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New county waste contract trashed by local politicians

Initial estimates from the County of Simcoe indicate the new contract will cost taxpayers nearly double the previous contract
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Editor's note: As a separated city, Barrie residents are not affected by County of Simcoe decisions regarding waste collection. 

More details are coming to light about the 2021 waste collection contract that was announced last week by the County of Simcoe as a done deal.

However, some county councillors are pointing to the awarding of the contract as an example of what they say is a “problem” at the County of Simcoe, where councillors aren’t always being given all the information they would like to make informed decisions.

“This will never happen again. The county needs to change, big-time,” Bradford West Gwillimbury Deputy Mayor James Leduc told BarrieToday. “This is the really upsetting part. They told us we were going to award a multi-million-dollar contract to somebody, but we can’t know the name of it? If we can’t know the name of it, who should?

"We are the elected people who stand up for the residents of this county and it’s ridiculous for staff to think they can’t tell us the details. That tells me we have a problem up there at the county, and we need to change that,” he said.

On June 23, county councillors were given a staff report for information revealing some details of the 2021 waste collection contract. The contract was awarded to Miller Waste Systems for automated cart collection, to commence in November 2021.

The bids were presented to council in a closed session on April 14 and anonymously so council didn’t know which companies submitted the bids. Council ranked them in closed session, but voted in a public session to award the contract to the highest ranked bidder.

Councillors were not told they had chosen bids for the same company for both the East and West until they saw the report last week and the deal had already been finalized.

Leduc says the contract discussions shouldn’t have happened in closed session back in April.

“I hope the other county councillors can reflect on this, because it’s ridiculous how we do business up there. It needs to be a much more open process,” he said.

On Tuesday, the County of Simcoe provided some overall costing numbers for the 2021 waste contract.

In 2022, the county is estimating waste collection under the new contract with Miller Waste will ring in at approximately $49,450,247, servicing 157,917 homes county-wide.

For comparison, if the current waste contract with Waste Connections would have continued, the county estimates it would have cost $26,100,893 by 2022 for that same year.

To break the cost down for the average taxpayer, Rob McCullough, director of solid waste management, says the county’s current contract for manual collection with Waste Connections costs about $165 per year per serviced home.

The new 2021 collection costs with Miller Waste including the automated cart collection will be $315 per year per serviced home.

“The $315 per year... includes estimated costs for carts, collection service, garbage export/disposal costs, recycling and organics transfer and processing costs, and all administrative costs associated with collections,” said McCullough. “This accounts for the full service cost, not just the curbside pickup.”

Ramara Mayor Basil Clarke says he would have also liked to see more information on the overall costs, but there are other factors that can and will affect the cost.

“Part of this was, we were going to (pay) to build sorting stations, but now we don’t have to, so the cost has changed a few times since we’ve gone down this road,” he said. “Some of us were struggling with the true cost of this right from Day 1.”

The new contract with Miller Waste Systems is for seven years starting November 2021, with an option for two additional years.

McCullough said there are still some factors at play that will determine the final cost to residents.

“The new system costs are estimates only at this point since the county is in the process of letting a request for proposals for the provision of the carts and for the purposes of this estimate it has been assumed that the carts will be capitalized over a 10-year term,” said McCullough. “Also included in the new collection estimate is the cost for new bins (due to growth) and repairs to existing bins.”

Last summer, the current contractor, Waste Connections, cited labour shortages and extreme heat for significant collection delays felt county-wide. Since then, the topic has come up often at the council table with staff and councillors working to develop solutions.

“Many people are relieved to see we’re getting a new contract after the troubles we had with the old one,” Clarke told BarrieToday. “There are some concerns in my municipality over the larger containers. When you’re in a rural municipality and you have to drag these things down your driveway, I don’t see how it’s going to be feasible and that’s been my concern all along.”

Clarke said he did raise the issue at council meetings in the past, and other councillors had similar concerns. He also said he voted against the chosen contract.

“I’ve always had an issue with only having one contractor for an area as large as Simcoe County,” said Clarke. “When that one contractor fails, like the trouble we had last summer, what is our fallback solution?”

At past meetings, Clarke requested that the county be split into multiple zones for the contract with different companies responsible for each zone. To read previous coverage on this, click here.

“We approved these contracts without knowing the name,” said Clarke. “I have no trouble with that... but I would have again tried to urge councillors to split the county up into smaller sections. I would have liked to see some small modifications to how it was done.”

“This was a council decision, not a staff decision,” he added.

Leduc also had concerns about the contract, which he says led to him also voting against it.

“I wasn’t 100 per cent in support of it, let’s put it that way,” said Leduc. “It’s a huge cost to change our new contract from the old one.”

Leduc agrees with Clarke concerning having one contractor for the entire county. He also has concerns about the size of the bins for automated cart collection.

“It’s gone through, so I will support the system now, but in the beginning, I didn’t support the automated system, because where are people going to put those three big bins?” said Leduc. “It was something we wanted to talk about a little further.”

“When the big bins come in and people start to see the change, that’s when the complaints are going to come in,” he added.

* According to the County of Simcoe, all provided figures have been increased to 2022 estimates by reasonable consumer price index and growth factors to allow reasonable comparison between figures then are rounded to nearest $5 increment.




Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering County of Simcoe matters, education and features.
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