REPORTING · 27th January 2016
Kitimat Council’s Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, January 25th began with a presentation by Ted Bergen who wished to give public input on a report to Council regarding Litter Clean-up along Highway 37.
“In the fall, Council received a letter from a resident regarding litter along Highway 37 and directed staff to follow up with the Ministry of Transportation,” wrote Warren Waycheshen in the report, dated January 19th. “For Ministry Roads, the highway maintenance contractors are responsible for litter collection that is visible from the travelled lanes.”
Waycheshen explains the minimum frequency for litter collection is 60 days although the contractor, Nechako Northcoast Construction, will go out if there is debris found on the highway which could be considered a safety issue. They are required to remove it as soon as they become aware of it.
The report provides several options: to take no option, find a service group to clean the highway as a fundraiser, find a community group to look after a section of highway, examine all opportunities for community groups in relation to this matter or find another option through discussion.
Bergen expressed he has been working on this for a while. He started by going to the contractor, learning that their responsibilities were.
“He was telling me they’re supposed to clean up that highway three or four times a year,” said Bergen.
In 2015, Sandra Jackson organized a volunteer clean-up of the highway in spring 2015. Bergen participated in cleaning the garbage off the side of the road. They cleaned up over 200 garbage bags and much more.
He sent his first letter to Council where he expressed his concerns about the debris along the highway shortly after this clean-up. He offered his time and suggestions. Nobody contacted him back but his letter was forwarded to the District Manager for the Ministry of Highways which led to a one on one conversation between Bergen and the Ministry of Highways.
“I asked him: ‘in your opinion, are you satisfied with the contractors who are responsible for cleaning up debris on the highway,’” said Bergen. “He hesitated and he said, ‘if you need a yes or no answer,’ he says, ‘Yes, I am satisfied.”
He also asked about things which the District of Kitimat and Council could do to solve the problem, such as getting a bigger sign. He was told they could. The District Manager also suggested the Adopt a Highway. However, Bergen was not interested in this program as two days after they had finished cleaning up, it was back to the way it was before.
“The citizens of Kitimat don’t really care,” said Bergen. “Some do, the people with the garbage in their trucks don’t.”
There were issues within the District so, when all were done, Bergen contacted the Council again asking them to address the issue. Waycheshen was quick to respond asked if Bergen wanted to meet with Council or have the issue brought to the ministry. Bergen told him the ministry was happy with how things were going so he advised not going to them and have Council handle it in house.
“Another month down the road, in 2015,” said Bergen, “Councillor Feldhoff, he made the comment that he wanted administration to get a hold of the contractor. […] [He] wanted to see if the contractor was fulfilling their agreement as far as the contract went. Well I know that [the District Manager for the Ministry of Highways] was already happy with the contractor so nothing is going to happen.”
Following this, he gave Council two suggestions to deal with the core issue. Again, no one approached him but Waycheshen promised to get back to him after he met with the Ministry of Highways. Bergen again reminded Council that he advised them not to meet with the Ministry of Highways because they were happy with what was going on.
In late September, he asked for an update but there was not any information. In October, he was told he would get information shortly. The next update came in January, which was the report included in the Council Package for the 25th.
He walked Council through the report and his problems with it. He pointed out the contractor is only responsible for debris left on the side of the road. When he was cleaning up garbage, he was going down into the ditch.
Bergen was not pleased with the option to take no option, and pointed out the next three options were the same. Each of these options was to pick up the garbage, which they are going to do again and again.
“You’re not dealing with the issue. You’re not dealing with the core issue. Why is it there to start with? Why don’t you guys deal with that?” asked Bergen. “This is not solving a problem. This report is telling me, we’re going to rely on volunteers again and again and again and again to pick up the garbage. We’re not dealing with the issue. We’re not dealing with: why is it there to start with?”
He hoped Council would come up with another option and told them consequences are needed. He was not suggesting another bylaw however, because it was not going anywhere. He expressed Council was aware there were litter laws in place and have admitted they cannot do anything about them.
Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to know what the two suggestions. However, Bergen replied that he did not have a very nice response. “I’ve been asked, I’ve been denied, I’ve been ignored,” said Bergen. He told Council if they wanted to know, they would have to contact him after the meeting.
Mayor Phil Germuth expressed the responsibility for this should fall on Mayor and Council, not on the Administration.
Bergen reiterated, cleaning the highway was a short term solution because it would just be messed up again. However, he expressed there would be ways to reduce the mess.
Councillor Mary Murphy stated people do not notice the litter unless they drive it every day. She told him former Councillor Corinne Scott had a motion to do something about securing the loads and whose responsibility it was to monitor the loads. She suggested revisiting this.
Councillor Larry Walker disagreed because if it goes to committee and returns to Council, ‘Hell could freeze over.’ He believed something should be done right away.
Councillor Claire Rattee agreed that Volunteer groups would not be able to fix the problem and she wished people would not dump litter on the side of the highway. She asked why volunteers are being asked to do this work when it is already being contracted out.
Councillor Edwin Empinado expressed they have had a lot of problems with litter in town as well, citing the riverbank clean up and the dyke road as examples.
Bergen expressed to Council he could get some members of the public to put their heads together and come up with some ideas on how to solve the problem.
Later in the meeting, Councillor Mario asked if the District finds the clean up on the road side to be done to an acceptable standard. Council was told they are meeting the minimum requirement. Groups have done it in the past, and this is something the Ministry is willing to entertain again.
Mayor Phil Germuth wanted to know what dates the clean-up is being done on so they can drive by and gauge the job which is being done. He suggested putting cameras up to catch the people littering because they cannot have a bylaw officer in place all the time.
Councillor Larry Walker expressed this should be done once every 30 days. However, the District does not want to own the highway or the bridge. However, he suggested the District find out if they could sub contract people to clean the road. Finally, he suggested asking the dump to tell un-tarped loads to turn around and go home.
“We have options available, we just have to act on them,” said Walker.
Feldhoff apologized if he contributed to Bergen’s frustrations. He suggested having the landfill operator handing out municipal tickets for unsecured loads. They could also improve the signage. He suggested getting a list of ideas from the public.
Councillor Mary Murphy told Council there was a pink garbage bag which had been left in the middle of the road and kicked to the side earlier this day. She expressed it was sad when people do not pick up their garbage, especially when they bring it to the dump in easily identifiable garbage bags.
She suggested bringing forward former Councillor Scott’s motion to make secured loads mandatory again.
Rattee agreed, stating what keeps coming up is the contractor is not doing a good job. Rattee said she was worried that enforcement at the dump could push more garbage onto the back roads. She wanted to talk to the contractor.
Feldhoff stated creating a new bylaw was not the way to go. He thought all loads had to be secured already. He wanted the staff to meet with Bergen’s group. Germuth wanted to know what other communities have done.
Goffinet made a motion to have staff work with interested individuals, community groups and administration on ways to cut down on road side litter in the District of Kitimat while going to the Ministry and asking if the current contractor is living up to the letter of the commitment to the District for tidy roads and looking for long term ways of involving the community in roadside clean-up.
Goffinet expressed Bergen has put in a lot of effort. He wanted to know what the root causes were and what could be done to fix the problem while Staff tries to solve the problem with the Ministry. If the litter on the highway was under control, then volunteer groups would be willing to help keep it this way.
Germuth wanted to know how the Ministry policies this. If they take the contractor at their word or verify. Feldhoff agreed with the motion but did not want to see this drag on for another year and a half. He expressed there was a safety issue having people working along the edge of the highway.
Walker on the other hand did not like the idea of going to the Ministry when they already know the answer. Feldhoff said the Ministry would have to say this to the District and show them in the contract. Rattee wanted to make it clear that staff has to be involved. She also wanted to know who was involved when they were not fulfilling their job. She was told it was the Province.
Council was ready to vote. The motion was called and carried.
