(THE NEWS/files)                                Coun. Bob Masse, who is not seeking re-election, previously campaigned on putting to the public the question of having a city-run garbage collection system.

(THE NEWS/files) Coun. Bob Masse, who is not seeking re-election, previously campaigned on putting to the public the question of having a city-run garbage collection system.

Maple Ridge will vote on garbage pickup this election

Plebiscite will piggy-back on to civic vote

The wording and the numbers have been nailed down for the non-binding poll on having a city-run garbage collection system in Maple Ridge.

The poll will be conducted in concert with the Oct. 20 civic election for a new mayor and council.

A separate ballot will ask voters if they support paying up to $270 a year from each household to provide weekly pickup of kitchen and yard waste and bi-weekly collection of garbage.

A set of cans or totes to store the waste at curbside would be included.

While all residents throughout Maple Ridge will be able to vote, the service, if the city decides to provide it through contracting with a single waste company, will only be available in the urban areas, where recycling is currently collected at curbside.

The plebiscite is non-binding and the next council could make a decision contrary to whatever opinion is expressed in the poll.

Unlike most cities, Maple Ridge has no single, city-wide garbage collection company or a city-run collection service and instead relies on a handful of private haulers, contracted by each household, to collect garbage and green waste at curbside.

One caveat attached to the ballot notes that the $270 annual fee is only valid for one year and could increase in subsequent years. All residents would have to pay the charge as part of their property tax bill.

Couns. Corisa Bell and Bob Masse pushed to get the garbage question resolved. The issue of a single, city-run collection trash pickup service has been controversial and divisive on council, Bell said Wednesday.

Garbage pickup was a top issue in the 2011 and 2014 elections, she added.

“From the very beginning, it’s been a very contentious issue inside city hall. It’s very political in the way that it really seems to bring out the extremes in people around their personal philosophies, as opposed to what it is the public is requesting.”

She added it’s an important election question so voters who want the city-run trash pickup should vote for candidates who support that. City-run garbage pick up is in every other Metro Vancouver city apart from Whistler, she noted.

“When the public is requesting it and it’s the majority of the conversation, then I feel it’s our responsibility … is to bring forward public sentiment to city hall.”

Coun. Gordy Robson said he’ll respect whatever decision comes from the referendum, although he favours retaining the current system, in which several private garbage companies hall away trash from curbside.

“Right now, everybody makes their own arrangements and some people have negotiated much better deals than that.

“Personally, I’m going to defend the public’s right to shoot themselves in the foot.”

He said if the public wants city-wide garbage collection on their property taxes, council will do that.

Council unanimously approved the ballot, but some councillors still are opposed to city-wide, pickup with charges applied to all property owners who get the service.

Coun. Kiersten Duncan said a single garbage pickup service could discourage people not to recycle as much, or not to take as much time or effort to recycle.

“It’s also a big, added cost. There’s a lot of people who can’t afford it. There’s a lot of people who already share the cost with neighbours and they get a much better price so adding a levy of $270 … to somebody’s tax bill, a lot of people can’t afford that.

“I think if people want garbage pickup, they can do that on their own.”

A staff report says that current annual charges from private garbage haulers range between $285 and $390 per household.

Duncan also was disappointed that twice a year pickup of large trash items could also be part of the service when council rejected that proposal from the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society.

Council a year ago approved conducting a plebiscite then on Tuesday approved the actual ballot.

“It was one of the things I ran on, to put the question to the public,” added Coun. Bob Masse. “I’m happy that we’re going to put the question to the public.”