Junker roundup wins OK

City tackles junk car dilemma

Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2001

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If you own a junk car, you can get rid of it during the next five weeks for only 50 bucks, thanks to a city Junkbuster's plan endorsed by a Juneau Assembly work session on Monday.

Dan Garcia touted his Junk Car Roundup's goal of getting 200 junkers out of town by mid-March, though he admitted "200 is not really a number that means anything." As the city's environmental zoning inspector, Garcia responds a lot to complaints about abandoned automobiles around the city.

Garcia said he had $15,000 in his budget to address the problem, enough to remove 200 junkers. "But my point to the assembly was that if it goes over that, I need to make sure they are going to back me up."

They are.

Even if the city ends up with more than the estimated 200 cars, "we'd consider it a real success," said Deputy Mayor John MacKinnon. He likened the program to the city's past efforts to rid itself of abandoned and out-of-use refrigerators, a process complicated by the required removal of refrigerants before disposal.

"That was very successful," MacKinnon said.

Citizens are instructed to drop their hulks off - from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. over the next five Saturdays - at 1725 Anka St., the road off Glacier Highway to Costco. Residents will be asked to pay a $50 fee at the site and to assist city staff with the paperwork.

The site is owned by Channel Construction, which has contracted with the city to remove the vehicles' oil, gas and other fluids, along with batteries and tires. Channel will transport the carcasses to the existing mound of scrap metal at its Channel Drive dock. That mound is scheduled to be barged away on March 17.

The city is paying Channel $125 per car for the work.

"It's a bargain, when you consider it now costs about $400 to get rid of a junk car," MacKinnon said. That was the price the city paid a year ago to get rid of a large collection of derelict autos abandoned at Kmart, the Mendenhall Mall and elsewhere, he said.

Garcia concurred. Landfill admission costs $150, removal of hazardous wastes and tires another $150, and tows can amount to another $100.

The Roundup is a sweet carrot compared to the heavy stick the city had been wielding until now. Last summer, the assembly approved an ordinance that levies a $295 fine to anybody who abandons a junker in Juneau.

That was for starters. If you pleaded that the abandoned junker wasn't yours - that you'd actually sold it and just forgot to forward the paperwork - it might cost you another $295. And the city then could ask the judge to make you pay restitution for the cost of getting rid of the heap, which could amount to another $300 or so.

Assembly member Jim Powell even thought people might be getting away cheap, at that, and said a $1,000 or $2,000 fine might be more appropriate.

The city will be asking towing companies for a break in their fees for citizens whose heaps don't run and need them towed to the Anka Street site, Garcia said.

It's a good project and it's an idea that deserves some attention, said Glacier Muffler & Towing owner Doug Mackey. Mackey's company does contract towing for the city, he said.

Fernand Chandonnet can be reached at fchandonnet@juneauempire.com.

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