The Regional District of Central Kootenay has given Nelson less than a month to sign on to a plan that would bring curbside organic pickup to the city.
The municipal curbside organics collection plan would build a new compost facility at the old Salmo landfill site with the help of a federal/provincial grant that would cover two-thirds of the cost.
But the city needs to agree in principle by May 10, which Mayor John Dooley says leaves no time for staff research or public consultation.
“I couldn’t hang my hat on this as it stands,” said Dooley on Tuesday. “It’s a hard sell for me, based on what I’ve seen tonight.”
The plan, which was presented at a committee of the whole meeting during which council makes no decisions, puts municipalities in charge of collection and transportation while the district takes over processing.
Amy Wilson, the RDCK’s resource recovery manager, said the plan has been in the works since 2017 and is the best solution for the district.
“We have gone through a very extensive process to get to where we are,” she said. “We’ve looked at ways to bring organics diversion to rural residents as well as urban residents. … We find that the program that we’re suggesting is very defensible and cost effective.”
But several questions, including the city’s financial commitment and cost to taxpayers, remain unanswered.
Nelson residents currently pay $40 per single-family household for garbage pickup, along with a $1.50 charge for a single garbage tag.
New cost estimates were presented Tuesday, but council expressed skepticism because the district acknowledged its forecasts were based on assumptions.
Local composting is one of the objectives in the city’s Path to 2040 Sustainability Strategy, but Dooley said he was leery of the city signing onto the plan just to meet a grant deadline.
“Grants can be a blessing and a curse, and in this particular case I think this is a major shift for the municipality.”
Dooley also expressed surprise and disappointment that the plan calls for the processing facility to be built in the Central landfill location in Salmo.
But even if Nelson doesn’t opt into the district’s plan, Wilson said the facility only needs Castlegar’s support to get the green light.
“It is a very self-contained unit,” said Wilson. “It will be on a concrete pad. I know the mayor was just mentioning he had concerned about impacts at that landfill. We don’t have any concerns about impacts from this.”
The RDCK already has support for its plan from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and Creston town council. If the grant application is successful, a processing facility will also be built near Creston.
Dooley said he wanted time to find a Nelson-made solution to composting.
In January, city council voted to allocate $20,000 to public education and a possible pilot project focused on household composting.
A replacement to the city’s aging garbage truck is also on the horizon as Nelson prepares for the phasing out of blue bags in 2020 following a five-year contract signed with Recycle BC.
“I know the community is interested in organic diversion, but are they interested in the kind of prices that we were seeing tonight?”