City should consider other public safety building options

Editor’s Note: This letter has been updated to include corrected numbers on the cost to residents of a public safety building as currently proposed. The Homer News ran an earlier version of the letter, but failed to update it with numbers provided by the author. The Homer News regrets the error.

I hope you’ll join me in urging the city council and mayor to reject Ordinance 15-18(S) at the July 27 city council meeting, proposing to spend up to $622,000 — on top of the $1.2 million already spent without a shovelful of dirt being turned — for 35 percent design of the Public Safety Building (PSB), a structure that, with a direct construction cost of $30 million, will almost certainly never see the light of day in its proposed configuration.   

With no funding assistance in sight, Homer would have to fund the entire cost of $44 million (see John Li memo for a Nov. 10, 2014, meeting of the PSB Committee concerning amortizing a loan).   

Even though this project has proceeded through the public process in an entirely legal and  proper manner, it remains a totally unsuitable proposal for Homer. For such an expensive project there are, in my opinion, a number of critical flaws not adequately addressed in the PSB review process, including a lack of in-depth study on the assumptions of size, suitable alternative locations available for purchase, potential tsunami zones, effect on fire insurance rates and rating, maintenance costs, sociological effect on the police force, Homer’s future demographics (low growth), and — finally — lack of any alternative plans for a moderate-sized building.

Unfortunately, the current PSB is an all or nothing proposition.
The Homer Police Department building does require replacement. And it should occur if the community wants to maintain a local police presence. Some residents don’t.

For those who do, I suggest you appreciate what the current proposal will cost you: $2.85 million per year for a 15-year early payoff on a $30 million loan. That’s about a 1.5 percent sales tax increase or 4.5 mill property tax increase.

If that works for you, go for it. For those who balk, I suggest that you encourage the city council to reassess the project in greater depth for a more appropriate-sized building.

In any case, a source of funding must be identified. That’s why I’m gratified to see that Ordinance 15-19(A), to repeal the seasonal sales tax exemption on non-prepared foods, is up for reconsideration.
Larry Slone
City resident