Council gets down to the nitty gritty

In most civic budgets, seasoned city officials and council members like to keep an eye on maintenance reserves — that pot of money dipped into when unforeseen circumstances require repairs to city facilities.

At its June 13 meeting, the Homer City Council found out the need for that when it passed on second reading Ordinance 22-29, appropriating $150,000 for sewer manhole repairs and replacement on East Hill Road. Funding for those repairs will come from the Capital Asset Repair and Maintenance Allowance, or CARMA, Fund.

It also introduced Ordinance 22-34, appropriating $497,900 from the Sewer Capital Asset Repair and Maintenance Allowance Fund to repair a broken clarifier belt at the Homer Waste Water Treatment Plant. That ordinance comes up for second reading and action at the council’s meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, June 27, at Homer City Hall.

According to a memo from Public Works Director Jan Keiser, the need for repairing manholes came about when South Central Construction started repaving East Hill Road. Engineers discovered 10 concrete manholes had been damaged, probably from past earthquakes, and would need to be replaced at a cost of $10,000 each. Another $50, 000 would be needed for traffic control. Because South Central is in the middle of construction, it needed an answer soon from the city about paying for the repairs.

The ordinance cites an agreement with the city of Homer and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, or DOT-PF, that repairs beyond minor grade adjustments are to be paid by the city.

In response to a question from Council member Rachel Lord, Keiser clarified that while the state has responsibility for ditches, culverts and pavement, the city has responsibility for utilities, but only “to repair utilities that are not affected by their pavement project,” Keiser said.

The motion to adopt the manhole repair appropriation passed unanimously.

The issue with the clarifier belt concerns the system with its huge paddles that stir up waste water as part of the treatment plant. One of those systems broke, and the plant now runs on a second system. The $497,900 appropriation would pay for repairing both clarifier belts, assuring continued redundancy.

Council member Lord said she supported the appropriation. The city earlier suspended a capital percentage in the water and sewer rates, and Lord said that she will support reinstating a charge to replenish the sewer repair and maintenance fund when city officials bring up a new sewer and water rate schedule later in the summer.

At the June 13 meeting, the council also introduced Ordinance 22-32, making changes to coastal bluff setbacks in city code. Based on new science by the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, the ordinance would change “coastal bluff” to “coastal edge,” to be defined as “the seaward extent of a relatively flat land where a slope break or scarp occurs that is adjacent and within 300 feet of the mean high water line of Kachemak Bay.”

In a memo from City Planner Rick Abboud, he notes that the current code looks at erosion in terms of slope grades and heights.

“The erosion rate does not necessarily translate well to a slope and height calculation,” he writes. “One may be at 5 feet in elevation and be experiencing a high rate of erosion.”

That ordinance and the waste water repair appropriation will be up for second reading at Monday’s meeting.

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