Council delays action on new moorage rates

The Homer City Council deliberative process generally follows three steps: 1) introduce an ordinance, 2) hold a public hearing and 3) deliberate and vote on the ordinance. At Monday night’s regular council meeting, the emphasis was on deliberation, with the council postponing action on several actions so it could get more information or even open up the process.

Among the actions put aside for future meetings were:

• Resolution 16-054, amending the city fee schedule to implement a new graduated harbor moorage rate;

• Ordinance 16-45(s), to spend $30,000 in a sole-source contract with Puffin Electric for new LED lights for one high-mast light in the harbor;

• Resolution 16-098(s), awarding the contract for the Homer Library emergency generator to Puffin Electric for $31,550;

• Resolution 16-101, to update and adopt the 2017-2011 capital improvement plan; and

• Ordinance 16-48, to amend city code to allow employees and the city manager to make contributions to local offices.

The ordinance to update moorage rates got support in a public hearing from fishermen and members of the Homer Port and Harbor Commission. Don Lane, owner of the F/V Predator, urged the council to support the recommendations of the commission and go to a graduated moorage rate schedule based on the length of a boat.

“I think this is really important for Homer’s economy to say these rates are predictable,” Lane said. “The longer you talk about this, the longer a certain amount of uncertainty sets in so this economic engine out there on the Spit begins to wonder.”

The council asked for one more chance to think about the rates though, and postponed action until the Oct. 24, when Northern Economics, the consulting firm that prepared the rate schedule, holds a work session with the council.

The council defeated Ordinance 16-45(s), to award a sole-source contract to Puffin Electric, and introduced a new ordinance, 16-49, that would spend up to $180,000 on new LED lights for all seven high-mast harbor lights. In a memorandum, City Manager Katie Koester suggested defeating the sole-source contract and instead issuing requests for proposals to open up the process.

Council member Heath Smith was recused from all discussions and votes involving Puffin Electric, since his father, Bill Smith, works for that company.

Koester’s original idea was for a pilot project on one high-mast light, but in the memo she said the technology has been proven enough to go ahead. LED lights last longer and are more energy efficient.

In response to criticisms of health and safety concerns, Koester suggested the high-mast LED lights follow guidelines laid out by the American Medical Association for outdoor lighting. Koester also suggested glare be lowered by using “dark sky” compliant fixtures that direct light to the ground and avoid light pollution that can negatively impact night viewing. The new ordinance, 16-49, passed on introduction and will be up for a second reading and public hearing at the Oct. 10 meeting.

Another action to award a contract to Puffin Electric also got set aside. Resolution 16-090(s) would award a contract to Puffin for a generator for the library. Puffin submitted the second-lowest bid $31,500. Steiner’s North Star Construction submitted the lowest bid at $23,522, but the city didn’t accept its bid because it said Steiner’s didn’t sign a bid document. That lead to a protest by Steiner’s president Todd Steiner.

In the Committee of the Whole, Public Works Director Carey Meyer said he forgot to include a form in the bid packet where bidders would submit and sign their bid. The bidders improvised, with some making up their own forms. At the meeting, Steiner said he put his bid on a bid-bond form.

Steiner paid for the bond with a cashier’s check, but determined a bid-bond form had to be submitted and used that as the form for the bid since the other form was missing. The city rejected the bid because it didn’t have a signature. However, Steiner said the bid-bond form didn’t have a line for a signature.

“We’re being penalized for not signing a form the city didn’t give us,” Steiner said in the “public comments on matters on the agenda” portion of the meeting. “How could we sign a form the city didn’t give us?”

On a motion from council member Donna Aderhold, the council postponed action on the bid contract so that Steiner’s protest could be considered by the city and its attorney. Her motion directed staff to either come back with a new request for proposal or a resolution of Steiner’s protest.

Delaying action on a resolution for a capital improvement project list was routine as the city holds its annual review on listing and ranking possible capital improvement projects. Most come from the city, but others are suggested by nonprofits. Most CIPs get funded by state grants, but with Alaska in a fiscal crisis and the last Legislature reluctant to address the crisis, Homer and other municipalities have as much chance as getting state grants as the price of oil does of hitting $200 a barrel. That resolution was postponed to the Oct. 10 meeting.

The council also delayed introducing on first reading Ordinance 16-48. That would amend the city’s ethics code and allow employees and the city manager to make campaign contributions to candidates for local office. Homer Mayor Beth Wythe introduced the ordinance after she had discussion with the city attorney that prohibiting local campaign contributions might be illegal. Council member David Lewis moved to postpone introduction so that the council could see the attorney’s legal opinion. He also asked to see how other cities handled the issue. His motion to postpone passed.

The next regular meeting is at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10, at the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at