Kitimat-Stikine regional district directors are seeking legal advice to stop what they say is a continual flow of harassment by a group questioning its long-standing plan to dramatically change the way garbage is handled in the area.
The decision came after RCMP officers briefly appeared at the regional district’s Feb. 20 meeting at which were members of Residents Advocating for a Sustainable Inclusive Environment (RafaSIE) who queried the decision by the board to borrow $17 million for a new superdump at Forceman Ridge just off of Hwy37 South toward Kitimat.
The officers soon left but their appearance was prompted by individuals who had been attending a series of talks by the regional district on its garbage and recycling plans. At the last of the talks held, Jan. 29, Sean Bujtas, a City of Terrace councillor, ended up asking a person to step outside of the meeting so they could talk and the presenter could continue.
Regional district staff members and consultants should be protected from harassment and bullying, said James Cordeiro, another City of Terrace councillor who also sits on the regional district board.
“There is no effort to hear the answer and weigh those answers in a rational manner,” Cordeiro said, adding that some people had made up their minds, leaving no chance to change their minds.
His Feb. 20 motion reads, in part, to seek legal advice “to determine if these relentlessly disruptive and repetitive delegations, their conduct towards the board, staff and consultants, and the perpetual queries with respect to questions more than adequately answered by the board and administration constitutes harassment and an unacceptable administrative burden ….”
The regional district’s master plan, in which the City of Terrace is to be a participant, would close the city’s dump on Kalum Lake Drive and convert the regional district’s own dump in Thornhill into a transfer station for waste handling.
Garbage would then be trucked to the new Forceman Ridge while material that can be recycled would be shipped out of the area.
While the city’s own recycling program, brought into last spring, is working fairly smoothly, there’s been opposition to the regional district’s own program for Thornhill and the rural area surrounding Terrace and south to Lakelse Lake.
That plan was late in being introduced in the latter part of 2014.
Among other changes, Thornhill and rural residents are now paying $200 a year for the recycling service, a fee that’s made residents unhappy.
Residents had been responsible for their own garbage disposal and had either hired a service or took their refuse to the dump.
As well, the group RafaSIE has been asking questions about the economic and environmental viability of the whole program.
Speaking at the Feb. 20 meeting, regional district chair Stacey Tyers, who is also a City of Terrace councillor, said there are growing concerns over how board members and staffers are being treated.
“No one in the public has to put up with that,” she said of letters and comments, some of which are described as being abusive. “If my boss ever spoke like that, I’d have a lawsuit.”
When people’s rights are being impeded upon, the ones doing it need to be stopped, she added.
Thornhill director Ted Ramsey said he’s listened to all the questions and can’t believe there’s such a disconnect between the board and the public.
“I don’t know what else the board can do,” he said, referring to all the ways the board provides information to the public.
“How do we get the information to the public so they understand it. It seems almost impossible. Given that, I’m prepared to support councillor Cordeiro’s motion.”
Cordeiro’s motion was backed by every regional district director except for Jessica McCallum-Miller who represents the rural area, excluding Thornhill, around Terrace.
She asked that her vote be recorded.
McCallum-Miller also proposed a motion, which was accepted by her fellow board members, to provide information packages to Thornhill and rural residents on garbage and recycling fee subsidies for seniors and disabled individuals.
“Areas E and C constituents are also shareholders as taxpayers of our solid waste management facility – some are living off of old age pension or disability and need information as well as the option of subsidizing costs they cannot afford.”
This motion will be presented to a committee that’s being formed to engage the residents more in the process of solid waste management.