Eastern Regional Services Board asks for new fee-collection powers
Eastern Regional Services Board (ERSB) is seeking new powers to collect fees from people who don’t pay for garbage collection, including putting liens on property of people who don’t pay up.
Right now the only way to collect on delinquent accounts of people who live in unincorporated areas and some local service districts is to use small claims court, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process.
Municipal taxes and fees are applied to property, not property owners, which makes it easier for a town to collect on unpaid amounts, because the town can put a lien on the property, and if the owner wants to sell the property later, the lien blocks the sale until the outstanding amount is paid, plus interest.
Ed Grant, the board chair, said ERSB is seeking the same kind of collection powers as a municipality, because waste collection is a municipal service. Elected officials run municipalities, but Grant said the ERSB is elected as well, with representatives coming from municipal councils across eastern Newfoundland. “We’re really only asking for the same kind of legislative arrangement that municipalities have,” said Grant. “It puts a little more onus on the property owner to pay it, and allows interest to build up.”
The board has applied to the provincial government to amend the Regional Services Act to provide them the same power to collect as municipalities. Grant said the board usually collects by taking people to court but the ability to impose liens would make the process less time consuming and costly.
“We don’t have to be spending as much time as we are at small claims court, even though we’ve won every time,” he said. “People say they don’t want the service, but sorry, it’s a service that’s mandated.”
Some people who don’t pay say they don’t use the service, according to Grant, but anyone who produces garbage contributes to the cost of waste disposal.
“They’re doing something with their garbage, whether it’s bringing it into the communities where they work,” he said. “We’ve had communities complain that, hey, there’s a group of homes out in an unincorporated area and the garbage is being dropped off at their workstations, and they’ve got to pay to have it brought to a transfer station and the tipping fees, and that’s not fair.”
Municipalities will begin paying a tipping fee of $67.60 per tonne when they start taking garbage to the transfer station, and $20 per tonne of recyclables, plus the normal overhead costs they would normally pay, unless they decide to let ERSB take over collection, in which case ERSB will charge them a flat fee per household of $180 per year.
People living in unincorporated areas will be billed directly by ERSB.
ERSB has taken over garbage collection for approximately 18,000 households so far, a number that will grow after it builds a transfer station in Clarenville later this year. Once the station is built, towns and local service districts will have the option to let EWSB take over garbage collection and bill them for the service.
Grant said he wants to emphasize that no town or local service district is being forced or pressured to hand over its waste collection role to the board. In order for ESRB to take on garbage collection in this area, however, a large number of communities will have to sign on, because the board can then issue one large collection tender for the region.
Either way, everybody, including people in unincorporated areas, will have to pay for garbage collection.
“If you create garbage, you’ve got to be responsible for getting rid of it,” he says. “Some people say they don’t need it. If you create garbage, you need it.”