Southwest NB Service Commission questions where LSD Gas Tax refunds spent

David Szemerda - Pennfield LSD

Lawrence Station – The Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission wants to know the status of federal gas tax funds for Local Service Districts, and how they are accessed for distribution.

Members of the board unanimously passed a motion that a letter be drafted to the provincial government, seeking information on the funding, which amounts to approximately $8.9 million for 2017.

During his report to the recent SNBSC meeting, David Szemerda, chair of the ad hoc recycling review committee, made the motion for a letter to be drafted to the Minister of Environment and Local Government, requesting and documenting a specific listing of all Gas Tax funds distributed or used for projects within the LSD regions of the province and /or in this region.

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Szemerda said upon the creation of a study offering varying options for continuing or ceasing the operation of the region’s recycling program, his committee looked for additional funding, which could be accessed to reduce, or even eliminate the program’s current deficit issue.

The primary source of funding was determined to be the Gas Tax rebate allocated to LSDs.
Upon further study, however, Szemerda said the committee became concerned when it discovered the LSDs are allocated 20 per cent, or approximately $8.9 million, of the federal fund provided to New Brunswick, but there seemed to be no record of where the money was.

In his report Szemerda stated: “this ‘rebate’, unlike municipal rebates, is pooled into one pot and allocated by an ‘interdepartmental committee’.
“There appears to be no formal application process and, as of yet, we have been unable to locate any documentation that indicates where this funding has been allocated, or which projects received what money,” said Szemerda.

He said he and his committee have not been able to determine if any Gas Tax funds have ever been distributed in SNBSC’s LSDs.
In sharp contrast, he said, there is a transparency to the way municipalities receive the same funding, noting funds are distributed based on population numbers.
Szemerda said the service commission is in need of two new trucks for its recycling program, a cost of $700,000, along with 30 blue bins which need replacement, which he and the committee think could be purchased from funds within the Gas Tax rebate program.

As for the recycling program report, Szemerda”s committee offered seven options, ranging from the elimination of the program entirely, to increasing tipping fees by $6 a tonne.
Saint Andrews Mayor Doug Naish asked how it was relevant for the commission to seek funding from the Gas Tax rebate program for two new trucks and blue bins, if one of the options was to eliminate the recycling program.
It was explained by Frank Tenahve, the commission’s executive director, and board chair

Joyce Wright, that the commission wanted to get an application in for funding for it would “get in the queue” pointing out the final decision has not yet been made as to the future of the recycling program.
Board members were urged to take the recycling options information back to their respective communities and bring forward comments to the April meeting.

Szemerda said his committee evaluated the validity of the environmental impact of the current recycling program, noting that burning diesel fuel produces 2.67 kg of CO2 per litre. He said during the course of a year, simply collecting the materials in the blue bins for recycling requires approximately 40,000 litres of fuel for an added CO2 production of 106.8 tons.

Szemerda pointed out recycling one ton of newsprint reduces CO2 emissions by 2.5 tons and emissions for a ton of plastic are reduced by 1.7 tons.
“Due to the rural nature of SNBSC, combined with the low po[pulation density, the recovery of recycled materials will always require as much, or more, CO2 production as is reduced through recycling.”

He did note there are also benefits to recycling such as the reduction in rsource consumption, such as trees and plastic, and by removing material from the waste stream entering landfills, the life of the landfill is extended.
There is a financial burden to the recycling program too Szemerda stated, noting it carries with it a $129,000 deficit each year.