Food scraps are dumped into a green bin for composting. (Black Press file)

Whitehorse compost contract comes in costlier than expected

‘I would have a hard time putting my hand up to do this right now’

Composting is pricier than city staff had anticipated, but it’s a critical component of the city’s waste removal plan.

That’s what Jeff Quinsey, manager of water and waste for the City of Whitehorse, told council during the standing committees meeting on July 3. Quinsey asked council to increase the 2018 to 2020 operating budget to cover the cost of the program.

The program, which aims to increase composting among food service businesses and multi-family buildings, began as a pilot project in 2013-14. More than 100 businesses have voluntarily participated since then.

Beginning in 2019, the program will be mandatory for commercial food producers, and then for multi-family buildings with five or more units beginning in 2020.

Quinsey said the existing contract for compost pick-up expired in June.

He said the city issued a request for tenders for collection services for the next three years. That process closed on June 7. The city received one compliant submission, from General Waste Management, at an estimated value of nearly $316,000.

That’s higher than the city had budgeted for the service. Quinsey asked council to amend the operating budget for the next three years by $3,900 in 2018, $72,000 in 2019 and $84,000 in 2020. He called the contract “critical” to the compost program.

Coun. Dan Boyd said he was “shocked and concerned” to hear of the cost, and the fact there was only one bid for the contract.

“That’s hardly competitive in my mind.… We are more than double, probably two and a half times what we budgeted for,” he said.

“I’m not sure what choices we have, but I tell you if I was asked to raise my hand tonight, I would have a hard time putting my hand up to do this right now.”

Though the service will be mandatory beginning in 2019, businesses can opt to have compost removed by a waste removal service other than that offered by the city. Boyd wondered if the city would be financially vulnerable in the event that the actual number of businesses using city waste removal is lower than administration has estimated.

Quinsey said the lowest estimate is 25 businesses.

“There is a possibility wherein we would have fewer than 25,” said Quinsey. “The provisions for negotiating a fee (with General Waste Management) in that case are not directly addressed (in the contract). We would have to negotiate that directly with the contractor,” he said.

However, Quinsey said administration is confident in its staffing, budgeting and fee structure, which includes a per-pickup cost that will increase to $86 from $75 between 2018 and 2021.

“Starting in 2019, we will adjust fees and charges so that the recipients of the service will be paying for the new rate,” he said.

The issue will come back for a vote on July 9.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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