Another staff report to justify its waste management incompetence

By Gerry Barker

Posted October 30, 2015

Ruvani Shaubel, CA, the city’s internal auditor, who joined the staff three months ago, prepared the curbside waste collection system report. She analyzed the city’s waste system from 2010 to 2014. Her overall conclusion was that city residents are getting good value for their money when it comes to curbside waste collection.

What is good value? The first key consideration is to explain why the curbside management ignores 13 per cent of the number of eligible properties in the city. She reported 6,000 Guelph households and businesses are not served. Out of 51,000 eligible households, only 45,000 had their waste collected.

This is not new information. In fact, guelphspeaks (GS) has reported this for the past three years. The waste management staff never once disputed the GS assertion that there were 6,400 households and businesses that pay private contractors to haul away their garbage, most time unsorted and sent to the landfill.

Also, ‘mam, were you informed that these neglected households also had to pay for city waste pick up through their property tax bill?

From the city staff perspective, this is a great deal. They’re operations are subsidized by a minority of residents who do not receive the service they are paying for through their tax bills. When the proposal to switch to bins and automated curbside pick-up, Dean Wyman, General Manager of solid waste collection and processing, told council the city would save $430,900 by 2014.

According to the internal auditor, the actual savings were $294,000.

The wool expands over the eyes

So the qualifying explanations start flowing. The reason for the bad savings estimate was higher than expected gasoline costs and council’s decision to continue picking up yard waste in the spring and fall.

To put this into perspective: Mr. Wyman expects citizens to believe that the management of his department is in their best interests. It was misleading if he informed council in 2010 that he did not accurately calculate the cost of fuel for the next four years. Particularly in view that per litre gas prices dropped during that period. As to telling an outright lie during his council curbside bin proposal, he neglected to mention his proposal included not doing the semi-annual yard waste collection. During the period, council said waste management had to continue picking up the yard waste in spring and fall.

Members of council in 2010 believed him and agreed to spend $15.5 million on the new system.

For the past three years Mr. Wyman has been promising resolution of problems the new system was experiencing, failing to service 6,000 mostly condominium properties. He said the matter would by part of a new 20-year waste management plan.

Residents and some businesses continue to pay double for waste collection. Few trust what Wyman tells them that their problem will be resolved.

Part of the problem lies with the former Farbridge administration insisted on approving strip condo developments without regard to storage of bins. The building of detached single family homes dried up to less than 160 units a year following Farbridge’s election in 2006.

No thought was given to the ability of the bin curbside pick-up system, including allowing room for the new automated trucks to serve these strip and low-rise condo buildings.

To further slap the owners in the face, city council refused to reduce those affected homes by rebating their property taxes equivalent to the city cost of collection.

She is just doing her job but leaving out the most important aspect

With respect, the Shaubel report is nothing but a whitewash of bad planning, lying by omission and failing to accurately forecast and budget effectively. She did what she was asked and she reported what she was told. She acted professionally and has been exposed to the waste management’s attempts to prop up their story the system is working as they planned.

And Wyman is still trying to placate those residents who do not have their waste picked up. His latest hint is that on November 10, the staff 2016 operating budget will contain provisions to solve the non-pick up issue.

Unfortunately, Wyman has been promising this for four years despite many discussions with affected citizen groups.

This is another example of Farbridge’s bad management historic hangover. She’s gone, but her policies are still around. The author of this waste management mess, Janet Laird, has retired and the financial management of our city remains suspect without a Chief Financial Officer. A year ago, the last CFO was transferred to waste management and has since left the city.

Today, Mark Amorosi, a Farbridge appointee, controls city finances. A general manager of finance, who joined the staff last March reports to him. With Coun. June Hofland as chairperson of the council finance committee, the people is expected to trust these three individuals to manage a $500 million corporation that the people own.

It’s a stupefying assumption that we are in good hands.

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19 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

19 responses to “Another staff report to justify its waste management incompetence

  1. geo

    Would the auditor care to explain nearly $1,000,000 in maintenance costs on a fleet of brand new trucks? I thought new meant warranty.

    • Geo:Last year there were 14 automated bin-remover trucks operating. If what you say is true,the city spent $1 million on maintenance, that comes to $71,928 per truck. There have been stories of the lift mechanism hitting overhead objects requiring repairs to the system. It is reported the fixes exceed $10,000 when repaired by the manufacturer. Is this another boondoggle of unintended consequences?

