City council passed three motions on Tuesday night in an effort to ease some of the burden that COVID-19 has brought upon Greater Sudbury residents.
Sudburians will be allowed one extra garbage bag for curbside pickup until at least the end of the month, metered parking in the city's downtown will be free until March 31 and interest charges on overdue water and waste water accounts will be suspended until June 4.
Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan tabled the motions regarding garbage pickup and metered parking at Tuesday's virtual meeting where mayor and council met via videoconferencing.
"We're in a very difficult and different time in all of our lives," said Kirwan. "I've had a number of people inquiring as to what the city might do in order to alleviate some of the smaller fees or charges or inconveniences that people may have."
Kirwan explained that a number of residents had asked him about garbage pickup and that the one bag per week limit was becoming difficult for some.
"A number of people have been saying that since they're home and with their children, that the garbage bag limit of one bag per household is starting to look a little difficult so I'm wondering if it's possible for us to waive the one bag limit and allow a second bag," said Kirwan.
While the motion was ultimately passed, it was met with some opposition from other members of council, who questioned whether this would be a step backwards from the push that the city has been making towards reducing waste.
"I'm having trouble with the allowance of a second bag, we're seven at home now with my kids at home," said Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre.
"We're still making one bag, we have a lot more green bin and a lot of blue box but that's always unlimited. I think if we change the culture that we've been pushing slowly and we're slowly catching on I think it's going to reverse us for September when we want to go to two bags every two weeks."
Kirwan didn't see it as being a dramatic culture change and explained that this was more an act of good will on the part of council to help those who may really need it.
"I don't think a lot of people are going to need a second bag but I see that there may be a need for the odd resident that is having difficulty," said Kirwan. "This is just a gesture that if they put a second bag out we're not going to charge them for that tag or say they have to go get more tags to put out the second bag."
The city's general manager of growth and infrastructure, Tony Cecutti backed up Kirwan's motion, stating that it aligned better with social distancing that is being encouraged by all levels of government, including municipal.
"If the spirit of the motion is really principally dealing with COVID-19 and the implications, this motion does support people staying at their homes as an alternative to going to the landfill site," said Cecutti.
"In the unlikely event that they do have two garbage bags then they have the option of going to the landfill, which would really not be our preference. We'd prefer people to stay on their own property and manage the waste that way, rather than going to the landfill and creating additional risk that, in my mind, is not necessary."
The motion to allow a second bag for curbside garbage pickup while the province is under a state of emergency was passed with all members of council in attendance voting in favour with the exception of Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer.
A motion to waive metered parking fees downtown was also met with some questions from councillors as the city had already suspended proactive parking enforcement in the downtown, though payments were still expected at metered spots.
Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann raised the question as to how it would be possible to enforce a time limit on parking spots if there was no fee associated with parking at metered spots downtown.
"Does that eliminate the two-hour limit? If the parking fee is zero is that for the whole day or is the limit still in place and what happens after that?" said Landry-Altmann.
Kirwan stated that the traffic flow has been dramatically decreased downtown due to a number of businesses closing their doors.
"Again, this is mainly a gesture for people that have to go downtown so they don't have to deal with climbing over snowbanks or walking through puddles to deal with the metered parking," said Kirwan.
"People don't know that there's no enforcement downtown but they know they have to pay. If there are business owners that are still open that are taking all the spots all day then we've got another problem, but I think everyone knows that this is to make it a little easier for the people that have to come downtown and the people that have to come to the medical centres are more than likely elderly or vulnerable so I don't think people are going to hog the spaces."
The city's manager of bylaw services Brendan Adair said that people could conceivably park downtown all day without enforcement.
This was a sticking point for Landry-Altmann who said that while she could appreciate a gesture of good faith, she couldn't support something that had the potential to miss the intention set out by Kirwan to help the elderly and vulnerable people who needed access to those parking spots.
Ultimately, Landry-Altmann, Bill Leduc, Al Sizer and mayor Bigger voted in opposition to the motion, with Kirwan, Rene Lapierre, Mike Jakubo, Geoff McCausland, Deb McIntosh and Fern Cormier voting in favour, passing the motion by a count of 6-4.