PRRD to sever ties with NEAT for waste education after 20 years

pRRRdy, the mascot of the PRRD's solid waste education program. Photo by the Peace River Regional District

DAWSON CREEK, B.C. — The Peace River Regional District Board voted in favour of not renewing the contract with NEAT for its Solid Waste Education and Outreach programs and chose to have PRRD staff run the programs in-house at a meeting last month.

On September 21st, the PRRD Board passed a motion asking staff to research alternatives to having its Solid Waste Management Plan education and outreach components contracted out. The Northern Environmental Action Team has been the PRRD’s contractor for the program since 1997, the budgeted amount of $350,000 per year since 2015.

The PRRD’s Environmental Services and Communications Departments reviewed the program and found that the two departments have the capacity to run the programs in-house at a lower cost to taxpayers. To continue to operate the program, the PRRD plans to shift the workloads of existing staff and hire two summer students from May-September at a cost of $40,000 in the first year, which would rise to $48,000 by year three. According to the report from General Manager of Solid Waste Services Paolo Eichelberger and Communications Coordinator Fran Haughian, despite hiring two part-time staff the move to cancelling the contract with NEAT would see savings in that component of the solid waste budget of 40 percent.

The program’s cost would be $215,000 in Year One, $119,000 in Year Two, and $123,000 in Year Three. According to the report, the roughly $100,000 in additional costs in the first year would be associated with starting a new web page, Waste App, as well as purchasing office furniture and supplies for the two part-time staff members that would work on the program.

The report added that the waste reduction education program will continue to include:

  • Operation of the “Green Line”, a toll-free hotline number providing waste reduction & recycling information for the BC Peace Region
  • Develop of waste reduction education programs for businesses
  • Composting education
  • Sale of residential backyard compost units
  • Household hazardous waste handling and reduction education
  • Materials exchange program support
  • Special events e.g. yard waste drop-off in Fort St. John
  • School-based programs to encourage greater awareness of waste reduction in schools, children and youth
  • Design and distribution of brochures, tools and educational materials on a range of waste reduction topics
  • Maintenance of the www.prrrdy.com website
  • Production of the “Prrrdy Says” Newsletter
  • Ongoing support for waste reduction education and awareness throughout the region
  • Acting as Waste Information Centre for the PRRD regarding tipping fees, facility locations, operating hours and policies.

PRRD Chief Administrative Officer Chris Cvik stressed that the contract with NEAT was not renewed purely as a cost-saving measure and that the PRRD was in no way unhappy with the services provided by its soon to be former contractor.

NEAT’s Executive Director Dzengo Mzengeza said that while the move did not come as a big surprise, the organization is still coming to grips with the end of the relationship, which saw its 20th anniversary this year. “It’s been a core business for us,” said Mzengeza. “About 75 percent of our work was with the Regional District, doing waste reduction education and outreach was really our main focus. That’s the challenge for us, we need to find other things to focus on.”

Mzengeza said that despite this, the organization is viewing the end of the contract as a new opportunity to refocus and to allocate its resources in other directions, including the NEAT Finds Thrift Store, which it acquired from the ABC Thrift Shop at the beginning of the month. He added that NEAT will also be continuing to work with School District 60 to provide education services.

The PRRD will begin conducting the outreach effective January 1st, 2018.

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