March 1, 2012 | Vol. 42 No. 8

Hall challenges change in garbage contracting

An attorney for Community Waste Solutions this week said that state law doesn’t allow the Haines Borough to offer an exclusive contract for trash collection in the townsite to any other company.

Because the local garbage company is the only state-certified provider for the townsite, it’s the only company that can have an exclusive arrangement, attorney Paul Jones wrote to the borough Monday.

The opinion comes in the wake of a Haines Borough Assembly committee recommendation for third-party advice toward writing a request for proposals for collection in the townsite.

The borough this week received an opinion from its lawyer, including about its obligation to CWS, but is so far keeping that information private.

CWS, formerly named Haines Sanitation, held a contract with the municipality to collect townsite garbage from 2001 to 2011. The borough didn’t renew the contract when it expired in April 2011. Its government affairs committee said that instead the municipality should seek requests for proposals. “All options need to be on the table to come up with what’s best for the community,” said committee chair Steve Vick.

CWS has seen its garbage volume and revenues decline since self-haul competitor Acme Transfer Co. went into the trash business in 2002. CWS is seeking a new contract with the borough. If it can’t get one, the firm says it will seek rate regulation through the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, which oversees utilities.

Acme owner Paul Nelson has asked the borough assembly that any RFP for townsite collection be offered to his company as well.

CWS also is seeking land from the borough for a buffer strip downhill of its FAA Road landfill. The state Department of Environmental Conservation last fall cited several compliance issues at the landfill site, including the need for a 50-foot setback between the property line and landfill.

Under its operational plan, CWS is permitted to landfill only composted waste. Since discontinuing composting last year, the company has stopped accepting sludge from the borough and is shipping, rather than landfilling, waste.

In his letter to the borough this week, CWS attorney Jones also cautioned against the borough seeking more than one collection provider for the townsite. “We fail to see how any service provider could, in a competitive environment, responsibly contract to provide any particular level of refuse service in the townsite, or to do so at set rates.”

In an interview this week, CWS owner Tom Hall said he hoped to secure a new contract with the borough without having to go to court, but in a Feb. 6 letter said he would “take whatever steps are necessary to protect our company’s viability.”

CWS spokesman Burl Sheldon told the assembly Tuesday the company hoped for discussions with borough leaders soon, “now that all the legal issues are on the table for all to consider.”

CWS increased its rates in August and January. Previous rates had been in place since 2001.