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Victoria mayor willing to backtrack on switch to curbside garbage pickup

Feb 09 2012

A switch to curbside collection of garbage could be short lived if residents don't like it, says Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin.

After surveying residents on their preferences, councillors sitting in committee have already voted 8-1 to move to curbside collection of garbage and organics beginning next year. That decision is up for ratification by council tonight.

But Fortin said he'll suggest a compromise that would see the city survey residents six months after the change and, if they're not happy, move to backyard collection every two weeks (Option B) in 2014.

"We'll implement it. We'll do the changes because we feel that we're honour bound and committed to that but there's an opportunity for citizens to try it for six months and then we'll go back to them and survey them and see which option they'd like to have," Fortin said.

Victoria CUPE workers remain firm in their stand that the city should not move away from backyard pickup at all.

CUPE 50 president John Burrows said the idea of a compromise is interesting, but the city should "make the right decision" in the first place and stick with backyard service.

"Why wait for the peasants to rise up and get mad?" said Burrows.

In a survey mailed to 11,400 households in December, residents were offered a choice of three options as the city moves to include collection of kitchen scraps for recycling along with garbage:

n A) alternating weekly pickup (garbage one week and organics the next) with backyard pickup, but bins left at the curb (estimated to cost $229 a year per household);

n B) collection every two weeks of both organics and garbage with pickup from the backyard, but with the tote left at the curb (estimated to cost $183 a year per household);

n C) collection every two weeks of both organics and garbage with both pickup and tote return at the curb (estimated to cost $161 a year per household).

Kitchen scraps include fruit and vegetable scraps, meat/fish and soiled paper products.

Some 4,316 residents — 38 per cent — returned the survey and Option (C) was the most preferred, with 48 per cent in favour. Option (B) was the choice of 35 per cent and Option (A) received 13 per cent support. Three per cent of respondents did not support any of the options.

Burrows, who says nine union positions will be lost if the council sticks with the decision to go to the lowest- cost option, noted that more people voted against the recommended option than voted for it and that the common factor between Options A and B was backyard pickup.

"We're still, obviously, scrapping about it and we will be at council Thursday night," Burrows said.

CUPE mounted its own campaign while the survey was being undertaken to try to convince people to write in their support for backyard pickup. In recent days, it has launched an advertising campaign warning residents their backyard pickup is at risk.

Fortin said the council consulted with residents and has committed to doing what they wanted.

"Because it is a utility, we had the opportunity to go out and consult with people who directly pay the bills," Fortin said.

"We had made the promise that you tell us what to do and we'll bring it in — the highest level of civic engagement."

Regardless, the city will continue to provide backyard pickup for seniors or the disabled who are unable to get a tote to the curb, he said.

While positions will be eliminated, existing workers are not affected as the city is working with the union to ensure they will be redeployed in either public works or parks, Fortin said.

But Burrows said Fortin is soft-selling the situation.

"We're going to lose nine full-time positions and the mayor keeps talking about how we're working wonderfully with the union to soften the impact and that's just a load of garbage. We're not working with them. We're fighting with them," Burrows said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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