Letters to the Editor

Something smells about way City is setting garbage rates

Editor: When it comes to garbage, something smells about City staff and council recommendations regarding 2014 fees.

During 2013, Langley City residents admirably embraced a new program that encouraged diversion of garbage to recycling and green waste.

In building a 2013 budget council was told that the greater the diversion the greater the savings (garbage tipping fees at $107 per ton and green waste at $63 per ton for a single family household). The budget was built upon a conservative 15 per cent diversion rate that purported to provide sufficient savings to break even on a new contract extension to the service provider.

A frequently asked question at the council table by this observer was, what are the preliminary figures on diversion and how might these savings be delivered to the homeowner in 2014?

Very early on, staff suggested a diversion rate of 35 per cent, and most recently the good news is a whopping 45 per cent.

Now Metro has announced increased tipping fees of $1 for garbage and $2 for green waste, but surely on an average household fee of $128, the “savings” noted should more than cover this minor increase along with service provision that was to be cost neutral at a 15 per cent diversion.

The rules of the game have changed with a shift, mid-year, to a provincially imposed agreement, with potential fines for high rates of contamination, reduced or inconvenient glass collection, and possible slippage in diversion rates.

So the assumption is that there might be contamination fines imposed, there might be reduced diversion or there might be a need to subsidize the purchase of toters that might be required. That is a lot of “might be’s.”

Staff and everyone else on council have decided to forge ahead with the same fees as in 2013. But wouldn’t it be better to at least publicly consider a potential $1 or $2 rebate now as an incentive and reward for continued exemplary ratepayer diligence and commitment?

Imagine that —  a return on an overzealous user fee.

Neither staff nor the majority of council currently feel that the question should at least be considered. Requests for preliminary data in a timely fashion to aid such a decision have been rejected, with staff insisting on a year-end review with no prospect of potential rebate or toter subsidy until 2015.

Surely some accurate information is demanded now in order that council can make an informed decision and its public can be presented with alternatives that allow genuine public consultation.

For a more complete debate on this subject one can view the webcast (12/16/2013) on the City of Langley website.

Dave Hall

Councillor, City of Langley

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