Soldotna City Council ready to discuss new junk ordinance

Posted: Monday, June 21, 2010

The Soldotna City Council will hold a public hearing for its revised junk ordinance Wednesday.

The new public nuisance ordinance features beefed up enforcement measures. According to the proposed ordinance, the city will remove the trash if the owner doesn't comply with orders to abate within 30 days. The ordinance says that the city will charge violators the cost of removing and disposing of the property. The city council will auction off any "salvageable material" and deduct the profits from the charges.

Residents will face $50 fines for violations including confirmed public nuisances, the disposal and storage of trash, dumping the junk and any unsightly premises.

"Do they have the right to turn their property into a junkyard? If they live way outside of the city, sure. But if they live within the city, they need to be respectful of others' property," said council member Nels Anderson.

City Planner Stephanie Queen said that code enforcement officers will investigate each complaint. If deemed a nuisance, the city will call violaters and ask them to clean up their property. Should the nuisance persist, the violator will receive a written order to abate the junk. The resident can appeal the nuisance, if they feel unfairly accused, and schedule a hearing with the city council.

Queen prefers voluntary compliance measures such as phone calls, but said that fines add an incentive for would-be violators to maintain their property. She said that most guilty residents will have the full 30 days to comply, but the city will require swifter action for nuisances that pose a health hazard. She gave bear- or dog-attracting garbage and refrigerators that children could be trapped in as prime examples.

"If it's not hurting anybody, we'll give them time," she said.

Alan Van Horne received public nuisance complaints in February and March. Van Horne said that his daughter lost her garbage service and trash piled up on the Soldotna property, which he owns. Van Horne, of Kenai, said that he eventually poneyed up for the garbage removal and resolved the situation this April.

He said he agrees with laws like these, and said that laziness leads to most nuisance crimes. Increasing penalties will keep the city clean and help maintain property values, he believes.

"People tend to let it go if they're not warned," Van Horne said. "It's a public nuisance and it should be discouraged."

Soldotna is one of many Alaska cities to rethink its junk removal program.

Homer recently started a new junk car program, which pays for residents to dispose of their cars. Homer City Planner Rick Abboud contracted a local utilities company and a towing service to remove undrivable vehicles. Abboud said that the $15,000 project will issue vouchers to residents of Homer looking to dispose of their junked vehicles at a reduced cost. He said that each family within Homer is eligible to receive one voucher, which are issued on a first come, first served basis. It costs participants $300 to drain and dispose of the fluids, remove the battery and gas tank, and tow it to the city landfill, according to the ordinance.

Dotti Harness-Foster, city planning technician, said that enforcing previous measures cost the city a good deal of time and money.

"Tracking down these people is hard because the registered owner may not be around," said Foster, who designed the program. "It required a lot of time and effort."

She believes that a positive incentive will offer better results, although there's plenty of work to be done.

"We have plenty of junk cars and will for years to come," she said.

Homer contracted Moore and Moore Services to dismantle the cars and dispose of any hazardous fluids. Lloyd Moore, the company owner, said he was able to offer a reduced cost because the high volume project keeps his employees moving.

"We're more focused with one operation," Moore said. "Normally we're running all over the place."

Homer's city planners said that their junker removal program drew influence from the state capitol's system.

Juneau charges vehicle owners $4 at the DMV to fund two disposal events each year. Residents of the capital bring their junked cars to a city-designated site. Juneau removes the gas tank, drains the fluids and scraps them free of charage. Jim Penor, the city's Solid Waste Coordinator, said that the program started off with a bang, but participation has lessened in recent years. Penor believes the decrease happened because residents got rid of the majority of the junked vehicles lying around.

Juneau still fines $295 for a junked vehicle left on private property, but the waste coordinator said that there's little emphasis on enforcement.

"Like all municipalities, ordinances are on the books," he said.

Tony Cella can be reached at

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