By Greta Mart, KHNS

The Haines Borough Assembly went on an unexpected field trip during Tuesday’s meeting. A hearing about a nuisance abatement order prompted members to drive out to the site to view the situation for themselves.

Property owners Shane and Janet Horton are appealing a borough-issued abatement order for their Eagle’s Nest Mobile Home Park. The order was issued because of a trash build-up at one of the park’s mobile homes. At Tuesday’s appeal hearing, Shane Horton said he was working with his tenant to clean up the property, particularly garbage that could attract bears. What was left could be considered trash – or not.

“What’s one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Horton said. “What is considered to be trash? I mean, what are you talking about? If you’re talking about garbage, garbage is garbage. If you’re talking about a broken snowmachine that somebody’s working on, that is different. I need to know what code says is…I need the definitions.”

The Hortons say the borough should be dealing directly with the tenant who lives in the home with the trash build-up, not them. Shane Horton also said he felt the problem was largely fixed.

But Borough Manager Dave Sosa did not agree. When Assembly Member Joanne Waterman questioned if the property had been cleaned up enough, Sosa suggested making an impromptu site inspection.

The assembly took a recess and carpooled to the Eagle’s Nest. As the group walked around the home cited in the nuisance order, the surprised owner came out and answered questions from assembly members.

” [I] definitely don’t have the money to throw [out] all of that stuff as well as my own garbage, you know I can barely cover my own garbage bill,” he said.

The owner said he was not expecting a visit from the borough assembly. He also didn’t know the assembly was in the middle of the appeal hearing.

“No, I had no idea, or else I would have made some fundage to get rid of at least my garbage so its not sitting there embarrassing me,” he said.

After taking a quick look around, the group returned to assembly chambers and resumed the meeting. Members Lapham and Jackson voted to uphold the abatement order. Here’s Jackson.

“I see nothing really significantly changed,” Jackson said. “A few black bags are gone but other than that the situation is the same as it was before.”

Other members wanted to give the Hortons – and their tenant – more time to comply.

“This is a difficult situation,” said Dave Berry. “I know the people that live there. I’ve known the Hortons for most of my life. I personally don’t feel it’s fair they are being held hostage over the actions of their tenant. But at the same time, I have to uphold the ordinances and the code of the Haines Borough. But there has to be a way that we could somehow  – I volunteer my truck this weekend. I’ll come and help you clean it up.”

Municipal code dictates that if the Hortons don’t comply with the abatement order, they face possible civil action and fines up to $300. Plus, borough staff would then move in and clean up the nuisance, and the Hortons would be responsible for all clean-up costs, due within 30 days. Any unpaid balance would accrue interest at a rate of 12 percent annually.

The Hortons and their tenant will get more time to clean up. The assembly voted to postpone any action until the July 28th meeting.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the assembly set a public hearing to talk about requirements for who can sit on the Port and Harbor Advisory Committee.

Currently, borough code says Port and Harbor Committee members must be either commercial vessel owners, private boat owners or a utility company representative. The at-large seat must be occupied by someone with a marine or harbor-related business.

The Government Affairs and Services Committee recently recommended those requirements be changed.

“The diversity can be even greater and it might turn out even better in that what you really need in the Ports and Harbor is someone with economic experience or business experience, that isn’t quite reflected in those vessel characteristics or experience,” said Jackson.

The recommended change would open seats not just to owners of boats and marine businesses but also to those who have a few years of experience.

The first public hearing on that recommendation is set for the July 28th meeting.

The borough assembly also gave their approval for a sister city relationship between Haines and Haines Junction, although one assembly member questioned why they couldn’t be brother cities.