Users of the landfill in the Comox Valley will likely be getting some extra space when disposing of items.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, Comox Strathcona Waste Management staff provided their latest version of their five-year financial plan to the board, comprised of regional district directors from Comox Valley and Strathcona.
There were a couple of minor changes, but one of the more significant additions since discussions last fall is a recommendation from staff to expand drop-off space at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre from the current four-bay binwall. The CSWM board had already decided on replacing it.
“This was a project that was approved in 2020,” general manager of engineering services Marc Rutten told the board. “We’re recommending a larger binwall structure.”
The move is being prompted by COVID-19 spacing restrictions as CSWM looks for ways to have people spaced farther apart while dropping off items at the site. There are also considerations about having more spacing for the bins below, which would allow for better maintenance and separation of items.
“Of course, it provides increased capacity, so that we can grow with the community,” Rutten said.
The larger upgrade will come with a cost. The original cost for a new binwall was in the $350,000 to $400,000 range, but with the seven-bay structure proposed, it is now estimated at $770,000.
There was some question from board members such as Jim Abram and Andy Adams, both SRD directors, about looking for grant opportunities associated with COVID-19 support to help with the additional costs.
Rutten responded that staff did look at the grants available but felt this project was too ‘loosely tied’ to the relevant grant criteria. Later, chief administrative officer Russell Dyson added that typically staff do look for grant opportunities available for infrastructure projects, but in this case, it did not seem feasible in light of demands on staff time and tight timelines for application deadlines.
“We can’t just do it all, and unfortunately the grant opportunities that are coming at us are coming with very short timelines and a ton of requirements, in terms of shovel-ready or otherwise,” he said. “We are being inundated by opportunities … and we need to be mindful of what has the best potential.”
Rutten outlined some of the highlights of the budget, which staff had touched on at meetings in the fall. Again, CSWM is planning to reduce the annual tax requisition for the two regions from $6 million down to $5 million for each of the five years in the plan.
Operating costs down will be down $447,000, with saving put into reserves, though operating costs will increase in 2022 once the new organics facility in Campbell River is running. The three large capital projects remain the new organics facility, the landfill closure in Campbell River and Cell 2 at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre.
Tipping fees are expanded to stay at $140 a tonne. Staff did compare tipping fees here with those from a few other regional districts around the province. There had been a request at a board meeting in the fall for a comparison between CSWM and other regions.
Rutten presented data from other five other regional districts. Some like CSWM and Columbia Shuswap rely more heavily on tipping fees than taxation revenue. Sunshine Coast is split halfway, with slightly more revenue from tipping fees. Cowichan Valley and Cariboo both lean more on taxation, and East Kootenay has no tipping fees, relying exclusively on taxes to pay for service.
“You can see there’s quite a variation between regional districts,” Rutten said.
On a per-person basis of all revenue, CSWM is roughly in line with three of the regional districts, in the range of about $120 per capita. Cariboo at just over $80 marks the low end and Sunshine Coast at more than $160 is the highest. Staff said they do try to keep the fees in a range close to adjacent regions to prevent “waste seepage” between regions as well as illegal dumping.
CSWM staff plan on presenting a further proposed budget next month, followed by a recommended budget for the board to adopt in March.