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Council votes to add 'Take It or Leave It' facility to capital plan

“I would call it a very small victory, because we're still 99 steps away,” said Coun. Sheena Hughes.
The future facility will take after the Hodge Podge Lodge in Sherwood Park. STRATHCONA COUNTY/Photo

City council has voted to start planning for a future “take it or leave it” facility in St. Albert, taking inspiration from the Hodge Podge Lodge in Sherwood Park.

The Hodge Podge Lodge first opened in the Broadview Enviroservice Station in 2018, and is now a 1,500 square foot space that is semi-enclosed, municipally staffed, and run with the help of about 40 volunteers. Residents donate items to the Lodge that either can't be recycled, or can but might still have life in them, and other residents can take items that catch their eye at no cost with the overall goal being to reduce the amount of material being sent to landfills.

Although council voted to start the planning process, there's no guarantee such a facility will actually be built, said Coun. Sheena Hughes, who put the motion forward to add the project to the city's long-term capital plan.

“I would call it a very small victory, because we're still 99 steps away,” she said.

The 10-year capital plan lists all of the city's upcoming major projects that are solely designed to accommodate community growth. Each year administration includes projects from the capital plan to the annual budget based on project urgency and available funding for council's consideration.

Hughes' motion, which passed with Mayor Cathy Heron and Coun. Mike Killick opposed, directs administration to rework an existing future capital project to build a public operations yard space on the city's undeveloped Badger Lands to also include a take it or leave it facility.

“I know this community would love this,” Hughes said during debate. “We continually talk about how we want to [stop] people sending things to the landfill, this is an opportunity for people to easily do it.”

Both Heron and Killick said they thought existing upcycling pages on Facebook, as well as organizations like Goodwill, already provide St. Albertans with the same service and didn't see the need to build a facility like the Hodge Podge Lodge.

“I think at this time the $1 million price tag is what's scaring me off on this one, and I think we should probably try to invest our dollars elsewhere and keep with what's working because it's working quite well,” Heron said. 

“I'm a huge supporter of Goodwill where I donate all my stuff because they do an amazing job of stuff that doesn't get bought or used because they have recycling capacity like I've never seen [at their facility in Edmonton].”

Killick also mentioned that he was concerned about whether or not the city could find enough volunteers to help run the facility, as volunteer power is a “scare commodity.”

“I'm wondering why we would put this even into our capital plan when it comes with so many other strings attached,” he said. “One being that we already have facilities available, let alone all the other re-use stores that we can donate to.”

“I'm just wondering if this is the right type of item to be contemplating at this time when there are already ways to do this.”

Coun. Natalie Joly was not in attendance to vote on the motion.

The idea to add the facility to future public works yard space stems from a report presented to council last month suggesting that the yard space is the most feasible location for a take it or leave it facility, as it was determined the other location being considered, the Mike Mitchell Recycling Depot, didn't have enough available space to expand in any way.

Last month's report, written by senior manager of public operations Louise Stewart and manager of transportation operations and waste management John Potter, also estimated that building a take it or leave it facility could cost almost $1 million and cost about $150,000 annually to function.

Running the facility would require the city to hire one new full-time staff member, Stewart and Potter wrote.

Stewart, in a separate report for council dated May 7, wrote that the new cost estimate for the future public operations yard space that includes a take it or leave it facility is $4.94 million. Without planning for the facility and factoring in contingency costs, the yard space was originally estimated to be $3.47 million.

Design and concept planning for the yard space is currently scheduled to take place in 2025, however, it will need to approved by council as part of next year's municipal budget.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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