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City could face trash crunch

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 23/04) - City council decided not to raise garbage fees over the complaints of some councillors who warned Yellowknife is facing a looming trash crisis.

"We have to warn the people of Yellowknife that we have a problem here," said councillor Blake Lyons during a committee meeting Monday morning at city hall.

Yellowknife's Solid Waste Management Fund -- which finances garbage removal -- is $684,000 in debt. That could leave the city short on cash when the time comes to replace the current landfill site, said Lyons.

"The dump will close in four years," Lyons said.

"At some point, we're going to have to do something about it."

City planners recommended increasing household garbage fees from $10 to $11.80 to make up for the shortfall, but most councillors at Monday's meeting were not in favour of the proposal.

"We need to reassess where we are spending our money," said Doug Witty, who suggested reviewing the city's current procedures before increasing fees.

"It's premature," he said. "We need to understand better what we're doing with the solid waste fund."

But councillor Kevin O'Reilly disagreed. "I don't know what further analysis is necessary," he said.

"(It seems like) some councillors are ideologically opposed to fee and tax increases."

Lyons and O'Reilly worried without an injection of cash -- garbage fees haven't increased since 1990 and the annual deficit is around $163,000 -- the system won't be sustainable.

"Do you know any business in Yellowknife that has kept their prices from 13 1/2 years ago?" asked O'Reilly. "If you know one, let me know."

"We have to look at a way in which to bring fees in line with expenditures."

O'Reilly also said the city needs to improve it's "neanderthal"-like recycling system, a comment that was met with guarded optimism by other councillors.

"Yes recycling is excellent, but at what costs?" asked Alan Woytuik.