Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Popular garbage cans now illegal in Timmins

On the same night that Timmins city council decided to raise property taxes to improve services, it also decided to put a limit on the size of garbage cans Timmins residents can put their garbage in.
Hundreds of city residents may have to throw out their garbage cans with the garbage this week based on a bylaw amendment passed by Timmins city council Monday night. There will be no grace period for homeowners. Old, oversized cans will not be picked up.
After nearly an hour of debate, council decided that city sanitation workers will not have to tackle garbage cans any larger than 129 litres.
The bylaw also states that regardless of the size of the can, sanitation workers are not required to lift any garbage can, or garbage bag, that weighs more than 20 kilograms or 44 pounds. Workers are also told not to reach into the can and remove items bag by bag since that could be hazardous.
Council’s decisions follows a presentation made by city sanitation director Marcel Cardinal and public works director Chris Bazinet, who argued that council should make a firm decision on the size of garbage cans.
Their presentation followed a work action by city employees last week where sanitation workers did not pick up garbage cans that were obviously too heavy or too large. The city employees were following the letter of the old bylaw which stated that garbage cans were limited to 85 litres.
To press the point the home, even the 133-litre square black plastic bins used by Mayor Tom Laughren were left at curbside. Laughren had to drive to the dump to drop off his gartbage. In a memo to their supervisor, the workers said they were only willing to pick up garbage cans to a limit of 129 litres.
Laughren admitted he also took scores of phone calls from residents upset that their garbage cans were left, still full, at curbside.
The large 133 litre garbage bins appear to be popular because they have wheels and can carry a larger amount of trash, thus making it easier for the homeowner.
According to Bazinet, one of the key concerns about the “illegal” garbage can was safety for the employees. He and Cardinal both stressed that the larger cans are difficult to lift and dump, from shoulder height, into the garbage truck.
Bazinet said the city had allowed the bylaw “to creep” forward to the point where people just kept buying larger and larger containers.
“It became unmanageable,” said Bazinet. Cardinal said the workers had continued to pick up larger containers because “they were going the extra mile, to provide great customer service.”
Councillor Bill Gvozdanovic said if the workers found the cans too heavy, they should leave them. He also suggested that sanitation employees should work in pairs, even if it takes a full shift.
Currently, Gvozdanovic said sanitation truck workers are on a “finish and go home” plan where they are allowed to end their day once they have finished their route. No one at the meeting disputed his comment.
Gvozdanovic said this was an unsafe procedure and could lead to worker burn-out. He suggested that the sanitation workers should work in pairs and then go back to the yard when there is still time left in their shift.
Gvozdanovic also disputed the issue of can size. He said he was indeed upset “to come home and not have my garbage picked up, when it’s been picked up in the same can for the last I-don’t-know-how-many years…”
“I asked the guy was if it was too heavy, he said ‘no… your container is 133 litres and we’re only picking up 129’. I kinda felt that was a little bit chintzy,” Gvozdanovic said.
Most city councillors were sold on the ideas of increasing the can size limit from 85 litres to 129 litres, saying it was actually a step forward in terms of better service for the taxpayer.
Council then passed the amendment to the bylaw which now states that garbage bins can be no larger than the 129-litre size and must be unmodified, meaning that older largers bins cannot be cut down to a smaller size.

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