‘Blue Box’ fees to skyrocket But town still willing to pay

Citing an increasing debt, the Northwestern Ontario Recycling Association has decided to raise its service fee from $10 per capita to $17, effective Jan. 1.
“We regret to do that but we had to,” said NORA chair Dennis Brown, who also is the mayor of Atikokan.
“The market is down. There’s no new funding coming in from [the Waste Diversion Organization]. We felt we had to do it,” he added, noting the decision came at a NORA board meeting in Dryden last week.
Brown said letters of the decision have been sent to the municipalities NORA serves in the Kenora and Rainy River Districts.
“It’s unfortunate,” Brown remarked. “But the residents of the district we service are recycling more and more, and the more we pick up, the more we lose.”
Brown said the reason for the hike is to offset NORA’s increasing debt.
“We ran up a $250,000 debt just this year. [And] even with the increase, we won’t be paid off in the next year,” he noted. “The money will have to be spread out over the next couple years.”
But Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said Fort Frances definitely will be paying the higher fee.
“I know the NORA board was trying to hold the cost down, but I also know the market is soft,” he said. “It was inevitable the increase would happen.
“This increase will basically be a lifeline to keep [NORA] going,” he added. “As a town of over 5,000, we are mandated by the province to use a recycling program.
“But I’m not sure how the smaller communities will react when June comes,” Mayor Witherspoon added, referring to when NORA’s current contract with district municipalities expires.
Both Brown and Mayor Witherspoon said they’re hopeful there eventually will be a solution other than more fees hikes lying in NORA’s future.
“We’re coming up with a request for proposal to send out to any company out there that can take over the recycling,” said Brown. “We hope to have those out by the middle of January.”
“Hopefully, we can find a private operator to take things over,” agreed Mayor Witherspoon.
How the increased per capita fee will be affected when, or if, a private contractor is found remains to be seen.
NORA initially had decided in late October to hand over its operations to a Thunder Bay company in the wake of increasing financial woes, including a $500,000 price tag to refurbish its Dryden-based plant, an aging fleet of trucks, an inefficient system, a $450,000 debt, and a weakening economy.
That deal later was pulled from the table, with the “blue box” program to continue as in until June.