December 8, 2011 |

Borough to take over solid waste authority? Firms make appeal to leaders

Haines Borough Assembly members discussed hiring a consultant and appointing a task force Tuesday after two local trash companies and the president of the Haines Chamber of Commerce pleaded for increased borough participation in solid waste management.

No action was taken during the committee-of-the-whole meeting, but the assembly is expected to revisit the topic at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Mayor Stephanie Scott called the meeting at the request of Chamber of Commerce president Ned Rozbicki, who advocated mandatory, boroughwide fees for solid waste that he said would more fairly distribute costs of disposal and reduce illegal dumping.

"Mandatory fees already are being paid. The problem is some people aren’t pulling their weight," Rozbicki said. A rate paid by all residents would lower individual rates and make dumping less attractive, he said.

Assembly member Jerry Lapp said residents will leave an old washer or sofa in the woods rather than pay up to $50 at the dump. "The costs are too high. I know the operating costs are high, but something needs to be done."

In a letter to the assembly, Rozbicki said that without a boroughwide solution, the town could expect increased garbage rates, more dumping, including of junked cars, and underfunding of the landfill.

Tuesday’s meeting, attended by representatives of Community Waste Solutions, Acme Transfer and Haines Friends of Recycling, ranged a gamut of topics, including disposal of municipal sludge, landfill leachate and monitoring, difficulties facing the company that owns the landfill, and how communities elsewhere in Southeast deal with waste.

Burl Sheldon, Community Waste Solutions spokesman, pushed strongly for boroughwide consolidation and management of waste, including municipal control of a sole waste disposal permit for the valley.

"Owning the (state) certificate means the borough says how and where waste is disposed or recycled, how waste is to be processed and what will be the cost to customers," he said, adding that the company was "not averse" to selling its certificate to the borough and bidding to provide collection, recycling and management services.

Sheldon said the company has lost money to ACME and HFR in the past eight years. The company’s infrastructure, including operating a landfill and composter, was designed to handle all the community’s waste and is now operating below capacity, he said.

Construction company president Roger Schnabel identified himself as a former partner in Haines Sanitation (the previous name of Community Waste Solutions) who lost money helping finance the operation a decade ago. He referred to $40,000 the company owes to the borough and ongoing compliance issues with the state environmental regulators.

"Most of these entities could shut (CWS owner) Tom Hall down tomorrow… Haines Sanitation never had the money or could charge enough to get up on step, and I don’t see they’re going to get on step," Schnabel said. Sheldon said after the meeting the company wouldn’t be going out of business anytime soon. Hall was at the meeting, but did not speak. In a Nov. 7 letter to the assembly, Hall said the company had recently raised its rates.

Acme owner Paul Nelson, whose company accepts dropped-off garbage and ships it to the Lower 48, also called for borough management, saying unaddressed community waste issues ranged from abandoned cars to sewage plant effluent in Lynn Canal. Nelson called mandatory fees "a band-aid on a bullet wound." "It’s time for the borough to take charge and set direction."

In an interview after the meeting, Nelson said he hadn’t yet paid off the investment he made to set up Acme nine years ago. "I wouldn’t mind getting out of the business. I’ve done okay because that’s the way I set it up, but we’re not dealing with waste boroughwide… If the community wants to truly consolidate waste, we need to have only one (permitted handler)."

Mayor Scott said Haines and Juneau were the only two towns in Southeast where solid waste wasn’t managed by the municipality. Scott said after the meeting that she thought the case had been made for a "thorough borough examination" of the issue, including possibly hiring a consultant to head up the process.Borough liability for the landfill should be checked, she said.