PALMER — Two weeks of free dumping in Mat-Su in September will give residents a chance to get rid of junk ahead of winter for no cost now but with the possibility of higher fees in the future.
The policy, approved by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly in a 5-1 vote in July, doesn’t block people who live outside the borough from taking advantage of the free dump days, scheduled for Sept. 16 through Sept. 30.
The free-use days apply to the borough’s main landfill near Palmer as well as eight transfer stations located throughout the region. Another four transfer stations in rural spots, including Lake Louise and the McCarren River Lodge on the Denali Highway, already do not charge fees.
The free trash days apply to residential waste only. At the central landfill, users over those dates can dump unlimited amounts of household trash, including furniture, mattresses, carpet and appliances, according to a borough notice. Transfer stations will only accept up to 5 cubic feet of trash per visit.
Rob Yundt, an assembly member whose district includes Wasilla, was one of three sponsors of the fee waiver.
“The last two winters, we’ve had some big windstorms, and then we go and we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the spring and in the summer to clean all that stuff up,” Yundt said this week. “Why not give everybody an opportunity to get rid of those types of things before wintertime?”
The plan includes no way to make sure only Mat-Su residents are using the free access, a potential problem flagged during July’s debate by assembly member Stephanie Nowers, the lone “no” vote on the measure.
The free weeks could cause funding shortfalls for the landfill, which is paid for by user fees, Jeff Smith, the borough’s solid waste manager, told the assembly earlier this summer.
“I always say there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he said. “There would have to be some sort of consequence to get that money back to the landfill.”
Two weeks of no residential user fees will result in an estimated loss of $400,000, he said. That income will need to be somehow made up to cover the landfill’s about $11 million annual operating costs, he said, which could mean fee bumps later.
Palmer Central Landfill users typically pay $2 per 32-gallon trash can, or $10 for up to 200 pounds not in cans, with an additional fee of $15 for unsecured loads, according to the borough website. Commercial users or those with construction debris pay different rates. Borough property owners receive a $8 coupon by mail every year which can be used at the landfill or transfer stations.
Anchorage landfill and transfer station residential users by law pay $3 per can or $8 per load under 1 cubic yard for loads of trash out of cans, with a fee of $18 for larger loads. Unsecured loads carry a $30 fee.