Campbell River’s Compost Education Centre is expected to be closed indefinitely – a fate that was largely decided by elected officials from the Comox Valley.
The centre is a casualty of budget cuts the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste Management Service is considering.
A motion was made by Brenda Leigh, director for Area D (Oyster Bay-Buttle Lake), at the Nov. 7 solid waste board meeting to save the centre but it was defeated by a vote of 14-9. Leigh got support from most Strathcona Regional District directors and Campbell River city council aside from Craig Anderson (Gold River), Gerald Whalley (Area A), Ted Lewis (Zeballos), an alternate for John MacDonald (Sayward), and Mayor Walter Jakeway. The Comox Valley directors and city councillors who sit on the board all voted against the motion, with the exception of Jim Gillis (Lazo North) who voted in favour of keeping the centre opened.
Coun. Mary Storry said the future is murky for the facility which helped educate families on the importance of composting.
“The budget was presented with both the Comox Valley and Campbell River centres gone and our motion to retain the one in Campbell River was defeated so it stays on the books as both being gone,” Storry said. “The budget hasn’t passed yet though, so someone could still bring forward a motion to save it.”
Leigh said her hope is that the solid waste service can come up with the money in light of a Saturday referendum in the Comox Valley to turn down waste and organic pick-up in its rural electoral areas.
“The Saturday referendum was soundly defeated by a majority of 73 per cent,” Leigh said. “In my estimation, we may now have room in our budgets to discuss the importance of retaining our waste reduction centres and programs.”
The budget was brought forward with the two compost centres eliminated as a cost saving measure.
According to a budget presentation, as it stands now, solid waste management operations in 2014 won’t be covered by projected revenues and reserve funds are too low to fund future needs and contingencies because sufficient contributions are not being made to reserves.
Closing both centres is projected to save $137,227 in 2014 which includes two seasonal contractors ($72,400), $70,000 for projects, materials, supplies, advertising, community sponsorship and promotions as well as $2,000 for travel. In place of the centre, workshops may be offered off site however, facility rentals would have to be considered and paid for. Leigh said it would be nearly impossible to replace what the centres offered.
“I fully support the continuation of the waste reduction centres; the three educators who serve our solid waste function have done such an excellent job over the last eight years at a very reasonable cost,” Leigh said. “Their role in raising public awareness about the importance of the 3 R’s, their involvement in educating a whole new generation of people with a consciousness of how to be kind to the earth, reduce pesticides, eliminate hazardous wastes, compost in your own back yard, share valuable information on re-cycling to divert waste from our landfills and curtail illegal dumping in our wilderness areas is worth every red cent.”
Storry said the community stands to lose a valuable service.
“I feel that the community really benefited from the hands-on learning at the Compost Education Centre,” Storry said. “It’s a fun place and kids love it. It’s more than just composting and we’ll miss it.”
- Between April and October (regular operating months) 5,447 people visited the Campbell River Compost Education Centre in 2012 and 3,867 paid a visit in 2013
- Both centres together attracted on average 4,000 people per year over the past 10 years.
- An average of 300 composters were sold at the centres over 10 years.
- Approximately 135 less classroom sessions will be offered with the centres closing.
- Approximately 30 school field trips are arranged through each of the compost education centres annually.