By Pat Grubb
Close to 100 people turned out on a Saturday morning for a townhall discussion of a proposed mandatory solid waste pickup service that would go into effect next January. Held April 14 at the Gulf Road community center under the auspices of the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee, the meeting was chaired by Whatcom County Health Department staffer Jeff Hegedus.
Hegedus gave a brief overview of the specific challenges trash handling would have in Point Roberts such as low population density and remoteness from the rest of the county.
He also described the process behind the development of the proposal to institute mandatory collection, pointing out that the county had received 314 responses to a community survey that was created to solicit residents’ views. “For two years we’ve done our best to work with the community. At this point, it’s time for county council to consider our recommendations and we’re about 6-8 weeks away from that step,” he said.
Speaking from the audience, Ken Calder complained about the lack of notice given to the community for the town hall meeing,
a complaint that was echoed by others.
Taken as a whole, the crowd appeared to be in favor of the new system with the exception of some seasonal residents and others who expressed concern about the year-round base level of service.
Following are some of the comments expressed:
“Down here, we are being taxed for services that we don’t use. As a seasonal resident, I get billed for water year-round.
I would happily pay for garbage collection. even if I don’t use it all the time. There
may be some issues with the level of
service. Maybe we don’t need a Cadillac service. Maybe we only need a Volkswagen and I appreciate all that. The nub of it, what do we really want at the end. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing.”
“I am a full-time resident and I own a house in Vancouver and I do pay for my sewer and water whether I live there or not. So what is the difference between here and there? Because I spent two years cleaning up garbage in the forest so my kids could play in it. … Garbage does get taken through the border. I sit on the border committee and that is the number one complaint. People are illegally taking their garbage through to Canada. … I have a neighbor who burns their garbage which is hugely illegal also.”
“I’ve been a Canadian visitor since 1950. For us, it’s taxation without representation. I’m willing to pay for some kind of service as long as it’s pro-rated.”
“I’m a full-time resident here. We love living here and I care about the hygiene and the community and the garbage. I sit here listening to some of you and I’ve got to tell you, when I cross that border going north, I’m a guest in that country. For those of you who live here seasonally, these are part-time homes for you, right? They’re essentially a luxury. You own property in one of the most-effective places on the west coast. You’re complaining about spending a few bucks each month to improve the community to making sure that garbage is cleaned up and not laying around everywhere. Honest to God, we’re talking about $20 a month – how can
you afford a second home? All of us understand the problem. It needs to be fixed.
”I am a long-time resident here and I’ve been a resident in both countries so I do understand the problem. I’m supportive of this proposal. You’ll never make everyone happy but I’m willing to pay to have the community cleaner.”
“I live here full-time and I get garbage collection once a month. I don’t need twice-monthly pickup but I will happily pay that money. It’s for the greater good for everybody and I’m happy to pitch in. That’s my comment – my question is: if there is going to be more money available, will there be an increase in services?”
“I’m a full-time resident. If you’re a seasonal resident, here’s a way to get your head around it. Think about if you had an exemption, then you got away with it for a long time. If it’s really that hard for you to think about an extra $200 a year, you’re not required to be here, you’re not forced to be here. We all have to pay our fair share to live in a civilized society.”
“I’m a Canadian. I have no problem spending the extra money.”
PRCAC chair Jeff Christopher, who was not at the meeting, said there had been intensive public outreach regarding proposed changes to the solid waste system.
“I’ve been on PRCAC for 16 months and for 13 of those months solid waste was on the agenda and for eleven of those it was the primary subject of discussion. Six of those meetings Jeff Hegedus and John Wolpers from the county were here.
The committee took five votes, all four in favor of moving forward with David Gellatly abstaining. Now a few people are setting their hair on fire over personalities and not issues.”