Blue collar union demands city reinstitute garbage collection

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By Isaac Olson – Free Press
Before the September 21 Côte St. Luc council meeting got under way, blue collar workers were at city hall’s front doors handing out bilingual pamphlets urging people to “challenge the awarding of contracts to private companies by Mayor Anthony Housefather.”

While workers claim it’s a waste of money and it is costing workers their jobs, Housefather argues it actually is cheaper to go through the private company, but that does not mean the city isn’t open to solutions.

About 60 workers from the blue collar union, all sporting hats with the union logo, filled the meeting hall to the point that many were left standing around the back of the room rather than taking front row seats. Many of the union members covered or hid their faces when journalists took out their cameras. Union representative Pierre-Guy Sylvestre and local workers took to the microphone to ask the mayor why the city awarded a contract worth about $750,000 (tax included) to a private company rather than continuing to use city workers.

The union pamphlet states, “The repatriation of work in-house is a priority for the Union of Blue Collar Workers of Montreal and we relentlessly denounce the waste of money by elected representatives in any city or borough.”

However, countered Housefather, the decision to move the garbage collection service to RCI was for no other reason
than to save money.

“We value our relationship with the blue collars,” said Housefather. In 2006, he said, when the city took garbage collection in house, the price of out-sourced garbage collection had shot up “astronomically.”

The council, he said, decided to take it in-house to save money. At the time, he said that meant spending over $1 million to have city workers collect garbage. That price did not include composting. “We wrote the tender to be at exactly the same level as that we were getting from the blues.”

The price difference between RCI and in-house, he explained, is nearly $800,000. The mayor told the blue collar workers that the city would be willing to discuss options and, if the union can come up with a way to match the RCI price, the city will go back to relying on in-house services to collect compost and trash.

“I can’t see how we can get to that number, but I am happy to talk,” said Housefather. “The goal here is to always have a good relationship.”

On September 17, the city issued a full response on its website to a recent full page ad that was published in The Suburban. That ad, paid for by the union, included “several inaccurate and misleading statements,” according to the city’s statement, and “It should be noted that the union’s complaint came more than nine months following the ratification by city council of the contract.”

The statement on the website goes on to explain the numbers in detail. It states, “The cost of the city handling in-house waste collection and organic collection (brown bin) would have been almost $1.336 million in 2015. By contrast, the cost to outsource was about 50 percent less costly at $680,606.84. Given the market change, the decision was an easy one.

“But beyond just saving taxpayer money, Côte St. Luc also tries to be fair with staff. For instance, all the workers who had been working on our waste collection teams were offered new jobs. Some got promotions. Others were transferred to comparable jobs, in addition to being offered training to improve their skills.”

New days for curbside collection in Côte Saint-Luc starting week of February 2

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Curbside collection days are changing for most homes in Côte Saint-Luc starting the week of Monday, February 2, 2015.
For single-family homes and duplexes, brown bins (organic waste) will collected on Mondays, blue bins (recyclables) on Tuesdays, bulky waste on Wednesdays, and garbage on Thursdays.
Residents can start placing closed-lid bins at the curb at 10 pm the night before the collection. You can place bulky waste as of noon the day before. Blue bins must be at the curb by 7 am on collection day to ensure it is collected. Brown bins, bulky waste, and garbage bins must be placed by 8 am on collection day.
It made financial sense to outsource garbage collection and organic waste collection. The contractor has the capacity to collect garbage from single-family homes and duplexes across Côte Saint-Luc in one day. Same with organics and bulky waste. We decided to simplify collection and schedule it on the same day.
For those townhouses that currently take part in curbside organic waste collection, they will follow the same schedule as single family homes and duplexes. For all other multi-family complexes and institutions, garbage collection is on Mondays and Thursdays, recycling collection remains on Tuesdays and bulky waste collection is on Wednesdays.
For old electronic items (computers, monitors, etc.) and household hazardous waste (paint, CFL bulbs, etc.), residents can bring these to the EcoCentre at 6925 Côte-des-Neiges or Public Works (7001 Mackle Rd.). Call 514-485-6868 to arrange a pick up at the curb of an old TV.
Côte Saint-Luc is mailing a flyer with the new collection days information to all homes, doing a city-wide phone call out, and sending an email to all those subscribed to the Côte Saint-Luc e-newsletter, among other things.


Residents question city’s cleanliness


Residents question city’s cleanliness

April 24, 2012

Isaac Olson, The Free Press

During the April 16 city council meeting, a young Côte St. Luc couple questioned the city’s cleanliness and skunk population while another resident challenged garbage collectors to carefully replace cans and clean-up fallen debris rather than carelessly blazing through their routes.

