Three recreational vehicle dump sites currently operating at municipal water treatment plants in Sudbury are slated to close.
This, according to a 5-1 vote of the city’s operations committee earlier this week, during which Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan was the lone voice to speak in favour of keeping them open.
Although committee decisions are rarely overturned by city council as a whole, Kirwan plans on bringing it up for consideration on Tuesday.
“I’ll pull that out and express my concerns again,” Kirwan told Sudbury.com, adding that although he’s not optimistic city council’s vote will be any different, it’s worth a shot.
“This is a service that has been provided for decades, and it doesn’t involve a lot of people but it could cause a great deal of inconvenience unnecessarily,” he said. “It’s benefitting somebody so if you cut it out it’s like a take-away.”
In the event the RV dump sites’ closure is not overturned, he said it’s likely to become an election issue.
Although “it’s a minor issue because it doesn’t affect a lot of people” in the broader scope of things, Kirwan said any service level reduction will create negative attention and that the sustained chipping away at services would lead to larger problems in the end.
At issue are three recreational vehicle wastewater dumpsites slated to close, including those at the Valley East, Chelmsford and Sudbury wastewater treatment plants.
A report by city acting director of water/wastewater treatment and compliance Michael Loken had initially recommended the closure of the Valley East and Chelmsford dump sites due to safety and operational concerns, and the installation of an automated payment system and accessibility modifications to the Sudbury location.
The total current unbudgeted operating costs for these dumpsites is approximately $128,500 per year and the dumpsites receive approximately 2,200 dumps per year (790 in Sudbury, 730 in Valley East and 680 in Chelmsford).
Loken’s report notes that the current cost to provide this service is approximately $58.45 per dump and that the average cost is $15.25 per dump at alternate service providers within the city’s boundaries.
The safety concerns relate to two incidents involving recreational vehicles at the Sudbury site this year, which Loken’s report clarifies resulted in no injuries but damage to vehicles. The sites were created in the ’70s and were designed to accommodate smaller recreational vehicles of the day, so some site changes are needed to safeguard against future incidents.
Renovations to the sites were recommended alongside continued staffing during peak periods and the installation of automated machines to collect user fees.
The only site that represents a feasible option for cost recovery while identifying the safety and operational concerns laid out by the city is the Valley East site, according to Loken’s report.
Kirwan is of the opinion the sites don’t require supervision, as things have been going well for decades.
“Why do these people all of a sudden need supervision?” he asked. “If there’s no cost then the cost-recovery is almost zero.”
During this week’s operations committee meeting, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland brought forward an alternative motion for the three sites to close and the city to prepare a business case for making the city’s three RV campground dumping facilities available to the general public alongside a user fee to achieve full cost recovery.
These RV campgrounds include the Ella Lake Campground near Capreol, Whitewater Lake Trailer Park in Azilda and Centennial Park in Whitefish.
Seconded by Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, the motion was also supported by Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti and Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh.
“I don’t see why we should be subsidizing a service for RV owners from Greater Sudbury and also possibly from anywhere, some of whom may be pulling a $150,000 fifth wheel behind an $80,000 truck,” McCausland said during this week’s meeting.
Pushing people toward the city’s campgrounds is also a way to showcase what the city has to offer, Leduc said, adding that closing the water treatment plant locations will also offer an opportunity for the private sector to get involved.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.