'We expect you to be able to cash the cheque you're writing tonight.'

Compost group back on top of the heap


It was hardly a ringing endorsement, but the Bill Mackenzie Humanitarian Society is back in the compost business.

Iqaluit city council voted 4-3 Tuesday to support a new deal that allows the society to establish a new compost pile outside its current location in the city's landfill, and build a permanent compost facility within five years.

Councillors Jimmy Kilabuk, Glenn Williams and Claude Martel voted in favour of the proposal, while Simon Nattaq, David Alexander and deputy mayor Al Hayward abstained. That forced Elisapee Sheutiapik, Iqaluit's mayor, to cast the deciding vote in favour.

"I think we're all relieved and we're all quite happy," said Thoman Druyan, a society board member who pleaded the society's case to council.

The vote means the society will build a compost pile next door to the city's landfill before December. Under the terms of the deal the compost heap must be built on a gravel pad, with an impenetrable liner.

Hayward expressed concern about the society's ability to meet water and health regulations for the site, but Druyan said the pad and liner are to protect the compost from contaminants in the land, not the other way around.

The compost, he said, contains 90 to 95 per cent food waste, plus some cardboard to generate nitrogen, which aids the composting process.

Hayward was also worried the city might be liable for any problems on the new site but Williams said the society's board members would be on the hook for potential damages.

"If we're going to do it, let's just do it," Williams said. But he warned society members: "That [liability] is a real issue."

"We expect you to be able to cash the cheque you're writing tonight."

The project teetered on the edge of oblivion this spring when council shut down the city's solid waste steering committee, helmed by Coun. Jim Little, who's also involved with the Bill MacKenzie Humanitarian Society.

Little had well-publicized clashes with some city staffers, particularly with Mark Hall, the former public works director, and was notably absent from Tuesday's meeting.

And Nattaq was concerned about Little's involvement with group, dubbing it a conflict of interest. But he said he wanted to support the project.

"There's so much garbage from leftover food," he said. "I can see that."

In an interview, Druyan acknowledged there were "some personality clashes between some former city staff and Jim." But he told council the society wants to get things right this time.

"We want to actually gain your trust and show you we can operate," he said, admitting past "weaknesses in terms of administration and communication."

Druyan was flanked by a new ally in Michele Bertol, the city's director of planning and lands. He credited Bertol with helping the society to get its paperwork in order and bringing the composting proposal back to council.

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