Garbutt seeking answers from township
By Chad Ingram
Jim Garbutt, owner of Garbutt Disposal, came to Minden Hills council chambers last week looking for answers regarding a delegation he’d made to council in May, exchanges between him and Mayor Brent Devolin becoming tense at times.
During the May 30 delegation, Garbutt had told councillors that amid a falling market for recyclable materials, he was unsure his business would be able to continue operation of a processing facility in Lochlin where mixed paper and corrugated cardboard is recycled. He suggested a $100 per ton processing fee for cardboard.
“I just have to get a few things clarified,” Garbutt told councillors during a Sept. 26 meeting. “The reason I’m confused is, the last thing I said to council in my letter that day was summer is fast approaching, so we need to know as soon as possible which direction to proceed in. That meant to me that I thought I was going to hear from council to say, it’s OK, everything was good.”
“I’m going to stop you right there, I would say that was a false presumption,” responded Mayor Brent Devolin.
“How do you figure?” Garbutt said.
“I’m just saying the way this process rolls out ... it was going to take longer than that,” Devolin said. “I know that that’s what you asked, but that’s not what we answered.”
“From May 30 to this date, I’ve never heard one thing to know, but I continued to do the processing for the cardboard, charged $100 a ton, got paid for the $100 a ton, but nobody ever really told me I was getting paid, but the only reason we continued was because if we’d stopped, the township was in a mess,” Garbutt said. “If we had stopped, you would have been in complete chaos with recycling for the township.”
Devolin began to speak.
“I’ll explain the process part,” he said. “A couple of things –”
“Excuse me a second, Brent, if we’re going to do this –” Garbutt said.
“OK, first of all, this is not a dialogue, sir, this is a delegation,” Devolin said, “and if you wanted a dialogue this isn’t the way and the form to do it, and you’ve had no conversations with me since that date ... but I know you have talked to staff and a couple of members of council in terms of what that process is.”
The exchange became heated at a number of points.
“We also pick up cardboard in our packer truck, for the municipality,” Garbutt said, “and at the time, and again, I guess this isn’t the appropriate place to say it, but I don’t know where to go with this stuff ... we pick up approximately two to three tons, or four tons, of cardboard in our packer truck every week, which we take to our Lochlin facility, that never goes to the Scotch Line [landfill], and we want a processing fee on that, too,” Garbutt said, saying the company has been refused payment on that. “There’s a lot of things going on.”
On mixed paper, Garbutt said a Muskoka company taking mixed paper receives $130 a ton, “for which we never got five cents, ever. And so, as soon as we quit, you’re paying $130 a ton in Muskoka.”
Garbutt, who’s been providing waste disposal for the township (or its predecessors) for 30 years, said he was now in a position to keep the Lochlin processing facility open, “but we’ve got to make money. So, paying an outside company $130 a ton, I’m proposing that we might be able to start doing the mixed paper again, but we’d charge $125 a ton for the processing.” Garbutt said that would also save the township $30 per load in transportation costs.
Garbutt has been working for the township without a contract for almost a year now, a situation he said he was satisfied with.
“I like the idea of no contract because, if I’m doing a bad job, you guys can fire me,” he told councillors. “If we don’t feel we’re being treated fairly, we can quit, and there’s no hard feelings.”
Garbutt said he’s also willing to work on a plan where the township would take over those operations.
“I can see where you’re going with some of this, and let me say a couple of things, first,” Devolin said. “Obviously since we saw in you in May, it’s not that we’ve been doing nothing. Obviously with municipal governments and solid waste, it’s a land of very quick transition and obviously, we take the case how it’s affecting how you’ve historically done business, and that you can’t do things the same way.”
“To that end, obviously with the MOE, our consultant, our [public works] director ... in the not too distant future, I’m expecting that we’re going to bring a manager of the waste facility on as a staffer,” Devolin said.
There’s been upheaval within the township’s waste disposal operations within the past year. The township’s property and environmental operations supervisor went on long-term leave last winter, and a new position absorbing those duties, a manager of waste facilities, has been created by the township, for which it has been accepting applications. The new position exists under the umbrella of public works, with former roads superintendent Travis Wilson’s position changed to director of public works.
