City dumps tax for junkers

Posted: Friday, November 08, 2002

Juneau Assembly members on Wednesday nixed a motor vehicle registration tax to pay for ridding the city of junk cars, deciding instead to tackle the issue during budget discussions this spring.

Under a staff proposal, the city would have tacked a $13 annual fee onto the cost to register a car through the state Division of Motor Vehicles. The money would have paid for a pilot program that would dispose of 800 rundown vehicles a year.

Car owners are required to renew a car's registration every two years at a cost of $68. The city fee would have added $26 to the price.

Under the city program, junk cars would be stripped of hazardous waste and other parts at a private garage, taken to the landfill for crushing and storage, and barged south for recycling, said city Public Works Director Joe Buck.

The program would cost $316,000 a year, or $395 per car, he said. The price includes the city's cost to run the program and an 8 percent fee the state charges to collect the DMV tax for the city.

The Assembly's Finance Committee voted down the tax proposal Wednesday, opting instead to consider funding during budget deliberations this spring.

Assembly member Randy Wanamaker, who voted for the tax, said he wanted to see more enforcement as well. People who abandon vehicles need to be held accountable, he said.

"I see a willingness to solve the problem, it's how we do it," he said after the tax failed. "I can support doing it out of the general fund, but I'll have to take a critical look at things like the arts as a second priority to something like this."

Assembly member Jeannie Johnson said she favors a junk car disposal program, but doesn't support a motor vehicle tax to pay for it.

"I think we're going to need that tax at some time, but I'm not sure this is what we're going to need it for," she said.

Deputy Mayor Ken Koelsch, who voted against the tax, said it would add to the cost of doing business in Juneau.

"As a (car) dealership, I'd be concerned," he said.

Interim City Manager John MacKinnon said it often is impossible to track down an abandoned vehicle's owner, which makes enforcement difficult. It would take more than a year for a registration tax to take effect, which is why city staff brought up the issue now, he said.

Assembly members Jim Powell and Wanamaker voted for the registration tax. Merrill Sanford, Sally Smith, Dale Anderson, Koelsch and Johnson voted no. Stan Ridgeway and Marc Wheeler were not present for the vote.

A five week, city-sponsored Junk Car Roundup in spring 2001 picked up about 800 junk cars. Participants paid $50 to $150 a car and the city contributed about $112,000. The Juneau Police Department picks up 200 abandoned vehicles a year, according to the city.

People who want to get rid of a rundown vehicle can take it to Waste Management's landfill in Lemon Creek and pay $157, tax included. The car's gas tank, battery and fluids must be removed first, which may require a trip to a private garage. Towing also can add to the cost.

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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