Citizens save commercial salvage program
Petersburg residents who utilize the landfill for commercial salvaging will still be able to take scrap metal after assembly voted down a proposed change that would have eliminated for-profit salvaging.
Public Works Director Karl Hagerman made the change as the borough updated its sanitation ordinance.
“The department, while we’re very supportive of the salvage program in general, has seen operational problems with commercial salvage for-profit,” Hagerman said during a public hearing on the salvage program last month. “The salvage program was developed to benefit citizens locally to come in and procure items that somebody else had thrown away.”
Hagerman said the program was never intended for commercial purposes. He and Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht have both reported conflict between commercial salvagers at the landfill, creating safety issues and wasting staff time.
Hagerman estimated that around 133,000 tons of material is salvaged from the landfill per year and, based on communication with a scrap metal company out of Ketchikan, that it would pay more per ton from scrap metal piles that haven’t already been picked through, allowing the borough to recoup increased revenue from its scrap metal.
Commercial salvager Ole Whitethorn took the lead along with a handful of other residents and objected to the changes. They attended assembly meetings to fight for the current program.
Whitethorn maintained the money commercial salvagers earn circulates and remains in town.
“I would say most of the money that leaves that dump stays right here in town, whether it’s sales tax or it’s donated,” Whitethorn said. “And I know several young guys that get a temporary job out of it.”
Whitethorn and others donate portions of what they earn from commercial salvaging to organizations in town.
He said he was pleased with the assembly’s vote.
“If somebody’s got a bone to pick with them, don’t be afraid to go pick a bone with the borough because otherwise they’ll sweep you under the carpet if you’re not careful,” Whitethorn said.
The proposed change barely failed with a 3-3 vote from the assembly. The action needed a majority vote to pass.
Assembly member Kurt Wohlhueter and Bob Lynn along with Mayor Mark Jensen voted against the changes.
Assembly members Cindi Lagoudakis, Nancy Strand and John Havrilek voted for the proposed changes.
According to Hagerman’s report, approximately 500 salvage permits are sold each year. Less than ten of those permits are annual permits.
The price of the permit did change when the assembly approved the new sanitation ordinance. A day use permit costs $10, up from $5 for two days.