Kingsville balks at cost of organic waste recovery plan, major tax hike feared

KINGSVILLE — Kingsville wants out of a regional organic waste recovery program which town officials say will result in substantial tax increases for homeowners living in the urban part of the municipality.

The town also objects to being forced to participate in the Essex County Waste Management Authority (ECWMA) program — even though the province has said municipalities of its size are not required to participate.

Last week Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos and CAO John Norton appeared before the waste authority board to restate the town’s belief it should be left out of any countywide program. The board was told by Norton that the town’s portion of the program cost would be $350,000 to $400,000 a year and likely result in a 3.5 per cent tax hike if all Kingsville ratepayers shared the tax burden.

The estimated tax increase would be based on all residents — rural and urban — paying for the service, even though curbside pickup of organic food wastes will not take place in the rural parts of the municipality.

“We’d have to look at an area rating for this service because if you’re not getting the service you shouldn’t have to pay for it,” Mayor Nelson Santos said in an interview.

“That means a lesser pool, a lesser number of properties and that would be a higher cost to (urban residents).”

He estimated 45 to 50 per cent of Kingsville’s 22,000 residents live in rural areas. Norton said the tax increase for an urban homeowner could be as high as eight per cent.

“People who get an eight per cent increase in downtown Kingsville I think are going to go crazy about that. We just want to get the word out that it isn’t us making the decision,” Norton told the Observer.

Municipal taxes on a home assessed at $250,000 increased 2.3 per cent or $45.83 this year. There was no comment from board members after Norton and Santos made their presentation last week.

“That was surprising to me,” said Santos.“Perhaps they’re going to compile a letter or correspondence … as a formal response.”

Norton said one of the options the town may consider is simply not paying its share of the cost. “If the county sends us a bill … what happens if (Kingsville) council tells me not to pay the bill? Then what happens? So this turns into a big fight between us and the county. I don’t think that’s in the best interest of the taxpayer.”

Essex also objects to being included in the program.

To me to say that it’s too expensive I don’t believe that’s a reason we can rest on and not do something. We know that everything in regards to protecting the environment comes with a price tag that’s higher than normal.

“We fully believe In composting but we believe that most of our residents are composting,” said Essex Coun. Chris Vander Doelen. “There is no reason we should be forced to participate in a program at a huge expense just because Windsor has to do it.”

Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald supported county council’s decision to make the organic waste recovery program a countywide effort.

“We all signed the climate emergency plan without hesitation. Price didn’t come up,” she said.“To me to say that it’s too expensive I don’t believe that’s a reason we can rest on and not do something. We know that everything in regards to protecting the environment comes with a price tag that’s higher than normal. Recycling costs money, it’s cost-prohibitive.”

Proponents of the countywide system of collection say a collaborative approach would achieve economies of scale and savings.

Under provincial guidelines, Windsor must recapture 70 per cent of its organic waste by 2025. Leamington, Tecumseh, Amherstburg and LaSalle must recapture 50 per cent by the same time. Essex and Kingsville are exempt from the provincial program because their populations are under 25,000. Lakeshore is also exempt but has agreed to take part.

Norton said the town could also approach the province and ask whether it can be granted an exemption, given the provincial guidelines.

At the March meeting of county council, when it voted in favour of countywide participation, Santos noted garbage and waste collection is a municipal, not a county, responsibility. He said Kingsville would be reviewing its legal options if forced to participate in the organic waste recovery plan.

Norton said the town would prefer the county bear the cost and then assess each municipality its share.

Waste authority general manager Michelle Bishop said in the short term the authority plans to contract out the recycling of food waste and other organics to a private company.

“Right now we don’t know how big a facility we need. We don’t how much material is going to be generated. It’s less risk to the municipalities to contract it out, at least in the short term.”

The request for proposals will look at two types of waste recovery: traditional composting and an anaerobic digestion system which converts waste into methane, a greenhouse gas which can be used to generate electricity. The anaerobic system puts waste in an airless environment and uses bacteria to break down the waste material into micro-organisms to create gas.

At an earlier presentation before Kingsville council, the waste authority presented various city- and county-run options for waste diversion. One, an anaerobic digestion system operating out of the County Road 18 landfill, would have annual capital and operating costs of $7.5 million.

Bishop said 30 to 35 percent of the waste that goes to the regional landfill on County Road 18 is organic. She said the waste diversion would extend the life of the landfill beyond its 2038-40 expiry date.

“Landfill space is precious…. That’s not too far off when you think about it,” she said.

Bishop said organics can be collected by the same garbage truck that collects weekly garbage.

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