Council concerned about where Hamilton compost plant could end up

Councillors are prepared to entertain proposals from bidders wanting to operate Hamilton’s compost plant on Burlington Street elsewhere — but with assurances they can refuse undesirable locations.

Elected officials told staff to tweak a request for proposals (RFP) already issued after an unnamed prospective proponent asked the city to consider bids pitching “third-party” organic waste processing “off-site.”

However, leery of a scenario that places a potential stinky plant near people’s homes or in areas slated for residential development, councillors asked for safeguards during Wednesday’s council meeting.

“Fairly tough to sell a condominium unit when someone’s looking at heavy vehicles moving piles of garbage with a thousand seagulls flying around,” Coun. Chad Collins said.

The city had already issued a request for proposals to operate the compost plant with the contract expiring Dec. 31 when a would-be proponent asked about bids involving operations in other locations.

On Wednesday, waste management head Craig Murdoch said the alternative would give council options after budget overruns.

Staff also said identifying the company or the potential site would compromise the integrity of the RFP but noted language could give councillors discretion to select bids based on their preferences, such as not being in residential areas.

Public works general manager Dan McKinnon also noted it’s unlikely any new plants could pop up in Hamilton before the existing contract expires and a new one is inked.

The Burlington Street plant is already in a residential area, said Coun. Sam Merulla, adding the operation should be in public hands. “It’s been an experiment that’s gone awry.”

The city had to shut down the plant in June of 2018 when odours disturbed area residents and led to an ongoing provincial investigation.

In the off-site scenario, green bin waste would be processed elsewhere while the Burlington Street plant would operate as a transfer station, staff noted.

On Wednesday, councillors also agreed to include an in-house bid to operate and maintain the facility.

They also asked staff to assess the risk of contracting to a “third party” versus on-site and in-house operations.

The city will hold talks with Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd. to extend the current contract for up to six months for time to reissue the RFP.