Extra cleanup person good idea
Comment by Vern on 30th January 2016
The extra cleanup person is a good idea. I would like to see them be given cameras to record anybody seen dumping or loosing trash on the side of the road. Also if trash can be linked to anyone by finding items with addresses or names those people should be fined. Not all roadside trash just falls out of the back of trucks, a few years ago I saw two people pulling a mattress out a pickup truck bed and throwing on the side of the road.
Comment by Pinwheel on 30th January 2016
Get the police to do there jobs, most of this stuff is coming from un-tarped trailers or over loaded pick ups. Fine the idiots that dont tarp there load or dont except it at the municipal dump if it shows up un tarped.
Up to 2000$ fine acording to the highway signage, hand a few of those out to unsecure loads.
Comment by Carol on 30th January 2016
Having wonderful volunteers picking up the garbage along the side of the road only says to the disrespectful garbage throwers ...."the volunteers will pick it up." Why at the pull-off at the Snowflake Grounds should anyone have to pick up garbage and toilet paper where people have gone to the bathroom. It's sad when adults have to be educated about looking after their own garbage. Cigarette packages, beer cans and bottles thrown in the ditch in Cable Car...can't be the people that live in Cable Car. We live in one of the most beautiful areas ... lets all make it even better. Everyone has to do their part.....Neighbourhood Watch.....we're watching...how about you ? Take license plate numbers, description of vehicle. Everyone has phones in their cars....there is a fine for throwing garbage from a vehicle.
Comment by seriously on 29th January 2016
The answer is not hiring more DOK crew. The answer is enforcement. Have a secure load law.... covered, enclosed or tied. Set up random road blocks between highway bridge and Hirsch creek park..... multifunctional ones.... DFO, RCMP, DOK members attending....checking for snow tires, seatbelts, faulty vehicles, DUI's, poaching, and loose loads. After a few people are charged the problem will be lessened.
Comment by Gary Haupt on 29th January 2016
Call the police. Get another By-Law person. Have the Refuse gate minders write tickets.
Anything but addressing the problem. Which is the residents and contractors.
First...tie down your loads..even a plastic bag. Throw a net over the stuff.
Second...you see someone leaving a mess, get their license and call the RCMP AND the District. Let them sort it out.
But wait..that means you have to get involved in your community, right? Means you have to take some responsibility. Like the dog messes, the cars passing the school bus, the ATV's and motorbikes on walkways and park/school yards.
'Get someone else to do the work. Not me.'
The ONLY SOLUTION
Comment by Tha Truth on 28th January 2016
The ONLY solution is to hire an additional General Clean up or Litter Control Person!!!
One employee for uptown and one employee for downtown.
They can team when necessary, alternate highway clean up duties, they can be dispatched as a team of traffic control persons with out breaking up Road/Water and Sewer maintenance crews which has always been a huge problem, this will improve productivity and improve the standard of of our beautification and general maintenance services.
If one employee is on vacation or unavailable you will always have coverage and it won't effect the Roads and Water/Sewer crews who are currently understaffed and can't afford to have their numbers further reduced. This solution will also mitigate the risk of rotator cuff injury by spreading the workload. For those of you how have never performed the work of litter control, please understand that the employee walks miles and miles everyday of the year with a large bucket full of garbage hanging off of one shoulder. You must carry that bucket a long distance and back to your truck and the weight is considerable and it is painful. That is no bullshit my friends, it's not fun!
For the numerous reasons stated above, I hope that I have presented a realistic and workable solution to a growing problem and it will satisfy the public's demand for an effective solution that will produce results.
Forget the Ministry of Highways! That;s a waste of time!
Forget volunteers! Why should our citizens have to spend their personal time cleaning up after pigs, they already pay taxes for that service!
Forget contracting it out! All of us who have ever worked in a unionized workplace know that contracting out is a foolish choice. Why should some poor soul earn minimum wage cleaning up while his/her Boss does nothing and makes a profit supervising them when we as taxpayers already pay DOK Managers for those same responsibilities! That would make no sense! Why would you pay twice?
