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Dropping dollar raising trash bill

Looking over their shoulders at the plummeting Canadian dollar, Cowichan Valley Regional District directors approved a boost of $175,000 for garbage management.

It bucked their order of zero increases, but, unlike many CVRD debates, where the diversity found in each electoral area and municipality causes push and pull, there was clear concern from all around the table as directors listened to Brian Dennison, general manager of engineering services.

"This is a $9 million budget and unexpected things can occur," he said.

"This year for example, we found some contaminated drywall in our transfer station and had to call in the whole enviro team with their suits and everything to remove it and truck it out. But these things happen. Contingency is important."

Income is dropping and expenses are increasing in the CVRD's solid waste world, partly because aggressive recycling programs are taking money out of the waste stream as less garbage finds it way to the facilities but also because private collection services are draining off some of the commercial business from these regional stations.

Director Mel Dorey asked if people were taking garbage to Nanaimo instead of CVRD facilities and Dennison replied that while there is some of that in the northern part of the district, it's not the major source of financial leakage in the solid waste department.

"Direct hauling to landfills in Washington is a major problem," he told Dorey.

On top of that, the rising cost of disposal is making CVRD officials sharpen their pencils.

"It's hard to guess what will happen to the Canadian dollar but it's alarming because we pay for disposal in U.S. dollars," Dennison said.

Director Ian Morrison asked if there has been an increase in dumping in the bush and was told that while it was not that noticeable, there does seem to be more open burning.

Ladysmith director Rob Hutchins asked if there is a possible Island solution to barging garbage away from the Cowichan Valley.

"We're always open to discussion; it always comes up," Dennison said.

North Oyster director Mary Marcotte said the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities was looking at holding a session on that subject soon.

Duncan director Phil Kent said he thought adding some extra money to the solid waste budget was necessary so directors could "hedge our bets a little" but pointed out that "if our tipping level is going down, at least we're sending away less."

CVRD CAO Warren Jones said that the dramatic changes in the Canadian dollar in recent weeks mean that the district will "have to assume a degree of risk" in budgeting for this.

Directors approved $175,000 extra for solid waste, and wanted to ensure that $85,000 of it went towards upgrades at Bings Creek that will increase the chances of earning more revenue there.

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