  2. Brent

    Like many expensive and poorly analyzed initiatives by our “PROGRESSIVE” councillors and staff, which seem to lack any sense of real connection to the fundamental needs or will of the majority of Guelph citizens, the whole switch to the use of automated collection trucks seems to have benefitted the employees of the city more than any other group. They can now sit in the comfort of a climate controlled truck. Meanwhile we are now footing the bills for these follies. The fact that our finance committee headed by councillors like Ms. Hofland who stumbled when asked what a capital item in the budget was during the last election underscores the fact that we will continue to suffer further major waste of our tax dollars with little to show for it. Case in point…is the recent initiative referred by Ms. Hofland as “her” legacy to foist on the rate payers, the financial risks of a home and business energy retrofit program , which smells of more expensive bureaucracy, not to speak of wild speculations of future demand . We are without question on a ship of fools headed for the rocks.

    • Randy Norris

      Your dig at “Progressive” is somewhat vacuous considering that the Federal Cons had to drop Progressive from their name. Now that they dropped it, the word can now be used as an insult.
      I like the message that appears in Guelph Speaks some of the time but I get lost in the part that can only be described as being “a legend in your own minds” as your comment seems to demonstrate.
      Too often it is being used as a support group for terminal bitterness, a disease that I admittedly succumb to sometimes. It’s become Guelph’s own Sun News.
      There are gems throughout this site but the name calling is just simply “childish” and undermines the strength of the arguments made here.
      In the end, that’s why I stopped writing for Guelph Speaks and the reason I resigned.

    • Randy Norris: Reporting and commentary are not a spectator sport. You have slipped into the abyss of criticizing the messenger and not the issue. I am sorry you decided to resign from publishing reports of your extensive experience in the Guelph politic. You will be missed.

    • Randy Norris

      And I would suggest that your comments go to the heart of my concerns. Doesn’t the slide go both ways. Individuals stand for office and are open to criticism and there is much to criticize in this City. There is a line that was crossed when Glen was unjustly persecuted but I have also seen it crossed on Guelph Speaks.
      This goes to the heart of the issue with my last column. Can Conservatives be criticized on this site or is it just the so called “Progressives” who deserve to be called fools or simply wrong.
      Phrases like “ship of fools” is used in the comment by Brent and Guelph Speaks has used “fascist” as a descriptor for City Staff. I resigned because I don’t understand where the line is and what are the rules and goals for this column.
      Open debate is what I hoped for but perhaps this was my naïveté simply trying to blind me to the reality of Guelph politics.
      Watching the forces of “leftness” at the public persecution of Glen in front of the audit committee was disappointing in many ways. I saw only one person even break a smile while all the others were puckered up in their hatred for Guelph Roots and Guelph Speaks. There is no public dialogue. Too often it’s just name calling and scud missiles. How does that help Guelph?
      I love the research that you do for some of your columns but if I can’t write about what I see than I shouldn’t waste anyone’s time, including my own.
      Thank you for your personal comment and for the opportunity you provided to me.

    • Randy Norris: Let’s agree that you go your way and I’ll go mine. The blog is open to anyone but is not to be a platform to criticize the content or the editor without foundation. My name goes on everything I write and I stand behind it. Thanks again for your contributions and good luck.

  3. Gerald

    Sorry Brent do you not mean the city hit the rocks and bounced off a couple of times.I noticed that on the grey bin pickup day that the city in all their wisdom(hahaha)decided to pick up used batteries to recycle.Which in a way is a good thing.Saying that what was bad is the fact that it was a separate vehicle with two people in the vehicle.One driving,one that opened his door reached out and picked up the battery bag and placed in a box in the back seat.The guy did not even have to leave the vehicle (what a job where do i sign up for that)talk about a waste of money.
    (Oops i forgot to mention that he was also the person with the clipboard so that means he needed a three year college degree)

  4. DAVID BIRTWISTLE

    But,although it’s not common knowledge,if an individual has mobilty/medical issues that make it difficult or impossible to place their waste bins at the kerb they may call Solid Waste Resources and arrange to have their carts collected from the area on their property where they are “stored” by the individual:thus the drivers of these “…climate controlled trucks…”do get out of their vehicles to perfrom such a task.

    • Brent

      But David we didn’t need to spend an additional 15 million….and that’s the starting cost….that service to such disabled residents could have been accommodated with the system in place before the cart novelty idea was dreamed up to once again assault our wallets unnecessarily.

  5. geo

    Gerry
    Read it in the Merc so it must be true.

  6. DAVID BIRTWISTLE

    geo:My source is an elderly,arthritically-challenged lady who advised me that she has availed herself of this service;in fact I’ve seen this service in action.She brings her bins,stored in her garage close to the main garage door and just has to wheel them a few feet outside the garage and the waste collection person wheels them to his/her vehicle,dumps them and returns them to the garage door

    • David Birtwhistle: This is a wonderful service. But what about the hundreds of people who bought the Farbridge strip home properties that have no front elevation garages. Or the now admitted 6,000 residents who do not have waste pick-up and must Hire private contractors to remove their garbage, unsorted? This system is unfair and does not serve 13 per cent of the city households and busineses.

