City program draws more junk vehicles

Juneau asks for $180,000 to remove cars from the streets

Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The city's junk car program was intended to be a temporary solution, but it has been so successful it looks like it will be around for the long haul, officials say.

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The Public Works and Facilities Committee on Monday approved the city's request for another $180,000 from a reserve fund to coordinate a second junk vehicle event in fiscal year 2008. At these events, Juneau residents can turn in their junk cars for no cost at that time.

If ultimately approved by the Juneau Assembly, roughly $500,000 will go toward removing junk vehicles from the streets this fiscal year, which began July 1.

"When we first started the program it was thought that there were a lot of junk vehicles around, and they thought they could round them all up and get rid of all the junk cars," Public Works director Joe Buck said. "We thought these first few events would kind of clean up Juneau."

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After having the program in place for several years, however, the city is seeing more and more junk vehicles, he said.

"We thought that we'd see a decline in the number of junk vehicles, and what we're seeing is, it's actually the opposite," Buck said. "There are actually more junk vehicles out there."

In August, a record 565 junk vehicles were brought in for disposal, at a cost of $240,000. Prior to this year, the highest number of vehicles brought in for disposal was 482 vehicles in 2005.

"We've been getting rid of a higher amount of vehicles than we first thought," Deputy Mayor Merrill Sanford said.

A $22 vehicle registration fee for Juneau residents regulated by the Department of Motor Vehicles primarily funds the junk vehicle program.

The $180,000 approved by the Public Works and Facilities Committee on Monday would come out of the city's Waste Management Reserve Fund if approved by the Assembly. Combined with the $317,800 previously approved by the Assembly for the program this fiscal year, the new total for fiscal year 2008 would be $497,800.

If the funds are approved, Buck said he hopes to hold the second junk vehicle event in the early spring.

The community has been looking for solutions to the abandoned vehicles problem in Juneau for at least 20 years, Sanford said. The vehicle registration fee now in place appears to be a successful way of spreading out the costs and thinning out the number of abandoned cars.

"You don't see as many out the road and in different places," Sanford said. "Every once in a while somebody does junk a vehicle like that, but it's a lot less than it used to be, which is good."

Both Buck and Sanford said the number of vehicles being junked in Juneau probably continues to grow because the number of drivers and multi-car households also are rising.

"This program just needs to be an ongoing program," Buck said. "We're recycling these vehicles that fast."

Not only is the city getting the junk vehicles off the streets of Juneau, but also elements of the vehicles are being reused, such as the steel, he said.

"This program is important because it provides a mechanism to recycle vehicles," Buck said.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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