After much debate over safety concerns and possible liability issues involving the re-use sheds, it looks like the facilities are finally going to be reopened, although the timeline still isn’t very clear.
Bill Miller, Director of Electoral Area B, said he “hopes” the Burns Lake re-use shed will reopen by May 1.
Regional district staff suggested that the Burns Lake transfer station be open from Thursday to Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and that a temporary RDBN attendant be hired to operate the facility.
Since the Granisle and the Southside sheds will use existing regional district staff, those two facilities could reopen even sooner.
Granisle Mayor Linda McGuire said she is hopeful that Granisle’s shed will reopen in the “coming weeks.” Eileen Benedict, Director of Electoral Area E, said she would like to see the Southside shed reopened as soon as possible.
There’s no doubt that the re-use sheds are very important to the community and that community members have been pressuring local government to have these facilities reopened.
During last week’s committee of the whole meeting of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN), Mark Fisher, Director of Electoral Area A, said he “can’t keep saying ‘I don’t know’ anymore, and that he needed to give his constituents a definitive timeline.
After the re-use sheds closed, a total of 200 people attended the consultation meetings held by the RDBN in nine different communities. Not surprisingly, the RDBN said the attendants were “very passionate” about the re-use sheds and that many expressed disappointment with the closure of the facilities.
During a consultation meeting held in Burns Lake, participants said they felt the decision by the RDBN to close the sheds was “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
“The majority of people who are well behaved are being punished when it’s the minority who need to be held accountable for their behaviour,” said one participant.
The RDBN decided to close all re-use sheds in September of 2015 without holding any community consultations. At the time, the RDBN said that community meetings were planned to be held in the fall of 2015. However, due to the “serious nature of the latest incidents and the liability to the RDBN taxpayer,” the board of directors chose to close the sheds in advance of those meetings.
And the RDBN wasn’t exaggerating when it comes to the disturbing things that were found at the sheds. An RDBN staff report says live ammunition was found in a brown cassette tape brief case, prescription drugs were left in a box, a dirty diaper was found thrown in the corner of a re-use shed, and over 100 used hypodermic needles were found in boxes mixed in with children’s toys. And as if that wasn’t disturbing enough, the report says people have been urinating and defecating behind a re-use shed.
While the RDBN acknowledges that community members have been very passionate about the re-use sheds, regional district staff have been working to address possible liability issues. After consulting with a risk management company, RDBN staff recommended implementing hours of operation at the sheds, hiring staff to manage operation of the facilities and having regular inspections prior to opening and after closing the sheds.
Since relying on common sense does not always work, hopefully education and enforcement will ensure that the region can keep its re-use sheds. Let’s hope that those unfortunate incidents won’t happen again because I’m certain that nobody would like to see these facilities permanently closed.