Burlington Mayor worries waste disposal fees will cripple his town
One mayor on the Baie Verte Peninsula has big concerns about what he thinks could be coming down the pipe with the Province’s Waste Management Strategy.
Burlington Mayor George Kelley says if his fears become reality, his town could be left out in the cold and unable to pay the bills.
“My biggest concern is cost,” he said. “I just don’t see it. I can’t come up with how in the world we would ever be able to handle it if it’s the same as other areas of the province are doing it now.”
Kelly says his town currently pays about $10,000 a year for waste disposal. Like many other towns on the Baie Verte Peninsula, they have a local landfill that they share with the towns of Middle Arm and Smith’s Harbour. Kelly says that $10,000 covers their garbage pick-up and the maintenance of their dump with a couple of cleanups a year.
“There’s only so much a small town can take,” he told The Nor’Wester.
Right now, they’re pretty well “maxed out” on what they can pay for garbage removal, he says, without raising taxes.
“We don’t have a large tax base, and quite frankly it’s getting smaller, because our population is decreasing.”
In the 2011 census there were 505 people in Burlington, but Kelly says he feels that number is below 400 now.
With the increased fee that’s likely to come with the new Waste Management Strategy, he says there’s no way a town the size of Burlington will be able to keep up.
“We’re going to be looking at a big increase,” he said. Based on how other regions of the province do it, he says a fee is charged based on the census population of a community. The province says their goal is to have that fee at less than $200 a year per person.
“OK, so let’s say that fee is $150 dollars, like it is in some places,” he said. “That’s a bill of over $75,000 (for our population). So now we’ve jumped from $10,000 up to over $65,000. There’s no way – there’s just no way we could do it.”
Kelly says that he knows those numbers are hypothetical, based on evidence from other areas, but one thing is for sure: no matter what the initial fee is, the price will go up over time.
“The price of stuff is going up all the time – the price of fuel, electricity, you name it. So if the bill isn’t going to be as high as that in the beginning, you still got to think about what it’s going to be in five or 10 years’ time.”
As for how they could possibly pay for it, Kelly says his council has already discussed options. One is to raise property taxes to cover the costs. Another is to impose a garbage fee, something the town doesn’t currently have.
“No matter how you do it, people still have to pay for it,” he said. “Our population is decreasing, and the people are getting older and on fixed incomes – it’s going to get to a point where they just won’t be able to afford it, so where does government think the money is coming from?”
Kelly says he’s looking forward to meetings on the Baie Verte Peninsula in the future that will hopefully allow more discussion on the issue. He says he has a lot of questions he wants to pose to government and officials behind the new strategy, and he knows he’s not alone.
“People just aren’t going to be able to handle it,” he said. “I think you’re going to see some racket down the road.”