Putting transfer site in private hands raises more questions than answers

  • By Dale Banks
  • Wednesday, April 24, 2013 5:29pm
  • News
Dale Banks

Dale Banks

Garbage is a dirty business. Homer’s new transfer site, a $12 million or so project, has been privatized and will soon be operated by the lowest bidder.

I had been waiting to see the proposal for privatization to come forward as an ordinance on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly agenda so that I could testify to the assembly, since I have a few things to say on the matter. But, lo and behold, the mayor decided that it was not necessary to have any public hearing on this type of privatization action and moved forward administratively with soliciting bids for the operation of the transfer site and hauling of the waste to Soldotna.

Hauling around Homer has been done successfully by private operators for a long time, but the operations at the Homer site have always been a borough responsibility. According to a quote from the mayor, this privatization will save the borough $250,000 per year. That’s about $5 per person in the borough. I’m sure we’re all happy to save $5 a year, but how does one go about saving $250,000 in a year out of a major operation budget and still have a contractor making a profit?

My guess is that the formula will include lower wages, lower, if any, benefits, and a reduced number of staff at the site. I can’t help but think that this will lead to a lower level of service. How much of that $250,000 “savings” will be at the expense of local jobs? How will this loss of good jobs in turn affect the local economy? How will the privatization affect possibilities for potential future changes at the transfer site such as composting?

There is currently an ongoing borough-funded feasibility study looking at municipal composting. It’s due to be completed soon, but with a privatized operation it seems less likely that composting would move forward here even if recommended by the study. Will the private contractors promote recycling since there is no direct benefit either way for them? What long term considerations such as maintenance and repairs on the facility are factored in to the “savings”? How could a real number for savings even be arrived at without any baseline history about how much it will cost to operate the new facility effectively? It seems like the borough would need to operate it for a year to determine actual costs for comparison. Is the cost of monitoring and oversight of the contractor included in this accounting?

I don’t know the answers to these questions since there was no meaningful public discussion or presentation of the issue, or any of these details. I am disappointed in the mayor for moving privatization forward without bringing it out first as an ordinance to the assembly, or at least having a hearing in Homer to gauge the local preference.

I am concerned that Homer will be left with a lower level of service than we are accustomed to, will have less potential for progressive waste management solutions, and will take an economic and social hit as a result of this action.

If indeed these are the costs of the “savings” from privatization, then I would gladly give my $5 back. The proposal to privatize operations at an important and integral community facility should have been brought before the community to be affected. Instead, it has been dumped on us.

Dale Banks owns Loopy Lupine Distribution, a manufacturer of compostable paper coffee cups and wholesale distributor of food service, janitorial and business paper supplies. He sorts his waste and has lived in the greater service area of the Homer landfill for 20 years or so.




More in News

Christie Hill prepares to play “Taps” during the 9/11 memorial service on Saturday. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Homer honors lives lost during 9/11

The Homer-Kachemak Bay Rotary held a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony at the… Continue reading

Judith Eckert
COVID-19 patient says monoclonal antibody infusion saved her life

Antibody infusions highly effective in reducing risk of hospitalization, according to FDA trial ..

A sign flashing “Keep COVID down” also offers information on where to get testing and vaccines on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
SPH holding steady in COVID-19 surge

Despite hospital crisis in Anchorage, Homer’s hospital not impacted, spokesperson tells Homer City Council.

Brie Drummond speaks in support of mask mandates on Monday, Sept. 13, for the Kenai Peninsula School Board meeting at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. During a work session before the meeting, the district presented revisions to its COVID-19 mitigation protocols. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
School district revises COVID-19 mitigation plans

The revisions come as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Alaska and on the Kenai Peninsula.

A protester stands outside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin building in Soldotna on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Parents square off over masks at school board meeting

Some parents said they will keep their kids home if masks are required, while others say they’ll keep their kids home if masks aren’t required.

Borough School Board election

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly election

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

Homer City Council election

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

Janie Leask, a Homer resident, spoke in support of the new multi-use community center during Monday night’s city council meeting, stating the need for community recreation is vital.
Council moves forward with HERC plans

After years of discussions and planning, the Homer City Council is quickly… Continue reading

Most Read