Council hears good news: Cost to convert several city buildings to natural gas lower than expected

Taking a day off for the Memorial Day holiday, the Homer City Council held its regular meeting on Tuesday night, with a light agenda that was relatively noncontroversial and a meeting that was less than 90 minutes long. 

Public testimony came from an Old Town resident thanking the city for exploring traffic-calming improvements. 

Robert Archibald also spoke in favor of an ordinance donating city land to the Kachemak Bay Equestrian Association to add to the Cottonwood Horse Park. That ordinance was introduced and passed its first reading on the consent agenda.

The council passed an ordinance adding $6,000 to a $12,000 appropriation to purchase a used four-wheel-drive pickup truck for the Homer Harbor operations. It more than made up that appropriation when City Manager Walt Wrede said the cost to convert several city buildings to natural gas came in lower than expected.

In that ordinance to appropriate funds for natural gas conversions, the council amended it to reduce the appropriation from $99,274 to $83,270, a $16,004 savings. The money will be used to do natural gas conversions for the Water Treatment Plant, the harbor shop and four Homer Spit restrooms. Both ordinances passed without objection.

At its Committee of the Whole meeting, the council discussed an ordinance to fund a study that would look at alternatives to install a mixed oxidant chlorination system at the Water Treatment Plant.

Public Works Director Carey Meyer said the Environmental Protection Agency regulates the amount of byproducts that come from using chlorine water treatment methods and that it’s worth spending money to explore alternatives. The 2014 operating budget had allocated $29,000 for a chlorination system. 

Meyer proposed reallocating that money and spending about $18,000 for an engineering study. Some of the alternatives would require little capital investment, he said in a memorandum. If money is needed, an engineering report would be necessary to get Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation approval. 

That ordinance was introduced and passed on the consent agenda. 

Another ordinance introduced and passed on the consent agenda would change the meeting schedule for the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. All ordinances introduced on first reading will have a public hearing and second reading at the council’s meeting at 6 p.m. June 9.

Mayor Beth Wythe honored Mary Epperson with a proclamation declaring June 6 Mary Epperson Day. Epperson, a Homer music teacher and arts volunteer, will be honored from 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. June 6, with a community art project to decorate her former studio, Etude Studio. At 7:30 p.m., HCOA will honor Epperson with a cake reception and music. HCOA director Gail Edgerly accepted the proclamation on Epperson’s behalf.

Wythe also read an Alaska Legislature proclamation honoring Christie Hill for her more than 15 years of diving into Resurrection Bay for the American Cancer Society in the Polar Bear Plunge in Seward. Hill has raised about $200,000 in her efforts.

The council also passed several resolutions:

• Approving and accepting a special services contract of $36,000 with the Alaska Department of Public Safety to provide jail services for state prisoners;

• Established a mill rate of 9.96 mills for the Ocean Drive Loop Special Service District, or seawall;

• Established the property tax mill rate of 4.5 mills for the 2014 budget year;

• Amended the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission bylaws to change its meeting schedule to February through June and August through November;

• Approved a contract of $14,800 to Greogoire Construction for Karen Hornaday Park Picnic Shelter access and foundation improvements; and

• Approved a memorandum setting a Capital Improvement Plan schedule for commissions to review potential projects.

The council next meets at 6 p.m. June 9 in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at