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Up to $500 for each trash gaffe

City won't say how much Emterra already fined for mistakes

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The city will fine waste-collector Emterra as much as $500 for each mistake made in picking up garbage and recycling, starting today.

Emterra started picking up garbage, recycling and yard waste from 165,000 Winnipeg households on Oct. 1, and today marks the end of the company's 30-day grace period. City of Winnipeg spokeswoman Tammy Melesko said in an email Emterra could be penalized between $100 and $500, depending on the nature and frequency of service deficiency.

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. All penalties will be deducted from the contractor's monthly payment, Melesko's statement said.

The city has been inundated with complaints about poor service since last month's changeover from manual collection to automated garbage and recycling carts. Emterra began collecting garbage and recycling in the former AutoBin areas on Aug. 1 and the city has since levied penalties against the company for poor service in those neighbourhoods.

Mayor Sam Katz said Emterra has already received steep fines for problems in the AutoBin areas, and the cost of missed collections adds up quickly.

"I can tell you, I've been told it's significant, very significant," Katz said following Wednesday's executive policy committee meeting.

City officials would not disclose the amount of fines levied against Emterra so far, saying the figure is confidential. Nor would they reveal how the fine amounts would be determined.

Winnipeg has a five-year contract with Emterra, and Katz said the company is motivated to improve service or it will cost it money. He said city staff monitor waste collection and citizens have been quick to report delays.

Some Winnipeggers who signed up for the city's walk-up service say they have gone weeks without pickup.

Norman, an 83-year-old Niakwa Park resident who did not want to give his last name, said he is unable to roll the carts out after suffering three strokes. While collection crews are supposed to walk on his property and help take out the trash, Norman said no one has emptied his garbage or recycling carts in the last few weeks.

He said his wife has repeatedly phoned 311, but collection crews have not returned to empty the carts.

"We've never had a pickup. We're at a loss of what to do here," he said, noting the carts are nearly full.

Last week, the mayor instructed the city administration to review Winnipeg's legal options -- and possibly award the service to another contractor in some parts of the city to get the job done. If a portion of the city were to be given to another contractor, Katz said, Emterra would not be paid for the work and the city would enter into a contract with a new provider.

City officials said in an email there has been a significant improvement and in general, less than one per cent of the 68,000 carts to be emptied daily are not picked up on the scheduled collection day.

"The realities are it's much better, I can tell you for the first time in three pickups my own was picked up on time. Yard waste two days later," Katz said.

This week, council's public works committee voted in favour of a report on how other cities manage waste collection.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 1, 2012 B1

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