New curbside collection proposed for Saltair and North Oyster areas

An open house will be held Sept. 17 at the North Oyster Community Hall to provide information and elicit feedback.

An upcoming open house will give residents in Saltair and North Oyster a chance to learn more about proposed changes to garbage and recycling collection in those areas.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) is drafting a new curbside collection plan for Electoral Areas and is seeking public input at a series of open houses in the coming weeks.

The new plan would provide residents with easy-roll totes and use dual-compartment trucks equipped with automated arms to improve the efficiency and affordability of rural garbage and recycling pick up — at no extra cost, according to a press release from the CVRD.

“This plan makes a lot of financial sense,” CVRD Engineering and Environmental Services chair Lori Iannidinardo said in the release. “Residents would receive streamlined customer service and easy-roll totes, see no change to their current bi-weekly service and have their user fees go down slightly in the near future and stabilize over the long term at a standard inflationary rate.”

The CVRD plan aims to modernize curbside collection services in the Electoral Areas by shifting away from a traditional manual collection system to an automated curbside collection.

“After several years of study and research, the CVRD feels they are able to offer a modern and efficient service to area residents,” said Iannidinardo.

Automated, dual-compartment collection trucks use a mechanical arm to pick up garbage and recycling totes at the same stop, and the arm wraps around each tote and then tips the contents into the truck.

This process allows for quicker pick ups and less workplace injury, as the truck operator remains in the vehicle, and pick ups are, on average, 10 seconds faster per home with this automated system, which means each truck can service up to 900 homes in a single shift — or about 50 per cent more than a manual operator can handle, according to the CVRD.

Currently, curbside collection for the 12,000-plus homes in the CVRD Electoral Areas is delivered by a number of private hauling companies through contracts with the CVRD. Residents with garbage collection provide their own cans, and residents with recycling collection receive recycling bags from the CVRD.

According to the CVRD, key benefits of the new plan include streamlined, consistent service and stable user fees. Costs are expected to decrease $1 to $11 per home to start, with rates stabilizing thereafter.

The proposed plan calls for the introduction of the new curbside service in June 2013, pending successful completion of the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) to borrow $1.775 million to purchase equipment, including three dual-compartment trucks and curbside totes.

The AAP allows the CVRD Board to proceed with the proposed actions unless at least 10 per cent of the electors state their opposition within a prescribed period. If at least 10 per cent of the estimated number of electors oppose, it must then be taken to a formal referendum vote before it can be adopted. If less than 10 per cent of the estimated number of electors oppose, the bylaw will be deemed to have the approval of the electors,and the CVRD may proceed with adoption.

The AAP is expected to get underway in the fall. Residents who are opposed to the proposed curbside collection plan will have 30 days to register their concerns once the formal AAP gets underway.

In this area, an open house will be held Mon. Sept. 17 from 7-9 p.m. at the North Oyster Community Hall Upper Room.

The open house is a chance for Area H and Area G residents to get more information about the curbside collection proposal and to provide some feedback to CVRD directors.

CVRD Electoral Area H director Mary Marcotte, who represents the North Oyster/Diamond area, is cautiously supportive of the proposal, but she is looking forward to hearing from the public.

“One benefit I see to the community is we should have an opportunity to have the user fees go down slightly in the beginning — although they don’t stay down forever,” she said. “You’re going to have sustainable costs. I think that’s going to be a plus factor.”

Marcotte also thinks the totes will be bigger and roomier.

She thinks collection will remain pretty consistent.

“I don’t see any changes to pick ups,” she said. “I think we are satisfied with our pick up schedule in Area H.”

At this time, Marcotte doesn’t see any negatives with the proposal.

“I’m awaiting the public comment back and whether they say it’s something they want,” she said. “I’m kind of neutral myself right now; I need more information. I’m supportive, but cautiously supportive of where we’re going. I’m going to need the feedback of the community.”

Marcotte says Area H residents are satisfied with the service as is, but it is getting costly.

She wonders if there may be some challenges in rural areas, as it might be hard to get a wheeled tote up a muddy gravel driveway.

CVRD Electoral Area G director Mel Dorey, who represents Saltair and the Gulf Islands, says that from what he knows, he doesn’t think the automated curbside collection will affect residents’ service in any way.

“Service will be exactly the same as they are getting now, but it will be done by the CVRD instead of contractors,” he explained. “In recent years, we’ve had trouble negotiating with contractors and getting a reasonable rate … the new trucks will be automated, which cuts down on your labour costs because they can go more quickly and the containers are hoisted onto trucks by mechanical arms. As far as I know, the service will cost us the same as the service right now, and we will have some control over future costs. Right now, we don’t have control, and there are not a lot of people who will bid on the service, and they know that.”

“North Cowichan has their own trucks, and they provide a much cheaper service than the CVRD through their contractor, and the CVRD is hoping they’ll see the same savings as North Cowichan,” he added.

Dorey sees one of the positives of this proposal as the fact that you can move to organic collection in the future with these trucks.

Dorey says people in Saltair are generally “fairly satisfied” with the service they receive.

“They were a little shocked with the last rate increase, but generally, they are satisfied with garbage collection,” he said.

Dorey sees the AAP as one negative challenge, as not everyone agrees with that process.

“That riles some people up because they just don’t like it that you can just put out a notice and people can respond negatively,” he said.

Dorey says some people question whether the government can provide a service as cheaply as private enterprise can.

“The government doesn’t have to make a profit though, and private enterprise does,” he noted. “There will be a lot of different points of view to this question.”

More information about the curbside collection proposal is available online or by calling the CVRD Recycling Hotline at 250-746-2540.