Lianne Barksi, while her husband Miki Harrar tended their 6-month-old baby, said their dog has been sprayed three times in two years. She said “we think it is a result of people putting their garbage out in bags the night before garbage pickup.” She asked if the city can insist people use bins the night before and bags out in the morning only.

“That’s exactly what our by-law says,” replied Mayor Anthony Housefather, noting trash can only be left out the night before if it’s after 10 pm and in a bin. “Obviously we need to do a better job of enforcement.” The mayor said Public Works would look into the issue. Though, he admitted, it is difficult to cover the entire city every week with only two security officials on duty.

When Barksi asked what the city is doing about skunks, Housefather said the city will continue its contract with the SPCA. There are, he said, provincial laws in place that do make it difficult to rid the city of pests such as skunks and raccoons. He recommended residents contact provincial authorities and complain about this issue.

Later, Harrar told the council “I find Côte St. Luc to be very messy in general and I often see litter strewn all over the place.” He went on to ask, “what is the city’s plan to clean up Côte St. Luc? I’m tired of living on such a messy street.”

Citing the city’s four-out-of-five flower rating with Les Fleurons du Québec program, which is intended to recognize municipalities that improve their environment, the mayor said CSL is, when compared to most cities, a tidy place to live. Eldridge Ave., where the couple lives, is prone to litter, the mayor added, because the parking situation makes it difficult to clean. While requiring residents switch parking spots from one side to the other on cleaning days is an option, he said there would also be many residents opposed to such a measure. The city, however, will look into the issue, the mayor concluded, to find ways to better clean the street.

Councillor Steven Erdelyi encouraged residents to participate in organic waste collection because, he said, once he began doing it at his home five years ago, he stopped getting crows. The organic waste, he said, goes in the brown bins and the trash no longer attracts animals.

Bernard Tonchin, a meeting regular, told the council part of the blame needs to be put on disrespectful garbage handlers who scatter trashcans, lids and even debris as they rush through their routes. Crews used to bring along a broom and shovel to sweep up spills but now, he argued, debris is just left on the street.

Housefather, noting he agrees the workers should be replacing the cans and lids in their proper place, agreed it’s an issue that the city will look into.

In my opinion:  The problem is not that difficult to resolve:  Use a plastic, sealed garbage bin so that animals cannot get in to make a mess.  Roll your bin back down your driveway, next to your home, at the end of the pickup day. Violators, unfortunately, will be fined.  There are far too many residents who simply leave their blue, brown and other bins at the curb all the time making the street look shoddy as Mr. Harrar indicated in this article.

What we learned about organic waste collection

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Here’s an excellent piece by District 4 Councillor Steven Erdelyi.  Steven is responsible for the Public Works dossier.  He is an excellent Councillor, highly intelligent and devoted to his constituents, his portfolio and indeed all residents of the City.

Free Press, April 25, 2012. Click to enlarge.

No farm animals allowed: CSL

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No farm animals allowed: CSL

Many municipalities have little-known bylaws

By Joel Goldenberg

The Suburban

March 3, 2010

Côte St. Luc has many well-known and publicized bylaws – perhaps its most famous are its overnight parking prohibition between 3 and 6 a.m., its pioneering requirement for bicyclists to wear helmets and also innovative ban on smoking in public places, well before Quebec made the latter province-wide law.

Other bylaws are obvious and by no means unique – putting out garbage at the correct time, keeping your dog leashed and out of parks, and no unauthorized parking in handicap zones.

But others are less obvious. Côte St. Luc’s website lists many of them. In that city, you can’t:

1. “Keep live farm animals or fowl on your land,” so do not expect to find any live cows, chickens or turkeys in local backyards and homes. There have been no such incidences in Côte St. Luc, The Suburban has been told, at least in recent years.

2. “Park a trailer, truck anywhere except for loading or unloading purposes.” However, in neighbouring Hampstead, one can frequently find trucks and trailers parked on Glenmore, at a home where the filming of major motion pictures has taken place over the years, to the annoyance of some residents.

3. “Put more than a total of six receptacles or plastic bags outside a building for garbage collection.” In this case, a major spring cleaning should take place over time.

4 “Make loud noises such as excessively honking your horn, blaring loud music or using any other sound reproduction device to do so.” So no bass-heavy rap music on Côte St. Luc streets.

5. “Feed pigeons, squirrels and other wild animals or poultry.” Bylaw #1 should take care of much of that issue.

