At its May 22 meeting, council will be asked to approve an amendment to the Waste Diversion and Curbside Collection bylaw, with regards to used needles.
According to a report from Michelle Shannon, the city’s waste management coordinator, in the past year there have been three incidents of needles found in curbside waste.
Under the current bylaw, used needles are a designated hazardous waste under the Environmental Protection Act and are prohibited from being collected at the curb in the regular waste stream.
Shannon stresses improperly disposed of needles and drug equipment pose a health hazard to the public, garbage collection staff, and municipal employees.
To avoid any risk, used needles can be dropped off for free at the Community Recycling Centre from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays; most pharmacies where needles are purchased; at the drop box outside Elgin St. Thomas Public Health; and the public drop off box at city hall.
If used needles are found in curbside garbage awaiting pick-up, the property owner is notified and regular curbside collection is suspended. Instead, the waste is collected by the waste contractor’s supervisor for four consecutive weeks and the bags are inspected for improper material. If the material is found the property owner is subject to penalties under the bylaw, which includes charges under the Provincial Offences Act and termination of municipal garbage collection.
Shannon goes on to note in her report to council, in recent months there have been numerous occurrences of needles and syringes found on public and privately
She advises city staff and St. Thomas Police Service have reviewed and updated the existing bylaw “to increase the ability of the city to protect public health and safety due to improperly disposed hazardous waste.”
Under proposed amendments to the existing bylaw, any violation to the pickup regulation that poses an immediate threat to public safety in the opinion of the director, will result in the owner of the property being allowed 24 hours to correct the violation. Currently, the owner has three business days.
All parties involved in waste collection should not have to worry about the consequences of being jabbed by a contaminated syringe carelessly disposed of in material awaiting curbside pickup. Likewise, a member of the public – especially young children – should be able to enjoy a park or green space without having to dodge a minefield of discarded needles.
STRIKE IMMINENT AT CLOSING THE GAP?
Talks did not go well at the May 15 conciliation meeting, and so staff at Closing the Gap in St. Thomas will hold an information picket this coming Tuesday (May 22) outside the Talbot Street facility.
Closing the Gap is a healthcare provider offering services in homes, schools, workplaces, long-term care homes, hospitals, and clinics across Ontario.
OPSEU Local 152 represents 22 health care professionals at Closing the Gap. Their contract expired on March 31 of last year.
After a May 2 meeting in London, a final offer from the employer was presented to members who unanimously turned down the deal.
The main stumbling block is wages, with Closing the Gap earning, on average, $165 per client visit while paying their employees $46 to $48 per visit, some of those lasting almost two hours.
In a media release, OPSEU president Smokey Thomas notes, “The people and families of St. Thomas deserve the same high-quality health care provided to other communities across the province. But the owners of Closing the Gap are putting profits first. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it must stop.”
Lynne Easter, staff representative at the OPSEU London Regional Office, told City Scope yesterday (May 18) workers could be in a legal strike position by early June.
“Things did not go very well on the 15th,” she advised, adding they could be on a 17-day countdown in terms of a legal strike position as of yesterday.
“Not much has changed. With the original offer, there have been some minor changes, but one of the huge sticking points is the hours of work and we can’t seem to get them off that.
“We agreed to withdraw that and take it through a legal agreement procedure, but they (management) want us to waive that right for the life of a contact. There is no way I can do that. It’s a huge demand.”
As for the information picket, Easter says she hopes to get some of the provincial candidates out on Tuesday.
“Certainly the timing of this is perfect.”
In a previous conversation with Closing the Gap president Leighton McDonald, he told this corner he takes issue with the claim St. Thomas workers are not fairly compensated or respected.
“We saw the comment that was sent out by Mr. Thomas and obviously we don’t agree,” advised McDonald.
The information picket will run from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Closing the Gap, 452 Talbot Street.
One name to add to the list of St. Thomas individuals who have declared their intention to run in the municipal election this October.
Incumbent Mark Tinlin is seeking re-election and joins Petrussia Hontar and Steve Peters as hopefuls for one of eight councillor seats up for grabs this fall.
Tinlin is the former deputy mayor of the Township of South Frontenac near Kingston
To date, Mayor Heather Jackson has not filed her nomination papers, while Coun. Steve Wookey made his intention known May 1 he was seeking to unseat Jackson.
In 2014, Wookey was the top vote getter among aldermanic candidates with 5,278 votes.
Jackson, meantime, garnered 4,475 votes en route to defeating Mark Cosens and Cliff Barwick.
Perhaps those numbers are giving her pause for thought.
Meantime, long-serving Bill Hall is the first to declare his intention to run again as Elgin trustee for the London District Catholic School Board.
ONE TO WATCH
At council’s May 7 reference committee meeting, it was revealed the city is working on a bylaw to deal with non-licensed residential care homes in St. Thomas, such as Walnut Manor.
The facility, operated by Niagara Supportive Living out of Welland, has been accused of warehousing the city’s most vulnerable individuals.
Should the city adopt such a bylaw, you can’t help but feel director Vishal Chityal would simply shut down the Walnut Street home.
More on the proposed bylaw next week.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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