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Stop the autobin insanity

I was just listening to CJOB. The topic was overfilling dumpsters on the 700 block of College. The resident said his new fancy garbage container just got emptied, but the hugely overflowing BFI autobin was still there, overflowing, in all its smelly glory.

Now, I am no expert on the current conditions of Winnipeg back lanes, and I have no desire to drive down my old back lane, or any other back lane in the North End for that matter. But from what I hear, there seems to be a problem in waste management at city hall.

When I was on the committee that made the decision on the new garbage masterplan, I distinctly remember saying there had to be a plan put in place to take care of the transition period in the North End and West End. I was told there would be. So, is there?

This is what I know about garbage pick-up for autobins: The BFI truck drives down the lane. If the autobin is too full, they don't pick up. If there are any items leaned up against the autobin, they don't pick up. If there are any large items inside the autobin, they don't pick up. Oh, and they don't report the issue.

Now, if a resident reports that the autobin has not been emptied, they must describe the issue. If they do not mention items leaned up against the autobin, or large items inside the bin, and do not describe them properly, and say how many items there are, no truck is sent to correct the issue. If a truck does arrived to remove large items, it only removes items reported, to a maximum of six items, and does not report that it left anything behind. The resident must make a second complaint.

Now, if a BFI truck empties an autobin and any garbage falls to the ground, they do not clean up the mess. That is up to the residents. In this case, if an autobin gets emptied, is there a truck right behind it to collect the empty autobin, or does it sit an hour, a day, or a week to be collected? If it sits even an hour, it will likely have garbage in it. I have seen dumpsters fill within minutes of being emptied.

If the dumpster has garbage in it again, the whole process starts over.

Solution:

Get a regular BFI truck, and one that picks up bulky items. Team them with an employee who will pick up garbage that falls on the ground. And follow this with a truck that will pick up that dumpster. Make a parade out of it, and pick up one dumpster at a time.

The alternative is madness!

-- Rae Butcher, A Day in the Hood

Hey -- what about Selkirk Avenue?

I wasn't able to attend the design summit at the Free Press Cafe about the CP yards area. It sounds like there was a great turnout -- an overflow crowd of 150 or so. It's great that anything to do with urban planning or community revitalization can draw that many people.

Reading some of the tweets and other coverage of the session makes me think about an issue that I have posted about on previous occasions: the state of Selkirk Avenue, which lies just one block away.

Once Winnipeg's other Portage Avenue, it bustled with discount department stores, food shops, theatres, dance halls, restaurants, apartment blocks and banks. You could live in the North End and find everything you needed right there.

It's a street that has long been written off by political leaders, planners, landlords, entrepreneurs -- even those whose roots are in the North End. There is no CentreVenture or Waterfront Drive-type subsidies here. Aside from a rejuvenation under the Core Area Initiative in the 1980s, a few stalwart businesses that have stuck around and the social service agency industry, few have tried to stem the downward spiral.

If the North End is deserving of a "village area" with spaces for ethnic markets, community theatres, aboriginal businesses, housing, arts centres, community gardens and other public spaces, they all exist on Selkirk Avenue. There's also, sadly, an increasing inventory of empty lots ready for redevelopment. It could all be done at a fraction of the time and cost it would take to redevelop the CP yards (assuming that the railway takes the first step and decides to move).

What isn't there is much interest in doing something about it.

I'm not trying to diminish the efforts of those imagining the potential that a vacated CP yards would have to the North End and the city as a whole. The reality is, though, even if CP decided today to move out, it would likely be a couple of decades for significant redevelopment to take place.

CN, for instance, announced in 1975 that it wanted to move from its East Yards, a place we now know as The Forks. In that case, the railway already had an alternate site in Transcona up and running and left behind a significant number of buildings ready for renovation into markets and museums (which is not the case with CP). Even then, the Forks Market didn't open until 1989.

While the attraction of re-imagining what could become of the CP yards is strong, please spare a little thought for Selkirk Avenue.

-- Christian Cassidy, West End Dumplings

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2012 A10

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