By Ryan King
Community News Reporter
SOUTH BRANCH – The South Branch Waste Disposal Committee (SBWDC) recently announced that the 2022 garbage fees for the community increased from $180 per household to $200. The fee increase caused some backlash from residents on social media, but Chair Bonnie Muise stated it was necessary.
Muise explained that beside the SBWDC, which has four volunteers, the Southwest Coast Disposal Committee (SCDC) was also involved in this decision. She is also the chair of this committee, which addresses garbage collection in all the communities from South Branch to Rose Blanche.
“In 2012 we were mandated to form this committee by the government and as a group each community had a representative on the Southwest Coast Waste Disposal Committee. We decided that we would try to do everything together so that we could minimize the cost to each individual household,” said Muise.
Using a contractor for the communities proved too expensive.
“We tried going the contract route and we just couldn’t get a contractor. We put out tenders and everything, and we couldn’t get a contractor that would make it feasible for us. The cheapest that we could find would cost the households approximately $350 a year, and we tried to do something where we could keep the cost below $200 a year for each household.”
With that option ruled out, the committee turned to the town of Port aux Basques, which already had infrastructure, including mechanics and trucks.
“What we decided as a committee was that we would have them basically do the administration and the mechanical and maintenance portion. Each community within the Southwest coast would put so much money based on each household into what we call ‘a pot of money’ that the town kind of oversees for us. That’s where we determine how much money that each household pays.”
Port aux Basques Town Manager Leon MacIsaac clarified who owns the garbage collection equipment and how the tipping fees for communities using waste disposal sites is set.
“The Marine Mountain Zone Waste Management Committee (MMZWMC) sets the tipping fee structure for all communities on the southwest coast, including the Town of Channel-Port aux Basques. The Town of Channel-Port aux Basques provides the personnel to collect waste; all equipment is owned by the MMZWMC.”
Western Regional Waste Management (WRWM) also clarified its role in the system.
“We don’t control their fees, other than the standard tipping fee. Neither do we control the disruptions in collection,” explained WRWM’s Lynn Howse.
“Our tipping fee has not changed. We also do not provide any curbside collection,” added Jason King, also with WRWM.
To clarify further, Muise provided an example for calculating the fees for garbage collection at individual households.
“For example, our Southwest Coast Committee through the Town of Port aux Basques charges each household in the Southwest coast ‘X’ amount of dollars. So each community needs to pay the town of Channel-Port aux Basques or our Southwest Coast Committee that amount of money per household. So for example, in the Codroy Valley there’s 685 households. So the Codroy Valley needs to pay the town of Channel-Port aux Basques via our Southwest Coast account 685 times the amount that it costs per household. So each community is sent an invoice four times a year, and that’s what we have to pay.”
Rising fuel costs and increased maintenance for the trucks are behind this recent fee increase.
“Also we had to purchase another garbage truck because the garbage trucks are going five days a week back and forth over the roads. They only last so long. So all of this increased our cost, therefore as per everything else, we have to put the cost back onto the householders,” said Muise.
MacIsaac also keyed in on the trucks as a factor.
“The refuse trucks collect all waste from South Branch to Rose Blanch and travel over many roads that are in dire need of minor and/or major repairs. The condition of area roads is reflected in the frequent repairs required to the collection vehicles. Increased costs in maintenance and fuel (currently at its highest level) has to be reflected in the fees charged to residents,” said MacIsaac.
That meant the fee for South Branch households increased by $20, from $180 per year to $200.
“But people don’t seem to understand that,” said Muise.
Holding a public meeting to discuss the increased fee is complicated by the pandemic.
“In South Branch, because we’re not a municipality, we normally had general meetings once a year, but unfortunately due to COVID we have no place to have those meetings, because our Community Center has been shut down since COVID. So we have no place to have a public meeting, and based on previous times that we did have meetings we only got a handful of people anyway,” shared Muise.
Besides the increase in fees, some residents were upset that there were a number of times in the past year when garbage collection was interrupted or halted, especially blue bags. Muise explained that the days the garbage was not picked up were due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.
“Weather was one, because the garbage truck won’t go through the Wreckhouse at 140 km/h winds and I don’t blame them. I think it happened maybe four times this year… and once we only had one truck because one broke down, and we’re still waiting for a part. We have a truck that is still under warranty, there’s a turbo issue, and we’re still waiting for the part. Due to COVID it’s undeliverable, or unattainable, or unavailable. Whatever the case may be, we’re still waiting for the part. So we had to go with our fairly new truck and our old truck, and at that time the old truck was broke down. So you can only do so much.”
Muise said that the volunteers and communities are working together to keep the fees as affordable as possible to residents.
“People seem to think that each community is making the rules. We’re really not. We’re all together and we’re trying to do it together, because like anything else, the more people you have the less it will cost and that’s what we’re trying to do.”