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

Mayor, working group to sell solid waste plan to public


November 2, 2017

Haines Borough Mayor Jan Hill and borough manager Debra Schnabel are working to refine and release a publicly subsidized solid waste program plan that will be palatable for the public.

The Solid Waste Working Group presented a plan to the borough assembly Monday that includes up to a 1 percent sales tax increase to help pay for the estimated $500,000 program.

Working group vice-chair Melissa Aronson told the assembly using sales tax to pay for solid waste disposal will also become a motivator to reduce consumption and that “it’s also a fair way of assessing how much waste you’re likely to produce as an individual or family.”

The plan is designed to address illegal dumping, the lack of public refuse containers and “a struggling operator with inadequate revenues to capitalize equipment necessary for efficient and environmentally sound operations…”

The operator, Community Waste Solutions, charges about $64 a month for weekly refuse collection or about 25 cents per pound for drop off. The working group anticipates those costs would decrease should its plan be implemented. It estimated tipping fees would be between two and eight cents per pound.

Public facilities director Brad Ryan, who’s been working with the group for the past year, said that $500,000 was still a “pretty wild assumption” because of unknown personnel costs associated with the proposed program.

The proposal says the borough would seek proposals for the operation of a waste transfer station where residents would drop garbage. Waste would then be shipped to an out of town facility. If Community Waste Solutions became the operator, it would agree to shut down its landfill, the proposal says.

Community Waste Solutions general manager Sally Garton said the company opposes the plan. She claimed the working group underestimated the costs for shipping garbage out of the borough and that closing the landfill wasn’t necessary.

“It’s not in the best interest of the community,” Garton said. “Shipping the garbage out, it’s more expensive than they are even considering.”

Assembly member Tom Morphet said increasing sales tax might incentivize out of town shopping.

“It’s a neat idea, the more you buy the more you have to pay, but to a certain extent we want people buying more things in town,” Morphet said. “A third of our borough revenue is sales tax and we certainly don’t want people consuming less in terms of buying things in town.”

Assembly member Sean Maidy said the proposal seemed incomplete, because neither the costs or the sales tax increase is fixed.

Much of the meeting was spent on how to present the plan, or an updated version of it, to the public.

Mayor Jan Hill said she’s heard complaints from community members about the plan, and was disappointed they didn’t attend the meeting to learn more about it.

“I think our job as elected officials is going to be educating community members,” Hill said. “Once we get a firm proposal together, then we need to make a concerted effort to talk to the people… and educate them and get their buy in.”

Assembly member Heather Lende supported the proposal. She said it’s easy to be “grumpy about paying for services” but that communities should be responsible for their garbage.

Hill and Schnabel will meet with working group members to refine the plan and create public outreach.


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