‘A big year for big projects’

Homer City Council discusses what’s on tap for 2023

The Homer City Council discussed prospects for 2023 at its Monday, Jan 9 meeting, touching on a number of upcoming issues: port and harbor expansion, transitions in the Karen Hornaday campground and intentions for city spending.

In his opening report, Mayor Ken Castner identified as a top priority preparing a long-term financial roadmap. He also said he asked the city attorney to draw up an ordinance to have a citywide business license.

“People are surprised when they move here that we don’t have a city business license, so I’m going to put that in front of this year.”

He also highlighted the need to address stormwater and drainage issues in the city culvert system.

“I think we are working diligently and making some progress on this issue but I don’t want it to get forgotten,” he said. “We are going to have to figure out how to handle this increasing amount of water and getting it down into the bay in a peaceful way rather than through people’s cellars.”

He also expressed expectations regarding the city’s proposed port expansion project.

Bob Shavelson, reporting for the Port and Harbor Commission, expressed concerns about derelict and abandoned vessels.

“They are a huge headache and a big cost to municipalities,” he said.

Another transition for the Spit in 2023 will be parking adjustments. Daily parking fees will increase from $5 to $10 dollars, comparable to the cost to park in Seward and Whittier.

Shavelson echoed Castner’s expression on the need for harbor development. “Right now there’s more than a 400 bulk boat waiting list to get into our harbor, something needs to be done. Expansion seems pretty critical,” he said.

There will be a collaborative community meeting Monday, Jan. 16 at 5:30 to address this, open to the public.

In a report, city manager Rob Dumouchel announced the city is going to suspend camping operations in Karen Hornaday Park in the summer of 2023.

“We have seen a significant increase in inappropriate use of the park since 2020,” Dumouchel said. “I have heard a lot of anecdotal complaints, backed up with police data. We’ll be looking at doing some master planning on the park to see where we want to go with that in the future and hopefully in the season of 2024 we’re either back in operation or doing something else with it.”

Council member Rachel Lord said she supported the “rationale and idea” behind closing the campground.

“I’m interested in hearing more about how this progresses over the season and the continued enforcement of the area.”

However, she also expressed some concern over the loss of a public campground in Homer in addition to losing more camp spaces with transitions on the Spit.

Council member Davis acknowledged the challenge of severe shortage of housing for summer employees and questioned what role the Karen Hornaday campground might continue to provide for those summer residents.

The city manager said that extended stays in the campground is what initiated some of the problems to begin with and the city doesn’t have the staff to monitor and regulate that.

On the issue of security at the Karen Hornaday site, council member Erickson mentioned the possibility of clearing out some of the dense foliage in the area and the concern of parents with children interested that area of the playground..

“That has always been one of my concerns. Is there something we can do to make it a more secure area for the kids in the playground?”

The city manager responded that “we’re not that far down the road with some of those details yet. In years past we have addressed things like that with something called CPTED, crime prevention through environmental design.”

Castner concluded the meeting, noting this is a year when the city is “really going to have to pick up the score card and make some decisions.”

“All of these projects are going to be big projects, millions of dollars,” he said. “We have a list of council priorities but there are going to be a lot of decisions made this year so if people are interested in contributing. I hope residents will make their priorities known.”

One upcoming opportunity to do this is to join the Homer Port and Harbor commission public and collaborative discussion session related to port expansion, the meeting will take place Monday Jan. 16 at 5:30 at City Hall.

The next city council meeting will be Jan. 23 in the Cowles Council Chambers located in City Hall.

Emilie Springer can be reached at emilie.springer@homernews.com.