In Hampstead, one otherwise little known bylaw has been gaining more prominence at monthly council meetings, the prohibition against speaking from the floor except during question period. Thanks to frequent violations by some council regulars and Mayor William Steinberg ordering a ticket issued during a council meeting – the order was later withdrawn and switched to a warning – that bylaw has been well publicized.

Other interesting bylaws also relate to decorum at council meetings. An attendee can be expelled if he or she is verbally disruptive, but also disruptive from a motion perspective. Thus, technically, attendees can be ordered to leave if they “wander away from the topic under discussion” or “move about between the council table and the public.”

The decorum bylaw also applies to reporters or residents who want to record meetings for their own library. For instance, “the use of a mechanical or electronic voice recording device is authorized during town council meetings on the condition that the equipment is used silently and without in any way disturbing the proceedings. The recording device must remain in the user’s physical possession.” This might indicate that a reporter or resident cannot leave his or her recorder running in the council chamber while taking a bathroom break.

Back in 2005, The Suburban reported that another Hampstead council meeting-related bylaw says that only council members “and officers assisting them, may be filmed or photographed by means of a still, video or television camera or any other device for recording images, and only during question period, may the people asking the questions of the council members also be photographed or filmed.” However, The Suburban was assured it would not be prosecuted if it took a picture of an audience member, for example, disrupting the meeting from the floor. Also, no action was taken during the fractious 2009 election campaign when some council meetings were filmed by a supporter of mayoral candidate and former councillor David Sternthal.

Another aspect of the decorum bylaw, the prohibition against “shouting, heckling, singing, making noise or any other gesture likely to negatively impact the proceedings.” Pretty much every one of these has been violated in the last few years – except for the singing.

On the other hand, Hampstead is not unique in designating a maximum of 30 minutes for their question period. However, not too many area municipalities follow that rule to the letter. Two Hampstead question periods at one meeting lasted a total four hours, ironically after an unsuccessful attempt to actually restrict the time to 30 minutes because of lengthy question periods at previous meetings.

In Montreal West, a recently posted 2008 bylaw decrees if a resident has more than two dogs or four cats, he or she “shall be considered to be operating a kennel or shelter.” The bylaw also says kennels and shelters are not allowed in the town’s residential zone. A permit must be obtained to open a kennel or shelter altogether.

However, there is one exception to the dog and cat limit rule. “In the event that a female dog or cat gives birth to a litter of puppies or kittens, [they] may be kept by the owner for a period not exceeding three months.”

As they say, ignorance is no excuse. Read your municipality’s bylaws.

Recycling company won’t take material from outside bins: Housefather

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Recycling company won’t take material from outside bins: Housefather

By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban, Feb. 24, 2010

Earlier this month, Hampstead councillor Michael Goldwax warned that recycling contractors do not pick up material if it is outside the recycling bin on pick-up day.

At this month’s Côte St. Luc council meeting, mayor Anthony Housefather had to give the same advice to the one resident who showed up that night to ask a question.

The resident told council that if someone places anything extra next to the bin, “even an IGA bag, he refuses to take it.

“God forbid, he should bend over and do this. Can you explain why?”

Housefather explained the contract for recycling for the entire island of Montreal was accepted “under certain terms and conditions.” The mayor pointed out that recycling, in many cases, is only picked up by a mechanical arm on the pick-up vehicle.

“The whole point of this was to reduce the cost for all of the cities to make it easier, so they would have one person in the truck and not two or three. They’re never going to come out — if they were to do that, it would defeat the whole principle of using the arm.”

Housefather also said that exceptions to the rule were made in the first weeks of the contract, and that instructions were also given to residents on the proper method of placing their recycling bins for pick-up.

The resident pointed out that, in one instance, the bin fell on a windy day and the cover was open.

“God forbid someone should bend over…”

Housefather said there are some occasions where the driver will go outside the truck, “but not usually.

“Garbage and compost collection are done by city employees,” the mayor pointed out.

Councillor Steven Erdelyi told the resident that if his bin is overflowing with recyclables, he can contact the city to upgrade to a larger-sized bin — for instance, from 120 litres to 240 or from 240 to 360 litres. Erdelyi said another option is to make use of a large bin at the corner of Baily and Westminster, near the strip mall.

CSL looking at in-house garbage collection, says Brownstein

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CSL looking at in-house garbage collection, says Brownstein
The Chronicle
November 29, 2006

Having rejected garbage disposal contract bids which came in recently 120 per cent higher, officials with the City of Côte St. Luc are thinking of starting their own garbage collection service using in-house resources.

The annual cost for Côte St. Luc’s garbage disposal shot up from $450,000 last year to $991,000 for the latest proposed contract, said Councillor Mitchell Brownstein, the City’s public works commissioner.

