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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

County reconfirms commitment to regional waste management

- Essex Council endorses the concept -

by Sylene Argent

Essex County Council reconfirmed its commitment to a regional approach to waste management at its regular meeting on April 19, and further directed County Administration to report back with any further feedback received from local municipalities on the matter.

Representatives from the Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) and the County of Essex presented the concept to County Council that evening, and made the same presentation to Town of Essex Administration and Council on Monday evening, as well.

Ultimately, Essex Council endorsed the concept.

In October of 2021, the previous Term of County Council was advised the Organics Waste Program was being pursued to ensure compliance with provincial requirements.

David Sundin, County Solicitor, noted in February of 2022, City of Windsor Council voted in favour of participating in an organics program on a regional-bases, if possible. In March of 2022, County Council voted to inform EWSWA all County municipalities would participate in a regional solution for the collection and processing of organic waste material from urban settlement areas at a minimum.

There were local municipalities, he explained, that were not yet required to participate in the program, due to their populations.

In June of that year, similar motions were made by Kingsville and Essex to explore not just a regional approach to organics, but all waste collection matters in an attempt to reduce costs. At a following County Council meeting, the County unanimously moved to direct its Administration to work with EWSWA to prepare a report on potential cost-savings in transferring jurisdiction of garbage collection from municipalities to the County.

In addition, Administration was to conduct consultations, and seek formal concurrence, with the local municipalities to transfer the jurisdiction of garbage collection and examine the individual potential impacts of recovering fees for all waste and/or organic collection and disposal from a user fee paid system to tax levy billing system.

County Administration and EWSWA are currently working on consulting with municipalities.

Sundin noted next steps include circulating a draft by-law on the matter.

Michelle Bishop, General Manager of the Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority, explained that EWSWA’s Board of Management is comprised of Councillors from County Council and the City of Windsor. In 1994, an agreement notes that municipalities are responsible for their own waste collection, until otherwise determined. There is language that will allow for amendments.

Following the resolution to have Administration work with EWSWA to prepare a report on potential cost-savings in transferring jurisdiction of garbage collection from municipalities to the County, Bishop said EWSWA held a meeting with municipal reps, where open dialogue was held on the matter and details were gathered about local waste collection contracts and service-levels.

Soon after, the EWSWA Board approved the awards of the RFP for the provision of processing of source separated organic waste to Seacliff Energy of Leamington when the green bin program is rolled out, starting in 2025, Bishop added. This is for a period of five-years, with an option for extension.

Then EWSWA issued an RFP to review existing municipal waste collection logistics and transfer sites and further developed a strategic plan for the commencement of an organic waste collection program and regional solid waste collection program. A successful candidate has been selected. EWSWA is expecting a report from the consultant very soon.

Spring 2023 is the target to get a decision from the County municipalities and the City of Windsor in relation to waste collection. It is planned EWSWA will issue an RFT for the collection services for the organics program this year.

Bishop said currently waste collection contacts are negotiated and held at the municipal-level. Terms and pricing vary in range from expirations between 2022 to 2027, and at value from $650,000 to over $1.7M. Recent tendering results indicated significant contact increases, she added.

The anticipated advantages of regionalizing include economies of scale, streamlining service delivery and improving administration efficiencies, standardizing service levels, and incentivising greener household practices.

A by-law would need to be approved to allow for the County to assume responsibility for waste collection. A three-step process needs to be satisfied before that by-law can come into effect, such as a majority of all votes on the council of the upper tier municipality are cast in its favour; and a majority of the councils of all the lower-tier municipalities forming part of the upper tier municipality for municipal purposes have passed resolutions giving their consent to the by-law.

In addition, Sundin said there has to be a majority of local electors, meaning if three of the larger municipalities opted not to move forward, it would not meet the criteria.

Criteria is built into the by-law to allow the waste collection to be downloaded back to the local municipalities, if there was desire to do so.

Should the lower tier municipalities decide the County should not take over garbage collection and operate it as a regional program, the County would still need to pursue a regional approach to organics collection, and would need input from the lower-tier municipalities about the issues with having charges for a regional organics program added to the General Levy.

Sandra Zwiers, County of Essex’s Director of Finance/Treasurer, explained the funding model options, and the difference between User Fee Based, which links usage of service to cost to provide service, and General Levy Based, which links Current Value Assessment to cost to provide service.

One has not been selected as of yet. A working group needs to be established, she said. Then, the fee model can be looked at and decided upon.

If there is support to move to regional waste collection, in theory all costs a municipality pays would be taken off its budget and uploaded to the County.

Mayor Dennis Rogers said Kingsville supports a regional waste and organics collection model, funded by the general County Levy.

LaSalle Mayor Crystal Meloche agreed with Rogers, noting she believed this would be beneficial to the area. She asked how it would work if some municipalities will be in their current waste collection contracts for a few years yet.

Bishop said many other regions have gone through this process in the past. She said some digging would need to be done on the language in those contracts to see if it can be signed over to the County Levy, for instance, and let the contracts naturally expire. Others have extended contracts, so they all expire at the same time. If this is the direction taken, it will be determined the best course in doing so.

Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy said Essex is not in love with the idea of having organics at the landfill, due to smell, nor was the municipality crazy about the idea of organics collection. She wanted that on record.

Bondy agreed with Kingsville Deputy Mayor Kim DeYong that the organics collection is going after the wrong consumer, and wondered if a letter should be sent to the province that it moves forward with an initiative to have ICI (Industrial, Commercial, Institutional) organics mandated, including emerging technologies.

“Sending big trucks down concession roads or in our urban centres to pick up a bucket of apple peels [just doesn’t make sense], when I feel the majority of people who want to compose, are already doing it in their backyard,” Bondy said.

Bishop responded County Council could send that letter to the province. It is on the province’s radar.

Leamington Deputy Mayor Larry Verbeke urged looking into what the greenhouses actually send to the landfill, as vegetables are donated and other methods are used to get rid of organic waste. Bishop noted the landfill does take shredded vines and grow bags from the greenhouse industry.

During the special meeting on Monday evening, where Administration from the County and EWSWA approached Essex Council on the matter, CAO Doug Sweet noted Essex’s 2022 garbage collection tender had an increase of over 60 percent, or $570,000, for the Town to coordinate this service.

“This increase had a major impact on the Town’s 2022 Operating Budget,” Sweet said.

After the information was presented to Essex Council, Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais asked if Essex would have an opportunity to say what service standard it wants, and how much input would Essex get.

Bishop responded that would be tasked to the working group on the matter. She said the seven local municipalities are fairly aligned in their level-of-service. The attention is not to pull back on services, and there could be opportunity for à la carte options.

McGuire-Blais also asked about changes that may need to be made in the future, if the program rolls out, as to whether or not municipalities will have a say. Any changes, Bishop said, would have to go through the EWSWA Board to start. Any budget, she added, required County and City approval.

Essex Council received the presentation and endorsed the concept of a regional approach to waste management. Essex’s Administration was also directed to report back to Council at a future meeting with additional information.

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