Woodlands County Council recently rejected the 2022 Regional Landfill Authority budget. The financial details were presented to them on December 22 at their final regular meeting of the year. Administration recommended that Council approve the budget, but the group decided to go in the opposite direction following discussion.
Andre Bachand, Director of Infrastructure, said the 2022 Regional Landfill Authority budget identified a 1.4 percent increase for Woodlands County, totalling $4,671.46. The full impact on the 2022 Woodlands County Operating budget totalled $336,881.85. "The preliminary 2022 Operating budget identified $380,000 for the Regional Landfill. Based on the fact that the Authority approved the budget and that Woodlands County Administration budgeted for $380,000, the recommendation is that Council approves the 2022 Regional Landfill Authority budget as presented," he explained.
Mayor John Burrows opened the floor for discussion. Councillor Bruce Prestidge spoke first. "I sat in on that budget meeting. We have no choice on it because it's three to two for councillors. I don't agree with the amount they have budgeted for their new scale and scale house. They rejected it last year, and this year they raised it almost another twenty thousand for the project. They want to put in a modular house as a scale house which for me is too extravagant."
Councillor Dave Kusch was puzzled. "Just to make sure I'm understanding this right, we've got $380,000 budgeted, and they are showing $336,881 as what they are asking for?" Bachand said that was correct. "We are roughly $40,000 below our budgeted line currently, and that's also with their Taj Mahal out at the dump," responded Kusch, prompting a few chuckles.
As per policy, if Woodlands County Council chose not to approve the 2022 Regional Landfill Authority budget, the matter would be sent to Joint Liaison for discussion. Joint Liaison is a committee formed of members from Whitecourt Town Council and Woodlands County Council. As a member of it, Councillor Alan Deane sought clarity from Councillor Prestidge on what he would like Joint Liaison to talk about.
"They don't have a tender on that project. They are just saying this is what we are buying. It should be sent out to have at least three tenders before they come and tell us what they are going to spend," explained Prestidge. Mayor Burrows queried Administration. "Andre, is that right, that there are no tenders on that scale?" Bachand said yes. "There are no tenders out. But I believe the way the system should work is that a proposal with a design should be brought to the Authority identifying what they do want to tender. And then it gets approved by the Authority, and then it goes down the tendering route. But as of now, there is none."
Councillor Kuelken, who attended the Regional Landfill Authority meeting just as Councillor Prestidge had, also felt there wasn't a "clear plan" for what kind of building would be built at the landfill. "As Mr. Bachand said, there was no tender and no real fixed cost as to what we were going to be putting in there. I would concur with Councillor Prestidge and send it to Joint Liaison."
Bachand brought forward information that some members of Council might not have known. "In the fall of 2020, there was a tender let out, and the prices came in and were quite high. The prime wasn't solidified, and all tenders were rejected at that time." He added that since then, nothing has moved on the project.
Mayor Burrows thanked Bachand for clarifying. "At the time it came before us as a budget item (at the Regional Authority Landfill Committee), I think I was the only one there at that meeting. I asked for a floor plan of what was being built, and they didn't have one. There was no floor plan. It was just that we were going to spend (about) $400,000." Mayor Burrows said it was a significant investment and felt he wanted more details, just as two of his colleagues had already stated. "I would like to see more information on it, so I would support the idea of sending this to Joint Liaison."
Councillor Kusch made a motion to reject the 2022 Regional Landfill Authority budget. "We need a bit more information on what we are actually spending money on when it comes to the $430,000 for the scale and scale house." The rejection automatically sends the topic to an upcoming Joint Liaison meeting.
On top of the scale and scale house, the 2022 Regional Landfill Authority budget also included a ten percent increase in salary, wages, OT, and benefits compared to 2021. Multiple reserve contributions are planned towards future needs, including computer replacement and a perimeter road for the next landfill phase expansion. The budget featured a reduction in leachate hauling costs thanks to the implementation of proactive cell capping and the use of evaporators. Joint Liaison meetings are live-streamed on the Woodlands County YouTube page.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press