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Woolwich to push region for action on transfer station

Transfer stations in the rural townships are slated to close at the end of March, one of many changes proposed by the region as it reviews its waste master plan. [Scott Barber / The Observer]

The Region of Waterloo has thus far taken no action on Woolwich’s request to maintain service at the Elmira waste transfer station pending a deal to turn it over to a private operator.

The site will be discussed at a February 3 planning committee meeting, just a month before the already gutted service is scheduled to cease permanently.

Timing is a key issue, as the two private companies that have expressed an interest in taking over the facility have stressed the need to keep the site in operation during the transition stage, which could take a considerable amount of time. Along with the time the region would need to clear the way for something like the sale of the land, the new operator would also face regulatory hurdles from the provincial Ministry of the Environment.

Chief administrative officer David Brenneman told councillors meeting Tuesday night that the region has not appeared keen on the idea, preferring to simply close the station, as it’s doing in the other townships.

Brenneman has met with regional officials as well as two potential private operators, Waste Management Canada and Plein Disposal Inc. Noting that the township is prohibited by provincial legislation from getting into the waste disposal field, by leasing the transfer station site from the region, for instance, he said the best option is for the region to declare the land as surplus and sell it to a private company.

“The region indicated that privatization of the waste transfer stations was unlikely based on existing collective bargaining agreements stipulating that the loss of employment or displacement of regional employees due to the contracting out of work was not permitted. The Region indicated an overall lack of interest in continuing on in the transfer station business, either through their own continued operation of the sites or through the use of a private operator,” he noted in a written report.

He explained that the region believes curbside pickup, expanded in 2009 to something approximating what’s available in the cities, is a sufficient service.

Also, the region doesn’t want to jeopardize the waste stream, as there’s a chance a private operator would take the material elsewhere to avoid the region’s high tipping fees at the Erb Street landfill site.

That rationale did not fly with councillors.

Coun. Mark Bauman argued the type of materials taken to the transfer station aren’t the kind to be taken to the curb, often large items as people clean out their basements or garages, for instance, with the transfer station proving much more convenient to residents.

Given the timing – the transfer stations, already much reduced in terms of hours of operation, are set to close at the end of March – councillors agreed they need to step up lobbying efforts at the region.

“The transfer station is on life support, and the region is going to pull the plug in March,” said Bauman, insisting that the region should keep the facility on life support until a decision about privatization can be made.

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