District of Port Edward councillors took aim at Prince Rupert city council on Tuesday night after being informed the city would not be reconsidering a policy that charges out-of-town residents 45 per cent more to use the landfill on Ridley Island.
“This is a tough pill to swallow. That is just disrespectful,” said Coun. James Brown after receiving a letter indicating Prince Rupert council had voted in-camera on May 11 to keep the landfill charges the same.
“They say they’re good neighbours, but if that is being good neighbours I would hate to see them get mad at us,” said Mayor Dave MacDonald, who said the district is “very upset” by the 45 per cent increase.
Councillors said they were not notified of the city’s intention to raise the fees prior to the implementation, which they say negated any possibility of reaching a solution that would be more agreeable to residents.
“What has us all upset is the 45 per cent increase, just like that. If they would have said 15/15/15 over three years we could have worked with it. They’re not going to change that, but I wish they would find a way to be kinder to our residents … I wish there was a way they would help the residents,” said MacDonald, who said he found out about the increase when it was reported in the Northern View.
“I think it was a bad business decision on their part. They were the ones who set the rate we have been paying all along and to then bump it up by 45 per cent is just nuts, but that is what Prince Rupert does,” said Coun. Dan Franzen.
Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain said notice of the increase was given following its adoption at council in December, which is similar to how notice is given to residents of rate increases, and said the fee increase was a necessity as the garbage dump expands.
“Prince Rupert residents pay significantly more for the landfill than Port Edward residents do, so we were trying to bring it into balance. Port Edward doesn’t contribute to improvements at the landfill site, we actually have to use our gas tax money to do improvements to the dump,” he explained, noting there has been a significant increase in usage with speculation and renovations underway.
“We have done everything in our realm to accommodate and let them know and have conversations. This is a fair increase, it is not astronomical. The people of Prince Rupert are the ones baring the costs and we feel that should be shared … I just don’t feel the people of Prince Rupert should be the only ones contributing to the improvement of the landfill.”
But concerns around the council chamber went beyond simply the garbage dump, with some saying the relationship between the community has been stretched thin since the newly elected council were sworn in.
“We have been working with the city for years in good faith until this new council came in. Now it doesn’t seem like they want to talk to us, even when we’re on the road together … it upsets me,” said Brown.
Brain, however, said the two groups have met more in the past six months than in the past year as the two prepare for a potential boom with the arrival of the LNG industry and that council not wanting to work with Port Edward is simply not the case.
“We have met a few times as a council around this particular issue and we have talked to them about it … I think there are some emotionally charged comments from councillors saying we don’t want to meet with them, but that is absolutely not true at all,” he said, adding Prince Rupert council has not received a formal request to meet.
“We have been working well together and we have been collaborating around LNG. It’s kind of surprising that those comments were made and I think it is more because they are upset about the garbage fees than that we are not wanting to work with them.”
As for garbage service for residents, Port Edward chief administrative officer Bob Payette said investigation proved going to Terrace was “unobtainable”, but MacDonald said this doesn’t mean there won’t be an alternative in the near future.
“They own the dump, we’re stuck with this predicament right now, but it doesn’t mean that’s not going to change by looking around at other options. Maybe there is a different service,” he said, suggesting the district may want to examine putting in dumpsters and contracting a service to take residential garbage to the dump as part of the tax or utility bill.