A ‘frustrating’ situation
Full impact of Annapolis County withdrawing from Valley Waste unclear
With a partner representing more than one-fifth of Valley Waste- Resource Management withdrawing from the organization, the future impact remains undetermined.
Valley Waste-Resource Management Authority (VWRM) board chairman John Kinsella said they are currently unsure of all the changes that will happen as the result of Annapolis County opting out of the Valley Waste inter-municipal service agreement. What is certain is that the circumstances present a challenging time ahead for the waste authority.
Partners are to give one year’s notice of withdrawing from Valley Waste. Kinsella said this is to allow for a period of transition to take place so the subject municipality can disengage from the waste authority. Annapolis County gave notice that it would withdraw in April, less than five months ago.
“There are a number of contracts and legal obligations associated with being a member and in order to disentangle themselves from that, it takes a good bit of time,” Kinsella said. “Sometimes negotiation is involved in that process.”
He said Annapolis County owes approximately $700,000 for Valley Waste services rendered since April and essentially stopped paying its bill, which has “put a real crunch on Valley Waste.” The board decided to stop providing residential garbage, recyclable and compost collection services to Annapolis County as of Aug. 18.
Annapolis County has written cheques in trust that can’t be cashed until certain conditions are met regarding contracts.
Ideally, Kinsella said, Annapolis County would have remained a partner until the one-year notice period expired in 2019. He said they’ve been talking to everyone in government that they can about the situation and the difficulty is that it involves seven municipal units, “six of which have one position and one of the municipalities has a different position.”
Kinsella said they are uncertain at present what the implications would be for VWRM staff. The board will make decisions with regard to staffing as it works through the situation with Annapolis County. They are hopeful that Annapolis County can deal effectively with the provision of collection services.
Kinsella said they aren’t accepting anything at the western waste transfer station in Lawrencetown. Valley Waste received notice of expropriation of the Lawrencetown facility from Annapolis County on Aug. 16. He said, “we’re working with our lawyers to respond appropriately to that.”
He said VWRM knows that the situation is “frustrating”, “disruptive” and “an inconvenience” for residents of Region 5, which includes Annapolis County.
“We never wanted to end up where we are today,” Kinsella said. “We worked together for 20 years for the benefit of more than 80,000 residents in the Valley region.”
He said VWRM was created so that municipalities and their citizens benefited from the efficiencies gained by working together and “we’ve been able to achieve that.”
Kinsella pointed out that VWRM is recognized as a leader in solid waste management in Nova Scotia with the highest participation rates in recycling and composting.
Since the partner municipalities have always been able to work together, Kinsella said “that we’re disappointed that this is how Annapolis County has chosen to handle this situation.”
Kings County perspective
Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart said Annapolis County represents approximately 21 per cent of Valley Waste. Kings County is the largest partner in the organization.
He said VWRM will have to look at its processes to determine if it has to “right size” in any respect and Muttart said he’s sure that would be the case. At the same time, Valley Waste must ensure that the remaining partners continue to receive service.
He said it would mean a reduction in the amount of waste that Valley Waste must process and in the associated costs. By the same token, it means the loss of one of the partners, which could impact some aspects of the organization.
Muttart pointed out that Valley Waste would continue to serve Annapolis Royal, Bridgetown, Middleton and Bear River First Nation.
He said the situation has to be approached from two levels, the ownership by six municipalities opposed to seven, and the cost of operations. At the organizational level, Valley Waste is run by a board of directors composed of individuals appointed by the partner municipalities and the management itself.
“Management will have to come up with recommendations to its board as to what, if any, changes need to be instituted in order to recognize the absence of Annapolis County,” he said.
Muttart said there is a lot of thinking happening now around what form the Valley Waste organization could take in the future. Until recently, it wasn’t a sure thing that Annapolis County would be leaving.
Other things have happened that have impacted the immediacy of the situation, including Annapolis County not paying for collection services and expropriating the Lawrencetown transfer station. In this regard, planning will have to be “ramped up.”
“That causes everybody to acknowledge the position that Annapolis County has effectively left, whether it’s a one year notice requirement or not,” Muttart said.
What now has to be sorted out is Annapolis County’s rights and obligations associated with leaving and what the impact will be on the Valley Waste organization itself.
Muttart said that, up until now, Annapolis County has had a representative at the board table who has said they want to leave, they’re going to expropriate a Valley Waste asset and they’re reporting Valley Waste to the RCMP. Yet, the municipality has felt entitled to have its representative attend board meetings and vote on every decision made.
Muttart said Annapolis County’s refutation of its contractual obligations to the organization has “pretty much disentitled them from participating in its operation until such time as we can negotiate them out.”
Muttart said the provincial government has offered arbitration on the issues, something the six remaining partners were willing to do but Annapolis County was not.
“I don’t know where one goes with one of your former partners who refuses to talk about anything,” Muttart said.