After once again debating the merits of different locations for a compost facility, the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen was unable Thursday to come to a consensus.
That has Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff suggesting not one but several regional facilities to deal with organic waste — including using the RDOS’s Oliver facility for household waste from the South Okanagan.
“What I suggested yesterday was that we need to — if we can’t find a site that’s going to accept all of this — use Oliver for Oliver-Osoyoos household organics,” she said.
“We suggested that maybe we need to look at not just having one site, but perhaps we have to compromise a little bit and make this site down here for Area A, C, Oliver and Osoyoos.”
Following extensive study, RDOS staff last year short-listed three sites — a private property in Marron Valley, the Summerland landfill and the Oliver landfill — for a multi-million-dollar compost facility that would extend the life of local landfills by recycling the region’s organic waste.
The RDOS board immediately rejected the Marron Valley site, and proceeded with the Summerland option, only to have Summerland’s district council turn it down.
That leaves the Oliver facility as a third option.
In light of the rejections, staff asked the board for fresh direction, but instead got another round of debate, followed by deferment, although some directors were anxious to get on with the process.
“Now I understand how these decisions are made. It’s a bunch of knee-jerk responses to local interests, one by one, until we’re left with no options except terrible options,” said Area F (West Bench) Director Michael Brydon.
“This board needs to put its big-boy pants on and take some leadership with this.”
City of Penticton councillor Judy Sentes took issue with a lack of hard numbers related to costs if the compost facility doesn’t go ahead, such as shortened lifespans of landfills and increased methane gas emissions from decomposing organic waste.
“What the board is going to have to reconcile is that at some point we’re going to have to pay. If we don’t do anything, we’re going to pay. If we do something, we’re going to pay too, so I’d like to know what those dollars are,” she said.
The board debated returning to the District of Summerland or the Marron Valley location or searching once again for another location, and Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit even suggested reaching out to the Penticton Indian Band and their recently elected council to come up with further options.
Area D Director Tom Siddon recommended hiring an independent consultant to search for a new location.
“It’s going to have implications for the next 50 years or longer and we’ve got to do it right,” Mr. Siddon said.
With the clock winding down and a full day of meetings still ahead of it, the board voted to defer the matter for discussion at its next session in two weeks.
“We talked about it round and round for quite awhile and eventually there was a motion to leave it and add it on tho the next agenda because we weren’t solving the problem,” Mayor McKortoff explained.