Bill Vigars speaks to a crowd of more than 100 who gathered at city hall in March 2015 to protest White Rock’s privatization of multi-family garbage pickup. (File photo)

Bill Vigars speaks to a crowd of more than 100 who gathered at city hall in March 2015 to protest White Rock’s privatization of multi-family garbage pickup. (File photo)

White Rock council approves change to multi-family, commercial waste collection

Transition to city-managed contractor anticipated in March 2023

The City of White Rock will resume management of multi-family and commercial solid-waste collection, following a vote at council’s regular meeting on Monday Oct. 4.

The change from private collection will not be immediate, however – and some residents and businesses may have to wait for as much as 14 months for the transition to be complete, depending on the status of their current collection contracts.

Council unanimously gave first, second and third reading to the amended Collection, Removal, Disposal and Recycling of Solid Waste Bylaw, essentially reversing a controversial decision to privatize multi-family and commercial solid waste collection, made by the previous council in 2015.

A corporate report from city engineer and municipal operations director Jim Gordon noted the bylaw “stipulates that multi-family and institutional, commercial and industrial properties can opt into city-managed services beginning Jan. 30, 2023, and must transition by March 27, 2023, or (by) the termination date of any private solid waste service agreement that was entered into prior to the bylaw adoption date.”

“By Jan. 1, 2024, contract or not, everybody would be on the city system; they’d be paying for the core service,” city engineer and municipal operations director Jim Gordon explained while reviewing the corporate report for council.

Council also approved Gordon’s recommendations that a contractor for the collection services be procured, and that the city recruit for the new position of a full-time solid-waste co-ordinator this fall.

In his report Gordon explained that “significant staff time is required to coordinate the location and frequency of pickup with the building managers of over 252 (multi-family) and 96 (institutional, commercial and industrial) properties, procure the contractor, educate residents about the transition, and manage the contractor.”

The city announced in January 2015 that it was going to privatize commercial and multifamily recycling, garbage and organics collections; a move chosen out of options that were laid out in late 2014 in a solid-waste review report.

READ MORE: Change in wind for garbage pickup

The decision, made at a non-public meeting, was described at the time as a “fair and equitable” one that would benefit businesses; also, that it was brought in due to new regulations and Metro Vancouver targets.

However, it was a source of contention among those affected, sparking upset amongst many condominium residents, businesses and the city’s unionized workers.

READ MORE: White Rock leaders rethink waste pickup

In November 2018, shortly after the last municipal election, council endorsed a motion by Mayor Darryl Walker for “some kind of an overall review of the pickup of solid waste in our community, including both public and private; including single-family dwellings, apartments, condominiums and so on.”

Open-house discussions aimed at securing community input on whether White Rock should move to a city or city-managed collection of multi-family and commercial waste, or stay with the current system were held in early 2020.

Council in October of last year approved funding for the purchase of recycling replacement vehicles and solid-waste collection vehicles, and through legal counsel, determined that they can request through bylaw that private property owners terminate contracts with private haulers.

According to the report prepared for council’s Oct. 4 meeting, a review of other municipalities’ waste collection “concluded that collection by a City managed contractor provides the most benefit to the City… reduces the number of waste haulers on City streets and would not require capital expenditures.”

The consultant estimated the annual contract cost for solid-waste collection services at between $1.3 and $1.5 million, with multi-family per-unit costs of $164, of which there are approximately 5,500, and $4,000 per institutional, commercial and industrial property.

The solid-waste co-ordinator cost is anticipated to be $100,000 per year.

The transition – identified as a 2018-2022 council strategic priority – “will require extensive communication,” the report by director of engineering and municipal operations Jim Gordon adds.

In discussing the solid-waste removal issue at the Sept. 20 meeting, Coun. Scott Kristjanson said the city service “was removed by the previous council rather quickly and not ceremoniously.”

Noting the transition date falls outside of the current council’s term, Kristjanson asked if the service could begin earlier and “let stratas opt in if they want to.”

Gordon responded that the suggestion is “contrary to the instructions I’ve got.”

“There was concern about multiple trucks from different companies using the same street,” he continued. “Part of the difficulty with this is we’ve got about 400… customers, 100 of them are commercial. You need to define what their needs are in all three streams. The contractors need a lot of lead time.

“It’s going to be a year-and-a-half for the garbage trucks we ordered, so if a contractor’s going to take this job on, he has to get the equipment. But you can’t just throw it out to them quickly and only have part of the city there, or it’s not going to work the way council hopes.

“Maybe we could shave a few months off, I don’t know. We’ll do our very best as we work through.”
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