Seniors’ garbage pickup kerfuffle goes back to staff

At first the city was considering phased-in changes that would see seniors paying more over four years

Some city council members said Tuesday they've been fielding angry calls from seniors

Some city council members said Tuesday they've been fielding angry calls from seniors

The idea of removing exemptions for seniors and ending their reduced fees for garbage pickup, did not go over too well in Chilliwack.

City of Chilliwack has been looking at program options for the new 2017 solid waste curbside collection contract, and considering phased-in changes that would see seniors paying more gradually over four years.

In the end, council sent the matter back to staff on Tuesday to see if there’s a way to maintain seniors at the current reduced rates, by raising other fees or some other means.

Chilliwack is the only municipality in B.C. to offer reduced fees or exemptions for seniors, commercial contracts, as well as for vacations and vacancies.

There are 2300 senior curbside customers, compared to another 18300 households on basic rates.

Seniors’ reduced monthly rate for bi-weekly pickup, every two weeks was $6.88. Under the proposed new rates for the expanded program with curbside collection of garbage, recycling and organics, they’d been paying an estimated $18.60.

Some city council members said Tuesday they’ve been fielding angry calls from seniors, upset by the idea that they might have to pay more than double their current fee for curbside collection of waste, once the new program is in place.

“I’m hearing concerns,” said Coun. Chris Kloot. “My phone’s been ringing. It’s obviously a hot-button item and we’ll look carefully at it.”

Council was told by its existing contractor that over the past six years with Chilliwack they’ve found there is “no cost savings” to pass on to seniors, as a result of a reduced level of curbside service.

The reason is because their main cost is in trucks and operators, so they have to consider the costs of administrative efforts of staff, program enforcement and difficulties in tracking those eligible for reduced fees.

Coun. Sue Attrill led the charge at the last council meeting to keep the seniors’ rates where they are.

“My concern is for the seniors,” she said, adding they’re often on fixed incomes. “I would like to see some other solution that we can come to keep the seniors at the same rate.”

Mayor Sharon Gaetz noted that single moms and others on fixed incomes might also face the same difficulties as seniors.

One consideration is that basic program users might have to subsidize seniors’ garbage collection service in some way in order to continue to offer the seniors a reduced rate for curbside waste collection.

A new staff report is expected to pick up the topic again at next month’s council meeting.