When Country Bug Books owner Darrel Brooks saw his first utility bill, he decided it was garbage. Literally.

Besides his bill for water and sewer, Brooks was being charged approximately $100 for garbage alone, which made up a significant portion of his invoice from the City of Merritt. To make it worse, Brooks says his business produces very little waste.

“I rarely produce any garbage and 90 per cent of our waste is recyclable, both of which we take care of ourselves,” he said.

Even after Brooks asked the city to remove the dumpster from behind his store, his bills will still add up to approximately $800 a year for garbage. It didn’t take him long to discover that other businesses had the same concern. Brooks says under the current system, businesses have to pay the same fee even when they don’t use a bin at all. He has decided this is an issue, which cannot be ignored.

Brooks is now a Merritt and District Chamber of Commerce director and has been canvassing local businesses as well as other communities to gather ideas and feedback. On July 6, he and other Chamber members attended a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss possible solutions with council.

“We feel this is an unfair burden on small business in our community and would like to propose the city change the out-dated solid waste bylaw that imposes this burden,” he told council. “It’s important to try and help the smaller businesses if you want to generate a better economy.”

During the meeting he brought several models from other communities to council’s attention including a pay-per-use system in Kamloops where the city rents bins to the downtown core and the customer is charged $13 per tip on their own schedule, and a system in Kelowna that allows businesses the freedom to hire any one of a number of contracted companies.

Councillor Mike Goetz said he was not opposed to looking at a pay-per-use system, however, he mentioned that in the past there was opposition from businesses when the city discussed getting rid of the dumpsters.

“The minute we said we’d like to get rid of the dumpsters, the businesses went nuts,” he said. “However, I do think it’s unfair to have someone paying for a dumpster that doesn’t need it.”

CAO Matt Noble added that no matter what the system, the city would still need to collect a certain amount of money to pay for the service.

“Rarely do you find an option that will please everyone,” said Noble. “We’ll have to do a bit of our own canvassing; there’s got to be a medium in all this.”

At the end of the meeting, council agreed to continue reviewing the issue and work together with Brooks and the Chamber to find a solution.

“The meeting was actually productive,” said Brooks. “Council is willing to make some changes. We’re not sure what those are going to be yet, but we’re supposed to be working together to come up with some solutions to discuss.”