For the last 20 years Whitehorse has been treated to the sights and smells of a festive garbage truck, decked out with strings of lights and driven by Santa himself.
But now the city is threatening this hallowed tradition.
Earlier this month it announced plans to replace the garbage truck with another city vehicle, a one-ton truck.
The garbage truck that city worker Wayne Henderson – a.k.a. Santa – has used all those years was sold last year when the city replaced its aging fleet of garbage trucks.
The city only has three garbage trucks, two for regular service and one for backup.
Just last week, two of the three trucks were broken down, said Brian Crist, the city’s director of infrastructure and operations.
With the bin system that the city implemented a few years ago, sanitation workers can’t use just any truck to pick up garbage like they used to when there was a break down, he said.
To prevent delays in garbage pickup, the city proposed using another kind of vehicle as a compromise.
“We’re trying our best to strike a balance,” said Crist “We’re just trying to keep the tradition going and our operations going at the same time.”
But the city isn’t simply planning on replacing the traditional garbage truck with another city vehicle. It also doesn’t plan to get a waiver this year to let Santa run the Christmas lights when driving around town.
Under territorial law, it’s illegal to have flashing lights on a motorized vehicle, except for emergency vehicles.
In the past the city always got a waiver for Santa’s truck, but because of potential liability issues it doesn’t plan on doing that this year.
The prospect of the city playing scrooge with Santa has raised the ire of many Whitehorse residents.
City council has been inundated with hundreds of emails.
A Facebook group set up to protest the city’s decision, Save Our Santa, has garnered more than 500 “likes” in the last week.
People are also stopping councillors on the street.
“You can’t hardly go anywhere with out someone stopping you saying, ‘Keep the Santa. Keep it how it is, don’t change it,’” said Coun. Betty Irwin.
At last night’s city council meeting Coun. Kirk Cameron announced he’ll be tabling a motion to make a garbage truck available and keep the tradition going.
“It’s that time of year, people are saying they want that cheer with that truck driving around town and Santa waving, the candy cane and the good will that comes with it, and I certainly know what that feels like,” he said.
The garbage truck itself is an important part of the tradition, said Betty Irwin.
“It was so incongruous that you would light up a garbage truck,” she said. “I mean, where else would you find this?
“It was absolutely unique and unusual and a brand new idea for one of our city employees to come up with.”
“It’s a bit like Whitehorse’s answer to a Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” added Cameron. “There’s that same feel that it’s a little bit on the bizarre side but it fits, people recognize it, they know it’s part of the tradition.”
Council is set to vote on the motion two weeks from now.
If it passes, it could mean delays in garbage pickup, but that’s something that Cameron thinks most people would be amenable to.
“I suspect that if we put it out to the population and say, ‘OK, we have to be inconvenienced by a day or two to get Santa’s truck out there,’ I bet they would come down on the side of Santa Claus driving around.”
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