New landfill manager aims to rebuild "from the ground up"


October 31, 2019

Jenna Kunze

Craig Franke, right, is the new manager of Haines company Community Waste Solutions.

Community Waste Solutions, Haines' lone landfill facility, has gotten a new face, incoming general manager Craig Franke, and with it-a facelift.

Franke replaced exiting manager Sally Garton in August, when he moved to Haines from Skagway to accept the position.

"My role has been to try to reorganize and refocus the place and pull everything back together. The focus shifted there for a while." Franke said.

Owner of more than 30 years, Tom Hall, said that he shoulders the blame for letting his company lapse over time while living in Skagway.

"A change needed to be made and, as the owner, I had the responsibility to make it," Hall said. He moved back to Haines this summer to "provide the support that the company needed."

Hall decided to replace most all of the staff but for one employee. "I just felt it wasn't going to work out with the same people," he said. He knew Franke, a manager of a construction company in Skagway, for the last seven years. Hall said his hands-on experience and strength with numbers made him an easy hire.

In March, one resident's written complaint to Alaska Department of Conservation prompted the company to cover exposed trash left strewn about for wildlife to snack on. In 2018, a working group met for more than a year to plan improvements to solid waste removal in Haines. In order to remedy what critics called environmental and sustainability issues at CWS, the group proposed levying a 1 percent sales tax. The proposal ultimately failed for lack of support.

"We're trying to reinvent ourselves over here from the ground up," Franke said. "Everything from our customer service, to the way we're managing inflow of the solid waste...and then the way the facility presents itself. It shouldn't be an eco disaster up here, and so we've made huge strides in getting that under control. It's a process."

Since he took over in August, Craig has overseen installation of a new electric fence encompassing the drop off area and office to deter wildlife and trucked in material to cap the landfill. Franke said that a common misconception is that the electric fence encompasses the 10-acre landfill, which it does not. The company is working to include a portion of the landfill in an electric fence in an upcoming project, he said.

The company has also begun regularly using the composter CWS has had since 2016.

The composting system, which Franke said has previously only run "in fits and starts," is now fully functional. The system reduces solid waste in the landfill, thus extending its life, by reducing the amount of material needing to be buried. It works by combining human waste sludge from the wastewater treatment plant with paper, cardboard and woodchips, Franke explained. The bacteria in the sludge breaks down the material to create a product like dirt used to cover the landfill.

"We ultimately have been working towards a solution where all of our inert solid waste gets disposed of on the landfill and the household waste is processed through our composting system here," Franke said.

CWS plans to switch the composter from a gas generator to electricity, which will streamline the composting process by allowing it to run overnight. The generator would run out of fuel and stop the composter at night.

Outside of work, Franke said he likes to hunt, fish, and anything else that brings him outdoors. In Colorado, he owns horses that he goes back to visit once a year.

Franke said his ultimate goal at CWS is to serve the community as best as possible.

"I know people don't have any other options and so because of that I want to make sure that we're responsive to their needs and they don't feel taken for granted," he said. "My ultimate goal is that we continue to be part of the solution, and not the problem here."


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