garbage yearThe Haines Commerce Committee resurrected a plan to deal with waste disposal in the borough. It’s picking up where it left off a couple of years ago when it comes to garbage. Trash is a concern for many, and the committee this week voted to continue a discussion on a draft solid waste ordinance drawn up years ago.

The Haines Borough is unique in a lot of ways, including how it deals with solid waste. Garbage is dealt with by a private company, with no involvement from the borough. Residents pay fees based on how much junk they toss out. But, the Commerce Committee is exploring an old plan that would involve borough residents paying a fee, or tax, for local waste disposal, whether it’s picked up or dropped off. Debra Schnabel was key in drafting the ordinance a couple of years ago when she was an assembly member. But when she left her seat, the ordinance fell off the radar. Until now.

“The ordinance that was drafted two years ago was based on empirical data gleaned from a survey, a controlled survey of the community, of which I think there were 94 respondents,” Schnabel said.

Schnabel says the proposed system would divide the Chilkat Valley into zones, and have residents open an account with the borough. Property owners would be responsible for the account.

“And that account for solid waste management is managed by the borough, in other words, it’s registered with the borough,” she said. “But the borough then contracts with a hauler to pick up and dispose of solid waste. It can be done in different ways in different zones. So you’d probably have pick-up required in the townsite service area, but maybe outside the townsite service area, you might have a drop-off.”

The idea to streamline refuse collection and disposal might be a little less complicated now, with the recent consolidation of waste permits. Paul Nelson owned Acme Transfer for years, but sold his state permit to the other garbage game in town – Community Waste Solutions. Here’s Nelson in a July interview.

“And I really believe Community Waste Solutions is hoping to bring the community together and get a solid waste management plan.”

In a statement from Community Waste Solutions after the sale, the owners said they hope the merging of permits will help provide more “comprehensive service.”

But some community members are concerned about the return of the trash monopoly. Local business owner Sean Gaffney spoke out at the Commerce Committee meeting on Wednesday.

“Is it possible to attempt to confirm price structures, rate structures prior to signing off on the thing, and in a public way?”

Schnabel responded that the proposal suggests the borough review the rate structure every two years. She also said, according to the survey done years ago, that people would be willing to pay $30 – $40 a month for solid waste services. Diana Lapham questioned the fairness of property owners having to pay so much per month. She said that some citizens burn, recycle or compost most of their waste, herself included. That means fewer trips to the dump, and less fees. Commerce Committee chair Margaret Friedenauer responded:

“I understand what Diana is saying, and yes, several people make that argument when we talk about this, however most of the powers under what we do and what we use for taxes, people may not utilize,” she said.  “I mean, I don’t have kids, but I’m not going to complain about taxes to the school. The other powers that we exercise are things like emergency dispatch – I hope I never have to call the ambulance, but I might, and so we want to provide the service for public safety.”

Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan agreed that residents should fork over the money because the lack of garbage management affects everyone.

“We have to do something that’s going to mandate that everyone pays their share , whether you produce garbage or you don’t,” he said. “It’s an environmental problem, it’s a public health problem, and you just continue to see it. I felt this way before I worked for the borough, and this just seals my opinion that we have to get in this game somehow”

So, a borough ordinance that would require an account and monthly fees is what’s on the table for discussion currently. The 34-page draft plan also includes sections on litter, enforcement and rules, plus much more. It’s a start, but Friedenauer said, this is a complicated issue that won’t be resolved quickly.

The Commerce Committee will continue to examine the draft, and work on updating it and getting community input.