t stand being part of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent,’ and this is exactly one of the reasons why,” said Authier. “I am so frustrated right now. I can’t believe that we’re bringing this stuff up. People are paying for it; it’s not costing Chatham-Kent money; it’s paid for.”

Staff also mentioned the environmental benefits that eliminating the service would bring by reducing the number of plastic bags needed to collect yard waste and by encouraging residents to use the waste for mulch and compost.

However, many councillors said residents in the nine communities affected appreciated the service and didn’t want to see it go, even if it meant they would have to continue to pay an additional charge.

Councillor Trevor Thompson also spoke out against the idea, saying that he was frustrated with the staff’s recommendation.

“The residents are very frustrated as well,” he said. “There was never any call to remove this service at all. I’d hoped we were going to have a conversation maybe about expanding to other communities.”

According to Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire, the recommendation was being made based on the previous council direction.

“We received direction from Council on September 28 to look at a large number of different issues to try and come back to Council. This was one of the issues that Council had requested that we come back to,” explained Shropshire. “Our understanding is that this is in the spirit of trying to get council options to get back to a zero budget. We understand this one is somewhat different as there’s not the same dramatic decrease in budget.”

The recommendation to end yard waste and leaf pick-up was voted against by council 13 to 4. Councillors Crew, Faas, Kirkwood-Whyte and Latimer were the only councillors to vote in favour of removing the services.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News