A waste of time? Saskatoon’s journey to trash changes

City council is expected to vote Monday on reversing a decision to introduce user fees for trash collection, about four weeks after council voted for it.

Here’s a timeline of how we got here.

April 2015

Council unanimously votes to adopt a series of ambitious performance targets, including to reduce the amount of material taken to the landfill by 70 per cent by 2023. Seven still remain on council from that vote: Mayor Charlie Clark, Coun. Troy Davies, Coun. Randy Donauer, Coun. Darren Hill, Coun. Ann Iwanchuk, Coun. Zach Jeffries and Coun. Mairin Loewen.

December 2015

Council votes unanimously to hire a consultant for nearly $330,000 to come up with a plan to reverse failing efforts to divert material from the landfill. Saskatoon consistently ranks near the bottom of Canadian cities when it comes to waste diversion.

January 2017

A City of Saskatoon report says 77 per cent of material sent to Saskatoon’s landfill could have been diverted with new programs. Most of that material was organics, like food scraps and yard waste. For single-family homes, 58 per cent of material in trash carts was organic.

May 2017

A city report says staff have started work on a waste diversion strategy and signals that it will include mandatory organics collection and composting and a user fee utility model for trash collection. The report is endorsed unanimously by a city council committee and then by council as part of the consent agenda.

June 2017

Council votes 8-2 to approve further study of a waste utility that would charge user fees for trash collection based on the amount of material sent to the landfill. Donauer and Iwanchuk voted against it, while Davies was absent. Clark, Hill, Jeffries, Loewen, Coun. Cynthia Block, Coun. Bev Dubois, Coun. Sarina Gersher and Coun. Hilary Gough voted in favour.

August 2017

Council votes 7-4 in favour of exploring a utility model for waste services that would be financed by user fees, like water and power rates. Clark, Block, Gersher, Gough, Hill, Jeffries and Loewen vote in favour, with Davies, Donauer, Dubois and Iwanchuk opposed. Hill says council must be guided by what’s good for the community in the future, not just what is popular at the moment.

June 2018

City staff, including the director of environmental and corporate initiatives Brenda Wallace, hold a news conference to explain proposed changes to waste management. The recommendations include a user fee model for trash collection based on three different cart sizes and a mandatory curbside green cart program to collect organic waste.

The development of a garbage utility with variable user fees based on cart size is approved 7-3 with Hill absent. Clark, Block, Dubois, Gersher, Gough, Jeffries and Loewen approve, with Davies, Donauer and Iwanchuk opposed. Council also votes 8-2 to develop a mandatory green cart program. Donauer votes in favour with Davies and Iwanchuk opposed. The word “implement” is removed from both motions.

September 2018

A city report says property taxes will drop 3.5 per cent if user fees for trash pickup and a new organics program are introduced. The model is deemed to be cheaper by $5 million a year than continuing with the current system and having to replace the landfill in 40 years. Council votes 6-5 to postpone a vote on the changes until October to get more information. Davies, Donauer, Dubois, Hill and Iwanchuk vote against the deferral.

October 2018

Council approves a new city-wide organics collection program by a 7-4 vote with Davies, Dubois, Hill and Iwanchuk opposed. A decision on how to fund the organics program — through property tax or user fees — is deferred until November, as is a final decision on trash collection user fees. Hill said residents in his ward oppose the idea of fees to pay for an organics program.

Nov. 19, 2018

A user fees model for trash collection is approved by a 6-5 vote with Davies, Donauer, Dubois, Iwanchuk and Jeffries opposed. Council also votes 7-4 to use property tax to pay for the new organics program. This model is expected to result in no property tax increase or decrease, although single-family homeowners would pay the additional fees. The program is expected to start in 2020. Adding the new organics program without introducing user fees for trash pickup is expected to result in a 4.7 per cent property tax hike in 2020.

Nov. 27, 2018

At the end of the second day of budget deliberations, Hill signals his intention to instigate a vote on reversing the user fees decision. Hill says he made the wrong decision.

Monday

Council will vote on rescinding the trash user fees.

ptank@postmedia.com

twitter.com/thinktankSK

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