Low council votes down compost contract
Garbage, recycling contracts awarded
At the first meeting of its mandate, the new Low council voted against a compost collection and transportation contract, but in favour of a more expensive garbage and recycling service.
During the Nov. 15 Low council meeting, councillors Maureen McEvoy, Luc Thivierge, Lee Angus, and Ghyslain Robert voted against awarding a $96,399 compost collection and transportation contract to Montreal-based waste collection company Location Martin-Lalonde Inc. Two of the four Low residents in the crowd applauded when the compost contract was voted down.
Door-to-door compost collection has been a controversial subject in Low where many households compost on-site. The province of Quebec mandates that municipalities must reduce waste going to landfills, and many local jurisdictions have looked to compost collection programs as a solution. The start date of the MRC La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau’s compost collection program, which Mayor Carole Robert voted in favour of on the MRC mayors council, was supposed to begin this year, but has been pushed to March.
In November 2020, Low council drafted a resolution in opposition to the MRC’s compost program, citing the municipality being unprepared to budget for an entire other collection route for compost.
Low resident Steve Connolly asked councillors to raise their hand if they thought the majority of Low households would put out compost bins for collection. No councillors put their hands up. Connolly said that he thinks maybe 100 houses would put out compost bins.
“It was not voted for, so probably the majority of people here think like you,” councillor Joanne Mayer told Connolly.
“We have no choice but to use [the MRC compost program]. We have that legal advice,” councillor Maureen Rice added, since Mayor Robert voted for it at the MRC level.
“But it’s still bullshit,” Thivierge quipped.
Director general Joanne Owens said that, as it stands now, compost collection through the MRC program won’t begin in Low by the target date in March, but she added that council has a lot of options to meet the MRC’s goal of launching the collection program in the spring.
But the municipality is obligated to collect compost eventually, it’s just a matter of when.
Garbage and recycling
During that same meeting, council unanimously voted in favour of $115,281 for household garbage and bulky item collection and transportation, and $74,352 for recycling collection and transportation contracts to Location Martin-Lalonde Inc. All contract prices are before taxes.
The approved one-year contracts start in December and, before taxes, they exceed the cost of Low’s current garbage and recycling pick-up contract with the municipality of Denholm – about $13,500 a month – by $27,633.
Low’s contract with Denholm began in 2016, but ends Dec. 6. The two municipalities have butted heads several times over the price and terms of the service.
Earlier this year the Denholm municipal council passed a resolution that it wouldn’t make another garbage and recycling pick-up agreement with Low.
Councillor Robert said that, even if Denholm hadn’t passed that resolution, signing on with Denholm again would have been more expensive than going with Location Martin-Lalonde Inc. because of foreman and administrative fees tacked on by Denholm that “skyrocketed” during the contact period.
Before the council meeting in Low Heritage Hall began, council members and director general Owens were in an adjacent room having a meeting that could be heard by the people waiting for the public meeting to start. A voice could be heard saying that they would resign if the staffing shortage wasn’t addressed and that there is a full and part-time position open in a department.
When asked about that discussion, Mayor Robert said, “No, we were just having a private conversation and you shouldn’t have been part of it.”
Councillor Robert said that the road department has been short staffed for 10 years and the administration department for five years.
“There’s a shortage of personnel in every department in the municipality of Low; it’s been ongoing for years,” he said.
The only municipal employee who exited the adjacent room to come into Heritage Hall with the councillors and mayor was Owens.
“It was pushing a point,” Owens later said, adding that she’s not, in fact, resigning.
She added that, since it’s budget season, now is the time to budget for more staff.