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Assembly Renames Recycling Commission, Broadens its Scope to Promote Sustainability

Fairbanks Rescue Mission

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly on Thursday approved an ordinance that renames the borough Recycling Commission and broadens its scope. The new advisory panel would be rebranded as the Sustainability Commission, and the new name would reflect its increased mission to include promoting environmentally cleaner practices, renewable energy and food security.

Assemblyman Van Lawrence said the new commission would serve an important purpose by providing advice and recommendations to help borough officials solve existing problems and anticipate new challenges.

“I think this Sustainability Commission will provide the borough with, frankly, free expertise on issues that are very important to this borough,” Lawrence said.

Assemblyman Lance Roberts saw many problems with the ordinance, which was introduced by John Davies.

“We don’t have a lot of powers on anything related to what the Sustainability Commission would like to do, based on testimony that was given,” he said.

Roberts says the only power the state has granted to the borough is for managing air-quality, and he says the borough already has a commission overseeing that responsibility. And he doubts that the commission would be worth the money the borough would have to pay for the commission.

“Every commission costs money,” he said. “There’s no free lunch here. There’s a cost to the borough running this commission.”

Assemblyman Matt Cooper says he believes the borough’s funding for commissions is an investment into the community.

“Of course it costs money to run a commission,” he said. “That’s part of having commissions. But part of the reason we do that is those commissions add great value back into our community.”

Credit Fairbanks Rescue Mission
Austin Brown, the Fairbanks Rescue Mission's Recovery Program director, left, and Rodney Gaskins, the rescue mission's executive director, in the new Central Recycling Facility. The borough has contracted the rescue mission to operate the recycling facility.

Cooper cited work done by the borough Recycling Commission that’s led to the establishment of the Central Recycling Facility.

“There’s been testimony and evidence, based on the tonnage already collected, that this is going to add value to the community,” he said.

Jim Williams, the chief of staff for borough Mayor Karl Kassel, told Assembly members earlier in the meeting that business has been brisk during the recycling center’s first month of operation    

“We have processed 84.4 tons of mixed materials through that facility in just the first month,” Williams said. “Six-point-two tons of that was electronics.”

After further discussion and amendments, the Assembly passed the ordinance by a 7-to-1 vote, with Roberts dissenting.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.