As Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan stated following last week’s operations committee vote to close three recreational vehicle dump sites, it was not a done deal.
During Tuesday’s city council meeting, the city’s elected officials voted to keep the Kelly Lake Road RV dumping site in Sudbury open and to close dump sites permanently at the Valley East and Chelmsford water treatment plants.
This was the motion city administration originally presented to the city’s operations committee in September.
An automated payment system will be installed at the lone dump site at an estimated cost of $13,184, with annual operating costs of approximately $46,812 coming from wastewater operating funds.
The motion also directs staff to prepare a business case to determine an appropriate user-fee to achieve full cost recovery for inclusion in the 2022 budget.
“It’s better than closing them all,” Kirwan told Sudbury.com on Wednesday, adding that he still intends to advocate for the reopening of the Valley East site.
“My concern is you’re asking people to drive these big vehicles needlessly through town,” he said, which is costing people a lot in gas and is contrary to the city’s Community Energy and Emissions Plan — a concern Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre also raised during Tuesday’s meeting.
The Valley East and Chelmsford sites have already been closed throughout the pandemic, Kirwan said, adding that although these sites’ users have already adapted to using the Sudbury site, it’s still less than ideal.
Tuesday’s discussion regarding RV dump sites ate up half of Tuesday’s three-hour city council meeting, and built upon last week’s operations committee debate.
Last week’s meeting found the committee scrap city administration’s proposed motion, which they replaced with a motion from Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland that sought to close all three sites and encourage people to use the facilities at three municipal campgrounds, including the Ella Lake Campground near Capreol, Whitewater Lake Trailer Park in Azilda and Centennial Park in Whitefish.
“If you’ve got to haul an RV out to Ella Lake … not only do you have to go through a winding road, when you get to the campground you’ve got to drive through the entire campground to get your vehicle in a position to dump,” Kirwan said during Tuesday’s meeting.
City director of community development Steve Jacques told council that the shift wouldn’t be as simple as opening these sites up to the public, and that the campsites’ infrastructure isn’t designed to accommodate the free flow of vehicles to use their waste disposal facilities.
By scrapping McCausland’s motion and going back to the initial proposal, Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre said the city would still encourage the private sector to help fill in some of the gaps.
As the public sector steps up and the Sudbury site brings in less revenue, he said there’s the possibility they end up closing the Sudbury site at some point, but that by keeping it open for now they’ll gradually ease toward privatization and not fully cut off a service people rely on.
When they’re all operating, the three dumpsites receive approximately 2,200 dumps per year (790 in Sudbury, 730 in Valley East and 680 in Chelmsford).
In reaction to last week’s news that all three RV dump sites were on the chopping block, local RV enthusiast Perry Guilbault reached out to Sudbury.com to voice his opposition.
On Wednesday, he said he was relieved to learn that the Sudbury site, which he frequently uses, would remain open.
He was, however, disappointed to learn a staff member was being paid to monitor the site during peak times due to safety concerns.
“That’s just creating more jobs,” he said. “I’ve never had an issue — it functioned well.”
Aside from a couple “of recent minor fender-benders at the busy Sudbury site,” Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier said he hadn’t heard about any incidents at these sites.
“Though these incidents did not result in personal injury (only damage to the vehicles involved), they do highlight some of the issues present when providing this service at an operating Wastewater Treatment Plant,” according to a report by city acting director of water/wastewater treatment and compliance Michael Loken, which also clarified that these sites were built in the ’70s and adhere to the legislative and safety requirements of that time.
The supervising employee is slated to remain in place in the plan approved by city council.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.