BY RYAN M. LONG
While it may not leave every surface along East End Road or on the Spit with a bright shine, Homer’s junk car program could at least eliminate a few side-of-the-road rust buckets.
The Homer City Council passed an ordinance at Monday’s meeting that would put aside $15,000 for the removal of junk cars. Of that $15,000, $10,000 will come from money leftover from 2009 revenues that hasn’t been used in the 2010 budget. The other $5,000 will come from planning reserves.
With that cash, the city will drain the fluid and dispose of one junk car per family on a first-come, first-served basis, possibly during the spring community cleanup May 1.
Currently, the cost of removing fluids and the battery from a junk car is about $150, and the total cost of disposal is about $300 to the individual.
Borough taxpayers pay the cost of crushing, transporting, storing and transporting the cars to Anchorage.
The council had asked city staff to have a second look at the budget to see if the $15,000 could be patched together from cutting small amounts in different areas.
Homer’s City Manager Walt Wrede explained that with a budget as lean as 2010′s there really was not much fat left to be cut from the bone.
“We really couldn’t find much because those budgets are pretty lean. The other problem with borrowing from line items this early in the year is that we’re only a couple of months into the budgeting year and if we are overrunning line items now then we’re in trouble,” said Wrede.
The council hopes to continue the program over the coming years as a service, but is hoping to find alternative methods of funding.
City staff continues to look for grants that would apply to the junk car program, though City Planner Rick Abboud said none had been found as of yet.
Abboud also noted in his memo that accumulated junk cars reduce property values, are potentially hazardous to the environment, are often eyesores and cause substantial work not just for Planning and Zoning, but also for Port and Harbor personnel with derelict vehicles on port property and the Police Department, which is responsible for citations and dealing with abandoned vehicles.
Juneau runs a similar junk car program, and disposes of around 800 junk cars annually. Nearly $180,000 of the total $417,000 budget comes from a motor vehicle registration tax.
Juneau budgets about $425 per vehicle for fluid removal and for shipping.
Homer’s take of the motor vehicle registration tax, nearly $62,000, goes into the general fund.
Council member Kevin Hogan was not certain that the city had any responsibility to deal with abandoned or junk cars owned privately.
“I’m not sure why the city is taking on this responsibility. It seems like it should be the citizen’s responsibility to dispose of their junk. I’m not sure that it’s appropriate to use city money to deal with a private problem,” said Hogan.
Hogan was the only council member to oppose the program in the roll call vote.
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