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Canstar Community News
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This article was published 4/2/2016 (1724 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Homeowners could be paying an additional $55-$100 annually on their sewer and water bills if a plan for curbside organic pickup goes ahead.
Councillors were briefed on the proposal at a closed-door meeting Thursday, where some details and costs were outlined.
The new fee would be in addition to $56 already charged annually to individual homeowners for unspecified recycling initiatives.
"This is an additional city tax at a time when property owners are facing a heavy municipal tax burden," Coun. Russ Wyatt said. "It sounds like a wonderful program but we have to have priorities and I don’t think this is one of them right now."
Wyatt (Transcona) said the water and waste department is moving ahead with the kitchen waste program despite having never carried out a pilot project, as it was directed to do by council in 2011.
Councillors were told a public consultation process will be launched soon, with a final report going to council before the end of the year for inclusion in the 2017 budget.
Curbside organic pickup was part of a comprehensive waste diversion strategy council adopted in 2011. That plan included the current waste and recycling pickup. The first of three or four super recycling depot, which is already three years behind schedule, is expected to open at the Brady landfill any day now.
Many Canadian communities have had household curbside organic pick-up for several years.
Wyatt said the administration wants to roll out the new curbside program for 2017, when the current curbside contract with Emterra expires.
The amount of the new household fee is still unknown, Wyatt said, adding it would depend on what is included in organic kitchen waste.
The administration presented three options for a household fee to councillors, he said: $55-$60 for vegetables only; $60-$70 for all food scraps; $90-$100 for all food scraps and pet waste.
Wyatt said the plan is to have the winning proponent pick-up recyclable, general household waste and kitchen waste.
"Winnipeggers already pay the highest water and sewer rates in the country," Wyatt said. "This will just make living in Winnipeg even more expensive."
The annual recycling fee was increased $5 in 2015, from $50 to $55.
Wyatt said adding kitchen waste pick-up will be costly for the city – and ultimately homeowners – because the current trucks used by Emterra would have to be scrapped or redesigned to accommodate an isolated containment area for the organic waste.
In addition, Wyatt said a 2011 estimate placed the cost of purchasing organic bins at $11.4 million; the cost of a new processing facility at $45 million -$65 million.
Wyatt said it’s expected whoever is the winning bidder will have to increase the fleet Emterra has by 50 per cent, to handle the extra waste.
Wyatt said while officials had an estimate for the new household fee, they would not provide councillors with current costs associated with other aspects of the program.
"It looks to me like the administration has been muzzled," Wyatt said, adding that direction would only come from Mayor Brian Bowman’s office.
"If you know the price you’re going to charge customers, you have to know your own costs but the administration told us they didn’t have those numbers," Wyatt said. "I think they’re being muzzled by the mayor."
Bowman, who is in Ottawa for the Big City Mayors’ meeting, could not be reached for comment but a spokesman denied the mayor had issued any orders to the administration to withhold vital information from councillors.
"The project is not at a stage where detailed cost information is available because the scope and breadth of the program hasn't been determined," said Jonathan Hildebrand, Bowman’s director of communications. "Today's presentation to Council was intended to share information with them about an engagement exercise the City of Winnipeg is preparing to bring forward to residents about a possible curbside organics strategy.
"The City of Winnipeg first wants to hear from residents and wants their feedback on what sort of program they want, or if they want one at all."
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