Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Commentary

 

Trash left in the harbor dumpster last week recently included marine electronics and antifreeze. The cost of dumping such items in with ordinary trash is hiking the borough's fees for garbage disposal.

Whenever I start feeling that publishing a newspaper makes a difference in the world, I get news like the above photo, taken Saturday of marine electronics and toxic waste left in the harbor dumpster. The CVN published a front-page story last week about wrongful dumpster use and how it has contributed to a quadrupling of disposal costs at the harbor. The borough also placed a large advertisement explaining the issue to the public.

So much for the power of the pen.

This week, Haines Borough Assembly member Debra Schnabel proposed a garbage surcharge for harbor users so folks who don’t use the harbor aren’t left paying the tab for careless or illicit use of the dumpster.

If that doesn’t fly, here’s another idea: Use the $100,000 the borough received for dock security cameras from the Department of Homeland Security and train the new cameras on the harbor dumpster and the Port Chilkoot Dock. The new dock bathroom has been hit twice by vandals in recent weeks.

Cameras have been used to monitor dumpsters in Petersburg and a story out of Juneau this week reports cameras capturing people dumping trash along roadways. Use of Homeland Security money would be fitting, as most of the terrorists we get around here are the kind who smash public toilets and pitch their trash hither and yon.

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In a roundabout way, the system worked to get sidewalks replaced in downtown Haines. The local road crew made a pitch for a leftover $2 million to be used for paving and sidewalks here, figuring “if you get the ball rolling, the extra money would show up from somewhere.”

In fact, that’s what happened. A half-done job was more than anyone could stomach, and, after a little bit of public squeaking, money was found to complete the job. It’s said that democracy is glorious chaos, and given the inherent headaches of group decision-making, it probably has to be. What’s important are results.

This project should be a lesson to citizens and leaders who seek perfect results or expect government to work without friction. It’s the grit in the sandpaper that gets the work done.

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A “friends” group for the Chilkat Center has formed. Before long, expect another group of friends to form around the swimming pool. The fire hall and assembly chambers – built as a temporary structure – no doubt will attract its own friends soon. The Elks Lodge closed, but not long before school board members decided they might want to be its friends.

Meanwhile, the Haines Borough has embarked on a “borough facilities master plan,” a document that may cost up to $160,000 and is likely to tell us what we and all the friends groups already know – that the Chilkat Center, swimming pool, firehall and other borough buildings I’m surely overlooking need more than friends. They need dollars, millions of them.

We know this because in the past 10 years we’ve hired engineers to look at some of these aging facilities, and they’ve told us so. Still, each year we hold taxes down and allow our buildings to wither without putting aside the money it takes to maintain or replace them.

Instead, we look for bailouts from Juneau or Washington or from the Rasmuson family. Oh, it’s good to have friends.

-- Tom Morphet