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Comox-Strathcona staff explain staff additions at landfill

Budget discussions on waste management continue, as financial plan due by end of March
CSWM plans to add staff to the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre. Record file photo

With higher waste volumes will come higher staffing numbers for Comox Strathcona Waste Management.

The regional body that oversees solid waste management sites for the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts is in the middle of its budget process.

At the Jan. 20 meeting, staff updated board meetings on some key changes for the 2022-2026 financial plan, which has to be completed each year by the end of March.

CSWM senior manager Vivian Schau outlined some features, including 2021 tip fee revenue of $1.08 million, or 11 per cent greater than had been budgeted.

Tipping fees themselves will remain at $140 per tonne for the year, though the plan projects an increase to $145 for 2023, as is consistent with neighbouring regional districts.

The tax requisition is staying at $5 million, translating into a rate of $57.80 a year for a house assessed at $500,000. (A previous rate estimate in December had been higher as it came before the January assessments.) Though the requisition is the same, one suggestion was to move away from assessments for funding service to something like a flat tax.

“There’s nothing on the books for us to evaluate it. It would be up to the discretion of the board,” chief administrative officer Russell Dyson responded. “It would be a conversation we would have to have with all the municipalities as well.”

Much of the discussion was spent on the matter of adding four staffing positions, including two waste management attendants, one waste management operator and one environmental technician. The positions are to be based at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre, though the environmental technician is to travel around the service region.

Most of the questions surrounded the attendant positions. Board members for the Strathcona Regional District particularly wanted to know about possibilities for the Campbell River area. Another suggestion was to start by making the attendant positions temporary, with an option to consider making them permanent later.

Part of the rationale, as Schau said, was an increase in work.

“It’s to provide the necessary resources to keep up with our operational demand,” she said.

Vehicle counts have been up in recent years. As well, the recycling tonnage for materials was 53 per cent higher in 2021 than the five-year average, and total waste tonnage has been higher. The staffing additions, she added, will also ensure compliance at the site when people are dropping off materials.

Charlie Cornfield, a Campbell River director, wondered about the effect that COVID might have on higher volumes, particularly from more residents taking on house or yard projects, or cleaning out homes, as projects during pandemic downtime.

“We have to be careful when there’s a radical change in use patterns that coincide with COVID,” he said.

A rationale for the waste management operator is the increase in the volume of landfill waste projected to grow 44 per cent between 2019 and 2023. Part of this will involve moving the garbage from Campbell River to the Comox Valley this year, as the Campbell River site becomes the regional organics compost centre. The Comox Valley site, in turn, will need an organics transfer station.

RELATED STORY: CSWM makes budget change for new landfill cell

Schau provided some other updates including a $25,000 increase in minor operating expenses for a surveillance camera upgrade at the Comox Valley facility and a $20,000 reduction in some professional fees. For capital, CSWM expects a $50,000 increase for the Recycle BC project on Quadra Island and a $420,000 increase for depot improvements at Oyster River. She also provided information on revised timelines for replacing landfills in Zeballos, Tahsis and Gold River with transfer stations.

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