RDN says no to providing interim solution for NRE after lease expires

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, January 16 2018

The Regional District of Nanaimo is not prepared to provide an interim solution for the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange (NRE) when the NRE lease on its current site expires at the end of March.

That according to RDN Chairperson Bill Veenhof and Howard Houle, RDN Director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, and Decourcy).

Ilan Goldenblatt with the NRE presented over 2,000 signatures of people who support the RDN and City of Nanaimo building a new facility two properties adjacent to the current on inside the City of Nanaimo.

Houle said the NRE is asking people and the local governments for support, “but they are not telling people what it will cost.

“Would the support be the same if it is $5 million, or $10 million?”

Veenhof said the RDN staff are engaged with the staff at the NRE and the City of Nanaimo.

“I expect that a full report based on the [Jan. 9] dialogue will be briefed to the Board in the next month.”

He said that briefing will likely be held in camera (behind closed doors) and not in a public meeting.

Asked if there would be public discussion before the RDN commits to any financial decision on the NRE, Veenhof said, “It is reasonable to expect that there will be a public disclosure, but, we are a long way from that.”

Houle said he believes the NRE should look at providing a facility for orphan products - items which no other facility collects or deals with within the waste/recycling stream.

Instead, he says, the NRE is taking recyclables which are already collected through other facilities.

But the big question does come down to how much will it cost, how much support can be leveraged from provincial and federal governments, and how much support is there from the ratepayers within the RDN once the cost is public.

The rushed timeline for the end of the lease is not helping.

As Houle said, “even if the RDN were to step up tomorrow, it could take three to five years to have a building there finished”

“We don’t have an actual financial plan - we have a conceptual design. If the RDN took that on, then would we be responsible for the engineering costs? Design costs? We have no idea what it would cost.”

He also asked, “why would the RDN fund a facility like this for an outside organization when it could do it in-house as part of the RDN’s solid waste department?”

Another issue for Houle is that Gabriola already has the Gabriola Island Recycling Organization (GIRO). 

Other than one-time grants from time to time, GIRO does not receive any ongoing funding from the RDN taxes.

Houle said, “the only thing we lack here on Gabriola is a styrofoam baler. We could finance that for cheaper than what we would likely put into the NRE proposal.”

Houle also pointed out that in the current Green Waste Program and Education funding for the RDN, the City of Nanaimo pays $76,000.

The rest of the RDN municipalities and Electoral Areas pay $319,000 together.

“RDN staff are working with City staff and NRE to put together a report on what the cost of building the facility will be and the annual costs to have it. It’s a very specific purpose-build building, good for nothing else. Recycling in 25 years will not look like what we’re doing now.”

For now, Houle said, there will be no interim funding, and no interim space.