On May 2 Debbie Marc woke up to the flashing lights and the sounds of multiple emergency vehicles arriving at her home of 40 years on Vista Avenue.
“At about three o’clock in the morning, I saw all the red lights and my first thought was that my new house on my property had burnt up,” said Marc. “I was woken up by the trucks but by that time the fire was out.”
Police on site informed Marc that her recycling bin was gone, and that she was not the only one targeted in the wee morning hours in the Vista-Cairnsmore Street neighbourhood. But when Citizen staff met up with Marc later that morning, the only visible vandalism in the immediate area was to her property.
With recycling, compost, and glass scheduled to be picked up later that morning, Marc who is elderly and had a pre-planned ferry trip off the island later that morning, had gotten everything ready the night prior.
“As luck would have it, there was more on the curb today than what I normally put out,” said Marc “I had a bunch of boxes that I had flattened down, and then I had my green bin. So I phoned the city and asked if they were able to come and pick this up.”
Marc left the conversation feeling frustrated and fired up. While she was offered sympathy and apologies from the receptionist at Duncan Public Works, she was not offered assistance, but was instead advised to hire a truck to remove the burnt remains. That, she said, was not a feasible option.
“Where am I going to put it for a week?” asked Marc. “I just need it picked up. There is glass, and I don’t want dogs or people to get in it. I just want this gone. I mean they have garbage trucks all over, all they’d need to do is zip around and throw it in there.”
City of Duncan CAO Peter de Verteuil, who was very sympathetic to Marc’s scenario, said that the city does not have the staff capacity, or finances to be able to offer these services to the masses.
“Unfortunately, the City does not have the resources to assist home owners to clean up their properties and items, whether it is damage to recycling bins, or vandalism to vehicles or mail boxes,” said de Verteuil.
What really burns Marc up, is not only that the onus is on her to clean up the charred remains, but she is also responsible for purchasing a new green bin, after hers was lit on fire. These bins that were given out for free at the start of the city’s recycling program cost about $70 to replace.
“They expect residents to replace these bins every time they get wrecked. They are not cheap, and they started the program, I didn’t,” said Marc. “I don’t want to cause trouble, I just want what’s mine. Why don’t I get a replacement green bin? I didn’t wreck it.”
This is not the first time Marc has had bin trouble. Her first bin did not have a secure lid, and it disappeared during one of her weekly waste pick-ups. When she brought it to the attention of the city, it was shrugged off with the comment that it was probably stolen. Her first response from Public Works was simply that the city does not issue replacements under any circumstances. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease and after much effort and voicing her concerns Marc was eventually given a second bin, but now finds herself between her recycling and a hard place.
“Municipalities do not have the financial resources to replace ones that get damaged through vandalism, or through wear and tear, other than when there was an error on the part of our employees when emptying bins,” said de Verteuil. “It is very important that residents only put their bins out on the morning of their pickup day. Not only to avoid vandalism, but to avoid issues with racoons and other wildlife.”
While Marc is encouraged to continue to reach out regarding her concerns, she shared with the Citizen that this is not her first curbside frustration.
“They don’t do anything, I even mow the boulevard all the time — they don’t — and I pay really good tax here,” said a frustrated Marc. “I don’t think the city does anything for me, they just make me pay. I’m tired of it.”