Council will apply to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) to operate a yard waste transfer station at the former landfill site on Princeton Avenue.
The decision came at the April 12 regular council meeting, when council unanimously approved a staff resolution to apply to the MOE for an amendment to the existing landfill operating certificate.
Should the MOE approve the amendment, it will allow the District of Peachland and local commercial operators to use the site for temporary yard waste storage.
Commercial operators would only be able to use the site on a full cost recovery basis, meaning they would pay all costs associated with using the site, and the district would bring in no money.
Permission for the general public to use the site will not initially be requested.
The resolution directly follows the controversial recommendations handed down by the Compost Site Select Committee on March 8.
The committee, which was established to explore solutions after the district was unexpectedly forced to close the yard waste transfer station last October, recommended council initially apply to use the site as a waste transfer station for district and possibly commercial operators.
The intent, according to a report from Committee Chair Eric Hall, was to “maximize the chances of MOE approval,” and later apply to open the site for public use if the initial application succeeds.
Committee members still reject recommendation
The official recommendation was openly panned by three members of the Compost Site Select Committee, who have since been waging a war of words against it, and the entire committee process.
Along with voicing their anger at an open meeting March 15, two of those former committee members, Dora Stewart and Frances Trowsse, appealed to the Committee of the Whole on April 12.
Trowsse said the entire situation has “created a lot of frustration and anger,” as residents upset over the closure feel they haven’t been listened to.
She accused district representatives on the Compost Site Select Committee of not seriously considering the information she and other concerned residents brought forward, and argued not enough information was provided for the committee to make a proper decision.
Trowsse and Stewart both accused the district of using the high annual cost of operating a site as a way to quash discussion.
They argued that when council wants to accomplish something (such as creating a splash park) they find ways to make it happen, no matter the cost, and a yard waste transfer site open to the public should have the same priority.
“We believe that thoughtful, responsible decision making – which is part of your corporate values – should be key. Not scaring people off with dollars all the time, and saying ‘you can’t possibly do all of this because of money,’” Trowsse said.
Coun. Mike Kent challenged those accusations, saying that council has to balance the needs of all residents when it considers major spending.
He said many residents do not use, and have no need for, a waste transfer station, and that saddling them with hundreds of thousands of dollars of yearly spending isn’t fair.
“We’ve been put in a position where there’s an exorbitant cost…and that’s not something that should be taken lightly. If we were to cut that from another service that means we lose $360,000 from snow clearing, or park maintenance, or something else,” he said.
“This is something that has not been taken lightly.”
Mayor Cindy Fortin also took issue with Trowsse and Stewart’s claims that the district didn’t provide the public enough information.
“Despite comments to the contrary I absolutely believe council has invited tons of public input,” she said, citing the Compost Site Select Committee and other info blasts the district has put out.
“I take offence to the fact that it’s being said out there that council isn’t doing anything, because I can’t think of an issue that we’ve spent more time discussing or more time gathering facts…and listening and thinking this through,” she continued.
“The difference is, and this is just my opinion, those people who want a compost site have a linear focus: this is where we are, this is where they want to be, and there’s nothing in between,” Fortin added.
“Council on the other hand has to have a greater focus, and is responsible for the community as a whole, and we have to consider all of that.”
Special collection might ease burden on residents
Along with applying to the MOE, council also directed staff to prepare a report looking at the cost of a twice-annual, curb-side collection of residents’ yard waste, and the possibility of subsidizing the cost of additional green bins for residents.
Director of Operations Joe Mitchell’s initial estimate put the cost of contracting such a service at between $12,000 and $15,000, but council wanted more accurate information before making a decision about paying for the service.
Couns. Peter Schierbeck and Mario Vucinovic cautioned against spending money on a collection service when other options are available, while Fortin and Coun. Pam Cunningham supported providing the service as quickly as possible.
Cunningham, who sat on the Compost Site Select Committee, said yard waste pickup was supposed to be included in a decision to be “fair to residents,” left out of the initial application.
“I kind of feel a little bit like we’re letting some residents down” by not providing the service right away, she said.
Council also agreed to add a question about the yard waste facility to the upcoming citizen survey.