Borough to consider enforcement options for derelict vehicles

In recent months, the borough has been getting a higher number of complaints about derelict vehicles sitting idle in the community's yards. The outcry has motivated officials to take a look at their options for clearing up the junk - a borough assembly work session on code enforcement is scheduled for July 25.

"We've been getting a lot of complaints," said Police Chief Radke, not just about cars, but about boats, old appliances, unusable lumber and other junk that's been sitting out for years. The department gets calls about the issue weekly - often from disgruntled neighbors who would prefer to remain anonymous - and the frequency of calls is increasing.

Community members stop Radke around town to ask, "what we're doing about it," he said. Often, they're worried that an unkempt yard nearby might lower their property value.

Municipal code prohibits landowners and tenants from storing derelict cars, debris, machinery or "anything that is or may become putrid or offensive" in their yards. Technically, when law enforcement notifies someone that they need to dispose of their junk, the violator has up to 24 hours to get rid of it before the borough removes it. The borough would then bill them for the cost.

In practice, however, the department tends to take a more flexible approach. Though it occasionally writes parking tickets, the department prefers to work with people to solve the problem, explained Radke. "In Alaska, people have that frame of mind, 'it's my property ... and you can't tell me what to do with it,'" he said. The borough will accept cars at the waste transfer station free of charge as long as the fluids are drained and the tires are removed.

In the past year, about 75 old cars and trucks left the island aboard Channel Construction's scrap metal recycling barge.

For some people, the decision to hold on to an old vehicle is a matter of finances, the chief said. They can't afford to fix it, but also don't want to spend the $200 to $250 that it would take to drain it of fluids and prepare it for recycling. This is part of the reason why Radke doesn't want to resort to giving out fines - better to spend money cleaning and removing the vehicle than paying a series of parking tickets, he said.

"Some vehicles have been tagged eight times," he told the assembly at its June 27 meeting. "They don't move."

At the meeting, Assembly Member David Powell asked borough officials to come up with a code enforcement action plan. "It's in our code to take care of it and I would like to see it done," he said. The assembly has scheduled a work session on the issue prior to the regular meeting on July 25.


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