Cabin own­ers frus­trated with ‘un­nec­es­sary’ garbage col­lec­tion fee

En­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter at odds with ser­vice board over fee

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Front page - BY MARK SQUIBB

David Craw­ford is frus­trated. Craw­ford, who lives in Tor­bay, owns a cabin along the Ar­gen­tia rail bed.

He and many other cabin own­ers in this part of the prov­ince are up­set with what they feel are un­fair fees.

Craw­ford’s cabin is lo­cated in the re­gion where waste dis­posal is han­dled by East­ern Re­gional Ser­vice Board (ERSB). The board’s ju­ris­dic­tion cov­ers St. John’s to Clarenville, and as far as Bur­goyne’s Cove in the east and Swift Cur­rent to the west.

The ERSB charges house­holds, in­clud­ing cabin own­ers, $180 an­nu­ally for waste col­lec­tion.

Craw­ford and other cabin own­ers say it’s not fair for them to have to pay $180 a year for garbage col­lec­tion since they don’t get weekly pickup.

In fact, he says, most of them don’t re­quire garbage col­lec­tion at all since the prac­tice of cabin own­ers is to bring their garbage back with them af­ter a week­end at the cabin and add it to their usual house­hold garbage at their full-time res­i­dences for pickup. And they are al­ready pay­ing $180 an­nu­ally for that ser­vice in their mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“We don’t need garbage pickup. We never asked for it. It was forced upon us,” Craw­ford told the Packet.

“Cab­ins are a New­found­land tra­di­tion, as is peas pud­ding, mum­mer­ing, et cetera. You go to your cabin in the woods, peace and quiet, you take [trash] in, you take [trash] home.”

Be­sides, Craw­ford says, many cab­ins are lo­cated on un­ser­viced roads and for­est ac­cess roads that are not main­tained by gov­ern­ment, mak­ing win­ter col­lec­tion some­times im­pos­si­ble.

If cabin own­ers leave their garbage at their cab­ins for pickup, he said, it might not be col­lected for days, leav­ing it vul­ner­a­ble to scav­engers and cre­at­ing a mess.

For cab­ins on un­ser­viced roads, Craw­ford says there should be ab­so­lutely no fee charged.

“ERSB should stay off any un­ser­viced road or ac­cess (road), so the fee should be zero. If you have a cabin that is on a road main­tained by the gov­ern­ment, then yes, you should be charged at the min­i­mal rate.”

“It’s just ridicu­lous,” adds Craw­ford. “You don’t charge a camper to go camp­ing ev­ery week­end.”

To help bring aware­ness to the is­sue, Craw­ford cre­ate the Cabin Own­ers against the Trash Tax (COATT) Face­book group, which now has over 1,700 mem­bers.

Since they be­gan a con­certed lobby ef­fort seek­ing changes to the garbage col­lec­tion fees, the cabin own­ers have made some progress.

Clar­i­fi­ca­tion of Act

They caught the at­ten­tion of Ed­die Joyce, min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for en­vi­ron­ment, who of­fered some clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing waste col­lec­tion in the prov­ince.

In a Jan. 29 press re­lease, the min­is­ter ex­plained the Act in ques­tion is the Re­gional Ser­vice Board Act, 2012.

Un­der that Act, he said, “the boards have the author­ity to set fees to off­set the ex­penses of de­liv­er­ing waste man­age­ment ser­vices.”

This means ser­vice boards can choose to de­crease waste col­lec­tion costs for sea­sonal own­ers.

“For ex­am­ple, the Burin Penin­sula Re­gional Ser­vice Board charges 50 per cent lower fees for sea­sonal cabin own­ers; and the North­ern Penin­sula Re­gional Ser­vice Board charges 32 per cent lower waste col­lec­tion fees for sea­sonal cabin own­ers,” the press re­lease reads.

So far this year min­is­ter Joyce has met with Ed Grant, chair of ERSB, on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions to dis­cuss cabin own­ers’ con­cerns.

Joyce told the Packet last week a re­cent meet­ing was both very “re­spect­ful,” but also very frank.

“What we agreed to at the time was that the ser­vice board would seek some in­for­ma­tion, and we as a gov­ern­ment would seek some in­for­ma­tion, on the author­ity of the Act, to see if they have the author­ity of the Act to change some of the rules they have in place,” Joyce said.

Fol­low­ing that meet­ing, the depart­ment is­sued a press re­lease on Feb. 14 coun­ter­ing the claim made by ERSB that it could not re­duce fees, and that other re­gional ser­vice boards that had done so were in vi­o­la­tion of the leg­is­la­tion.

“The provin­cial gov­ern­ment has de­ter­mined that this is in­cor­rect, and we can con­firm there is noth­ing in the leg­is­la­tion to pro­hibit re­gional ser­vice boards from de­fray­ing ex­penses through the as­sess­ment of dif­fer­en­tial fees within cat­e­gories of ser­vice users,” the re­lease states. “The man­ner in which the ser­vices are be­ing pro­vided and by which the costs are de­frayed is based on the di­rec­tion of the board.”

ERSB chair Ed Grant could not be reached for com­ment by dead­line, but a spokesper­son for the board di­rected the Packet to www.fair­waste.ca, where a ra­tio­nale for the ser­vice fee is out­lined un­der the header “Why does ERSB have on fee for all prop­er­ties?”

On that site the ERSB also claims re­duc­ing ser­vice fees for cabin own­ers would in­crease fees for other prop­erty own­ers.

Craw­ford and other cabin own­ers con­tinue to lobby gov­ern­ment and the ERSB for change.

In a Feb. 19 let­ter, COATT group mem­ber Brett Ware­ham wrote to St. John’s City coun­cil­lor Danny Breen, who is a di­rec­tor on the ERSB.

In that let­ter, Ware­ham sug­gested that ERSB un­der­take a mail-out sur­vey to all those cur­rently in­voiced for the $180-ser­vice fee to de­ter­mine whether the fee should be mod­i­fied or abol­ished and that, pend­ing com­ple­tion and anal­y­sis of the sur­vey, waste col­lec­tion, along with the fee, be placed on hold.

Ware­ham con­tin­ues to note that should those two rec­om­men­da­tions not be un­der­taken, ERSB ought to con­sider im­ple­ment­ing a re­vised game plan, which would see the cur­rent ser­vice abol­ished, cre­ation of en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly garbage drop-off sites if re­quired, and con­sul­ta­tions held with per­ma­nent cabin res­i­dences to de­ter­mine who might be in­ter­ested in a col­lec­tion ser­vice.

Ware­ham notes that cabin own­ers them­selves would be re­quired to pro­tect this plan by polic­ing their re­spec­tive ar­eas and re­port­ing those who do not ad­here to proper rules and reg­u­la­tions.

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