Combination open-house and public meeting set on waste strategy
By Kate Harries WaterWatch
Barring any surprises, Simcoe County councillors appear to have come up with a solution to the public consultation concerns expressed in a letter to Warden Cal Patterson signed by 185 citizens.
The citizens had objected to the open house format suggested by consultant Stantec – which would have involved one-on-one conversations with “experts” – and called for meetings at which the consultants would answer questions in public and there would be an exchange of views.
The matter came up at the end of Thursday’s special council meeting on the waste strategy. Clearview Deputy Mayor Alicia Savage proposed a combination – an open house with panel displays and consultants on hand to answer questions followed by a “public participation” period. This approach was used successfully for the county’s growth strategy, she said
Tay Mayor Scott Warnock said his township’s experience in consultation was that open houses attracted 10 to 15 people, but 350 turned out to a public meeting on a water/waste water plan. “At the end of the meeting,” he said, “they felt they were part of the discussion and part of the solution.”
Environmental Services director Rob McCullough said his concern with a question and answer session is that “you may hear from the loudest people, not from everyone.” Janine Ralph of Stantec said the consultant’s plan was for the public to be able to talk to experts in the areas of diversion, collection and disposal and then provide comments in writing
“We like to engage in direct dialogue, small-group format with people at the panel,” she said. “One-on-one dialogue is really important… We think this is a better way of doing this.”
She said this format is more conducive to getting the pubic to work through a series of questions and provide comments in writing. “We need written feedback,” she said, reiterating a point made at the last waste strategy committee meeting by Stantec’s David Payne who said the written comments would be used in an environmental assessment (at present there is no proposal before council that would require an EA).
Springwater Deputy Mayor Tony Hope said it’s easy for Stantec to go through the process, produce a report, collect a cheque and walk away. But councillors have to face the public every day. “The public should have a chance to stand on that floor and speak,” he said, expressing support for the views expressed in the citizens’ letter.
Tiny Deputy Mayor George Lawrence recalled a Site 41 public consultation session in 2003 in Wyebridge like the one proposed by Stantec. “I think there was more dissension when that session was over than there was going in,” he said. “I felt personally that it was advantageous for somebody to hear other people’s questions… That way, I feel you’re better informed.”
Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier said he liked the way the hybrid process worked for the growth strategy. It was useful both to look at the panels and talk to the consultants, and to participate in a public meeting session, at which he “had the opportunity to listen and learn from the people who were there talking about issues in other parts of the county… You can have your perspective changed.”
An amendment to change the open house format to include public meetings, proposed by Savage and Carrier, was unanimously adopted. The meetings are set for Feb. 8 (Alliston), Feb. 9 (Wasaga Beach) and Feb. 10 (Midland), times and locations TBA.
What’s going to happen to Site 41?
Tay Deputy Mayor Michael Ladouceur noted that it took 20 years to get to the present point in the county’s waste management history. “We don’t have to rush,” he told his fellow councillors. “We need to take the time to make the right decision.” Referring to Stantec’s presentation on disposal options, he stressed that “a new landfill site is not an option.” Finally, he asked if there had been discussion of any other options for Site 41.
McCullough replied that no options specific to Site 41 have been looked at yet. “The process will look at identifying whether there’s capacity we need as either a processing facility, a transfer station or any of those other aspects. At the end of the process we’ll say, does that site potentially make sense for any of those things that may be needed at some point in the county… We haven’t got to that point because we haven’t defined yet what is needed in the county.”
Energy from Waste or incineration?
Tiny Mayor Peggy Breckenridge wondered why there are so few Energy from Waste facilities in Canada (seven, compared to 450 in Europe and 90 in Japan). In Canada the easiest option has been to dig a hole in the ground and bury it, said Stantec’s Payne. “I don’t condone it, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do – but we have land.” He said it will take 5 to 10 years for more advanced technologies to become available in Canada, but meanwhile conventional incineration has been so improved that he considers it an option to be pursued. Stantec is the consultant on the proposed Durham-York incinerator which is currently undergoing an environmental assessment by the Ontario government.
Little urges applying for WDO funding
Adjala Tosorontio Deputy Mayor Doug Little told council that Waste Diversion Ontario (an agency that works with industry and municipalties on diversion programs) has announced $19 million in funding for Blue Box infrastructure. There’s a March 22 deadline, he said, urging that the county get in line for some funds.
Waste strategy material posted on county website
The County has a waste strategy section on its website. There’s a link in the right-hand column of the front page, or go directly to the Waste Management Strategy. The Stantec presentations are at the bottom, with the three heard by councillors on Thursday at the end of the list. There’s also a click function to enable members of the public to provide comments. A request was made by public members at the Jan. 18 meeting of the waste steering committee for open comments so that people can see what others have posted, furthering dialogue within Simcoe County. McCullough suggested seeking legal advice on the idea, which prompted laughter from the public gallery. Councillor Little then urged that open commenting be allowed on the county website. So far, that has not happened.