Cicon, CUPE at odds over commercial pickup

CUPE questioned city management's attempt to discontinue commercial garbage service.

Brian Pover stands by the city's aging commercial container truck.

Despite fierce debate at city council on Monday night, the city’s commercial container garbage truck will continue limping on until at least the next council meeting.

CUPE Local 118 delegate and public works employee Brian Povey argued against city engineer Guy Cicon’s recommendation that commercial container pickup be discontinued.

“It’s going to cost all the taxpayers,” said Povey, who fought to keep the service when the issue came up six years ago. At the time, Cicon had argued for the discontinuation of the service and the loss of one public works job. This time, Cicon said that no job loss was planned and that the current commercial truck driver—who is not Povey—would be absorbed into the labour pool.

Continuing commercial service would necessitate a replacement truck, which would cost the city $380,000 out of the ERRF fund. Both Povey and Cicon agreed that the condition of the truck is so poor that it must either be replaced or the service discontinued.

Cicon believes that the city should not buy a new commercial truck and keep the money in the ERRF fund available for when a residential truck is necessary for possible future curbside organics collection.

Povey said that if the city stops providing the commercial bin pickup service, fees charged by private contractors would skyrocket.

“BFI, to get a three-yard bin picked up in Cherry Creek, charges $45. In town, they charge much less,” Povey said.

“So they’re using people outside of the city limits to help pay for the lower rates here in town so they can drive the city container truck out.”

He made a similar comparison with Nicklin Waste Disposal, saying that they charged $60 a month for a three-yard bin for the monthly rental of the bin and one tip.

Inside city limits, the city charges $31 and $62 a tip for three- and six-yard bins respectively.

“What do you think is going to happen if the city truck goes out? The suppliers for the service go down and the demand for the service goes up. The basic economics is the price is going to go up,” he said.

According to Povey, the city currently picks up all the school district bins in town at a cost of $66,000 a year.

If the city stops commercial pickup and the school district goes to private contractors, Povey said, they would have to pay much more.

“Who’s going to pay for that? Taxpayers are going to pay.”

Cicon told council that he felt that the city should not be competing with private contractors for commercial pickup.

“The engineering department doesn’t consider the provision of commercial garbage collection a core service,” said Cicon. Instead, Cicon believes that the city’s current 215 commercial customers—whether small businesses, apartments or city facilities—should switch to private contractors or smaller city residential carts.

He said that a smaller cart was a way to encourage residents to waste less.

“We really do have to recognize that the way we dispose of and collect garbage is changing.”

The city has gone from 251 to 215 commercial bin customers between 2009-2015 and with a commercial cardboard ban coming in at the landfill in the summer of 2015, Cicon said that the city will continue to lose its current 20 per cent market share to private haulers who provide both garbage and recycling services. If more customers are lost, Cicon said, the city will have to increase its tipping fees.

While a feasibility study on possible city cardboard collection has not been done, Povey wants the city to go from a four-day commercial pickup route to a three-day route and use the fourth day to collect cardboard for $15 a tip using bins the city already owns.

Povey pointed out that another hidden benefit of the city providing commercial bin pickup was that the city’s own facilities received the service free of charge.

Povey questioned Cicon’s figures in information provided in the council agenda package, basing many of his numbers on what Cicon later acknowledged was a draft that should not have been included in the agenda.

Despite the discrepancy, Povey said Cicon still hadn’t taken into account certain factors. For example, if the multiplex staff requested an extra pickup of material, the truck would just go to make the extra trip at no charge. That kind of scenario would not be able to happen with a private contractor, Povey said.

Council will consider whether or not to continue commercial bin service at the May 25 council meeting.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

twitter.com/AlberniNews

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