Debris becomes eyesore for some

Better cleanup sought by Juneau residents

Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Neighborhood debris has been pilling up in Juneau without relief, says a Ninth Street resident.

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"There is so much junk and trash sitting at Eighth and B streets, and other locations around town," Kathleen Schmitz said. "The city has really done nothing to solve this problem and we wonder if we are low on the totem pole."

Another place with junk and debris is Foster Avenue in West Juneau, where there are old boats and cars, Schmitz said. And the Lemon Creek neighborhood near the jail has junk piled up, she said.

Schmitz lives at Ninth street, a half block away from a mess she views too often, she said. She says the problem is visible in many Juneau neighborhoods; junky cars covered with tarps; derelict boats; pans; blankets; oil tanks; freezers and plastics piled high.

City staffers who run sweepers and clean debris in town have an hour a day to actually pick up trash, said Kit Watts, street maintenance supervisor. A two-man team spend about an hour each Monday through Friday picking up trash after sweeping the sidewalks and doing other duties, he said.

"The main complaints we have about trash are business owners who put out trash bags too early and then the birds go at them, creating a mess," Watts said. "We are really short-staffed right now."

Juneau Police Department "junk busters" have given out three citations this year, mostly to businesses stuffing city bear-proof trash cans with their garbage, Watts said. Police take pictures to document the violation.

"There are many programs to pick up trash; state roads have adopt a highway programs; the city has streets and maintenance and other volunteer organizations," said Juneau Deputy Clerk Beth McEwen.

In fact, Litter Free Inc. spearheaded a cleanup day May 13, McEwen said. Litter Free Inc. is a nonprofit organization formed in 1985 to create a cleaner environment and encouraging recycling within the city. Bag and signup locations were spread across the city in places such as the Foodland parking lot; Duck Creek Market; Super Bear Supermarket; the University of Alaska Southeast Student Activity Center parking lot; Douglas Fire Station and Fred Meyer.

"It does seem like there is more litter this tourist season and it is real noticeable when the snow melts in the spring," said John Logan, Litter Free Inc. president. "We did collect about 30,000 pounds during the cleanup, which is more than last year."

Through sponsorship of the annual spring cleanup the group targets public areas, roadways and streams, Logan said. Throughout the remaining year the nonprofit organizes smaller cleanups using other clubs or organizations to perform the labor, who may receive payment for their services from Litter Free, Inc., Logan said.

Schmitz is one volunteer who helps pick up litter and commends the group on their work. But she still finds the neighborhoods overlooked by city and other cleanup crews.

"I was cleaning litter for tourists on South Franklin street while many residential neighborhoods are a mess," Schmitz said. "I don't believe people are paying attention when it is out of sight."

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