Waste management ambiguities prove odoriferous


Ian McCallum

Ian McCallum


Difficult to predict what will prove more odoriferous, dealing with
the city’s current waste management agreement — a “contract of
contradictions” — or the wall of silence surrounding the hiring of
the city’s first waste management coordinator.
The existing contract between the city and BFI Canada Inc., dates
back to the days of Bob McCaig and the Green Lane Environmental Group and was signed in 1994.

While not a perfect arrangement, there were on-going issues dealing
with apartment and condominium pick-ups and recycling, the deal
couldn’t have been that far off the mark if the city hasn’t amended
the deal in more than a decade.
However, according to BFI London District manager Dave Raney, the
contract is rife with ambiguities.
“The contract is not clear,” Raney told the T-J this week, “it’s not
consistent.”
BFI purchased the waste collection, recycling and materials recovery
operations from Green Lane last spring and concerns about the firm’s
pick-up performance came to a head over the Christmas holidays.
Some city residents were charged a fee for disposing of their trees
at the transfer station, a practice that halted after Raney was
contacted by the T-J on Monday.
Unfortunately, those who handed over as much as $5 to throw their
tree in the chipper will not be refunded, since no receipts were
issued, Raney advised.
Meantime, T-J reader Roy Banman complained about recyclables being
dumped into the same truck as household waste on Christmas Eve, a
fact Raney flatly denied.
“To say that we were throwing all in one — that’s convenient if it
was somebody who was pissed off at the fact that they never put their
box out or their garbage out,” stressed Raney.
With a response like that, the contract negotiations should prove
lively.
Perhaps the city should call Mr. McCaig out of retirement to serve
as a consultant. After all, he knows a good deal when he sees one.
As to the hiring of a waste management coordinator, would you not
think this a good news story for the city that warrants a glowing
media release from city hall?
Instead, this newsroom has encountered stubborn resistance from
director of environmental services, John Dewancker, who chose only to
confirm Michelle Shannon is the new hire.
A request to interview Shannon on the significance of her position
was flatly refused by Dewancker, who would only say “she is well-
versed (in waste management).”
Gee, so is any householder who can wade through all the requirements
for effectively recycling and composting in this community.
Having obtained a copy of the job prospectus however, we must assume
our new waste management coordinator has a university level degree in
environmental science or engineering and at least three years
experience in the municipal waste management and recycling field.
Would that be a fair assessment, Mr. Dewancker?

END THE TRADITION
As far as New Year’s addresses go, Mayor Cliff Barwick’s message
Monday was nothing short of a yawner.
Devoid of substance, rife with finger pointing and short on
positives, this state of the union presentation presented little in
the way of a calming influence for shell-shocked city shareholders.
Most confusing was Barwick’s goal to “rework the management
committee and to possibly introduce an overview executive committee.”
Huh?
Would it not be simpler and more effective to hire a CAO?
Discount the dozen or so invited guests and city staffers and you
could count the number of gallery attendees on one hand.
Next year, start the regular schedule of council meetings a week
earlier.

ON A POSITIVE NOTE
In response to last week’s column, reader Penny Rice passes along
her suggestions to assist in a positive outcome for St. Thomas and
region in 2009 and beyond.
“I am keenly interested in your challenge put out to the public,”
writes Penny.
“What about a committee of positive/hopeful/goal-oriented people,
those that respond to your challenge? A group of citizens who is
determined to focus on the future with no personal agenda other
than their love of our city and a determined desire to work through
these difficult days/months ahead.”
Naysayers and finger-pointers need not apply, she asserts.
“I have often thought of the few businesses on Talbot Street that
manage to survive down times. How do they do it?
“How do we encourage them to share their philosophy and strategies
with others on the main street with those that may not survive?
“We have a beautiful lake to the south, we have a tourism industry
that is doing everything it can to promote our area, we have a large
city to the north that, like it or not, offers everything that St.
Thomas offers and more.
“If we need to compete we need to compete on a different level …
possibly better, quicker, friendlier service. We don’t need (nor do
we have time) to re-invent the wheel, maybe we need to be the ones that provide better grease.
“People can move mountains. I hope and pray that your responses are
numerous, if nothing else it may prompt a new column for the paper,
possibly titled the Positive Side of Life.”
Couldn’t agree more Penny and I encourage readers to submit their
thoughts and positive suggestions to either of the addresses below.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The Sutherland Press building continues to defy gravity and gives us an example of the judicial court process.”
In his New Year’s address, Mayor Cliff Barwick failed to mention the
city granted a building permit to owner David McGee two weeks
previous in order to make the building structurally safe.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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