Napanee Council roundup: $200 garbage collection tax levy, school expansion, and controversial land sale

A mildly ironic post on the Town of Greater Napanee Facebook page asks citizens to be patient with delayed garbage collection on April 18, only one day after a post explaining the proposed $200 tax levy for garbage collection. Image from Facebook.

At its Tuesday, Apr. 25, 2023 meeting, the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee voted to support a $200 tax levy for garbage pickup, something that had been vehemently opposed by several citizens who made deputations, emailed their concerns to Council, and voiced objections on social media.

Currently, the Town sells bag tags at $3 per tag for each bag placed at the curb for collection; citizens can also purchase tags for up to $3.50 per tag from certain retailers in town. At the Thursday, Mar. 30, 2023 budget meeting, it was proposed by Town staff that a tax levy be implemented and bag tags be mailed out to residents: 25 tags with a $100 tax levy for the rest of 2023, increasing to 50 tags with a $200 dollar levy for 2024. This was proposed by staff as a way of meeting the rising cost of garbage management while “reducing the need for subsidization” for garbage collection from other town funds.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Apr. 17, 2023, the Town explained the proposed tax levy, saying that with the existing process, the revenue from bag tag sales only funds a portion of curbside collection costs for garbage and recycling: “The current process requires the entire tax base to subsidize the remainder (greater than 50 per cent) of the costs for curbside collection. The fixed costs for curbside garbage and recycling collection represent approximately 70 per cent of the annual cost of curbside collection, so regardless [of whether or not] a resident puts garbage or recycling out, we are still paying for the truck to pass by each property.”

The post continued, “If no changes were made to the bag tag system, all property owners would subsidize the curbside collection on their tax bills by $849,000, regardless of whether they dispose of any garbage or recycling through curbside collection. The levy will reduce this amount to $454,000 in 2023 and reduce the subsidy through general taxation to almost $0 in 2024, so that the only people paying for curbside collection are those who have the ability to use it. To achieve a similar result without a special tax levy, bag tag rates would need to be increased to $6.50 per bag tag instead of $4.00.”

On Tuesday, opposition to the waste collection levy was voiced by residents Martin Barstow, Ron Murray, and Jeff Chestnut in the form of official deputations. 

Barstow spoke to the original intention of bag tags: “About 20 years ago, the town’s solid waste advisory committee recommended [to] Town Council that they bring in the bag tags, and their goal was twofold at that time. The first was to institute a user-pay system so that the more garbage you produced, the more you’d have to pay to dispose of it. And the other one was [that] it was supposed to go to a public education campaign to teach people how to reduce their waste.” Therefore, he said, this levy is only punishing people who have tried diligently to reduce their waste, by making them pay the same as people who put out a bag every week or more.

Ron Murray quoted from a social media post written by his wife, Marilyn Murray: “Children are taught at an early age the importance of the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle. They are also taught that, of the three, reduce is the most important. The current user-pay bag tag system reflects this fair system. As a household of two, with composting and recycling, we produce one bag of garbage every four or five weeks.”

“Buried garbage in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change,” Murray continued. “We should be working hard as a community to reduce the impact for the sake of our children. We understand costs have increased and are happy to pay more for our bag tags, but we don’t feel it is fair [for us to have] to subsidize the cost of other people’s bag tags.”

“There is a fourth R: it’s Rethink. I ask Council to rethink this new bag tag tax levy proposal. As a resident, a parent, and a grandparent, I ask you to have a vision for the future of our community that embraces sound environmental principles,” Murray urged, noting that he supports increasing the price per tag rather than foisting unwanted tags on people who do not need or desire them.

Murray also raised the point that the Town’s own Waste Diversion Committee was not given an opportunity to discuss or give input on the levy bag tag issue. “It seems to me,” he observed, “that would have been a prudent thing to do, to consult that committee [which] was made up of staff and volunteers who are very knowledgeable on this topic.”

Jeff Chesnut also spoke against the levy and suggested the Town charge more per bag instead, even up to $6.50 per tag, as a responsible step to encourage citizens to reduce their waste and their contribution to greenhouse gases.

Of Council, only Councillor Bill Martin spoke vehemently against the tax levy, saying that a $200 per household levy was unfairly punitive to those who could least afford it.

In a recorded vote to proceed with the levy and bag tag mailout — the caveat being that the issue could be revisited at any time — all members of Council voted yes except for Martin, who voted “emphatically no.”

J.J. O’Neill School expansion presentation

Another topic of interest was a presentation for information by Bryan Davies, Controller of Plant and Planning Services for the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB), about the coming expansion of J.J. O’Neill Catholic Elementary School on Marilyn Drive.

