Channel Construction began receiving junk metal – including cars – at the former sawmill site near 3 Mile Lutak Road this week. The site will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
All types of metal, including large appliances, will be accepted, but fluids must be drained from machinery like lawn mowers. Freezers and refrigerators must come with a certificate showing that freon gas inside was legally removed and disposed, according to company officials.
Junk car disposal will include removal by the company of a vehicle’s batteries, fluids and tires.
The event will give residents a chance to haul off their jalopies and promises to clean up unauthorized junkyards around town, at least for the time being.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to get rid of their junk cars,” said Darsie Culbeck, who has been working for the Haines Borough as a consultant on the issue. “If you remove them now, it may cost you a day of work, but if the borough has to do it, it could cost you a thousand bucks. This is a much better way.”
The borough estimates there may be 350 or more parked junks in town, including dozens piled up on properties on Small Tracts Road and West Fair Drive. Under borough code, more than two unregistered vehicles on a lot constitute a junkyard, requiring a conditional use permit.
Owners of lots adjacent to piles of junkers last year put heat on the municipality to enforce its code. Borough leaders haven’t said whether they’re going to start enforcing the law, but during a committee meeting last week, assembly members discussed enforcement as part of a long-term solution to a chronic problem of lingering junkers.
“It sounds to me that there’s enough community concern about junk cars that (residents) are going to push on it,” Culbeck said. He said he’s working with agencies to see about removing junks abandoned on public lands and lots held by absentee owners.
Ironically, the cleanup that started this week will be easiest on the most flagrant code violators. In what’s been characterized as akin to a volume discount, Channel Construction workers will come and haul cars off those lots.
“The prices (for scrap metal) are good right now,” said Glory Tonsgard, general manager of Skookum Recycling, a Channel Construction subsidiary that’s doing the work and recently collected from several Southeast towns, including Skagway. “Prices are very volatile. You can collect all the scrap, then when you’re halfway down (to Seattle), the prices drop.”
The company has previously brought scrap metal barges to town, including one a few summers ago that caught fire in Chilkoot Inlet when gas fumes ignited during a hot spell.
Decisions on bringing a barge here hinge on scrap metal prices, the volume of scrap metal in the region and other jobs requiring the use of the company’s barge, Tonsgard said. “We try to get it all at once, so it depends on what we get from everybody else, and the time we have… We try to figure out how much someone else has. It’s hard to know who to get hold of and who knows what who’s got.”
The Chilkoot Indian Association is helping members of the tribe by hauling junkers out to the collection site. CIA assistant office manager Georgiana Hotch said tribal members have signed up to have about 65 cars removed. Other metal junk may be eligible for removal, she said. Members can call 766-2323 to get on the tribe’s list, she said, as funds for the project may be limited.
“The tribe has extra money. It’s been my passion to get rid of those old cars on Deishu Drive,” Hotch said. She said she’s hoping to see a neighborhood community council adopt rules prohibiting junk cars in the neighborhood, she said.
Skookum Recycling’s Tonsgard said she heard there may be as many as 500 junk cars around Haines, which would be a high number, roughly equal to the number Juneau generates in a year.
Theo Kennedy, project foreman for the Haines cleanup, said a company barge will arrive here in about 10 days and probably remain a few more for loading.
Vehicles dropped off at the mill site must be free of trash, hazardous materials, and extra tires and batteries.
Propane tanks that are dropped off must be empty and their valves removed. Oil tanks need to be cut open and clean, company officials said. Tires will be accepted for $12, or $15 with rim attached.
Required “junk vehicle ownership responsibility forms” will be available at the barge site. Another cleanup may be held later in the year for cars still snowed in.