  7. DAVID BIRTWISTLE

    Gerry:BIRTWHISTLE(?) Get the H out of here(i.e.,My surname).Have a good and prolific day,Jerry:-)

  8. Glen N. Tolhurst

    A few numbers gleaned from the waste audit report, which by the way, I presented as the sole taxpayer delegate to the audit committee meeting in council chambers on 3 Nov 15:
    1) cost of curbside collection increased by 26.6% from 2010 to 2014 while households served increased by only 4.9%
    2) cost per household served increased by 21% in same period
    3) maintenance cost is 27% of cost of collection – which is out of line with most compared jurisdictions
    Observed by me over the recent months of automated collection compared to manual collection- cycle time from wheels stopped to wheels rolling was 9 seconds manually vs. 20 to 27 seconds using automated trucks. Also observed multiple trucks operating in parallel and/or sequentially servicing a route on a collection day- inefficient deployment of trucks & drivers and cost of having 2-3 trucks driving the same route. Last week, 1 truck picking up green bins at 0800 hrs & a 2nd truck picking up grey bins a couple of hours later but before noon hour. Poor cost control.

  9. Mary Heyens

    Poor cost control, yes I agree Glen. I live in Ward 4. Since the Waste Cart Collection System began in mid-2014, every week, 1 truck picks up green at about 0700 hrs & a 2nd truck picks up blue or grey bins at 0800 hrs. I reported this to City counselor Christine Billings in spring of 2015. She said the answer she received from City staff was a bit confusing and complicated. It didn’t make any sense to me either. City of Guelph Collection staff wages and compensation accounted for 42 per cent of the cost of Guelph’s curbside waste collection in 2014. Staff earn $26.61 an hour, and the total hourly cost to the city rises to $33.90 an hour when benefits, overtime, meal allowances and other factors are considered. Thirty-four bucks an hour to sit in the truck and push a button to dump a cart. This is not good ‘bang for the buck’. Contract out the 15 (fifteen) Garbage Truck Drivers who make $40.00 / hour. These fifteen drivers are socially and politically privileged and were hired based on Nepotism. Definition of the City’s Internal Auditor: ‘Priceless”.

  10. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Mary..Thankfully Wyman has left. Hopefully the new guy looking after waste will be metter with budgets and Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). Below is Wyman’s inept reply to my query about multiple trucks on one route. His last sentence leaves one wondering if he really thought he was doing well, Eh!
    The staff that provide residential collection services to the citizens of Guelph operate as a team, and when needed, will go and help complete another route once they have completed theirs. While all routes are designed the same, day to day operational issues may affect when each driver finishes their assigned route. Some operational issues that may cause delays are delays dumping, breakdowns, or volume fluctuations. Reallocating trucks who have completed their routes to assist in completing other routes helps to minimize or eliminate ‎the use of overtime to meet daily service standards. This practice is industry best practice.

    • Mary Heyens

      Glen, thanks for sharing Wyman’s reply to your query about multiple trucks on one route. Inept is the correct word. The fifteen collection staff are SENIOR staff. They bid on their runs (Wyman calls them routes) and choose the laid-back runs. They work 6 (six) hours, go home and get paid for 8 (eight). The key words Wyman uses are ‘Reallocating trucks’. Each day, the City assigns several spare drivers (pulled that morning from the recycling plant on Watson Road or other department) to complete runs that will be left open after the Senior staff go home. This is the Standard Operating Procedure. There are no operational issues and overtime has nothing to do with it. Guelph residents are being double-billed for the sake of the fifteen molly-coddled SENIOR staff. Thank you Gerry Barker for this Oct 30 post. E: heyensmary@gmail.com

  11. Mary Heyens

    Glen, thanks for sharing Wyman’s reply to your query about multiple trucks on one route. Inept is the correct word. The fifteen collection staff are SENIOR staff. They bid on their runs (Wyman calls them routes) and choose the laid-back runs. They work 6 (six) hours, go home and get paid for 8 (eight). The key words Wyman uses are ‘Reallocating trucks’. Each day, the City assigns several spare drivers (pulled that morning from the recycling plant on Watson Road or other department) to complete runs that will be left open after the Senior staff go home. This is the Standard Operating Procedure. There are no operational issues and overtime has nothing to do with it. Guelph residents are being double-billed for the sake of the fifteen molly-coddled SENIOR staff. Thank you Gerry Barker for this Oct 30 post. E: heyensmary@gmail.com

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