By Chad Ingram
The Halls and Hawk Property Owners’ Association has asked Algonquin Highlands council to revisit its decision to close the Hawk Lake landfill in two years’ time converting it to a transfer station instead but council will stand by its decision.
During a July 18 meeting councillors decided that when the landfill which is nearing full capacity and the end of its lifespan is closed in 2021 that a transfer station would not replace it. Rather area residents will need to take their waste to either the landfill at Maple Lake or the one at Pine Springs near Lake Kushog.
The estimated closure costs for the site total approximately $250000. With ongoing monitoring costs as well as the cost of operations being increased at other sites a staff report from environmental co-ordinator Melissa Murray indicated the cost in the first year would total approximately $307000. The cost of converting to a seasonal transfer station was estimated at $409000 the cost for a year-round transfer station is $427000. The Hawk Lake landfill cost approximately $65000 to operate in 2018 and going forward those staff operations will be transferred to other sites. The township will need to continue to pay for monitoring and reporting
services at the site in the amount of $12500 per year.
While councillors discussed the possibility of a transfer station at Hawk Lake during the July meeting it was ultimately decided that a full closure made the most sense.
During an Oct. 17 meeting members of the Halls and Hawk Property Owners’ Association filled the gallery as president Peter Dadzis pleaded with councillors to revisit their decision and put at least a seasonal transfer station at the Hawk Lake site.
A survey the association had issued to its members saw more than 90 per cent of respondents indicate they wanted waste disposal services to continue at the property.
“The vast majority of the folks who contributed to the survey said hey let’s have this as a transfer station” Dadzis said.
Dadzis added the association did not feel there had been adequate consultation with stakeholders.
“We felt very very strongly that this should have been a wide discussion with the stakeholders with the property owners” he said.
Dadzis said the association had concerns about safety with additional traffic on Braeloch Road as residents take their waste to Maple Lake and said that for some users an extra half-an-hour or so of roundtrip commute time to the Maple Lake site would put pressure on their time.
He also noted that on top of their property taxes water-access-only property owners already pay fees including for boat slips and parking.
“We think this decision went pretty quick” Dadzis told council.
“We need to make decisions for the entire municipality” said Mayor Carol Moffatt who referenced an email she’d sent to the association president in July.
“I didn’t hear anything back from you” Moffatt said saying perhaps that had been a missed opportunity or misunderstanding.
Dadzis said it had been a misunderstanding and that he wasn’t aware the process was moving so quickly.
“To me it wasn’t an immediate got to do it today [type of thing]” he said. “ . . . The consequence of that outcome was not very clear.”
Dadzis noted that the landfill wasn’t slated to close for two years leaving time to settle on an alternative solution.
“I don’t think there really is two years” Moffatt said noting the Ministry of Environment requires closure plans to be in place two years prior to closure. Moffatt went on to say the decision was not a monetary one but one based on the larger picture of how operations are changing within the municipality.
“The decision is not based on money” she said. “It’s a bigger picture decision based on efficiencies consolidation of services.”
As she’d noted during the summer Moffatt pointed out the Hawk Lake site only accepts household waste and that residents already have to travel to Maple Lake for the disposal of other items.
“If it was a transfer station it would still only be household garbage” she said adding that the closure of the landfill will also reduce incidents of prohibited items being dumped at the location. “We’re eliminating what we don’t know and what other users are admitting is going into the site.”
Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen who was not present for the July meeting where the decision was made admitted that her first reaction had been that a transfer station should go in at the site however upon further reading and thought believed that council was making the best decision.
“Sometimes it’s better to just to rip off the Band-Aid” Danielsen said later saying of the decision “Did we make it quickly? Maybe. But we didn’t make an uninformed decision.”
Danielsen also pointed out that municipalities were under increasing pressure from the provincial government to streamline their operations.
“I’m sorry that you feel that we’ve disappointed you” Moffatt said adding that she hoped the long conversation which lasted an hour was demonstrative of how seriously council has taken the matter. “We make decisions all the time that make people unhappy. When you sign up for the job you know that.”