“Therefore we looked at other alternatives, and instead of contracting out for the collection of garbage, we are going to be purchasing garbage trucks and doing collection in-house,” he said recently in city council. Brownstein said that instead of contracting out, Côte St. Luc plans to purchase its own garbage trucks and do the job itself.

“Once we have control over our garbage collection, if we have a pilot project for composting or in certain areas, we’ll have total control and it will also give our public works department additional work to do in-house,” he said.

“So it’s a challenge for them, it’s a challenge for us, and it’s a challenge whereby we will save money for the City – hopefully a bit this year, but more each year. As we can see, when we’re contracting out, the tenders the way they’re coming back are absolutely ridiculous.”

According to Councillor Dida Berku, who deals with environmental issues, the latest bid did not include an additional $500,000 dumping fee, which would have raised the cost of garbage disposal to nearly $1.5 million.

“It is high time that we say no to these huge increases and that we realize – and I think there’s a tremendous consensus on council now – that we’re harming the environment and it’s costing us a fortune in the short term,” she said. “So therefore we have to reduce, re-use, recycle, compost and do everything possible to improve our waste management.”

Councillor Glenn Nashen said he agreed that Côte St. Luc had no choice but to reject the tenders. “But before Councillor Berku goes and spends the savings, I want to see the money,” he added. “I am less convinced than you, perhaps, that there will be any great savings.

“I am less convinced that by going in-house we will see any savings or have any kind of an efficient service,” Nashen said.

“We don’t have the expertise, we don’t know what we’re doing in this area, this isn’t our business, we’ve never done it before, and the residents have a certain expectation of having their garbage picked up properly, efficiently and on time.”

In Hampstead, Mayor William Steinberg said this week that the town is in the process of seeking bids for its garbage collection service. Hampstead’s previous contract had been in association with the former Borough of Côte St. Luc-Hampstead-Montreal West.

“I don’t think we’ll have the bids by the next council meeting on Dec. 4,” said Steinberg, who had no comment on the 120 per cent increase in the cost of Côte St. Luc’s garbage disposal.

CSL poised to collect own garbage

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CSL poised to collect own garbage
By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban

In an unprecedented move, Côte St. Luc is preparing to save money by having its own public works employees collect the city’s garbage. Council rejected a tender for garbage collection of $991,000 from $450,000, a number representing a 120 percent increase over last year.

Montreal West accepted a similar tender increase late last month, and Hampstead rejected theirs last week and is renegotiating. Côte St. Luc will further debate the in-house collection proposal at a later meeting.

“We looked at other alternatives, and instead of contracting out for the collection of garbage, we are going to be purchasing garbage trucks and doing collection in-house,” councillor Mitchell Brownstein said at Monday night’s city council meeting. “If we have a pilot project for composting in certain areas of streets, we’ll have total control. And we’ll also give our public works department additional work to do in-house. It’s a challenge for them, it’s a challenge for us, and we’ll save money for the city – hopefully, a bit this year but more each year.”

Councillor Dida Berku supports the move, saying the total cost for collection would have jumped to $1.5 million, including $550,000 for dumping fees.

“It is high time we say no to these huge increases,” she said. “There’s a tremendous consensus on council now that we’re harming the environment and it’s costing us a fortune in the short term. We have to reduce, reuse, recycle, compost and do everything possible to improve our waste management.”

Berku proposed waste management controls “to put a cap on our costs and invite the public to see what wasteful practices really cost us.” She also suggested “using the $200,000 or $300,000 in potential savings into composting and spreading recycling into apartment buildings.”

But council is far from united on the issue.

“Before councillor Berku spends the savings, show me the money,” councillor Glenn Nashen said. “I am less convinced that there will be any great savings, and that by going in-house, we will see any savings or have any kind of efficient service – that’s without disparaging any of our staff.

“We don’t have the expertise, we don’t know what we’re doing in this area. This isn’t our business. The residents have a certain expectation of having their garbage picked up properly, efficiently and on time twice a week. I don’t know if we can deliver on that. I’m not in favour of bringing that in-house, we have to find other alternatives.”

Councillor Allan Levine agreed, but earned the wrath of councillor Ruth Kovac when he said the employees of the private contractors who currently do the regular garbage collection “get up at 7 a.m. and run right until 2 p.m., they run after the garbage truck, throw the stuff in and move like crazy. The last time I saw anybody in public works running, he had fallen asleep in Trudeau Park, it was five minutes to three and he finished at 3 p.m.”

“They work hard, but they don’t run like the independent contractors.”

Kovac accused Levine of disparaging the public works employees. Levine apologized, saying he was speaking in “jest.”