City talks vegetation removal, legal counsel

Among other things, the City of Homer is considering how to go about soliciting new legal services, something which was discussed at the most recent city council meeting on Monday.

A large portion of the meeting was spent hammering out details of a request for proposals to solicit new general counsel for the city. Homer has not solicited legal services since 2008, according to the resolution that would allow the city to put out an RFP.

“It is in the best interest of the City to occasionally issue a request for proposals for professional services to ensure the City is receiving the highest quality and most cost effective legal representation and advice,” the resolution states.

After several discussions about the content of the RFP and what parameters the city wants to set for considering applicants for general counsel, the resolution was postponed to June 10, when the council will pick it up again.

Also at the meeting, City Manager Katie Koester announced that the deadline for RFP submissions for the Homer Education and Recreation Complex, more specifically the HERC1 building, was on Monday. The city did not receive any applications from any group or entity to do something with the site, she said.

Koester suggested the council schedule a separate work session in the coming weeks to discuss what to do next now that the HERC site has not received any proposals.

The council also approved an ordinance during its regular meeting that gives the Public Works director more leeway in deciding how vegetation in rights of way ought to be handled. Among other language added to Homer’s city code where it deals with vegetation in rights of way, the ordinance adds the paragraph: “Notwithstanding subsection (a), the public works director shall only exercise his or her authority under this section when he or she determines it is more likely than not that the removal of all or part of a tree, shrub, ground material, or other vegetation within the three feet area will improve safety, allow for effective maintenance activities, or otherwise make the road more compliant with City laws and procedures.”

Several women testified at Monday’s meeting that their property has been damaged in the past by overzealous vegetation removal by the city, something they said leaves the land around their homes more vulnerable to erosion. The commenters wondered why this ordinance was only just coming up at the city level.

“Ordinance 19-27(S) was crafted for the purpose of making the removal of vegetation a little less critical, more user friendly if you will,” said council member Tom Stroozas. “We have a number of streets in this community that were not built to city standards because those streets were put in before the city annexed these properties.”

“This was crafted to make it a little bit more user friendly to where the 30-foot right of way from the center of the road to the property would not require a complete removal of all vegetation,” he continued.

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