Recycling concerns dominate town hall meeting

The future of Whitehorse's recycling industry was the standout issue discussed at a public meeting last night at Golden Horn Elementary School.

The future of Whitehorse’s recycling industry was the standout issue discussed at a public meeting last night at Golden Horn Elementary School.

About 20 residents from Mary Lake, Cowley Creek, Wolf Creek and Whitehorse sat down to speak with Mayor Dan Curtis and other members of council during one of a series of monthly town hall meetings planned for 2015.

The informal get-together, which took place in the school’s colourful library, brought many issues to light, but recycling was at the forefront of most people’s minds.

Linda Ehrlich from Mary Lake wondered what kind of plan the city had for its residents living in country residential areas.

“Are you thinking of something beyond the blue box system for people out here (in country residential areas)?” she asked.

“We’ve had a number of surveys about it but it seems like they’ve been inconclusive.”

In November, the city announced it was fast-tracking plans to offer curbside recycling collection.

It’s expected that households would pay $15 per month for the weekly service, which would help recycling processors such as Raven Recycling and P&M stay above water financially.

Fifty-two per cent of residents who recently answered a city survey about the curbside program said they would be willing to pay a fee to cover the costs of recycling.

As it stands, residents outside the city core have to store their garbage and recycling at home and haul it to the city’s landfill or recycling processors themselves.

Mayor Dan Curtis said he hopes to work with the Yukon government to find viable ways of keeping local processors out of bankruptcy. Those include both short- and long-term solutions to the city’s current recycling dilemma.

“The reality is waste costs money,” he said.

“Every time we drop something off that has no value, we’re killing them (processors).”

Coun. John Streicker said the city is trying to get a user-pay model up and running and offered a few examples, such as dropping off recycling or having it collected for a fee.

Bruce Henry, representing the Mary Lake Community Association, said council has to find creative ways to encourage residents in country residential areas to bring their recycling to the city.

Following the meeting, he said he enjoys the opportunity to meet members of council face to face and raise important issues.

“The city does a good job of listening to issues and then forming committees that focus specifically on those issues,” he said.

“That’s what I like about the process. It’s nice to see the mayor and council out; the fact that they’re asking questions is great because we’ve had a lot of mayors and councils who never asked any questions.”

Ehrlich, who has lived in Mary Lake for 25 years, said the meeting was a good opportunity to clear up some of the misunderstandings about certain issues.

It’s good to hear that the city is working on fixing its recycling issues but the purpose of the meeting is to hear from citizens, she said.

“There needs to be a balance between what we hear from elected officials and them listening to us and our concerns,” she said.

“It was a fairly short meeting and I would have liked a longer one. I appreciate the informality around it but it would have been important to hear more from us and our issues, and to help problem-solve to some extent.”

Other issues that were brought up included fracking within city limits, forest fire protection and gunfire in country residential areas.

The next town hall meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 12 at the Christ the King Elementary School gym in Riverdale.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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