A borough program that paid for the towing and disposal of junk vehicles on private property for borough residents is set to expire in a few days.
The program is one of the public services to be cut by the end of fiscal year 2011 due to a budget crunch for borough government. Eliminating the program will save the borough $50,000 over the next fiscal year.
“It’s been a great program,” borough community development director Bud Cassidy said.
Before the program went into effect, junk and abandoned vehicles around town could be found everywhere, creating an eyesore, he said.
“I would like to think we cleaned them all up when we came up with a way to fund it,” Cassidy said. “We’re going to have to grit our teeth until we find some money.”
The economic disincentive to properly dispose of a vehicle that has outlived its useful life led to an increased number of abandoned vehicles in the past. Disposal at the landfill now costs $475 per vehicle.
The cost for proper disposal includes removal of fluids like antifreeze, crank case oil and gasoline, and other hazardous components like mercury switches, refrigerants used in air conditioning and the propellants used in airbags. Then there are additional costs in transporting vehicles off-island after they have been prepared for disposal.
While the borough is still accepting junk vehicles with titles at this time, in order to ensure money for the program is spent in the current fiscal year, junk vehicles must be towed by the end of the month.
That means there is a limit to the number of people that can still take advantage of the program.
“We’ll probably be winding down a little bit,” Cassidy said, noting the borough’s enforcement officer will decide when no more vehicles can be taken.
Cassidy said that should funding be restored in future borough budgets, restarting a junk vehicle program would not be difficult.
The vast majority of vehicles towed under the program are taken to Nick’s Auto Wrecking Salvage.
Nick Troxell, who runs the business, said when the junk vehicle program began four or five years ago, it benefited his business and provided a public good.
While the end of the program may mean a slower time for his business, Troxell said, the real effect will be on low-income residents who benefited the most by not paying the towing and disposal fees.
People in lower income brackets are more likely to drive an old car and not have resources to dispose of it properly when it breaks down, Troxell said.
“I won’t get as many cars, but I’m the only legal place in town for car disposals,” he said.
Troxell figures vehicles will find their way to his business eventually, but he said junk vehicles won’t get off the island as quickly and will instead be left in residents’ front or back yards.
He also predicted the borough enforcement officer will have to spend more time investigating vehicles dumped on public lands.
Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via email at email@example.com.