The West Coast’s curbside collection contract has changed hands for the first time in over a decade.
During a Jan. 8 meeting, The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board awarded the contract to the Ucluelet Rent It Centre for $142,732 a year over a five-year term.
The contract covers residential curbside garbage and recycling pickup in Tofino, Ucluelet and portions of Electoral Area C with options to expand into Tla-o-qui-aht and Ucluelet First Nations territory included as a consideration “in the near future,” according to a report submitted to the ACRD’s board by the regional district’s manager of operation’s Jenny Brunn. Brunn explained that that the Rent It Centre’s bid was $25,865 lower than the contract’s only other bidder, SonBird Refuse and Recycling, which had held the contract since 2008.
“I personally have done the job for 30 years and I missed one day in 30 years,” Chris Bird of SonBird told the Westerly News, noting he founded SonBird 22 years ago.
“I think we provided excellent service. People’s garbage always got picked up and, if they called, we always responded…I would get calls at home and I would come out after hours to make sure people were taken care of. It’s my town; for 54 years I’ve been here and it’s important to me that my neighbours get taken care of, but I simply got underbid this time.”
He said he “was a little surprised” that his company’s longstanding service to the Coast was not enough to overcome being underbid by roughly $25,000, but added SonBird will continue to hum along thanks to its other efforts.
“There’s a lot more to the company than the curbside service,” he said. “SonBird is very stable. SonBird’s not going anywhere. It’s one contract, there’s other contracts that we have solidly in place, including the [Pacific Rim National Park Reserve] and First Nations.”
He added SonBird has been facilitating waste management in the isolated West Coast First Nations communities of Ahousaht, Hesquiaht and Opitsaht by barge and also recently set up a new recycling depot in Tofino.
“When nobody else, and I mean nobody else, would commit, we spent $150,000 and built the recycle depot in Tofino to facilitate the growing recycling need on the West Coast here,” he said. “We stuck our necks out investing in this and hoping it would go and we are now moving 18 tons a week of recycling out of the West Coast.”
Brunn suggested the new contract could lead to an increase in residential service fees as the roughly $200,000 the West Coast paid for its waste collection in 2019 included about $75,000 in tipping fees.
“The updated contract excludes tipping fees, which the contractor was previously reimbursed for. The proposal for the new contract is for the sum of $142,732.80 plus estimated tipping fees of $75,000 resulting in a total cost for residential collection of $217,732.80. This is an increase in cost of approximately 9 per cent,” Brunn wrote. “Due to the increase in tipping fees and the new contract rates, staff will need to adjust the collection service fee in 2020.”
The new contract includes a potential change to allow organics to be picked up at a cost of $2.95 per month per household. The Ucluelet Rent it Centre will officially take over the contract on Feb. 1.
“The real work starts now,” said Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel, who co-owns the company with business partner Robby Lee. “It brought us smiles knowing that we’re going down the right path and it all goes hand in hand with all the other services that we’re doing.”
Noel told the Westerly that the company was established in 2007 and “continues to grow with the West Coast,” adding he and Lee had unsuccessfully bid on the curbside collection contract in 2014. He credited Lee with spearheading the initiative to take another crack at it.
“We saw an opportunity. We’re always looking for new initiatives and we’re always trying to be well diversified in our business,” he said. “We’re excited about it.”
He said the company has purchased two new trucks—one for garbage and one for recycling—and looks forward to working with the ACRD on a bear-proof system that would allow for curbside organics.
“The goal of the ACRD is to do less garbage pickup and more recycling and organic pickup, that’s the end goal that they would probably like to see happen in the next 24 months,” he said.
He said there are no plans to change the current garbage and recycling collection schedule and expressed admiration for the work Bird has done over the years.
“We have 100 per cent respect for what he’s been doing and we wish him well,” he said.