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Board looking to curb abuse of residential drop-off policy at Burin Peninsula landfill

Waste is picked up in Grand Bank by the Burin Peninsula Regional Service Board's contractor in this file photo. - SaltWire Network file photo
Waste is picked up in Grand Bank by the Burin Peninsula Regional Service Board's contractor in this file photo. - SaltWire Network file photo

Grand Bank council renews concerns over regional waste management

BURIN PENINSULA, NL – A new regulation in place at the regional waste site near Jean de Baie isn’t aimed at regular residential users, according to Harold Murphy, chair of the Burin Peninsula Regional Service Board.

Since Jan. 1, people bringing waste to the site have received a weigh slip from the scale operator as they leave to let them know the amount of garbage they have offloaded.

But a 2,000-pound annual limit that has been introduced is more about cracking down on “backyard” operators who are undercutting legitimate businesses, Murphy recently told the Southern Gazette.

Commercial visitors to the site are charged $90 per tonne at the Jean de Baie site.

In the past, Murphy said if a truck entering the facility didn’t have any company markings, the weight was recorded, as the board is required to do, and the vehicles were simply waved on when they were leaving.

Murphy said the scale operators have noticed certain “non-commercial” trucks come to the site several times a week full of waste.

It’s a significant problem, according to Murphy, who said, “We’re not talking about one or two people.”

The intent of the board is to monitor usage so that legitimate businesses aren’t being treated unfairly, Murphy said, and residents who have a reasonable explanation for surpassing the threshold in a year won’t be charged for it.

“If you go over the 2,000 pounds and you can give us a legitimate reason why, (it’s) not going to be an issue,” he said.

'Discriminatory'

Grand Bank council has been vocal about waste management operations on the Burin Peninsula since the regional board was put in place in 2012.

Waste services once again came up for discussion at council’s regular meeting on Jan. 15, with the new residential guideline at the Jean de Baie site one of the concerns that was brought up.

Another issue that has raised council’s ire is an additional $85-waste collection charge for cabin owners in unincorporated areas of the Burin Peninsula who also have homes in towns and local service districts in the region.

One prime example is the area outside Grand Bank, along Route 220, heading towards Marystown, where there are numerous cabins, some lived in year-round, but many seasonal and only visited occasionally.

The $85-fee is in addition to the amount residents are charged for garbage pickup at their homes in the town itself. The regional service board charges towns $170 per home. Towns are responsible for collecting the fee from homeowners and passing it along to the board. People who live year-round in cabins in unincorporated areas are charged $170 a year and are responsible for paying the board themselves.

The board recently hired an individual with a legal background to follow up on such delinquent accounts, Murphy told the Southern Gazette. The regional service board is requiring the $85-cabin fee be paid going back to 2012.

Matthews called the fee “discriminatory” in that only people whose cabins are directly on the highway – or if the regional service board’s waste trucks can access them – have to pay, while those located where the vehicles can’t reach them do not.

Cabin owners are required to pay the fee even if they only stay occasionally throughout the year and bring their garbage home with them, Matthews said, as many do.

Matthews acknowledged he owns a cabin outside of Grand Bank but is among those who don’t have to pay the $85-fee.

“It sounds to me like a money grab,” Matthews said, clarifying he feels that people who live full-time at their cabins should be required to pay for waste collection.

Matthews, who charged waste costs are going up while the service is going down, went so far during the meeting as to suggest council hire a lawyer and take on the fees, and held up waste collection as an example of what will happen if regional government is implemented in the province, as is currently being discussed.

“I think it’s wrong,” he said.

Matthews said waste management for Grand Bank this year will cost $191,000. The town could have managed its own trash – as it did for years prior to regional collection – for $117,000, he suggested.

“The government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in waste management. There’s more garbage and trash and debris in the woods today than ever,” he said.

Murphy’s explanation

Murphy explained the reasoning behind the additional half charge for residents with cabins in unincorporated areas as well as a town account with the board.

Under the Regional Service Board Act, the Burin Peninsula Regional Service Board has the power to charge for services it provides, he said.

Murphy said the board’s contract with its private contractor stipulates the company is paid per household, receiving $106 of the $170 the board collects for each. If garbage is put out at a serviceable cabin even once per year, the board is expected to pay the contractor for that property.

“That’s why we have to charge the fee,” Murphy said. “If not, we would have to pass it on to everybody.”

Murphy said the residential and commercial collection fees are the regional service board’s only source of revenue and are used to fund everything from staff salaries to bulk waste collections.

“The problem is you can’t charge for a service you can’t provide,” Murphy said of billing some cabin owners but not others.

Murphy said the Eastern Waste Management Committee has gone that route, however, and is charging all cabin owners, who are responsible for getting their waste to an accessible road no matter their location.

Murphy said the regional service board’s collection rate for unincorporated areas was less than 50 per cent – until the recent effort to collect.

The board’s employee is contacting the property owners to explain the situation and has the authority to work out a payment schedule if need be, Murphy said, adding no one has been taken to court yet, to his knowledge, but that is an option.

“Most people when they get a notice that you’re going to have to go to court, they usually pay up,” he said.

paul.herridge@southerngazette.ca

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