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Waste plan to draw debate

Notices of the city's introduction of curbside organic pickup are hitting St. Albert mailboxes but the program is far from a done deal in the minds of some city councillors.

Notices of the city's introduction of curbside organic pickup are hitting St. Albert mailboxes but the program is far from a done deal in the minds of some city councillors.

Tuesday's final budget meeting promises to put the organics program under heavy scrutiny as a number of councillors have filed information requests about the program.

Coun. Cam MacKay has been at the forefront, questioning the city's direction with waste management.

MacKay has asked what it would cost for the city to contract out all its waste collection. He also wanted to know what it would cost to back out of its deal to purchase new garbage trucks for the organics program.

Garbage collection in part of the city is handled by a private contractor that offers optional organics pickup for just $37 a year, MacKay said. He wonders whether the city should simply have that company take over all collection. In his mind, this would provide optional organics pickup to every homeowner.

Neil Jamieson, the city's general manager of planning and engineering, told council last week that the program in question is old and it remains to be seen if the contractor would extend it to other residents.

Costly to break contract

The city has ordered five garbage trucks for $1.25 million and they're being built "as we speak," said city manager Bill Holtby.

Backing out of the deal could cost the city "well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars," said his report to council.

The city hasn't yet ordered the toters that would be part of the program which would see each home receive two plastic carts, one for garbage and one for organics.

Other questions

Coun. Cathy Heron feels St. Albert needs to catch up to other communities by adding organics pickup. But she would like to explore a system that's more based on level of use rather that a flat rate fee to reward residents who work to reduce their waste.

She plans to meet with city officials in the new year rather than deal with this aspect during the budget process. But she wasn't keen on an optional program.

"I'm not very supportive of opting out because it would jeopardize the whole program," she said.

Coun. Roger Lemieux said he's hearing complaints from people who don't have space for two toters. He wonders whether the city can alter the plan so there's only one toter involved.

"No matter what we say about other communities and how they're moving forward, it's still an inconvenience and it's an expense," he said.

Mayor Nolan Crouse has been a vocal advocate for the organics program and said that will continue to be his position Tuesday if others seek to open it up or kill it.

"We've made a decision. We've funded everything. We're already communicating with the public what the plan is," he said. "My opinion is it's done and doesn't need to be revisited."

The previous council approved the organics program last June. The program is set to begin in June 2011.

The city's contract to dump at the 170 Street landfill ends in 2011. It has an agreement to use the Roseridge site near Morinville. The addition of organics pickup is an effort to reduce the amount of waste that needs to be trucked to the new site, Holtby said.




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