ALCDSB is interested in purchasing the land highlighted in green to make the coming J.J. O’Neill Catholic School expansion safer for students and everyone who uses the school. Image from ALCDSB report to Town Council.

J.J. O’Neill was opened as a  temporary portable school in the fall of 1977. By January 1984, the school had expanded to seven classrooms in a permanent building with additional portables as needed. 

In February 2022, the Ministry of Education issued a funding announcement for the construction of an addition to the existing school to create 331 student learning spaces in 14 classrooms. In addition, the renovated school will also provide three new child care rooms, which will accommodate 49 licensed child care spaces open to the public. ALCDSB is currently working with the Ministry of Education and Infrastructure Ontario on the school design, including the possible site modifications. 

As part of this construction project, ALCDSB would like to improve parking and traffic flow, both on the school site and in the surrounding neighbourhood. In order to create a safer separation between buses, passenger vehicles, and pedestrians, Davies explained, the ALCDSB is interested in purchasing the vacant land that was once home to a town ball diamond directly in front of the school.

An image of one option for the newly proposed school expansion from ALCDSB’s presentation. If the Town agrees to sell the aforementioned property, the school would use part of it for much-needed parking (top left) where the vacant land now exists.

This would allow an expansion of the parking lot, which is currently just big enough to accommodate the current staff with little room for visitor parking, and would allow for the increased number of school staff, child care workers, and school and child care parents to have space while avoiding buses and child pedestrians. 

Council noted and received the presentation regarding the J.J. O’Neill Capital Project.

Trail or Sale Meeting

With regards to the upcoming public meeting on the proposed sale of lands north of Highway 401, the former CN rail line that many citizens would like to see used for a recreational all-purpose trail, Town Clerk Jessica Walters explained that the Strathcona Paper Centre was not sufficiently equipped to live stream the meeting, but that the town would do everything it could to make the meeting more accessible, including recording it for viewing afterward. 

Originally, Council had declared it would hear any person wishing to provide comments on the proposed sale of these lands at the regular Council meeting being held Tuesday, May 9, 2023. However, in a public notice, the Town changed the date and location of the meeting due to the high degree of interest expressed by members of the public. The meeting is now scheduled to take place Thursday, May 11, 2023 at 7 p.m. in the banquet hall at the Strathcona Paper Centre (16 McPherson Drive, Napanee).

Any person wishing to provide written comment for Council’s consideration or wishing to receive more information on this matter may contact Jessica Walters, Town Clerk, at [email protected] or 343-302-5238. For inclusion on the agenda, comments must be received by noon on Monday, May 8, 2023.

As always this is but a smattering of the goings-on at Greater Napanee Town Council. You can watch this and every meeting virtually on the Town’s YouTube channel and follow along with the agenda on the Town’s Civic Web Portal.

3 thoughts on “Napanee Council roundup: $200 garbage collection tax levy, school expansion, and controversial land sale

  • Most people just don’t care. Not their problem, at least they don’t see the garbage problem as their specific problem. Just take a hike in the woods. Children who were taught about the three R’s are now adults and many are the problem now. Schools should not be talking to the children about garbage but taking them on a school trip to a transfer station where they can see and smell the problem. The waste, toxic or otherwise, he stench, the rats, everything. Every year it should be a mandatory trip so they see what happens with their weekly bag of garbage. While they are at it they should take them to an abattoir so they can learn about where their meat comes from. Visit a dairy farm, the whole process, and learn where the milk (meant for calves; now veal) and cheese they enjoy comes from. Time to wake up and take a step back.

    • They do take their children to garbage sights etc in Germany. They have engineered garbage disposal to an art. Each home pays by the weight/volume of garbage being picked up. They get funds recouped by contributing to a very detailed recycling system. So if you want to pay ‘zero’ net for your garbage, you have to participate! My daughters loved the process and are fantastic at garbage and recycling as adults.
      Canadians equate that process to “forced participation” and here in Napanee, would be called ‘draconian’. Sad.
      I certainly agree with your suggestion of a day trip through the ‘system’ so that they will learn how their participation benefits them and their community.

  • Anytime there is change… the norm shifts. Most people hate change because they have an outdated assumption that they are benefiting from the way things are now. Their focus is only on themselves. Least amount of effort and funds required from them.
    I have lived in seven other provinces and four other countries and have seen different ways of doing the garbage/recycling of things. The processes that are better are because they are thinking of steps to the future. Protecting the environment for the future. And protecting the earth for future generations. It is going to require much more personal (family) effort to do properly.
    I will never fight back. I will always fight forward. I support this small levy.
    The new garbage process is needed. The three “R”s worked well in the 70’s to educate. Now it’s time to work on the fourth “R”. RETHINK.

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