Only city hall can alleviate condo owners’ concerns over double dipping


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Hardly a week goes by of late without some aspect of garbage collection or recycling muscling their way into headlines.
A particularly thorny issue for council is the so-called double-dipping faced by condominium owners and apartment tenants (although the solution is clearly a simple matter of will as is evident once you read further).
To shed light on this aspect of the municipal waste contract between the city and BFI Canada, this corner sat down with Bob McCaig, the former owner/operator of the Green Lane landfill site and provider of municipal garbage collection, but now just a concerned private citizen eager to provide insight.

He explained there was a very good reason at the time for setting the system up the way it is. The original idea was hatched by McCaig and city officials to promote recycling.
“How were we going to promote this new concept of recycling. What we’ll do is make apartments pay. Everything over seven units would have to provide their own garbage container. And all condominiums have to provide their own container. And it was in the agreement when condominiums were built.”
However, to offset that, noted McCaig, “we’re really going to promote composting and recycling and we’re going to do that for free for the condominiums and apartments. With a little special effort, they will have very little garbage anyway.
“When people bought condominiums it was right in their agreement that they would have to pay for garbage collection, but they would get recycling and composting at no cost.”
And nothing has changed to this day.
“But, I agree,” added McCaig, “the agreement is very convoluted and difficult to understand because it kept referring back to earlier agreements. No question about it, it’s time the contract was cleaned up.”
So how do you compensate these owners?
“You give them a rebate of $6 a month, or so,” McCaig suggests. “The will lies with the city but you only have so many dollars and you’ve got a city to run. It’s not the contractor’s issue. The contractor just does what the contract says.
“I believe the idea is to recycle as much as you can and compost as much as you can. Interestingly enough, it costs a lot less to compost under the current deal than to put the waste into landfill.”
As to the concerns of condo owners, McCaig laid it on the line. The will to address collection fees has to come from city hall, not the contractor.
NOT THE TIME
Back in February, the Canadian Auto Workers made an ill-timed presentation to council urging the city to adopt a buy Canadian policy with regards to the purchase of goods and services.
Council wisely referred the union manifesto to the treasury department and purchasing agent Mike Hoogstra will present his report on Monday.
In a nutshell he concludes, “We feel that the implementation of policies to restrict trade are counter-productive and may eventually result in policies from other jurisdictions that restrict trade.”
The protection of the Canadian manufacturing sector is a matter of federal scope and jurisdiction, Hoogstra continues.
“Council should encourage the senior levels of government to analyze the best ways to ensure the viability of the Canadian manufacturing sector and enact the appropriate legislation give the constraints imposed by international trade agreements.”
Critical advice from Hoogstra and the treasury department that council would be wise to follow to the letter.
WHO NEEDS ‘EM
On the topic of wise decisions, council took the right path Monday when it defeated a motion (albeit on a 4-4 outcome) to proceed with a realty corporation owned and operated by the city’s economic development corporation.
It would have been a first for St. Thomas – the only municipality in the province to establish a corporation to sell property through the Multiple Listing Service.
Mayor Cliff Barwick supported the bylaw, noting the bylaw would give the city access to MLS without having to pay a third-party broker.
Cut out the middle-man you say?
In these unprecedented times, with no sector of the economy escaping unscathed, such a comment must make the city’s real estate community feel warm and fuzzy all over.
As Harold Kewley, broker of record at Century 21 Network Realty Ltd., noted to City Scope, what incentive is there for brokers to bring potential clients to the table who are interested in purchasing city-owned property?
Ald. Gord Campbell went one step further.
“We would have two distinctions in the city: We’d be the only one with a realty corporation without a CAO.”
Funny how many topics of discussion come around to that thorny issue. And do you get the sense there is more to this story than has been made public?
Oh the value of having a real estate licence.
THE WAITING GAME
Mayor Barwick left for his Japan junket on Feb. 16th of this year and returned Feb. 27. As of earlier this week, he had yet to submit his expenses for this hand-holding session with skittish Japanese investors.
As this corner understands city policy, claims are to be submitted within five days from the return of a conference or trip, although we can recall several instances where this procedure has been brushed aside.
Word from the clerk’s office indicates the mayor is awaiting some detailed information from Japan relating to the trip prior to the submission of a claim of expenses.
What detailed information? And is it being sent to St. Thomas via a tramp steamer? What happened to the electronic age?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The more persistently a government maintains silence on a given subject of discussion, the more the public talks about it.”
From the desk of Toronto writer/speaker and municipal consultant, Peter de Jager. In the case of city councils past and present, you have to look no further than city credit cards, the location of the twin-pad community centre and Alma College.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.

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2 thoughts on “Only city hall can alleviate condo owners’ concerns over double dipping

  1. THE WAITING GAME

    On March 30th, a full month after his return from Japan, I asked the City Clerk Wendell Graves for “a copy of the expense voucher(s) along with receipts submitted by Mayor Barwick for the business trip taken to Japan on behalf of the City of St. Thomas.”

    Of particular interest were the “two personal days” Mayor Barwick informed council he had taken after his return and whether Mayor Barwick had paid for his own expenses on his “two personal days”. It drew my attention as these “two personal days” were not discussed or approved in an open council meeting prior to his departure.

    The City Clerk Wendell Graves informed me that the expenses were “a public document” and I should make arrangements to review them with the City Treasurer, Bill Day, but when I contacted him on April 5th; he did not have them,

    I trust my interest in reviewing these expenses has not sparked the untimely delay in them being submitted.

    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas

  2. Bill:
    Marvelous how expenses, like council meetings, can disappear behind closed doors on the meerest whim or hint of controversy. – Ian

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