At Monday’s Homer City Council meeting, the council passed five ordinances, but in legislative and committee updates and public comments, discussion focused on transportation and community recreation.
State Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, provided updates about transportation concerns which could affect Homer citizens. Vance spoke about the new Alaska Marine Highway schedule for this winter, which can be found on the Alaska Marine Highway System’s website, dot.alaska.gov/amhs.
Additionally, Vance talked about combating human trafficking in Alaska. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is working to post resources within airport bathrooms, like signs communicating information on how to get help, by September, according to Vance.
She said more can be done, with the DOT&PF wanting to extend posting information to within the ferry system.
“The city of Homer has an opportunity to provide these resources,” Vance said, which would include providing help for victims of the labor or sex trade.
Also on transportation, Deb Lowney, vice-chair of the Parks, Art, Recreation and Culture Advisory Commission, spoke about returning to the issue of “people first transportation.” Lowney mentioned a people oriented transportation symposium, “Pathways Forward,” which will take place at noon on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Kenai Peninsula College, Kachemak Bay Campus.
The symposium intends to educate the community and provide opportunity for the public to voice their opinions regarding people oriented transportation in Homer.
Lowney also mentioned that the commission’s first top priority for meeting transportation needs is renovating Kachemak Drive.
Recreation was also discussed during the meeting.
Council member Donna Aderhold reiterated comments made by the City’s Recreation Manager Mike Illg at committee meetings which highlighted the community’s involvement in recreation programs.
“In 2019 he recorded 4,820 volunteer hours… there’s also currently 30 to 40 contracted instructors with community recreation to provide different community recreation activities,” she said.
“The bottom line that Mike presented is that this is a really successful partnership that the city has with the school district for community recreation, but there are some challenges and that it needs volunteers or there is no program,” Aderhold said.
Kate Finn, chair of the Library Advisory Board, spoke about the relevance of the library in community recreation.
“I’d like to just remind people that the library does exist and can be used, in many ways, for people to come and do things as a group, as individuals,” she said.
Further, there was talk of the prospect of a Youth Advisory Board to be created in order to share input on city issues, including recreation.
Ginny Espenshade, speaking on this possibility, said, “If you give the kids their table and their meeting time, and they’re empowered, you’d be amazed what they can come up with.”
Moreover, Espenshade reflected on a recently organized recreation event which honored Drew Brown, a Homer raised member of the community, who died last year in a car crash.
“It was an amazing feeling, and it reminded me of what is so great about this community, and [how] we do care about our youth,” Espenshade said.
While events do happen throughout town for youth community, there can be a disconnect between organizations which hinders the goal of communal support.
“We just need to knit those pockets of care together,” Espenshade said.
Five ordinances were also passed: appropriating funds for library resources, police equipment, the Pioneer Dock Fender Repair Project and acquiring aerators for the Solids Retention Pond.
Additionally, the council adopted Ordinance 22-45, which funds the demolition of the smaller old school building known in the Homer Educational and Recreational Complex known as HERC 2. The Department of Public Works used HERC 2 as a maintenance shop, but staff moved out when cracks developed in the walls, raising fears it could collapse in a major earthquake.
“This is a big deal,” said Homer Mayor Ken Castner, “… that building has been sitting there for a really, really long time and we’ve talked about it, prior councils have talked about it, and I’m really happy that the council is taking action on this to bring it down.”
Many projects are underway within the City of Homer, which means there continues to be a need for public involvement and civic discussion.