The Haines Borough Assembly is investigating a state-collected municipal motor vehicle registration tax that would help fund local storage and disposal of junk cars, or an annual “junk car clean-up.”
The municipality for years has discussed how best to deal with junkers parked around town and abandoned on public property. Its interest sharpened last year when residents compelled the municipality to enforce local laws prohibiting more than two unregistered vehicles per lot.
At least nine communities have municipal motor vehicle taxes, including Anchorage, Sitka, Ketchikan, Kodiak and Bristol Bay Borough. They’re charged every two years on registration or renewal of registration.
With about 4,100 vehicles registered in the Chilkat Valley, the tax would bring in about $40,000 annually under a graduated fee structure used elsewhere in Alaska. Under that system, newest cars pay most. A 2012 model vehicle is taxed $121, while models dating to 2005 or older are taxed $16.
Or, the borough could adopt a flat tax at a set amount that would be the same for all vehicles. Assemblywoman Joanne Waterman said a natural delineation line for differentiating the tax would be between commercial and private vehicles, but member Jerry Lapp disagreed. “I don’t see penalizing commercial vehicles,” he said.
Mayor Stephanie Scott said she’d like to see the costs of bringing a junk car barge to town every two to three years.
Waterman asked if borough consultant Darsie Culbeck, who is working on the idea, could return to the assembly with a program budget.
“I think we should go forward on it. We need more information before we go to ordinance form” including numbers of trailers, ATVs, mobile homes and snowmachines in the valley, Waterman said. “We need a ballpark number, with costs, for us to start discussing (tax) rates.”
Member Debra Schnabel said she spent $10,000 over five years removing other people’s cars from her property. “I’m in support of this type of program.”
Questions still under discussion include who would receive the cars for the borough, whether the municipality would purchase a lot for junker storage and whether the program would be ongoing or a time-limited, clean-up “event.”
Only Bigfoot Auto holds permits to store junk vehicles, and with costs of around $800 for leaving one there, many end up parked indefinitely or pushed off into bushes or ditches. Concerns included the leaking of toxins from engine cavities.