In conclusion, you as a taxpayer and citizen now have the only real solution before you......HIRE ONE MORE D.O.K LITTER CONTROL PERSON..........the question is what will you do with this information?
Humbly submitted, by someone that knows what the hell they talking about. Thank you.
The ONLY PROBLEM
Comment by Tha Truth on 28th January 2016
Unfortunately, there will always be people that are disrespectful and inconsiderate, if they have no respect for their community and choose to litter you can NEVER fully fix that problem of human nature! There will always be litter, the question is how do you deal with it?
Currently, the District of Kitimat and the Ministry of Highways are doing the bare minimum. That is an indisputable fact!
You as a taxpayer and citizen can offer suggestions and make inquiries all day long and nothing will ever change. If you care about the problem and wish to solve it one an for all then YOU MUST demand a workable and realistic solution. Demand it and force Council to implement the remedy.
The Solution is an easy fix that will deal with litter effectively and produce a nearly litter free community.
Currently the Ministry of Highways does the clean up reluctantly and only if they are pressured to do so. Don't count on them, it's a waste of your energy.
The solution resides with the District of Kitimat.
The highway up to the Snowflake is only an extension of our community and litter is a problem from the Alcan train tracks, to the highway snowflake sign, on the dirt side roads, service centre, city centre and in our uptown and downtown neighbourhoods.
The DOK has only ever had one person to deal with the litter problem. That person is a full-time employee called a "General Clean up person". One solitary employee has NEVER been an adequate response to the litter problem. There is simply too much litter on the ground for one person to deal with and with the ever increasing litter receptacles being placed on our walkways it is impossible to effectively perform said duties and still do the receptacle collection route.
One person has always been inadequate to clean up boulevards, perform our retail sector clean up, clean service centre, Kildala, Whitesail, Nechako, Cablecar, the highway, the walkway receptacle root, replenish the doggie bags dispensers, collect Shopping carts, take lost or stolen bicycles to the RCMP, clean up motor vehicle accident debris, clean up spilled oil or transmission fluid, collect roadkill, take debris to the municipal dump and still be on call for traffic control duties. One person is inadequate for so great a geographic footprint.
As soon as you finish one section, the next day it is littered again, any employee or summer student past or present that has performed General Clean Up can attest to that fact!
The only people that know the solution are those individuals charged with the responsibility to clean up our town and how have personal experience facing said challenges.
Comment by Ted Bergen on 28th January 2016
I want to go back to council with suggestions from the Kitimat residents. Please e-mail any suggestions to my e-mail address below.
Garbage on the highway!
Comment by FayEllen McFarlane on 27th January 2016
For years, I was involved with roadside cleanup with Scouting and then with the United Church Fund raising committee. It was always shocking and disgusting the amount of garbage and what we found along the roadside. And within a couple of days after we had picked up 100 - 200 bags plus stuff that didn't fit into a garbage bag, there was more garbage on the highway! I was always discouraged and disappointed!
BUT the fact is, that if a driver looses a bag of garbage and stops to pick it up, the RCMP will come along and charge them with having an unsecured load. If they leave it there, who knows? No one. It is WRONG for the RCMP to charge the driver who stops to pick up an item that has fallen. The person who should be charged is the person whose garbage has fallen and it has been left! When I person takes the responsibility to pick up their lost garbage they should be thanked, not charged, and until the RCMP recognizes that fact, people will NOT pick up their lost garbage!
The real problem?
Comment by D. Metz on 27th January 2016
When it comes down to it, the root problem is careless Kitimat residents. As long as I can remember garbage in ditches and back roads around town has always been a problem. I'm not sure of the solution other than more local residents caring and simply disposing of waste at the landfill, which is free.
Comment by roma on 27th January 2016
some towns,cities and countries "Adopt a Highway"
I don't know much about this program but maybe it might be a solution to the problem.
Just a thought.
Comment by bill on 27th January 2016
Time and time again this council does nothing..no sidewalk on Quatsino, no fix for Radley Park..no sign of social housing....yawn should I go on?
Too many studies and bylaws, time for some new people to get things done.