By Sue Tiffin
An announcement made July 2 was one that many Minden Hills residents were waiting to hear: waste site operations at Scotch Line landfill and Ingoldsby transfer station would resume the next day.
Services had been reduced at the sites since March in an effort to limit the amount of interaction landfill staff have with the public and cash handling during the pandemic lockdown. Residents were asked to only bring no more than three bags of household waste and recycling to the landfill which was not accepting materials including tires and electronics and construction and demolition material – except from account holders.
As of July 3 at Scotch Line landfill though the Diabetes Canada drop-off box and reuse centre will remain closed all other waste types will be accepted and tipping fees that apply must be paid in exact change. At the Ingoldsby transfer station acceptance of brush was to resume. There too tipping fees that apply must be paid in exact change.
“Waste sites will be accepting only exact change for tipping fee payment” reads the July 2 press release. “Please come prepared with a variety of bills and coins in anticipation of not receiving change. While this is an unusual approach the sites are not equipped with hand washing facilities and are by nature less sanitary than many other facilities that receive cash. This approach will reduce the potential for accidental spreading of disease.” Contactless payment options – using credit card or debit – will be available at the sites in the coming weeks.
“This report proposes the use of the same technology for digital payment but amends the recommendation to cease the practice of handling cash” said Wilson in his report to council on July 2.
Tara Stephen manager of waste facilities said staff would require a few days to get prepared.
Council discussed and made the decision at a special meeting held virtually that was announced at the end of day on June 30 and held July 2 at 9 a.m.
Travis Wilson director of public works asked council to reconsider a request made at a June 11 committee of the whole meeting in which Wilson recommended a digital payment system be implemented at Ingoldsby and Scotch Line landfill sites so that materials subject to fees could be taken there and cash not accepted at any site for the remainder of 2020. A motion on Wilson’s recommendation was defeated by council but at a June 25 meeting they agreed to reconsider the report.
“In reviewing COVID-19 cash handling best practices it was determined that accepting exact change only would reduce the amount of cash handling required by staff to the point where they could maintain acceptable levels of hand hygiene. It would also prevent money that has been exposed to disease from being redistributed to another member of the community. Staff recommend that cash be accepted only in exact amounts owed at all sites until October 31 2020.”
Wilson thought it would be possible to get the equipment needed for digital payment within about three weeks but thought it would be possible to arrange for exact change payment sooner so that site operations could resume.
“And is that going to be immediate because I am going to be lynched if something doesn’t get moving right away” said Councillor Jean Neville. “There’s going to be a line-up back to [Hwy] 35 with just the people I know that have been after me about this construction waste. I mean I’ve had people that have taken pick-up trucks there twice and had to go home and unload them because they’ve been turned away. There’s people that have drywall that’s disintegrating into their yards that they’re trying to get rid of and dump trailers that are full to overflowing.”
Neville said the acceptance of materials had to start “today.”
“I have people constantly every day after me about this” she said. “I’m losing sleep over it. So we can’t wait any longer. This isn’t anything new and the other municipalities are doing it. It’s got to be implemented like now.”
Neville said she had heard other municipality’s were offering the service.
“In terms of accepting cash amounts that isn’t something that has happened anywhere else staff has had that conversation with the other municipalities” said Travis Wilson. “In terms of getting things started yeah staff would have liked to have this going two weeks ago however we’re back at this today.”
He told council that in Highlands East residents were being invoiced individually sending out invoices to those who came in with items that required a fee which created a “fairly high amount of administrative workload.” Algonquin Highlands he said had recently moved to the digital payment system and were not accepting anything other than a charge account prior to that. Dysart et al already had digital payment in place at the Haliburton site and had implemented it at other sites.
“We need to restock cash boxes and ensure we’ve got enough hand sanitizer and gloves at the sites to make sure the staff are protected against disease” she said. “My assumption will be that we could have this in place for Monday. It won’t be tomorrow.”
Devolin noted there were numerous departments that might take cash now that municipal offices are reopening and asked CAO Lorrie Blanchard if the plan to receive cash at the landfill was one that might be consistent across the board.
Blanchard said if the reason to collect exact change only was for health and safety reasons “it probably needs to be a consideration across the entire organization.”
She said she had looked into different potential situations and conflicts regarding collecting an exact amount of change for example if someone only had a $20 bill to pay for a $2 charge and said she had contacted a legal resource for advice.
Councillor Bob Carter said he didn’t want to confound what was being done in finance and other administrative areas with the issue in order to get the landfill situation back on track before the weekend.
“I too am getting calls on this and I don’t want to see stuff dumped on the side of the road” he said. “I think as long as you put it out there on the internet and however you’re going to advertise it that you need correct change then so be it. If somebody wants to … cause us a difficulty afterwards fine. I don’t think we really need a legal opinion or anything we just do it and get this going. The decision we make today is not necessarily going to be the decision we have six weeks from now. We’re going to see what the issues are and refine it as we go so let’s just be logical about this and get it going.”
Schell agreed sharing the information online and in local media was necessary for residents to be prepared.
“If all the information’s there people can go to the website they can see what it’s going to cost to take the fridge or whatever the item might be and then there shouldn’t even need to be change” she said.
Councillor Pam Sayne who had also been receiving calls from constituents agreed that it was important to get the operations up and running as early as possible and also to ensure proper staffing was in place to get traffic through “because it’s not going to be quite as business as usual. It is going to be a backlog so the easier we can make that for people coming through the better. I’m glad we can get this going because of all the other implications of people holding on to this in their own yards or on the side of the road.”
Devolin said he had also been receiving calls regarding the landfill situation for months.
Wilson said it was very likely the landfill could be prepared to open to the material for July 3.
“For council’s consideration you have staff’s word we’ll get this going as soon as possible” he said. “We’re getting phone calls too. Like I said we would have liked to have this going three weeks ago.”
A press release issued after the meeting at the end of that day noted waste site operations would resume the next day on July 3.
“Please remember this is not a permanent solution but an interim measure to keep the community and staff protected” read the release.
A note also thanked the patience of the public “through what has been a challenging start to the summer season” noting the municipality looked forward to working toward resuming normal operations.