Council halves bag tag ration

Women’s House, big families, low-income residents expected to take the hit

By Kristen Shane


The Municipality of Kincardine is set to halve the number of garbage bag tags that households receive from 52 to 26 next year. And residents will have to pick them up and sign for them instead of getting them in the mail.


The corporate services committee, which is made up of all members of council, agreed last week with public works manager Jim O’Rourke’s suggestion for the change.


“We see reducing the number of bag tags available to people as providing a financial incentive of promoting the three Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle),” he told the committee.


This year, the municipality sent 52 bag tags to each household, one for each week of the year. The bag tags are considered ‘free’ in that residents don’t pay for them up front, but they pay for waste management indirectly through property taxes.


The bag tag cut would not affect the tax rate, said O’Rourke. But it will mean property owners who run out of tags would have to buy more at local stores for $2 each.


If someone from each of Kincardine’s about 5,700 households buys 26 more tags to cover what Kincardine is no longer giving them, that could swell municipal coffers by up to about $300,000, he said.


But not everyone will buy an extra 26, said deputy mayor Laura Haight. Some families have leftover tags from prior years’ allotments that they would use up before buying more. Seasonal residents likely won’t need more than 26 either.


And with any luck, more people would lessen the amount of garbage they produce.


“It’s a good first stab at making us more green,” said councillor Ron Hewitt.


Not so, said councillor Randy Roppel.


“To me, there is no major benefit here at all,” he said. “You’re going to start more burn barrels. You’re going to have garbage in the ditches and on the sideroads. You’re going to have garbage trucked back to the bushes.”


Mayor Larry Kraemer also questioned whether to stagger the bag tag distribution so residents wouldn’t overwhelm municipal staff by coming in all at once to sign for their share.


Not to worry, said O’Rourke. The public works department would likely set up a pick-up station at a municipal building in each of the three wards. The department typically uses extra staff to count and stuff envelopes with the tags every year to be sent by mail. The same staff could instead manage the pick-up points, said O’Rourke.


Roppel and several other councillors pointed out that the cut won’t bother bachelors or empty-nesters who don’t generate enough garbage to lug a bag to the curb every week.


“This is going to bother the low-income families, the young families with children. They’re a big part of our municipality,” said Roppel.


It’s also set to affect the Women’s House serving Bruce and Grey counties, which temporarily shelters 13 or more abused women and children at its Kincardine location at any given time.


“And then we’re running an office and a business as well, so you can imagine how many garbage tags we go through,” said shelter manager Theresa Winchester last week. “We end up having to buy them.”

The cut in the number of tags means higher costs, she said.


But the organization is always willing to accept bag tag donations from residents.


“We treat them as cash because they’re very valuable,” she said.


To donate extra bag tags to the Women’s House, drop by its office or call 519-396-9655.


What do other Bruce County municipalities do?

As of May 2009

Brockton: charges $1.50/bag

Huron-Kinloss: $2/bag

Saugeen Shores: $1.50/bag

South Bruce: $2/bag

Arran-Elderslie, Northern Bruce Peninsula, South Bruce Peninsula: a certain number of ‘free’ bags, with a $1.50 to $3 charge for each extra bag (depending on the municipality)

Source: Kincardine public works manager Jim O’Rourke