December 13, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 50

Private fix sought for junked vehicles

The Haines Borough could soon be partnering with a private business to solve towing, impoundment and junked-car related issues.

The assembly voted Tuesday to direct the administration to request bids for providing the services. The provider would help the borough enforce laws already on the books.

In light of recent discussion of a proposed local motor vehicle registration tax to pay for vehicle removal, the assembly decided to investigate whether a private business could adequately and affordably tackle the issue, along with towing services such as moving vehicles impeding snow removal. The tax would cost vehicle owners $22 every two years.

Assembly member Debra Schnabel said she initially supported the tax but changed her opinion after investigating borough code.

“Enough people said to me that we should just be enforcing our own code that I actually went and read the code and realized that really, I think, all that is missing to pull it all together is a (bid request) to actually activate and pull together all of the code issues,” Schnabel said.

The assembly postponed discussion of the motor vehicle tax ordinance pending the publishing, receipt and review of bids. The borough needs to pass the ordinance by the end of 2012 to begin collecting revenue on the tax by 2014, a deadline that is now impossible to make.  

In a draft bid request outlined Dec. 4, borough manager Mark Earnest said the borough may require the contractor to operate a junk vehicle collection drive each fall and spring for a set price and the contractor and borough would agree to a set rate of fees for towing and storage.

Assembly member Steve Vick voiced concern that the borough had a contract with a private towing company which turned out to be unsatisfactory, as residents complained about exorbitant fees. Schnabel said it is incumbent on the borough to negotiate a fair fee with a contractor.

“I think that’s a step in the right direction, finally. I must say that there have been lots of people frustrated by the absence of this service in our town, including the state department of transportation and the state police,” said Mayor Stephanie Scott.

Scott clarified that the bid request and motor vehicle tax are separate issues. The borough could still choose to implement a motor vehicle tax whether or not the it decides to contract with a private business for towing, impoundment, and junked and abandoned vehicle services.

Earnest wrote in his memo that “a public sector approach will be necessary” in the event that the borough does not receive satisfactory proposals from the private sector.