After months of discussion, the Haines Solid Waste Working Group finally has a direction it hopes to pursue. The committee wants the borough to explore taking over waste management.
Right now, there is only one garbage disposal option in Haines, the privately owned Community Waste Solutions.
Whether the current system needs to be changed, and if so, how Haines should handle waste is the question at issue for the working group.
They’ve been meeting since December and the discussions show that there are a lot of different viewpoints about this issue. The latest disagreement was over drawing up a new solid waste management plan. New member Norm Smith said there is already a plan from 2000.
“This has already been done,” said Smith.
“Right, it’s old though. That’s what communities do,” said Reilly Kosinski.
“What’s changed?” asked Smith.
“A lot’s changed,” said Kosinski. “Town’s gotten bigger, there’s different waste streams.”
“Town hasn’t gotten it bigger than it was 17 years ago,” argued Smith.
“There’s only one provider,” said assembly member Margaret Friedenauer.
“We only have one dump and it’s private enterprise,” said Smith.
“Great, do you even know what a management plan is?” asked Kosinski.
Despite that disagreement, there was one thing several group members did agree on.
“It should be done by the borough.” said Darsie Culbeck. It should be a utility. It’s a safety concern – it’s a health and safety issue which falls in the borough purview.”
The group met the day after an unknown substance was released into the air at the landfill, potentially causing contamination. It shut down the town’s only garbage collector for several days.
Smith agreed, the borough should take over.
“It’s the only way to solve this whole problem,” said Smith. “We become the entity.”
Interim borough manager Brad Ryan said that is a possibility. But he said there are several steps to take before that could happen, including applying for a permit with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.
“I think there’s a lot of legwork that if the assembly buys into this, that would have to start happening before,” said Ryan. “You decide you’re going to buy Community Waste Solutions, maybe you’re going to contract with them for a while.”
According to Judge Jim Walker at the RCA, Alaska Statute allows the municipality to take over, but it would have to purchase the certificate and equipment at fair market value.
Phillip Reeves asked if it would be worth it for the borough to take that step.
“Do the liabilities outweigh the value of the permit right now? It wouldn’t surprise me if they were pretty even,” said Reeves. “Nobody’s really saying anything about cleaning up that landfill. And if we’re going to take it over, what liability are we taking on?”
Sally Garton, who represents Community Waste Solutions on the working group, was not there when this idea came up. She didn’t want to comment for this report.
But, the group isn’t done talking about it.
They still have some more work to do before they can really start looking into this possibility. At their next meeting, they’re planning to draft a recommendation to the assembly.
If the assembly approves of moving in this direction, then the working group will start exploring the option of the borough taking over solid waste management.
Their next meeting is scheduled for June 1 at 4 p.m.