North Grenville council will not be endorsing any changes to the bag tag program in the Municipality at this time. After hearing concerns from residents who believe the bag tag program should be suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, council addressed the issue at their special council meeting last Wednesday. Mayor Nancy Peckford says there has been quite a bit of engagement about the issue, both online and offline, over the past few weeks. “There has been some concern expressed about how people get bag tags when we are strongly advising that people stay at home,” she says.
While Mayor Peckford says that the concerns of the public are being heard loud and clear, she doesn’t think it makes sense to suspend the bag tag program. This is, in part, due to the financial implications of cancelling the bag tag program and allowing residents to put bags of garbage out for free. Director of Public Works, Karen Dunlop, confirmed that the bag tag program is integral for subsidizing their $1.6 million waste management contract. She says the temporary suspension of the program would cost the Municipality roughly $11,000 per week.
Council has directed staff to look into how they can make bag tags more readily available to residents, especially now that they are relying on stores like B&H to distribute the tags. Retailers who are supplying bag tags are doing so at no extra charge, and are willing to add them to online delivery and pick-up orders. CAO Gary Dyke confirmed that they are looking at developing an online POS system so that residents can buy bag tags directly through the Municipality. “Technology-wise we are not there yet, but we are making it a priority,” he says.
Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman said at the meeting that both the Knights of Columbus and the Salvation Army have a supply of bag tags which they are willing to include in their food baskets. The Knights of Columbus are also willing to deliver bag tags to people with compromised immune systems who can afford them but can’t go out to the store to pick them up. “They just have to be asked for through these organizations.”
Deputy Mayor McManaman also pointed out that all residents have to get groceries, and that is a great time to add bag tags to their list. “When I do my groceries every two weeks or so, if I need bag tags, I pick them up,” he says. “They are readily available that way.”
There is also a concern that if they suspend the program, people will end up putting more garbage out at the curb every week, costing the Municipality even more money. “The expectation is that we would see more at the curb,” Karen says. “With more people at home, they are doing more cleanups. We are seeing a massive increase at the transfer station.”
Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan said that she is concerned about the retailers who are providing bag tags and potentially losing money on them if they are using their POS system to take payments. “Are we providing the tags to the retailers at a rate that would allow them to at least break even?” she asked.
Council has directed staff to put together a report on how they feel it is best to move forward with the bag tag program. “I would like to ask that staff include some additional options to ease the burden on those retailers and put together a resolution for a forthcoming meeting,” Mayor Peckford said.