June 25, 2017
Wasted Money or Prudent Planning?
by Kevin Johnson.
In October of 2014 our County Councillor, amid much fanfare, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the ‘newly renovated’ waste transfer station located on Concession 4 in Puslinch. As chair of Wellington County’s Solid Waste Services Committee Mr. McKay was in full blown photo-op mode, obviously pleased with spending a million dollars on:(1)
- building a separate grade wall for waste bins
- moving some drop-off areas
- paving the public areas of the site
“We are proud to provide a beautiful site where residents can access our many waste programs.” says Don McKay, Chair of Solid Waste Services, Wellington County.(1)
Now, a mere 18 months later, the Solid Waste Services Committee chaired by Mr. McKay seems to have done a complete about face on this issue. They are forging ahead with rural, end of driveway pickup across the County and now we have this from our County Councillor:
“Everything is on the table with regard to transfer stations. We can look at keeping them as they are, reducing the hours, maybe expanding the hours … we can look at opening some new ones, maybe close some,” – Don McKay(2)
That’s quite the political quote. Everything for everybody without saying a thing.
Well, it does say one thing. From this quote we can assume that Mr. McKay has no plan for the transfer stations… including the station they just spent a million taxpayer dollars on in Puslinch and who knows how much on other stations around the county. In fact, the entire issue of rural garbage collection timing seems to have been a complete mystery to the Solid Waste Services Committee.
At the January 12th meeting, the committee recommended increasing the user fees for bags by 50 cents each. It wasn’t until after a later meeting of the administration, finance and human resources committee that Mr. McKay backed off the proposed increase in fees because:
“We decided to forego it for the time being until we have a look at our strategic plan … We thought it was premature to look at bag prices before we look at rural pickup” – Don McKay(3).
What? Mr. McKay’s Committee JUST RECOMMENDED IT. It seems obvious to me that the Solid Waste Services Committee was not in the loop for any plans to implement rural garbage pickup in the county. This quote unequivocally states that by their January 2016 meeting, rural pickup was not an option that the Solid Waste Committee had looked at as a serious short-term option.
So the question has to be asked: If in JANUARY Mr. McKay’s Solid Waste Services Committee had no idea rural garbage pickup was going to be approved by county council in MARCH, what purpose are they actually serving and can we have any faith that decisions being made by the committee are not knee-jerk reactions to a single public opinion poll?(4)
Rural pickup is a very contentious issue in the County. Some want it, many don’t. Even some county councillors seemed none too happy about this decision. Councillor McKay said the move was partially about “levelling the playing field,” however Guelph-Eramosa Mayor Chris White disputed that perception saying “I am having trouble with the idea this is a level playing field,” noting that unless changes are made, several municipalities will have both rural pickup and a waste transfer station(2).
In the end, I’m more concerned about the MILLION DOLLARS of potentially wasted taxpayer money on the renovated transfer station and how I’m going to stop the wildlife from tearing up the garbage bags at the end of my driveway than I am about “leveling the playing field” as Councillor McKay puts it.
Perhaps a plan should have been in place for the transfer stations BEFORE we forged ahead with rural pickup? Once in a while I’d like to feel comfortable knowing that big dollar decisions made by my representatives are well thought out.