CITY officials refuse to disclose how much Winnipeg’s garbage and recycling contractor has been fined for poor service, leaving elected officials "in the dark," about trash collection, Coun. Harvey Smith said.
Earlier this month, Smith asked Winnipeg’s chief financial officer, Mike Ruta, for the amount of financial penalties the city has levied against Emterra for missed garbage and recycling pickups. Smith said officials have since told him the contract is confidential and disclosing the information could be harmful to Emterra’s business interests.
Smith said he is elected to be responsible for public tax dollars and ensure they’re spent wisely — something he is unable to do without the proper information.
"It would tell us exactly how they’re doing the job and how we’re keeping the record of the missed pickups," Smith said. "We’re completely in the dark and I don’t think that’s acceptable."
The city was bombarded with complaints about poor service when Emterra began collecting garbage and recycling in the former AutoBin areas on Aug. 1, and following the city-wide changeover of 165,000 households on Oct 1. The city has since levied penalties against the company, though officials won’t disclose the amount of fines or reveal how the fine amounts were determined.
City officials have only said Emterra will be fined for things such as missed pickups, carts lost during collection, emptying garbage into recycling vehicles and emptying recyclables into garbage vehicles. Emterra could be penalized between $100 and $500, depending on the nature and frequency of service deficiency, and penalties will be deducted from the contractor’s monthly payment.
City of Winnipeg spokeswoman Tammy Melesko said city officials have not disclosed the amount of fines levied against the contractor to members of council due to confidentiality reasons.
Smith said his office continues to receive a steady stream of complaints regarding missed garbage and recycling pickups in his Daniel McIntyre ward. He said he wants to know how much Emterra has been fined and where the money is going, saying the information should be made public.
Meanwhile, garbage and recycling collection was delayed this week due to cold weather. Randy Park, the city’s supervisor of waste diversion, said about 10 per cent of Emterra’s collection vehicles had trouble starting in the frigid temperatures and had fallen behind. He said a collection truck broke down in Southdale on Wednesday, pushing back the area’s residential collection to Thursday.
This week and next, residents who normally have their pickup on Tuesdays will put their carts out on Wednesdays, Wednesday collection will move to Thursday, Thursday collection will move to Friday and Friday collection will move to Saturday.
"Today is going a lot better and we should be caught up," Park said on Thursday.
Emterra has additional collection crews on the road, Park said.
He said Winnipeg will likely see a 40 to 50 per cent increase in the amount of garbage and recycling during the holidays, and residents can phone 311 to arrange for surplus waste pickup.
The city will pick up three additional bags of trash for $5.
Otherwise, Park said residents can drop off recyclables at one of seven depots or wait for next week’s pickup.