Decision on garbage pick-up proves messy for Revelstoke council

Council will have to discuss garbage pickup again after tie vote leads to defeat of motion to keep service in-house.

After two votes and a lot of discussion, it’s status quo for garbage collection in Revelstoke — for now.

Council spent 45 minutes discussing whether or not to accept a union proposal to keep garbage pick-up in-house, but in the end, a divided council left the matter for another time.

The results of a request for proposals was presented to council on Tuesday, Oct. 13. A proposal from the city union – the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 363 – to keep collection in-house and provide weekly pick-up over four eight-hour days came in the cheapest at a cost of $341,218.

Bresco, which runs the curbside recycling program, sent in four proposals, ranging in price from $389,254 for a manual collection system to $759,658 for an automated system using bear-proof garbage bins.

Emcon Services sent in a proposal for automated collection at a cost of $491,120.

The cost savings anticipated by contracting out garbage collection services were not realized through the Request for Proposals process,” said a staff report by Mike Thomas, the city’s director of engineering. “Continuing to provide an in-house service with collection occurring over four eight-hour days is the lowest cost option available.”

Few details were provided about each proposal, with Thomas telling council that confidentiality agreements prevented the city from making the proposals public.

Councillor Gary Sulz, the chair of the public works committee, led the debate. First, he put forward a motion asking the matter be referred to his committee before going to a vote at council. He was supported by couns. Connie Brothers and Scott Duke, who both said they wanted more information before voting.

“The report we got does not have enough information to make a decision on this,” said Duke.

Coun. Linda Nixon said the discussion on this major budget item should happen at the council table. She was seconded by coun. Trevor English. “I don’t feel the need to go back to committee if Mr. Thomas is prepared to answer questions right now,” he said.

As well, Thomas cautioned that delaying the vote could cause problems for the city, which desperately needs a new truck, and the businesses that had to submit substantial deposits along with their bids.

Sulz’s motion was met with a tie vote, meaning it was defeated. Council went on to discuss the original motion, which was to keep garbage collection in-house.

Sulz asked a number of questions centred on how the union proposal was developed. Thomas said the union prepared the proposal, but staff analyzed it to ensure it was a fair comparison to the private sector proposals.

“We have everything we can think of to compare apples to apples with these proposals,” he said.

Sulz’s main concern was the ability of city staff to do the same job in four days that it currently does in five days.

“I have a hard time understanding how they can do pickup in their time allotted for their work day without us having to pay overtime,” he said. “I’m concerned we’re going to have to say we have to put more money into garbage because it’s costing us $30,000 more per year because of labour.”

Thomas said his recommendation was based on an analysis of the various proposals.

“I can only go what is being said,” he said. “I’ve got the insurance of CUPE they’re going to work towards those times. They have the understanding overtime is not optional on an ordinary day.”

When it finally came to a vote, couns. Aaron Orlando, Trevor English and Linda Nixon voted to keep the service in-house, while couns. Brothers, Duke and Sulz voted against the motion. With another tie, the motion was defeated.

Mayor Mark McKee recused himself from the debate due to his friendship with Brett Renaud, the owner of Bresco.

City staff will now prepare a new report for council that will hopefully address their questions, said Allan Chabot, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, the day after the meeting.

Staff hope to present the new report to council at their next meeting, on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The union expressed surprise and disappointment over council’s decision.

“We took this review process very seriously and were open to discussing ways to improve service and adapt to the changing needs of Revelstoke residents,” said union president Chris Selvig in a news release. In-house curbside garbage collection is clearly the responsible choice – the most economical, responsive and most accountable to taxpayers.”

Renaud said he couldn’t comment until the issue is settled.

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