Council ends meeting with closed door session

With the KBBI Public Radio broadcast off, most visitors gone and the Homer City Council adjourned, few might have noticed a post-meeting session. As Mayor Beth Wythe closed the regular meeting, she reminded council members to meet upstairs in the conference room.

“What meeting?” Wythe was asked.

“A board of adjustment meeting,” city attorney Holly Wells replied, answering for Wythe, pointing out that board of adjustment deliberations are exempt from the Alaska Open Meetings Act. Wythe said the council was meeting with Wells to discuss a legal matter as part of deliberations.

When pressed, Wythe and other council members wouldn’t say what the meeting was for. The closed-door session had not been noticed and was not listed on the council Committee of the Whole or Regular Meeting agendas.

The council meets as the Board of Adjustment to consider appeals of such matters as conditional use or other zoning permits. The Board of Adjustment holds hearings in public, with testimony and presentation of evidence by both parties, and then goes into executive session to deliberate. Once deliberations have started, the board can adjourn and reopen deliberations without notice.

On Wednesday, City Clerk Jo Johnson said that the Board of Adjustment met with Wells for advice on a motion of reconsideration by Frank Griswold on its June 6 ruling of an appeal by Griswold of conditional use permit 13-13. Griswold challenged a CUP to allow Jose Ramos to build more than one building on a Heath Street lot. The board affirmed some findings of the CUP and remanded to the Homer Advisory Planning Commission other findings. Johnson said Wythe apologized for not identifying the reason for the Board of Adjustment meeting at Monday’s regular meeting.

The council also postponed a potentially controversial debate — revising the water and sewer rates. Under city code, the council can review rates yearly. It put off until the June 23 meeting a resolution that would maintain the current water and sewer rate fee schedule. In a report to the council, finance director John Li said the city gained 195 new water and sewer customers, up from 1,576 in 2013 to 1,603 in 2014. Revenue increased from $1.2 million to $1.3 million for water and sewer customers. 

In other action, the council made these decisions:

• Approved a recommendation by Wythe appointing Lance Petersen to the Public Arts Committee;

• Introduced on first reading an ordinance appropriating $600,000 from the Port and Harbor Reserves as a local match for work on the Homer small boat harbor launch ramp;

• Introduced on first reading an ordinance appropriating $179,000 from the Harbor Reserve Fund as a local match for a Deep Water Dock improvements feasibility study; 

• Introduced on first reading an ordinance amending the general fund and appropriating $37,708 for a permanent, part-time administrative assistant position at Public Works;

• Passed a resolution amending the Homer Public Library circulation policy to allow for changes in overdue and lost materials fees;

• Amended and passed a resolution requesting the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to lower the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph on East End Road to the west end of Bear Creek Drive in the vicinity of the Kachemak Bay Equestrian Association Horse Park and Jack Gist Park; 

• Passed a resolution reducing by 20 percent employee health premiums through the end of the year, a move that City Manager Walt Wrede said would decrease a financial hardship on lower-income city workers and their families; 

• Passed a resolution approving city manager regulations establishing a speed limit and prohibiting parking on the roadway in Karen Hornaday Park;

• Passed a resolution approving a six-month lease for Peninsula Scrap and Salvage on the Homer Spit;

• Passed a resolution awarding a $65,835 contract to Intelligent Design of Anchorage for converting to natural gas the Water Treatment Plant, the Harbor Maintenance Shop and four Spit restrooms;

• Passed an ordinance conveying for free five city lots near the Equestrian Association Horse Park to the association; 

•  Passed an ordinance changing and reducing the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting schedule and a corresponding resolution, part of a general city move to lessen the work load on city clerks covering meetings;

• Passed an ordinance relocating a water fund capital budget item to evaluate alternatives to disinfecting city water, and passed a corresponding resolution awarding an $18,459 contract for a disinfection byproducts reduction study to HDR Inc. of Anchorage;

• Passed a resolution expressing support for the DOT-PF rehabilitation project for Pioneer Avenue; and

• Passed a resolution awarding a $40,000 contract for the Parks, Art, Recreation and Culture needs assessment to Agnew::Beck of Anchorage;.

The next regular meeting of the city council is 6 p.m. June 23 in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall. Ordinances introduced on first reading on Monday will be up for public hearing and second reading then.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at