The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly approved an amendment to its solid waste contract with Alaska Waste at last Thursday's meeting.
The amendment attempts to address and clarify some of the problems that have arisen since the contract began in July 2020. The assembly’s “yes” vote authorized Borough Manager Michael Powers to execute the amendment with Alaska Waste.
On Monday, Borough Mayor Bill Roberts said staff were meeting with Alaska Waste this week, but that Alaska Waste had not signed the amendment yet.
Numerous members said the amendment is more of a clarification of the borough’s interpretation of the existing contract rather than a wholesale overhaul.
Alaska Waste, however, asked at the beginning of the meeting that the matter be postponed. Vice President Kurt Froening called into the meeting to request more time, saying that Alaska Waste staff and borough staff hadn’t spent time going over the amendment and that there were errors in it.
“There’s too much in this amendment that’s not fully agreed to, or even fully accurate for that matter,” Froening said.
But the assembly pressed forward with the amendment.
First, the group narrowly voted down a motion to kill the entire contract and start from scratch. Members Scott Arndt, James Turner and Julie Kavanaugh voted to do so, but Aimee Williams, Dennis Symmons, Geoff Smith and Duane Dvorak voted “no.”
Then, it voted down a motion to postpone the matter, with only Arndt voting in favor.
Finally, the group approved the amendment with another 4-3 vote, with Dvorak, Williams, Kavanaugh and Smith voting “yes,” and Symmons, Arndt and Turner voting “no.”
Dan Rohrer, who owns multiple businesses around Kodiak and has previously served as borough mayor, has called into numerous meetings complaining of irregularities with the contract, primarily saying that Alaska Waste has been overcharging customers.
“Every single customer in the Kodiak Island Borough has been overcharged, every single month since July. We’re talking seven months. It’s one-tenth of the current contract that we’ve been overcharged,” Rohrer said during public testimony at last week’s meeting.
“Staff needs to notify the contractor of their ongoing violations of the contract. The reality is that there is an Appendix B of the contract that allows for liquidated damages for the sheer, consistent overcharging of customers.”
Rohrer said he thought the amendment would help the situation if Alaska Waste decided to sign it.
“They continue to overcharge every customer. So obviously this contract amendment goes a long way toward fixing those problems but if Alaska Waste refuses to sign it, you’re right back to where you’re at now,” he said.
Roberts said that if Alaska Waste signed the contract amendment, that would require them to rebate any overcharges that may have occurred.
Much of the discussion about shaping the amendment has happened behind closed doors in executive session. Executive sessions are permitted for a number of reasons. In this case, it was because borough finances could be adversely affected and the assembly was getting legal advice from its attorney.
The assembly has since discussed releasing all the legal opinions and other documents pertaining to the negotiations, but voted against doing so at the meeting last week.
Dvorak, who voted against releasing the information, said there was a good chance that the matter would come up again, though he’d also be against releasing it even if it were not.
“It’s too early to consider releasing this. … I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet on this issue,” Dvorak said.
“I’m really not in favor of releasing executive session legal opinions and whatnot. … At the end of the day, the assembly needs to accept ownership of the decisions that we make even if they’re not unanimous. How we got there, I don’t really think it’s all that relevant.”
Others, like Turner, disagreed.
“The public needs to know what we do. Everybody complains about government hiding stuff from the public and hiding behind executive sessions for something like this,” Turner said.
“Whether we release it after they sign the contract or whether we release it tomorrow doesn’t really matter. The date is not the important part of it. What is important is that we are being open and honest with our community, and we are not doing that by not releasing the information we were given in executive session.”