Composting plan requires public hearing

Abbotsford’s plan to create a curbside composting program hit a small snag Monday night.

Abbotsford’s plan to create a curbside composting program hit a small snag Monday night.

During the debate to award a $6 million, 10-year contract to Net Zero Waste Inc. – for compostable waste disposal and processing services – Coun. John Smith noticed a procedural problem that could have jeopardized the deal.

The proposed site of the processing plant needs to be rezoned, and that requires a public hearing.

“How can we award a contract before a public hearing? It looks like we’ve already made the decision.” said Smith.

Council is supposed to attend public hearings with an open mind, and make their decisions after receiving views from interested parties, he pointed out.

“If someone presented a good argument why we shouldn’t rezone the property, then I’d vote against it.”

After a brief debate, Smith found a solution to the problem. He amended the motion to award the contract, adding the stipulation it would only be granted pending the results of a public hearing.

“Having this caveat means we can walk away from the contract . . . I still find it a little uncomfortable doing it this way,” said Smith.

Jim Gordon, general manager of engineering and regional utilities, said the report should have had the stipulation “pending a public hearing” in it from the beginning.

The proposed site, located at 5050 Gladwin Rd., already has approval from the Agricultural Land Commission and only needs a text amendment in the city bylaw.

Abbotsford Mayor George Peary said he likes the compromise, as it allows the public to have its say.

“Staff was anxious to tie up the contractor and award the contract, but as Coun. Smith pointed out – quite correctly – you can’t just go through the motions,” of a public hearing, he said.

The city’s curbside composting program, set to begin in early 2012, was first made public in April. The plan is to separate all compostables (food waste, grass clippings etc.) and collect it separately from other household wastes. The city will collect all three streams of household waste (Recycling and compost once a week and garbage once every two weeks).

Pending the public hearing, Net Zero Waste will lease the farmland on a 10-year term and construct a facility using state-of-the-art GORE composting technology. The composting process will take place inside a structure to help limit the possible odour associated with the process.

No date has been set for the public hearing.