By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton residents are still entitled to 26 bag tags when the city’s new waste container rules take effect April 1. But they won’t receive all the tags at the same time.
In a communication foul-up, councillors discovered that city waste staff decided to establish a “staged” approach to issuing the tags to residents. Homeowners will receive 12 bag tags with their new waste calendar. But, as Gerry Davis, general manager of public works said, to get the other 14 tags, residents will have to call or email the city.
“There is an expectation from my constituents they will get the 26 tags,” said a frustrated Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead.
Some councillors, including Whitehead, have already informed residents through newsletters, or other information means, they will be receiving the entire 26 tags. The tags are good from April 1 to March 31, 2014.
Politicians only discovered what city staff had planned through an email correspondence that occurred last week between Mountain councillor Tom Jackson and a city staff member.
“I left thinking (after the Feb. 22, 2012 decision) that the 26 tags would be issued. It would be simple to do,” said Jackson.
After a series of confusing, and controversial proposals last February, councillors agreed not to endorse a bi-weekly waste collection system. Instead, under a deal brokered by a few councillors, they retained the current system with a one-container limit, but added 26 bag tags for each household to use, allowing them to put out more than one container per week. The deal did eliminate the 12 amnesty days, which councillors created in early 2012, once the new seven-year waste contract begins April 1.
The tag system is projected to add about $1.4 million to the cost of the waste system. But under the new waste contract, the city will still save about $1.3 million per year. The bi-weekly system, with its three container limit, would have saved the city about $3.6 million.
Politicians have been growing increasingly frustrated over the years over how waste management staff keeps changing policies, and programs, leaving their residents scratching their heads in anger. Councillors expressed their frustrations to waste management staff at the March 18 public works meeting, arguing they had made a decision, but staff was somehow undermining it.
“It’s a make-work project,” said Mountain councillor Scott Duvall. “It’s kind of embarrassing to me. Now I have to explain it to the public.”
Rob Norman, director of strategy services, said a subcommittee last September decided to create a staged approach to monitor the use of the bag tags, and “who would need them.”
Apparently, said Davis, the minutes of the subcommittee were not distributed to councillors informing them of the decision.
“We are just as disheartened over this,” said Davis.
He reiterated that each household is entitled to 26 tags.
But Whitehead and Duvall both emphasized there will be an extra cost associated with the decision because now residents will have to ask for the remaining tags, and a city person will have to mail them out.
“We are the ones who will look bad,” said Duvall. “Whose responsibility is it to take the extra burden?”