By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber is beefing up its waste and recycling bylaw with the addition of new fines for violations that involve the town’s three-cart solid waste collection system.
“We’ve just had quite a few offenders that have been warned with stickers — we’ve issued about 1,757 stickers on the carts since we started — so we only have about 22 five to 10 time repeat offenders,” said public works clerk Lisa DeBona at town council’s Jan. 8 regular meeting. “It’s basically what they’re putting in the compost carts, because we’re trying to get a finished product from the compost, so it’s under a little bit more (scrutiny). There’s a couple of places as well where they’re putting garbage bags into the recycling carts, garbage bags into the compost carts. We haven’t had any real issues with garbage, just people putting the wrong things in.”
According to administration “after giving residents some time to learn our new solid waste collection system, in order to effectively enforce the town bylaw some of the wording needs to be adjusted, as well as specific sections missing a subsequent penalty for failure to comply with the waste bylaw.”
“Most of the time they’re just putting their organics into plastic bags and throwing it in,” said public works director Gary Scherer. “You have to have a compostable bag. A lot of people got it as we transition along — obviously with 1,700 stickers — it’s just the repeat offenders. Nobody’s been fined yet under the bylaw.”
Added under Sec. 5(2) pertaining to an owner’s responsibilities with regard to rental or revenue properties, additional wording now includes “ensure that sufficient waste containers are available to hold and retain all waste from the premises for each residential unit, and that the tenants are adhering to the bylaw as it is the owner that would receive any subsequent penalties for specified offenses.”
This now includes a new specified penalty under Schedule “A” for “failure to provide sufficient waste containers to hold and retain all waste from the premises for each residential unit, and that the tenants are adhering to the bylaw” with a first offense of $125, followed by a subsequent fine of $250 for further infractions.
“I have some issues with this,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas. “We were probably one of the first ones to go with these carts, and of course there’s an education component here where you have to re-educate and re-educate your tenants. You can go to them every three or four months and give them notice of how they need to do things, and go back. We’ve actually had tenants that have got into verbal altercations because one caught the other not doing it properly.”
Penalizing the landlord for his tenant’s irresponsibility is wrongheaded, argued Strojwas.
“So what we want to do is penalize the landlord for residents that aren’t doing things properly. In some cases here, I’ll bet the landlords aren’t aware that they have issues with those carts out there, because the notice goes on the cart, and not necessarily does the landlord see it.”
“It’s fine when you’ve got a single residence or duplex, but when you’ve got multi-unit complexes, how do you deal with that? Because you’re going to get a fine, it’s going to happen again, they’re going to get another fine. There’s some procedures and steps that need to be thought out here before we enact this bylaw.”
Scherer outlined that protocols involving landlord/tenant issues with regard to the cart collection system are followed before any fines are issued.
“This is just residential. But we have dealt with actual rental firms, and we contact the owners and we make them aware of that. The Community Standards officer contacts the landowner, which is usually the landlord. It’s often a rental company, and we have worked with that rental company to work through this process. It’s not just the landlord, it’s also the employees that work for them. We’ve actually gone through that process a couple of times, and it’s been successful. But I realize there’s an education component. That’s not what we’re after here. We’re basically after most of the residentials that are not complying.”
DeBona noted that an educational component for the tenant/landlord relationship is planned for 2018.
“We’re also looking this year to do up some specific landlord-tenant brochures and information that the landlord could use for the tenants, every time you have a new tenant.”
Strojwas appeared to be less than satisfied with these responses.
“But you’re saying here that the landlord is going to be responsible for this end result. So in the case of a rental house that somebody has, you go back to the tenant and you tell them, and then you fine the landowner? I just don’t want to see some backlash coming from landlords on this. Now we’re taking it one step further, and I’d hate to have some landlords come to council and start waving their finger at us.”
Targeting landlords for their tenant’s unwillingness to comply with waste disposal regulations is not meant to be a newfound revenue stream for the community, assured Scherer.
“This is not meant to be a cash cow by any means. It’s meant for us to have some sort of control over what is going on. It was in the bylaw before. We always will talk to landlords ahead of time, and rental companies, at least up to five times before we start fining them.”
Coun. Jack Brewin was blunt in his assessment of the issue.
“I think if it’s the landlord’s property, and this is happening on his property, it’s his responsibility.”
Added under Sec. 17 pertaining to residential waste collection carts, additional wording now includes ensuring that carts are “returned to the owner’s property no later than 7 p.m. the following day after collection.”
This now includes a new specified penalty under Schedule “A” for “failure to set waste container out no later than 7 a.m. on the day of collection, or return container to owner’s property by 7 p.m. the following day after collection” with a first offense of $125, followed by a subsequent fine of $250 for further infractions.
“It will be the same process. The people that are repeat offenders, they know they’re repeat offenders,” said Scherer. “They’ve been talked to, they’ve been warned under this bylaw to comply. Those are the ones we’re targeting. So they have been warned already numerous times.”
DeBona pointed out that the town’s Community Standards officer requested specific penalties be added so that enforcement of the bylaw’s provisions would be more effective.
“The subsequent penalties that were missing weren’t specified, so it was hard for her to actually enforce without taking them to court, which we don’t want to do.”
Other highlighted changes under Schedule “A” include first and second offence penalties of $125 and $250 for “failure to keep automated collection container clean, maintained in good condition, and not altered in any way”; “failure to return/store automated collection container on the owner’s property when not being set out for collection”; and “failure to use the automated collection container correctly, use the recycling container (blue) only for the disposal of recyclable materials, use the compost container (green) only for the disposal of compostable materials, (and) use the waste container (brown) only for the disposal of waste materials.”
“I can understand why this now needs to get changed,” said Coun. Louie Tams.
Following discussion, town council voted unanimously to pass third and final reading of Waste, Recycling and Compostable Material Amendment Bylaw 3-2018.