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.