It doesn’t appear that the free stores at a number of the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s recycling centres will be reopening anytime soon.
Free stores are places where people can bring used clothing, books, toys, household items, and other materials that can be reused for other people to take home for free.
The CVRD’s three free stores, located at Meade Creek, Peerless and Bings Creek recycling centres, have been closed since the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While many of the CVRD’s directors are in favour of reopening the free stores, the projected costs were a little more than some at the committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 8 could stomach.
A staff report written by Ilse Sarady, the CVRD’s manager of recycling and waste management, said that while the stores were popular before they were shut down, they posed challenges for the district.
The challenges include the need for more staff to run them and for more storage space, as well as safety and security concerns.
Sarady presented a number of options in her report, including just reopening one of the stores at Bings Creek with all the issues and concerns resolved, or reopening all three with the necessary changes.
She said the estimated cost of opening the Bings Creek store would be $134,000, while reopening all three free stores would cost approximately $218,000.
Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, who is also chair of the board at the CVRD, said he’s a big fan of the stores but he can’t rationalize making six-figure investments in them.
“I don’t feel it’s justified, even after reading the report, and I’m challenged as to how we move forward,” Stone said.
“I want to maintain the free stores, but at a cost that’s more reasonable and responsible to the citizens that we serve.”
Alison Nicholson, director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora, said she thinks the stores provide a very important service to the community, and the demand for them is going to grow.
“I don’t think non-profits and reuse stores [in the community] are up to the challenge of what we’re trying to address,” she said.
“I would like to see us become the reuse capital of B.C., but I think a different model is needed.”
Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said the expectation in his area was that when the pandemic waned, the district would reopen its free stores.
“I think there would be amazing potential in involving community groups in providing this service,” he said.
Cobble Hill director Mike Wilson said the CVRD can’t be all things to all people, and that’s what the committee is attempting to do with the issue.
“There are already many avenues for people to get rid of the stuff they no longer think is necessary,” he said.
“I can’t believe some of the costs [in the report] and given the projected increases in our 2023 budgets, we can’t continue to load the residents up.”
The committee decided to choose another of the options in the report, which is to recommend to the board that the CVRD continue to offer pop-up events with willing reuse organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, while also looking for long-term reuse solutions.
Staff were also instructed to prepare another report on the possibility of the CVRD working together with local reuse organizations to provide services at all three recycling facilities, with the appropriate resources required.
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