WHITE ROCK – Close to 200 residents descended upon the lawns of city hall Monday afternoon (March 23) to push back against the city’s decision to end inhouse waste collection for multi-family residences.
The rally was the culmination of weeks of growing discontent within the community after residents were left wondering why the decision was seemingly made without any consultation or input from the public.
"We’re here today because city staff and politicians, we pay their salaries and they do not respect us," said rally organizer Bill Vigars. "We’re
here because city hall is stripping us of our dignity; we are here because city hall is trying to shut down the voices of democracy. We want transparency; we want truthfulness and all citizens treated equally."
The point of contention came the first week of January when the city announced it would be ceasing waste collection for businesses and residents in multi-family units on July 1. After that date, unit owners would then be responsible for finding their own service providers.
But residents affected, primarily condo owners, are saying they don’t want to privatize their waste collection, nor should the city be forcing them to do so.Theresa Reilkoff, a retired teacher and condo owner in White Rock, said she was unaware of the change until recently, and did not know what her and her fellow strata owners would be doing come July.
Reilkoff said they felt "abandoned" by the city and are now having to scramble to find new providers.
"Mayor Baldwin and councillors, it is not too late to modify this decision," she said.
Karen Reid Sidhu, director of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society, also spoke at the event on behalf of her 80-year-old mother, who lives in White Rock.
She blasted council for its "lack of transparency"
in making this decision without taking into consideration what it may mean for seniors like her mother.
"To privatize the garbage pickup for a place the size of my mother’s, where there are 14 units, is going to be a tremendous burden on each and every one of those
owners financially," said Reid Sidhu. "Each of those owners are on a pension."
Late last week the City of White Rock came out with a release stating that condo owners would be saving an estimated nine per cent in taxes over the next two years due to the elimination of their waste services, but
Mayor Wayne Baldwin admitted Monday that some unit owners would likely see an increase in cost going the private route.
"It will vary, some of the more expensive condos will realize an overall decrease and some of the less expensive ones will likely see an increase and that’s because of the way taxes work, they’re based on the assessed value," he said. "So that’s a bit of a painful transition for some and for others it won’t be so bad."
Speaking with reporters after being delivered a letter by residents opposed, Baldwin said the elimination of waste removal was in line with what many other cities already do, and that the decision was motivated by waste-separation policies set out by Metro Vancouver. He said with organic separation becoming the new norm, it would be impossible for city crews to determine which units aren’t following guidelines in the event that a condo owner decides to throw everything out in the garbage.
"When our guys go around to pick up garbage from a single-family house, they can see exactly what’s in there," he explained, noting Metro Vancouver will fine municipalities with mixed waste. "If they see a whole bunch of organic waste in there, they identify from where it came. You can’t do that in a multifamily in a big bin." Baldwin also rejected the notion that the decision was made in secret, noting the city waited until after the holidays before putting out the information.
"Probably we have not done as good a job as we could have broadcasting and informing people," he said. "We are working at rectifying that and within a couple of weeks we’ll have that information out and people will understand it better."
The city is pla`nning an information meeting for affected condo owners on Wednesday, April 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the White Rock Community Centre. email@example.com