Council begins new era

In a poignant ceremony with three generations of his family watching, Homer Mayor Emeritus James Hornaday pounded the gavel one final time and stepped down Monday night at his last meeting presiding over the Homer City Council.

“It hasn’t been boring,” Hornaday said of his eight years as mayor. “I’ve really enjoyed the differences of opinion. … I think I’ve done pretty well keeping a civil touch to the discussion. The town’s been good to me and my family. In closing, I hope you’re all in heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you’re there.”

The Homer Ukulele Group performed for Hornaday at his last meeting, playing Israel Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole’s arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” With Lindianne Sarno on fiddle, the group also played a waltz, prompting Hornaday to dance with council member Francie Roberts.

After Hornaday stepped down, City Clerk Jo Johnson swore in new mayor Beth Wythe, followed by council members Francie Roberts and Beau Burgess. With Wythe becoming mayor, her council seat is now vacant. Applications for appointment to her seat close at 5 p.m. Friday. The seat is for a 1-year term. So far, former chair of the Homer Advisory Planning Commission Sharon Minsch and current planning commissioner James Dolma have applied for the seat. Dolma also ran in the recent city council election, finishing third behind Roberts and Burgess. The council will elect by secret ballot the new council member at its Monday meeting.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Wythe and the council wasted no time getting down to business, selecting Roberts as mayor pro tempore, the council member who acts as mayor in Wythe’s absence or, as she did Monday, when Wythe excused herself from a consideration of an ordinance appropriating $50,000 for a public information strategy for the proposed natural gas special assessment district. Wythe, a Homer Electric Association employee, had been ruled earlier to have a conflict of interest in votes on the natural gasline because HEA provides a service potentially in competition with natural gas.

The council introduced on first reading that ordinance and moved to a second reading, public hearing and final action at the council’s next meeting on Oct. 22. If passed, the ordinance would fund six months of staff time and other expenses to help inform the public about the Homer Natural Gas Special Assessment District. Community meetings on that proposal were held Tuesday and Wednesday (see story, page 1).

The council also set and ranked the fiscal year 2014 capital improvement project list, the city’s annual wish list to the Alaska Legislature stating its priorities for state funding of Homer projects. It approved and ranked these top three recommended projects:

1. Harbor improvement revenue bond projects to build a ramp 3 gangway and approach, upgrade system 5 and replace  harbor floats,  $4.2 million;

2. Port and Harbor building design, $126,000; construction: $1.5 million, total $1.6 million;

3. Skyline fire station, $456,000.


4. Pratt Museum new facility and site redesign, $2.8 million;

5. Homer Education and Recreation Center upgrades $2 million;

6. Homer tidal energy incubator project, $100,000;

7. Harbor entrance erosion control design, $216,000,  construction $2.5 million, total, $2.7 million;

8. Fire engine 4 and tanker 2 refurbishment, $350,000;

9. Public safety building design, $1.2 million, construction $12.7 million, inspection, $510,180, total $14.5 million;

10. Barge mooring facility, $400,000;

11. Kachemak Drive rehabilitation/pathway;

12. Brush/wildland firefighting truck, $120,000;

13. Marine ways large vessel haulout facility, $3,000,000;

14. Baycrest overlook gateway project, $250,000;

15. Water storage/distribution improvements design (already secured) $390,000, construction, $3.5 million.

In other action, the council also decided its post-election shuffling of seats, with Wythe, in a departure from tradition, choosing to preside from a right-hand seat rather than at the central seat of the horseshoe shaped table.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at