Landfill community liaison committee voices frustration
Resident members of the community liaison committee (CLC) for Walker Environmental Group's proposed landfill in Zorra have voiced frustration and raised concerns about whether their input is being heard in developing the proposal's terms of reference.
Meeting length and structure, accuracy of minutes, access to recordings, voting procedure, information requests being ignored or denied and communication with the Ministry of Environment were among the issues committee members brought forward on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013.
“It really feels like we're spinning our wheels,” said Jeff Ramackers, one of the resident committee members. “I'm tired of the minutes being wrong and not reflecting what I discussed.”
The committee, which has been meeting since May 2012, passed several motions during the meeting aimed at resolving their concerns, including requiring a recorded vote on every motion.
A motion to reduce the number of presentations from technical experts at each meetings and moving those presentations from the beginning of meetings further down the agenda was also passed.
Instead of two or three there should only be one presentation per meeting, said committee member Mike Hawkins.
“We're sorting through a huge amount of material and we have very little discussion time,” he said. “We are not as effective as we should be because we're moving too fast and we don't have enough process time.”
Committee member Karen Paton-Evans agreed that the agendas need to be restructured.
“When our concerns are shoved to the back of the agenda, the message I'm getting from Walker is that our concerns are not as important,” she said.
The CLC had requested and were expecting to speak via teleconference with Michelle Whitmore – the Ministry of Environment (MOE) project officer assigned to the Zorra landfill proposal – at Wednesday's meeting.
They said Whitmore, who is mandated to offer guidance and advice to all interested persons, had communicated to them that she was prepared to speak to them and was just waiting for a request from Walker.
When the teleconference didn't happen, committee members passed a motion that a request be sent to the MOE for Whitmore or another MOE staff member be present either in person or on the phone during every CLC meeting.
“I think the process is broken,” said Hawkins. “I think the MOE can help put it back on the rails.”
Audio recordings are made of every CLC meeting, but in order to access them Walker requires committee members to sign a disclaimer that they will not copy or distribute the recordings to others.
Committee members objected to the disclaimer, saying the recordings should be freely available.
“This is a public meeting,” said Paton-Evans. “We should be able to bring our own recording devices and have access to (the official) recordings.”
Committee members also voiced concerns that minutes often don't accurately reflect what is recorded during the meetings.
There is example after example of things being said during a meeting and coming out as something different in the minutes, said committee member Mike Farlow.
“(At one meeting) I said, 'Walker is not consulting in good faith,'” said Farlow. “It's clear as a bell on the tapes, but in the minutes it came out, 'Walker is not consulting in this case' – the difference between a firefly and a lightning bolt.”
Farlow also said there have been instances where the CLC has requested and been promised information from Walker and then not received it.
“A less trusting person than myself would probably call it lying when they say they are going to do something and then at the next meeting (we're) told no,” he said.
Joe Lyng, general manager with Walker Environmental Group, said the statement that the company is not providing documentation is not accurate.
“I reject the idea that we are somehow trying to hide information,” he said. “I also reject the idea that we're trying to prevent you (the committee) from meeting with the ministry (of environment).”
Following Wednesday's meeting, Lyng said the issues raised were unexpected.
He pointed out that the committee passed minutes of previous meetings on Wednesday.
“Everybody has an opportunity to comment on the minutes and make changes to the minutes,” he said. “Going forward, we've decided it would be best if we provide a (written) transcript.”
Lyng said audio recordings of meetings are something that is not normally done, but they are being made at the request of committee members and accessing them will still require a signing a disclaimer.
“The (disclaimer) is there to provide privacy for the protection of the members of the committee,” he said. “We're not able to drop the (disclaimer). It's a legal issue of protecting people's privacy.”