The Yukon government is going to start helping Dawson City take out the trash.
The territory and the municipality have signed a landmark agreement that makes the Quigley Waste Management Centre into a shared-use regional facility.
In lay terms, that means that the Yukon government will help the municipality pay to upgrade and operate its landfill.
The three-year, $400,000 agreement is a first for the Yukon.
With the funding, the town will now be able to make some much needed improvements to the landfill, said Jeff Renaud, Dawson’s chief administrative officer.
“The Quigley landfill was becoming stressed as far as its capacity, but this agreement will help us undertake initiatives such as expanding the boundaries,” he said.
Other plans include rebuilding the attendant shack and bringing electricity to the landfill.
“Running power to that facility would allow us to do things like compactors and bailers and other initiatives that would help extend its lifespan and allow us to operate better,” said Renaud.
The town also plans to do some studies to identify better ways of managing waste.
In addition to the $400,000 lump sum, the territory is also committed to providing $50,000 a year to help cover operating expenses.
The agreement is really a recognition of the responsibility that the two levels of government have in dealing with solid waste, said Elaine Taylor, the minister of community services.
Up until now it was up to Dawson’s property owners to fund the landfill. Those living close by in unincorporated communities outside of municipal boundaries, like Rock Creek, used the landfill but their property taxes didn’t go to help pay for its operation.
All that’s changed now.
The agreement has been in the works for more than a decade.
“I personally have been in Dawson for three years and have been working the file from day one of my arrival,” said Renaud.
When the new mayor and council took over Dawson last fall, getting this agreement hammered out was one of their top priorities, said Mayor Wayne Potoroka.
“This is real positive for our town and I hope other communities pursue this sort of arrangement as well,” he said. “When you build respectful partnerships and relationships you’re going to get things done.”
Taylor also expressed hope that this will be just the first of several such agreements.
“The intent is to be able to also work together with other municipalities such as Watson Lake and Haines Junction and Mayo, building on the regional approach that is outlined within our own solid-waste action plan,” she said.
With the money from the territory, Dawson will now finally be able to start implementing its own waste management plan, which has been languishing in limbo since it was drafted two years ago, said Renaud.
A landfill, or waste management facility as its now called, is a lot more than just a dump, he said.
“We’ve changed the word partially to get away from that ideology of it just going in a hole,” he said. “We separate out pretty much everything we can, from waste metals to tires, to recycling obviously.
“Each element is managed in a particular way.”
While Dawson has a municipal compost program and a “vibrant recycling program” run by the Conservation Klondike Society, there’s still more that can be done, and this agreement will help make that possible, said Renaud.
“From my perspective as an administrator there was a great amount of relief when we finally signed the agreement with the Yukon government,” he said. “It was a long time coming, and I really can’t understate how important it was for my colleagues at Yukon government that helped work on this file.
“It was something new, something outside the box for the Yukon government to get into.”
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