Devolin said there’s a grocery list of waste disposal items to be dealt with, “and we would like a good, comprehensive, long-term plan going forward that’s the best for everybody, for ratepayers, for our staff, for private people that are involved with what we do, such as yourself, and unfortunately that takes time.”
Devolin said waiting for a new staff person to start will be key to that process.
“I know from your perspective it may be perceived that it’s been many, many months, and it doesn’t seem like much is happening, but what I’d say, from our side, there’s been an awful lot happening, other than the posting of the position to bring a staff person to deal with all of these issues that relate to our landfills,” he said, adding it was the plan to have that position filled before the end of the year.
Devolin said 2020 budget discussions would deal with a number of landfill issues, including cardboard.
“Thank you very much, Brent, but I’m sorry, sir, not to be disrespectful, but I listened to all of that, and it doesn’t make sense to the general public, or to me,” Garbutt said.
“Well, you have private interests, and we represent all of the public ratepayers of Minden Hills, so we might have a very [different] perspective,” Devolin said.
Garbutt said he’d also informed the township that if he closed the Lochlin facility, that he’d require a space at the Scotch Line landfill to dump cardboard.
“And staff has been considering that, and what the options are,” Devolin said.
Garbutt then proceeded to say he had an email from staff saying that was not going to happen.
“We’re not going to get into this dialogue, here today,” Devolin said.
Chief administrative officer Lorrie Blanchard clarified that the email had indicated there would be no space allotted for the time being, until research was complete and a plan put in place.
Garbutt went on to say he thought staff sometimes overstepped their authority.
“I’m giving you extensive latitude, here, today, you might realize,” Devolin said.
“I actually don’t see what you’re giving me extensive latitude for, but that’s your opinion,” Garbutt said.
“Do you have any new information that wasn’t contained in the original communications and delegations that we had?” Devolin asked. “And, as a first rule, the latitude, you’re supposed to submit this all in writing to the clerk before you ever sit in that chair, just to let you know.”
“You know, technicalities,” Garbutt said.
“It’s the rules of municipal government, sir, it is what it is,” Devolin replied. He asked Garbutt to submit all of what he’d said in writing.
Garbutt Disposal is approaching 50 years in business.
“We have worked for the municipality for over 30 years,” Garbutt said. “We provide service to the township that is second to none. You don’t get service like ours from big companies from outside counties. We have always kept costs down, provided service on the weekends, and employ full-time people and support our community.”
“This is tense, this is crazy, why can’t we get along, here?” said Councillor Pam Sayne. “We have a local business that’s been working for us for 30 years. I’m getting information that’s contradictory all over the place between what’s happening at council, what’s happening with our staff and what’s happening with the businesses. We’ve got a problem here of communication. This is a bad time to have a problem with communication when we have so many changing demands from the province right now regarding our landfills. We have a difficulty. We’ve got to get so we’re not at odds with each other. We’ve got to start working better with each other here, locally, and try to keep the money in our community as well.”
“For someone to be working for us without a contract, and if they didn’t do that, we’d be in trouble, that’s not right,” Sayne said. “So we have to figure out how to make this work for all of us, and for our community, and keep the money locally.”
“I would say, Councillor Sayne, that the new staff person coming in will absolutely go a long way to that, and that’s the purpose of it, OK?” Devolin said.
“No, it’s not OK,” Sayne said.
“Jim, I know you’ve spoken with, I think you’ve spoken with pretty much every member of council, maybe with the exception of the mayor,” said Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell. “Can I, just moving forward, because it seems like there is different information coming to different people, that in future, I’m the chair of environmental [operations] ... I’m happy to sit with you, kind of liaison back and forth with the new person and try to get it so you’re not feeling the need to phone everybody, you’re getting different answers and you’re having to come as a delegation, and I can feel your frustration today.”
Devolin told the Times following the meeting that, like Garbutt, he was fine with operating without a contract for the time being, given the fluctuations in policy direction coming from the province.