In addition to being awarded the landfill contract, James Coyne’s contract for curbside garbage collection was also renewed Monday night. Photo Andrea DeMeer

Princeton inks $2.5 million dump deal

Mayor sits out as contract is awarded to family member

The municipality struck a $2.5-million deal with James Coyne Monday night to operate the Princeton landfill for the next five years.

Mayor Spencer Coyne, who is James’ cousin, recused himself from the vote and discussion. Three councillors voted in favor of the contract, which was recommended by staff.

Under the contract, James Coyne will receive $410,000 per year to manage the landfill –- compared to the $294,000 paid to the present contractor in 2018. In the winter, the facility will be open three days a week instead of five.

Deputy mayor Barb Gould took the chair for the agenda item and so did not vote. She was the only member of council to ask infrastructure director Jamie Umpleby about details of the agreement.

“When you look at the total value of this contract we are awarding, it’s important to question,” Gould said. “I think we need to do our due diligence, especially where there is a potential for a perceived conflict.”

In addition to being the mayor’s cousin, James Coyne is also nephew of Regional District Area H director Bob Coyne.

The town and the regional district are the landfill’s two funders.

In an interview, Umpleby said the deal is the most fiscally responsibly option for the town, adding one out-of-town supplier had said he would charge between $50,000 and $60,000 per month for the same job.

The costs of doing business have increased in the five years since the previous contract was awarded, Umpleby said. “It will be things like fuel costs, utility costs, even just staff costs.”

Related: Princeton landfill costs could increase as town hall looks for management options

The present contract, with JR Contracting, expires this month with the contractor unwilling to renew his agreement.

A request for proposals was issued in November 2018. Eight companies requested documents, but none of them bid.

In January, Umpleby delivered a report to council that stated: “A majority of the companies were concerned that the operation is relatively small and somewhat remote from their other operations. They also expressed concern that they would not be competitive price-wise based upon the current contractors’ revenues and expenses.”

At that time, council opted to not reissue an RFP, but to negotiate with a local person who had stepped forward and expressed interest – although the name of the contractor was not released.

The possibility of the municipality assuming responsibility for the landfill was also discussed. However, it was reported the town’s collective agreement with its employees would have pushed the annual operating costs to between $475,000 and $575,000.

Following Monday’s meeting, Spencer Coyne said he has not been involved with the process. “I have stayed out of it 100 per cent.”

Even when council voted in January, he said he was not aware his cousin was the contractor being discussed. “When I found out he was involved, I walked away from the table.”

He noted that under the Municipal Act, he was not required to declare a conflict of interest, as he does not stand to benefit financially from the decision. “It’s a perceived conflict. People will see it as a conflict because we have the same last name.”

He added that he was not aware of the details of the contract when it came before council because the negotiations were handled by Umpleby, and the information was not included in his own council package.

The RDOS pays 50 per cent of Princeton’s landfill costs through a fee-for-service agreement, but Area H Bob Coyne said the district is not responsible for the facility’s management.

Last month, the town also moved forward with a plan to increase landfill fees by approximately 57 per cent, bringing its rate schedule in line with landfills operated by the regional district. That move is unrelated to the contract, according to Umpleby.

Related: Princeton landfill fees set to increase dramatically under proposed bylaw

In an interview, Gould said she was comfortable with the result of the vote, as her questions were answered by Umpleby during the meeting, but she would have preferred the issue was tabled for further review and that more information was provided in council package documents.

“Personally, I feel there is a lot of information I didn’t get in order to make an informed decision,” she said. “I think it’s very important that we are open and transparent.”

Council also voted to renew James Coyne’s contract for the municipality’s curbside garbage and recycling collection. He assumed the contract in 2010 for a five-year term, and it was afterwards renewed annually three times. The new contract is for five years with the first year valued at $210,600. There is no rate change for year one, but a five-per-cent increase for the second year and a cost of living increase factored in for the balance of the agreement.

The mayor also declared a conflict in that case and recused himself from the vote.

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