City approves Skyline fire station funding, contract

It’s been a dozen years since Homer annexed the upper hillside in the Skyline Drive area, but finally the area got one of the things the city promised new residents when it expanded city limits: better fire protection. 

In an ordinance that passed without objection, the Homer City Council at its regular Monday night meeting approved an ordinance adding $98,000 to a state grant to build the Skyline Drive Fire Station — officially to be named Homer Fire Station No. 2 Skyline Drive.

“It finally looks good, and I urge you to pass this ordinance,” said Doug Stark, a former city council member who lives in the annexed area.

The appropriation added the city’s match to a $500,000 state grant, bringing the budget up to $598,000 for a four-bay, 50-feet-by-55-feet heated building to house fire equipment at the top of the hill. That allows heavy tanker-pumper and tanker fire trucks to respond faster to area fires. 

The city had received a low bid of $563,000 from Homer contractor Steiner’s North Star Construction, but in discussions with Steiner’s was able to lower that cost to $510,800. The balance will be used for preconstruction activities like design, engineering and permitting. At Monday’s meeting, the council also approved a resolution awarding a contract to Steiner’s.

The council also introduced an ordinance setting a five-year statue of limitations for ethics complaints. Council member Beau Burgess pulled introduction of the ordinance from the consent agenda. Burgess said he had concerns about that limitation in the event evidence of malfeasance wasn’t discovered within five years.

“We’re sitting here because the citizens of Homer are asking us to be open and transparent,” Burgess said.

That was the same criticism voiced by Kevin Hogan in public comments at the beginning of the meeting.

“Do we really have a problem with citizens abusing the ethics procedure?” Hogan asked. “Are we going to protect someone who has hidden something out of the light of day for five years?”

Burgess asked for and the council approved an amendment sending the ordinance back to the city clerk and attorney to address the new evidence issue. A substitute ordinance will come back to the council for second reading at its April 14 meeting.

The council also approved an amended resolution approving a lease on the Homer Spit for Snug Harbor Seafoods. Snug Harbor had submitted a lease proposal in 2010, but negotiations have been ongoing as it changed plans. 

Steve Zimmerman, a member of the Lease Committee, raised issues with the proposed lease. For example, one line seemed to imply that Snug Harbor would sell sport-caught fish, a violation of state law. He also raised issues with the fair-market lease value.

Zimmerman also said the Lease Committee and Port and Harbor Committee hadn’t had a chance to review and comment on the latest version of the lease.

“If you’re going to have a Lease Committee look at stuff, if it’s not going to make it to the Port and Harbor Committee, if it’s a done deal, what’s the point of it?” he asked.

City Manager Walt Wrede apologized to the council for submitting a draft lease agreement in the packet. He said the issues Zimmerman raised were addressed in a memorandum. The line about sport-fish purchases would be changed. The intent is for Snug Harbor to process sport-caught fish.

“Everything Steve (Zimmerman) has brought up, we are intending to do,” Wrede said.

After passing an amendment by council member Francie Roberts addressing Zimmerman’s concerns, the council passed the resolution approving the lease as amended.

In other action, the council:

• Reappointed Matt Strobel and Phil Gordon to the Library Advisory Board and Ian Pitzman to the Vessel Haul-Out Task Force;

• Introduced an ordinance on first reading that would change election recount procedures;

• Introduced an ordinance appropriating $31,000 from the general fund for inclusion of an article on Homer in “Alaska: North to the Future, Volume V”;

• Approved a resolution amending the Homer Advisory Planning Commission bylaws to permit four instead of five members to approve a conditional use permit;

• Approved a resolution disbanding the Transportation Advisory Commission and assigning road and trail standards to the Homer Advisory Planning Commission;

• Approved a resolution approving the 2014 city of Homer land allocation plan;

• Approved a resolution awarding a contract for $25,845 to purchase a Ford Explorer police vehicle from Kendall Ford Wasilla; 

• Approved a resolution assigning the Happy Face land lease, a restaurant and general store on the Spit, to Yong Kim, doing business as Lee and Kim LLC, and extending the least to 20 years; and

• Approved an ordinance authorizing the city to accept donations for the Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Needs Assessment.

The council next meets at 6 p.m. April 14 in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall. Ordinances introduced on first reading will go up for public hearing and second reading then.