Council approves Old Town water-sewer district

Council approves creation of Bunnell Avenue-Charles Way special assessment district

After months of debate and citizen input — and some protest — the Homer City Council at its Monday meeting approved three resolutions that will finally bring sewer and water to all of Old Town, one of Homer’s oldest neighborhoods. The Bunnell Avenue / Charles Way Water and Sewage Special Assessment District includes the site of Homer’s first post office. The district also includes Bishop’s Beach Park, a popular beach for both residents and visitors.

In unanimous votes, and with only one property owner objecting, the council took these actions:

• Voted down Resolution 21-057(S), a previous assessment plan with a methodology where lots were assessed by the size of the lot, called the Benefited Area Method,

• Passed Resolution 22-017, a new hybrid assessment plan that uses the Benefited Area Method for smaller lots, and the Equal Share Method for larger lots,

• Passed Resolution 22-118, authorizing the city manager to apply for to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for a loan under its Drinking Water Fund Program for up to $473,787 to finance water improvements and up to $514,153 under the DEC Clean Water Fund Program to finance sewer improvements,

• Passed Resolution 22-119, authorizing the city manager to issue task orders to Bishop Engineering for the design of water and sewer projects in the area.

Resolution 22-017 includes a 15% increase in assessment over the previous model for city land in Bishop’s Beach Park. Public Works Director Jan Keiser said residents in the area had argued that because the park is used by the city as a whole, the city should bear a larger burden of the assessment.

“The rationale is that it’s reasonable and equitable,” she said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “… It’s more than just the benefit a city property owner is going to enjoy.”

With water and sewer coming into the park, the city can eventually build a fully plumbed restroom, she said.

Under Resolution 22-17, property owners in the special assessment district will pay 75% of the cost while the city’s Homer Accelerated Water and Sewer Program will pay 25% of the cost. Financing through DEC allows the assessment to be spread out over time so property owners don’t get hit with a one-time large expense. According to a preliminary roll also approved by the council, the assessment ranges from a high amount of $116,670 for water and $165,260 for sewer for the city property to a low amount of $4,977 for water and $7,097 for sewer. The smaller lots previously had a preliminary assessment of $7,874 for water and $20,603 for sewer.

The project extends water and sewer on East Bunnell Avenue past Beluga Place, along Charles Way and to the park and several lots off Beluga Place.

One property owner, Matt Johnson, praised the compromise assessment method.

“Everyone was really responsive and helpful and worked really hard to craft a solution that works well for everybody,” he said. “… You guys worked really hard, and we appreciate it.”

Keiser said the next step will be to get funding out of the HAWSP fund to finance construction design, an action that requires a council vote. The council also will have to issue a task order to Bishop Engineering to start on the design. The sewer lines will be 2- to 3-inch lines and the water lines will be 4-inch lines. The larger water lines are to accommodate fire hydrants. Adding fire hydrants to the area also will improve the area’s fire rating and decrease insurance costs. The lines will be bored to minimize surface disruption.

“That was actually a big point the homeowners made — they didn’t want the wetlands torn up,” Keiser said.

Construction on the project should happen this summer, Keiser said. A final assessment roll will go to the council for approval once final construction costs are determined.

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