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Push for answers on bid to close transfer stations

The region, through its director of waste management Jon Arsenault, should be on a very hot seat at next week’s Woolwich council meeting, grilled for the inexplicable decision to close the rural transfer stations.
Willing to dump much more money into poorly used and ill-considered projects – the bus in Woolwich, the LRT scheme jump readily to mind – the region with this move eliminates a service that is well used, much needed and of actual value, the latter being a troublingly vanishing trait.
Closing the four transfer stations, including one in Elmira, could save about $300,000, a pittance. The region argues it would have to spend millions of dollars on upgrades to keep the facilities open, though residents will need plenty of convincing on that front. Even if some investment is required, that falls into the infrastructure renewal category, projects that can be amortized over decades-long lifespans.
In attempting to shave its budget – what might be sucking up all kinds of money, perhaps? – the region is removing from residents a useful service, offering no recompense. Think of the decision to stop mowing grass (well, weeds) along roadways as a similar inexplicable situation.
With the transfer stations, the closure leads to some significant consequences – externalities in the region’s rationale. Not the least of these is an uptick in the instances of illegal dumping, something the township is already seeing with the severe cutbacks in the hours of operation at the Elmira transfer station, which saw 25,000 visitors in the past year. Each pile of trash left by the roadside must be cleaned up and hauled away, at township expense. The same goes for an increase in the amount of garbage dumped into municipal bins in places like parks: the bins will need to be emptied more often, with more trash to be carted away.
In addition, closing the stations forces township residents who don’t just dump-and-run to travel to the Erb Street landfill, a fair distance for some. No one can argue 25,000 individual trips to the dump is more environmentally friendly or less costly than a few trucks hauling large bins from Howard Avenue, for instance.
Moreover, the decision indicates the regard the upper tier government has for the townships. It seems unlikely a service of benefit to a correspondingly large percentage of residents would be scrapped in the cities, let alone so cavalierly.
Of course, you could argue that people should simply suck it up, that there’s no justification for illegal dumping. The latter is certainly true, even if the upsurge already underway was perfectly predictable. Environmental arguments aside, such dumping is completely inconsiderate. Our shared spaces are just that: shared. Everyone who dumps trash, even if it’s just a coffee cup or candy wrapper, is in fact leaving the mess for somebody else to clean up – people who make use of common areas are in essence forced to do the work. When municipal crews deal with someone’s garbage, we all pay: first by having to put up with unsightly and/or unsafe mess and then by footing the bill.
Human nature being what it is, however, simply calling for a halt to dumping is too simplistic. Even recently adopted stiffer fines won’t do. Nor would that negate the genuine grievances residents have over the loss of a useful service. Regional politicians and bureaucrats may be content with ignoring the townships even as they increase taxes, but Tuesday night’s meeting should be uncomfortable.

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