How the city massages the message to suit its purpose

Posted September 7, 2012

A report published on the front page of the Guelph Tribune carried the headline: “Wet Plant odour test gets green thumbs up”. The piece quoted Dean Wyman, general manager of solid waste resources, who stated the compost plant has passed odour (emanating) testing this summer during a “full capacity” test in July and August.

Well, that’s not true. I am mindful of the old cynical newspaper axiom: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

There were 25 complaints about odours from the plant during the recent testing period. Wyman states there is no proof of the source.  In fact, he denies that the complaints ever happened. That’s his story and he’s sticking with it.

The real story is the Ministry of Environment (MOE) received a report from the city and its band of nameless consultants claiming there were no “provable” odour problems associated with the plant operation.

The MOE is in the process of evaluating the city report.

Wyman is quoted as saying: “ They should have no issue with it. If they do, they will ask some questions”.

You betcha, Mr. Wyman. There will be questions. These include the city criteria for determining there is no odour problem associated with the plant.

This brings back a similar defence by the city’s solid waste people last November when citizens complained about the odours from the first start-up of the plant. At one point the city pointed the finger at the Cargill operations for the odour problems. They backed off when someone pointed out that Cargill had been operating down the road from the compost plant for 26 years without one odour complaint.

Now Wyman says the plant will be fully operational within “a couple of months” and the city will “sign off” and take full ownership of the plant.

With respect Mr. Wyman, this party’s not over quite yet. People are angry over the creation of this waste management system.

What you failed to explain to the reporter is why the city built, at taxpayer expense, a $34 million plant that has a capacity six times greater than the city’s needs. Then turns over the operation to Maple Reinder Construction and its subsidiary company to operate, market and sell the facility to other municipalities.

Question: Does Maple Reinders have any skin in this game? Is this what the Mayor calls an example of a public/private partnership?

Citizens built the plant blindly unaware of the terms of the contract and cost projections. Then another $15 million was committed to collect our wet waste etc and Maple Reinders makes the money?

Why all the secrecy about this “arrangement”?

Tell us Mr. Wyman, how is the collection system your department has devised really going to work? The bins are phased in over three years. Does this mean that in the first and second years, the plastic bags will still be used? If that is the case, where is that stuff going? The MOE says the plant cannot receive waste in oil-based plastic bags, as is the case today.

Why is it taking three years to phase in the bin system? We both know the answer to that. There is no money available in the current budget and in the next two years.

Where is Guelph’s solid waste going today? The St. Thomas landfill? How much is that costing taxpayers?

Mr. Wyman, your explanation and misleading information does not sit well with many taxpayers.

Did anyone at the Tribune contact the MOE to confirm the city’s version of the facts?

Manipulation of public information is nothing new.  Manager Wyman and the city’s communications tag-team have confirmed: To never let the truth get in the way of a point of view.

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6 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

6 responses to “How the city massages the message to suit its purpose

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Gerry: You raise a number of “fine points” which the city boffins have glossed over. One that has not been mentioned by the Waste Management team, what is the operational improvement by having an articulated driver controlled arm extend from its travel position, pick up the bins, empty them into the garbage truck, return them correctly to the curb, and stow the arm for travel? I’ve timed the current person putting 2 blue bags and 1 green bag into the truck at about 20 seconds from “wheels stop to wheels rolling”. How will the new cycle time compare with the existing? What are the cost implications?
    Glen

  2. Milton Burns

    According to statistics submitted by municipalities to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Guelph had a per capita cost of waste collection of $40.95.Waterloo Region ,on the other hand,had a cost of only $17.60 per capita.
    I fail to see how an expenditure of $15 million for vechiles and bins can do nothing but increase this ridiculous disparity

    • Geo: Couldn’t agree more. It’s a typical Metroland advertising sheet masquerading as a newspaper. It is one of many similar community publications owned by TorStar Corporation in Southern Ontario. It reminds me of the late Lord Thomson of Fleet Canadian newspaper icon who operated a number of papers in Canada stating: “News is the stuff you put around the ads.”

    • Milton Burns: What a devastating statistic! No wonder the solid waste bosses and council don’t want to talk about the real cost of the $34 million plant to deal with waste. Imagine! Waterloo’s waste management cost per capita, $17.60, being almost two and one half times less than Guelph’s $40.95. Your point about the added $15 million cost of bins and trucks only exacerbates our growing problem of runaway costs.

  3. geo

    When it comes to pronouncements by the city the Tribune never investigates, never questions; it simply regurgitates. I’m not sure what the Tribune is but what it is not is a newspaper staffed by reporters.

  4. Thank you for responding to that article, Gerry.
    Craig Chamberlain

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