Requests from the chamber of commerce for a pay-per-use dumpster fee will not go unheeded, although it could be well over a year for a permanent response from the City of Merritt.
City council asked staff to draw up a temporary fee structure for downtown businesses' waste disposal at its July 10 meeting. Under the solid waste bylaw, all downtown businesses are required to pay for a dumpster and collection.
However, according to Darrel Brooks, the secretary-treasurer of the Merritt and District Chamber of Commerce, many members are paying for far more service than they need.
Brooks gave a presentation to council on June 26 regarding the current regulations and asked for changes to the garbage bylaw.
Brooks, who owns Country Bug Books with his wife, Tracy, estimated that he threw out one bag of garbage a month.
"During our first two months, we rarely had any garbage or recycling.
"I currently still get invoiced about $220 per quarter."
Based on the results of an online survey that the chamber conducted, the majority of businesses support a pay-per-use system for waste collection rather than a flat fee, he said.
Public works superintendent Darrell Finnigan told council at the July 10 meeting that the total amount of garbage collected downtown has been fairly consistent in the last few years.
The chamber requested that the City of Merritt consider making changes to how it bills users for waste disposal and commit to a pay-per-use system, a fee system based on the size and type of business, or some combination of the two.
It also asked that the city: develop a sold waste and recycling program; give a one-time grant or rebate for businesses that take care of their own recycling; and offer businesses a variety of recycling and garbage bin sizes to choose from.
In a report to council on commercial solid waste service, public works manager Shawn Boven wrote that the solid waste bylaw must be rewritten in light of the city's new, automated garbage truck.
The introduction of curbside recycling pickup will also affect collection routes and trips to the landfill, he said.
"The recycling carts aren't out in the field yet so we don't know operationally what they're capable of."
Earlier in his report, Boven stated, "It should be recognized that whether solid waste is handled through collection and landfill disposal, or recycling, there is a cost to the consumer that should be borne by the consumer."
Boven recommended considering the chamber's requests when the city reviews the solid waste bylaw. In order to account for the impact of recent and upcoming changes, a new draft bylaw would not be ready until 12-18 months from now, he said.
The costs of garbage collection for downtown businesses will affect fees for pickup everywhere in Merritt, added Boven.
"Consideration needs to be given to the overall cost of the service and funding source. If changes are made to reduce fees in one area, this may necessitate the need to increase fees in another, or figure out other ways to reduce the overall cost of the service."
Coun. Alastair Murdoch agreed that all collection fees should be reviewed together but expressed concern that the city could be seen as doing nothing if it waits too long before taking any action.
Chief administrative officer Matt Noble suggested compromising by introducing a temporary discount before deciding on a permanent solution.
Coun. Clara Norgaard said giving businesses a discount could lead residential users to ask to opt out of garbage collection or seek a discount as well.
"I'm concerned we may be opening up that Pandora's box."
She suggested waiting for a full report on solid waste disposal before changing any fees.
Introducing new garbage fees for businesses as a pilot project would be useful to work out any problems before permanently adopting a revised solid waste bylaw, said Coun. Mike Goetz.
Council unanimously voted for both examining interim fee changes and considering the chamber's requests when writing a new garbage bylaw.
Coun. Harry Kroeker was absent.