PALMER — Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Mokie Tew has been working since March to lower garbage disposal rates at the Central Landfill and transfer sites for Mat-Su Borough residents. During Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, Tew’s attempts failed following a decision by Borough Mayor Vern Halter for a second time this year.
“What I’d like to do is have just a special. You bring your truck in, it’s 10 bucks. We’re not all this fancy math, it’s not happening. So that’s what I’m trying to pass today is to allow the citizens to come in, pay $10 to dump their pickup load and trash, flat rate,” said Tew. “I think everybody knows what a level load is and I’m trying to simplify it and at that same time, give citizens a break on getting rid of the trash. So that’s why I thought of this plan.”
In March, a measure proposed by Tew passed the Assembly, reducing the charge per pickup bed to $10 and the rate per bag of trash to $2. In June, Mayor Halter issued just his third veto over his six-year tenure as Mayor for the amendment to landfill fees. A motion to override Halter’s veto failed 6-1 with only Tew voting in support. Tew’s idea was reintroduced on Tuesday and received skepticism from other members of the Assembly.
“One of my issues is that this actually takes a system for assessing the charge and makes it more confusing. Now the person at the gate has to determine what “level truckload” is instead of being able to measure it by cubic yard,” said Assemblywoman Stephanie Nowers. “It’s not simplifying things at the gate. My other issue which is kind of broader with landfill is it’s an enterprise fund, so if we don’t collect these funds they’ve got to come out somewhere. Right now these users are paying that, so If we’re losing $1 million, $1.3 million, somebody else is going to have to pay that.”
Assemblyman Tim Hale took issue with the language in the ordinance that allowed for garbage within the truckload to be slightly over the top or slightly over the end of the tailgate, leaving room for interpretation.
“It’s very ambiguous right, like it’s a little over the top. Depending on who’s the guy at the gate that day you know, he’s going to charge you three cubic yards instead of the $10 rate or maybe if it’s a different person at the gate that day, they’re going to charge you $10 even though it’s quite a bit over the top, and I don’t’ want to add that kind of ambiguity to the process,” said Hale. “If we can put scales at all of the transfer stations that would be the best option but we can’t afford that and so I don’t see this simplifying things. I see it leading to more conflicts between borough personnel and the person who is trying to dump their trash.”
Public Works Director Terry Dolan said that the difference in price would be $41 between a $10 fee for a pickup load that had been proposed and the current rate of $51 for three cubic yards. Dolan agreed with Hale that if the ordinance passed, he believed it would invite conflict between staff and residents. Assemblyman George McKee disagreed, saying that he believed that there would not be any conflict over what a “level truckload” was.
“We assessed with fairly high confidence this will cost us about $1.3 million in revenue,” said Dolan. “We’re operating on an operating basis revenue neutral, but when you look at the capital costs of operating a landfill we’re borrowing on average about $2 million a year. So we’re already taking waste at a cost below what it costs to dispose of it, this would make that significantly worse and it would cause me to have to borrow in the range of around $ 3 million a year and continue to increase the debt of the enterprise fund.”
Assemblyman Rob Yundt was absent for the meeting, leaving only six assembly members to vote. The vote to approve Resolution 21-091 was tied at 3-3 with Assemblymen McKee, Jesse Sumner and Tew voting in favor. Hale joined Deputy Mayor Tam Boeve and Nowers voting in opposition, leaving Mayor Halter the responsibility to cast a vote and break the tie. Halter voted no, falling resolution 21-091.
Following the meeting, Tew continued to express his frustration during assembly comments. Tew said he felt that without regulatory authorities to determine rates for garbage disposal, that responsibility falls to the Assembly.
“It’s growing and growing and growing and it’s taking a lot of money, but it’s not really doing a lot of service. We need to, we have the highest cost of garbage in the United States of America, we’re higher than Hawaii,” said Tew. “Maybe I’m a little excited tonight, but I’m trying to help the citizens. I’m trying to get you guys educated. We need to help the people. This isn’t fair. Big Lake, actually I just got a text here yesterday. Big Lake had an award and what it was is one of the poorest cities in America. So why are we paying the most for our garbage? Why? We need to work on it.”