Valley Waste-Resource Management’s Western Transfer Station in Lawrencetown will be running on reduced hours starting April 1.
Valley Waste’s communications manager Andrew Garrett confirmed three staff were laid off March 8 and the Lawrencetown facility would be closed two days a week.
“We can confirm that Valley Waste is experiencing some rightsizing and adjusting service levels to reflect the recent changes to our organization,” Garret said. “Valley Waste is a public agency and adjustments are prudent for the proper management of public funds and to the taxpayers of the six municipalities we serve.”
The facility has seen a reduction in use since last August when it barred Annapolis County waste and recyclables from the transfer station, saying the county owes VWRM more than $700,000. Annapolis County contends Valley Waste has not abided by the Municipal Government Act in regards to contracts and the county has not endorsed a VWRM budget. It has offered to pay what it owes once certain conditions are met by Valley Waste, putting the money in escrow with a law firm.
“As of April 1, 2019 the Western Management Centre in Lawrencetown will be closing on Monday and Thursday each week,” said Garrett March 8. “This will allow the facility to receive curbside collected materials from Annapolis Royal, Middleton, Bear River First Nation, and Western Kings County on their collection day while still allowing access to both residential and commercial customers on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and on Saturday morning each week.”
The reduction in service comes a month after Annapolis County offered to buy the Valley Waste western transfer station in Lawrencetown. It was the second time the county made the offer and the second time it was rejected.
“It’s really unfortunate. Really unfortunate news,” said Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski. “The municipality made an offer as early as last September to acquire the Western Transfer Station and pay full market value, and to hire all the employees there.”
He said Valley Waste rejected the offer out of hand and when the county made the offer again on Feb. 7 of this year, that offer was rejected as well.
“We suggested to them we thought they were going to wind up saddled with a white elephant property,” Habinski said of the latest offer. “They don’t have the demand to keep it open. They’re going to wind up in a position where they’re going to have to either restrict its hours severely or close it. Either way it was going to cause job losses.”
Habinski said in that Feb. 7 letter that the county offered to withdraw the attempted expropriation of the transfer station and purchase it for fair market value.
“And again, that offer was simply rejected,” he said. “We put a deadline in place because we can’t sit and twiddle our thumbs forever. We have to move on developing a transfer station. We told them we’ve got plans in place but we wanted to extend an opportunity to transfer the transfer station to our ownership in order to keep it open and useful. They simply ignored the deadline completely.”
Annapolis County filed to expropriate the transfer station late last year but Valley Waste and the other members of the intermunicipal service agreement took it to court and the expropriation was quashed. That decision is currently under appeal by Annapolis County.
“I think the reduction in operations in that facility is a dreadful shame and it’s entirely unnecessary. Completely unnecessary,” Habinski said. “And any inconvenience to those employees and inconvenience to the public could have been avoided very easily because Annapolis County offered to purchase the facility at fair market value.”
Habinski also said Valley Waste would not have been inconvenienced at all because Annapolis County had told Valley Waste if the facility did change hands, VWRM could use it.
“Valley Waste put in place restrictions for our use,” Habinski said. “We assured them in writing that we would not reply in kind.”
The warden said that at the end of the day Annapolis County needs a transfer station.
“A transfer station will lower our operating costs,” he said. “That’s why we need one -- one way or another -- and it certainly would have been the most sensible option to keep the transfer station that is currently in operation – in operation.”
The March 8 layoffs bring the Valley Waste staff down to 29. That includes the staff at the two transfer stations and administration.