WHITE ROCK – Condo owners in White Rock upset with the city cutting their waste collection services voiced their concerns with a rally at city hall.
The demonstration was scheduled to take place on Monday (after the Now’s press time), comprised of members from more than 30 stratas throughout White Rock who are upset with the city cutting their waste collection services.
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Resident Ian Routledge is one of 11,000 strata owners in White Rock. He planned on attending Monday’s rally to show council residents want a say on how their services are decided upon.
"Council needs to have more integrity than this as far as I’m concerned," he said, noting the decision was made in a closed meeting. "This thing is being foisted onto the people of White Rock after decisions were made in secret."
The city announced at the beginning of the year that it would cease collecting waste from commercial and multi-family units on July 1. As such, condo owners and businesses must find their own waste collection service providers from then on.
Asked why the decision was made in a closed meeting, city manager Dan Bottrill said since the discussions involved a situation where the city could have been hiring a contractor, any talks related to that decision were kept closed.
"That’s exactly what council is considering. Typically you don’t deal with matters you could be going with into negotiations because it can be harmful for a municipality to do that in an open meeting," he said.
Of the rally, Bottrill said there seemed to be "misinformation" in the community regarding how the city’s decision would affect condo owners. He said there seemed to be confusion that the decision resulted in the proposed 1.6 per cent reduction in the property tax, which it didn’t.
Rather, Bottrill explained condo owners in White Rock are actually looking at a savings of nine per cent in taxes over the next two years, which he estimates to equate to around $100 per owner.
"So if it’s going to cost you $85 for the year, you’re still going to save some money."
But Mike Guraliuk, president of the union representing city workers, said residents are being put in a position where they’ll be at the mercy of private companies.
"I don’t know how much these people pay out of their strata fees for garbage but this is certainly going to go up," he said. "If it’s contracted out and suddenly someone else is picking it up, they’ve got you over a barrel. Now you’ve either got to pay them or another guy. If gas prices go up the rates are going to rise."
He also noted that while the City of White Rock referred to the cutting of service as "privatizing," its definition differs from other municipalities in that the city is not merely contracting out the work, but leaving it up to those affected to organize their collections.
"It’s not ‘privatizing,’ it’s the city just not doing anything, just stopping it," he said.
However, city manager Dan Bottrill said White Rock’s move is similar to what the City of Surrey does, as businesses and highrise complexes there must also provide their own waste collection, and as such, are not charged the annual waste collection levy. Surrey does offer collection of recyclables to multi-family units, at a cost of about $25 per unit.
Routledge said his strata has already been exploring possible waste collection companies and wondered why the city would want resident’s money going elsewhere.
"There are no garbage disposal companies in White Rock, so all of this money will be going to a garbage pickup company out of New West or Burnaby or wherever else."
And with condo waste collection services set to end on July 1, the city also has a request for proposals (RFP) out for potential contractors for its single-family home waste collection services. The RFP is currently set to close on March 24, the results of which will come as a report to council at a future date.
"We’re still looking at if we’re going to be providing that service with city crew or not," said Bottrill. "We issued an RFP to understand the economics and if it still made sense to do it in house or on a contract basis."
As for assertions that the change was made in response to last year’s city worker
strike, the first in the city’s history, Bottrill noted that the issue had been on the books for the past few years.
"I came here in 2012 and the council had previously indicated that it wanted to move
towards a solid waste utility with associated user fees," he said. "In fact it’s been a corporate priority for the last few years."
The 2012 Corporate Priorities report lists waste collection as a strategic priority, stating the city would look to "develop a plan for solid waste utility and associated user fees."
The condo owners’ rally was set to be held at noon Monday at White Rock City Hall. A public information meeting regarding the changes for condo owners is set to be held on April 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the White Rock Community Centre.