Is Region looking to sell its recycling plant?
Niagara Region’s public works committee has rejected a request from Niagara Recycling to defer work on a plan that may end up recommending the sale of the facility.
Councillors voted to go ahead with what they are calling an “opportunity work plan” for the Niagara Falls plant the Region owns, but Niagara Recycling operates.
The plan’s aggressive time-line includes a valuation of the plant by the end of August and the preparation of a negotiated request for proposal to sell the plant by October or early November.
Council will ultimately decide whether to go ahead with the RFP.
The decision left Norm Kraft, CEO of Niagara Recycling, disappointed and perplexed.
Kraft said with the provincial election underway, there is uncertainty about proposed changes to the blue box program and whether the next government will enact them.
The changes include shifting 100 per cent of the cost of the recycling program to producers, and away from municipalities and property taxpayers.
Producers and taxpayers currently split the costs.
Kraft said until the province firms up those plans, the Region should adopt a wait-and-see position.
“They claim they aren’t selling it, but I think that is the objective here,” Kraft said in an interview after Tuesday’s public works meeting. “I don’t understand why this is happening. Why there is such a rush? There is no clarity from the province. There is no agreement with the municipalities and the stewards (producers) as to how the future will look.
“Our concern is that once the plant is sold, they will never have this public asset under their control again.
“For 22 years Niagara Recycling has been their partner. We have done so much for them. We have done so much for the community. When you look at all the organizations we fund, if we are not here, those organizations such as Momentum Choir and Red Roof Retreat will come to an end. They won’t have the funds to continue.”
Niagara Recycling has 90 employees and is an industry leader, Kraft said.
It processed more than 77,0000 tonnes of recyclable material in 2017. About 52 per cent of the material is from Niagara. The rest comes from contracts on which the facility bids.
Kraft also highlighted some of the innovations and developments at the plant that increase revenue, including the sale of Grade A aluminium that yields more than $250,000 a year and turning recycled glass into an industrial abrasive used in sandblasting.
Aside from selling the operation to private interests, the Region could enter into a lease arrangement or a joint venture, a report said.
A motion approved Tuesday gives staff the flexibility to negotiate one of those outcomes within the RFP process, something existing bylaws didn’t permit.
St. Catharines Coun. Tim Rigby said the Region must explore its options.
“The recommendation is that we take take steps to be ahead of the game, and be prepared when those initiatives are put in place by the province, whatever they are,” he said.
Rigby added the Region still has an an excellent relationship with Niagara Recycling and a lot of work needs to take place before council considers whether to issue the RFP.
“It has been a good partnership we have had for 22 years that has been nothing but success. However, we need to know the options.”
Norm Kraft of Niagara Recycling addresses Niagara Region’s public works committee Tuesday.