City Council Highlights
The following are five decisions made at City Council that will impact residents of Saskatoon.
In 2013, City Council set a goal to divert 70% of waste created in Saskatoon from the landfill through efforts such as recycling and composting. As of 2016, we were only at 21.8%, far short of our goal and far short of what is sustainable for our future. There are substantial costs associated with low diversion numbers: not only are garbage trucks having to make more trips, but the space in our landfill is in limited supply. The cost of building a new landfill and decommissioning our current one are estimated to be $126 million and there would be increased travel costs to a location that’s farther away. However, this is something that we can avoid if we take action now.
Yesterday at Council, we took two positive steps forward to decrease the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill. First, we approved the funding plan for a significant improvement to the Saskatoon landfill: the creation of Recovery Park. Recovery Park has been something that we have been discussing in Council Chambers for some time now, and it’s such a positive move forward for the city that there is a funding plan in place. Recovery Park will change the way that people interact with the landfill and will make recycling, diversion and the safe disposal of hazardous waste easier.
Second, we moved forward with a plan to create a composting program for multi-unit housing complexes. Right now, 40 percent of the waste created in townhouses, apartments and condos is organic, but there is no City program for composting in these units. Similar to the process for single-family homes, there will be community engagement so that we can create a system that is easy to use and that diverts this material from the landfill.
These two initiatives are a large step forward to creating a financially and environmentally sustainable community. For more information on waste diversion in Saskatoon, visit: https://www.saskatoon.ca/community-culture-heritage/environment/waste-diversion.
Working with SIIT
At City Council there were two decisions made relevant to the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies.
Council unanimously agreed to create a memorandum of understanding with SIIT, helping to develop a workforce that is more representative of Saskatoon. With this MOU, the City of Saskatoon will undertake targeted employment recruitment activities, have a greater presence in this institution and will provide SIIT with information on the City’s labour demands. This work will help to create practicums and internships that will serve both the City and SIIT and ensure that SIIT classes are relevant to the issues that the City is facing. Additionally, this MOU calls upon City officials to meet with SIIT leaders to address barriers that SIIT students face, such as transportation or other areas within City control.
Additionally, SIIT applied to have a new trade school location in Hudson Bay Industrial, and this change in land use was approved by Council.
Home Flood Protection
Back in August, after two particularly intense rainstorms that hit Saskatoon, City Council heard impassioned pleas from homeowners affected by flooding. This was an emotional time in Council Chambers as residents spoke about the importance of moving forward with a plan and taking action. At that time, this work was set in motion with a variety of resolutions to create an infrastructure and funding strategy to deal with high-risk areas.
At our latest Council meeting, our city made a further stride in this area by adopting the Home Flood Protection Program (HFPP). The HFPP offers customized home assessments and information online to help citizens reduce the risk of flooding. Although this is by no means a fix for all of the issues surrounding flooding, it is a step in the right direction.
Homeowners in the 30 highest flood risk areas will be eligible for a fully subsidized home flood risk inspection, and all other Saskatoon homeowners will be eligible for a partially subsidized inspection for a fee of $125, available on a first-come basis. Subsidized home inspections will be offered between April and September 30 of this year. More information on this will be provided as it becomes available, and citizens in the 30 most flood-prone areas will receive targeted communications.
Changes to Recycling Plastic Film
Although we made progress with our community’s waste diversion targets with the funding plan for Recovery Park and moving forward on compost programs for multi-family dwellings, the realities of recycling plastic film (such as plastic wrap, single-use grocery bags and cellophane) have required us to take it out of the blue bin program. Starting in April, plastic film will have to be put into the black bin.
Many different factors played into this decision:
- There is no demand for bundles of plastic film and there are no expected changes to this in the foreseeable future. With lower oil prices, it is inexpensive to simply produce plastic film from raw materials as opposed to recycled materials.
- Plastic film ends up contaminating other recycling. For example, it is ending up in bundles of paper and making these bundles less marketable. China has recently tightened up its contamination standards for paper and cardboard, and global exporters are being forced to adapt to this. Recycling depots in Saskatoon are slowing conveyer belts to respond to this, but the new standards are difficult to meet.
- Unfortunately, the reality is that it is not just that something physically can be recycled, but it’s about having the market conditions where products actually can be recycled and remade into other useful products. This is issue is not isolated to Saskatoon, but plastic film is being sent to landfills in many places.
Since recycling plastic film is no longer a viable option, the City will be looking into what next steps might be on this file. There are options to encourage reduction, and waste reduction is an important part of sustainability. Re-using is also an option, and for information on where you can drop off used, clean plastic bags in Saskatoon, check out the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council’s web page: http://www.saskwastereduction.ca/recycle/db?location=Saskatoon&materials=Plastic+%28Household%29&keywords.
Over the past few months, City staff have been working alongside the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association to identify and fix barriers to developing properties in the downtown. A dense urban core and a vibrant downtown help to serve the entire community, so this is very important for Saskatoon as a whole. These conversations took the form of roundtable discussions with City staff across multiple divisions and representatives from various property developers.
As a result City staff have identified a number of tangible steps to reduce the barriers to successful downtown development. These include:
- the establishment of a Downtown Development Coordinator position to help coordinate applications among the various city departments (this will be paid for through building permit charges);
- a coordinated approach to addressing public infrastructure deficits that can become a barrier to development borne by one property owner;
- the option to take the already offered tax abatements as up-front grants; and
- a number of measures to streamline the application process and communicate expectations and regulations more clearly at the front end to prospective developers.
City Council moved forward with many of the recommendations that came from these collaborative and problem-solving discussions. Although the effects of this won’t immediately be seen for our community, it will have a long-term positive impact. Additionally, this streamlined process can eventually be expanded to other areas of Saskatoon where we want to promote development. My thanks to everyone involved in this important and time-intensive work. The results that we’re seeing from this work will help to improve our city.