Cobden -- Whitewater Region council members have been hearing complaints about the hike in user fees that came into effect on January 1 at the Ross Landfill Site on Kohlsmith Road.
The complaints are about how high they are now compared to 2020.
“User fees are extremely important to the township,” Treasurer Sean Crozier told council at a recent meeting.
Prior to the change it was volume based and at the start of this year, it changed to vehicle based.
Since there are no scales, it was based on volume, and “that’s not effective or efficient.
“It’s a busy spot. Physically measuring is time consuming and not ideal,” Mr. Crozier told council.
He explained in the 2021 budget, user fees represent 28 per cent of the tax levy, which means that without the fees, the tax levy would need to increase another 28 per cent to fund the services offered.
In the strategic plan adopted by council in January 2020, it states the township “will provide efficient and effective waste management programs and protect the available airspace remaining at the Ross Landfill by planning for the future,” he reminded council.
After explaining why staff revised the fees, noting that council approved them in November 2020, Mr. Crozier reviewed the financial implications.
In 2020, the landfill operations had a deficit of $94,158 and in 2019, the deficit was $22,292. Tipping fee revenue declined by 18.2 per cent between 2019 to 2020, he said. That’s because the curbside collection changed from having to purchase yellow garbage bags to allowing property owners to set out two bags of garbage a week.
In 2020, tipping fee revenue was able to offset the cost of salaries, monitoring, fuel and oil, whereas the tax levy was needed to pay for other expenses, such as hydro, equipment repairs, chipper/grinder rental, truck expenses and a transfer to reserves for landfill post closure costs.
“Staff believe it is financially prudent to ensure tipping fee revenue continues to cover many of the landfill costs to operate,” Mr. Crozier said.
He said scales would be a more accurate way of measuring the volume of debris disposed of at the landfill, but that’s another cost of almost $125,000 and there is only $56,000 in reserve.
It’s expected the landfill will last another 20 years, but council also has to consider what happens after that.
“Extending the useful life of the Ross landfill and planning for post closure operations is imperative,” Mr. Crozier stated.
Councillor Daryl McLaughlin said he liked the idea of having a scale.
“At some point, I think we are going to be a transfer station,” he said.
He suggested contractors be enticed to sort dirty and clean construction materials, which may encourage less going into the landfill, since clean can be ground down.
Public Works Manager Lane Cleroux noted it costs the township $20,000 a year to grind, and if more material needs to be ground, it will cost the township more.
“Yea, but there will be less amount going into the landfill,” Coun. McLaughlin replied. “We could swallow that.”
When Mr. Cleroux suggested purchasing scales, Councillor Charlene Jackson questioned whether or not it would be wise to purchase scales if the life expectancy of the landfill is 23 years.
Environmental Services Manager Steve Hodson said some day the site will be a transfer station.
This is a highly complex situation, Councillor Neil Nicholson said.
“Is it fair for all taxpayers to pay for people who are not sorting their garbage when they bring it to the dump?” he questioned. “It costs businesses more money to truck garbage.
“The dump is a township responsibility,” Coun. Nicholson said. “Are the user fees there to support those who go there, or should they be 40/60 or 30/70?”
He believes the township will have to debenture or borrow money to establish a new landfill.
Bringing in discussion about plastic from farms, Mayor Mike Moore said the manufacturers of plastic need to step up, because the municipality should not be bearing that cost.
“We need to do away with plastic,” he said. “There are tarp barns.”
Councillor Dave Mackay said getting rid of plastic from farms is not that easy because “everything is plastic that comes to the farm” and there is no opportunity to recycle it.
Reeve Cathy Regier said council agreed on November 25 to the user fees.
“We got a piece of it (from the public),” she said.
She recalled the uproar in 2010 when water fees were increased for the first time in eight years and that’s exactly what’s happening now.
“It’s expensive to take (your garbage) to the landfill,” Reeve Regier said. “There is no way out of user fees.
“It’s a hard bite right now, but we’re doing something.”
Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader