Council review: Garbage monopoly averted

HRM paying more to pick up your trash.

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Snow-covered garbage bags, a mix of black and white colours on a city street.
  • Nino Barbieri

This week’s meeting of Halifax Regional Council was already rescheduled after Tuesday’s moderate snowstorm. Prior commitments on Wednesday meant when the meeting did happen it was considerable shortened.

As such, the public will have to wait to hear discussions on stray livestock escaping from farms, cost-sharing bridge repairs, campaign finance reform, strengthening our African Nova Scotian Affairs office, and the future of the Pavilion.

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It was an added item, not present on the original agenda, which became the most dramatic moment at this week’s meeting. The awarding of garbage collection tenders to RE Group over smaller, longstanding companies like Leo J. Beazley caused near outrage from some.

“I’m concerned about having all our eggs in one wastepaper can,” David Hendsbee said. “[Leo J. Beazley] were the previous service provider…and lost out on such a minuscule amount. Thirteen thousand dollars on a $60 million contract? I’m holding my nose on this one.”

Staff originally recommended HRM award garbage collection in five of the eight municipally-defined areas to Royal Environmental Group. A recommendation that would earn RE Group $39 million over the next four years. RE is a subsidiary of Dexter Construction’s Municipal Group. Their president Kurt Jacobs (VP of the Municipal Group) is also president of Mirror Nova Scotia Ltd., which has the contract to operate the city’s Otter Lake landfill. As the Herald points out, awarding RE those tenders would have meant a near monopoly of garbage collection and processing.

Leo J. Beazley was the previous garbage haulers for Hendsbee’s district, and the rest of area seven (Preston, Lawrencetown, Chezzetcook). This go around, they were underbid by RE Group to the tune of $13,375 and half a scoring point.

After multiple questions on supporting local business and quality of service, council eventually brought the matter in camera and kicked out the gallery. Once they came back, a modified motion was carried that limited the collection areas awarded to three “for the purpose of ensuring continued competitive options within the market place.”

That means Beazley got their garbage contract back, RE also loses out on the Bedford, Hammonds Plains area (which now goes to GFL Environmental for an additional $130,000 over four years).

The garbage contracts were last jointly awarded in 2008, for a period ending in 2013. It was extended twice for one-year periods. Interestingly, the last time that happened Waste Management took home four contracts and half the collection in the city for roughly $6.5 million.

There was much talk about Beazley’s service as a family-owned business that’s long served their community. I have no idea if they’re good at hauling garbage, but I’m sure council will have some lengthy reviews of all providers once these collectors start dealing with the city’s updated garbage bag bylaws.

CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT

The Centre Plan is finally taking shape, which meant council wanted to get a move on approving the municipal strategy’s plan for public engagement. The Centre Plan project is set to deliver a new municipal planning strategy and accompanying land use bylaws for the 47-square kilometre area pictured below. It’ll replace three current MPS and their three accompanying LUBs.

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It’s big, grand framework stuff which will drive a lot of what does and does not happen in Halifax and downtown Dartmouth for the next several years. It needs to solicit as much input as possible from the public to work. The concern at council was making sure all groups, and all areas, are consulted.

“We need people to go out, go to some of these malls,” said Barry Dalrymple.

After some discussion about engaging rural citizens, the disenfranchised and Dartmouthians, council approved the initial strategy. Look for meetings and information sessions in coming weeks.

REMAINDERS

Before council proper, the committee of the whole met to discuss this year’s upcoming Halifax Regional Police budget and business plan. Among other items, the cops are looking for seven more full-time employees, a new civilian analyst, and six new non-union positions. The $77-million budget was eventually approved, but cost increases for unionized employees are still not included. The collective agreement with the police union expires on March 31.

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Councillor Stephen Adams wants a staff report on forming a domestic animal advisory committee to “humanely deal with the feline cat population throughout HRM as part of the Tuxedo Stan Pledge made in 2012.” Hopefully treating the feral cat problem doesn’t exasperate the mice and rat problem in Halifax.

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Council will meet again next week to finish this meeting off, discuss firefighter budgeting, and maybe get to new business if there’s time.

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Overall grade: C

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