Council OKs funds for gas conversions for city buildings

Like a lot of other building owners, the city of Homer has been looking at the natural gas line expansion with an eye on utility costs. How much would it cost to convert city buildings to natural gas? How much would the city save? And is it worth it?

At its regular meeting on Monday, the Homer City Council answered those questions. In an amended ordinance, it authorized spending about $225,000 to convert to natural gas many city buildings, including City Hall, the Homer Public Library, the Sewer Treatment Plant and office, the Animal Shelter, and the Homer Airport. Some of those conversions, such as the airport, would pay for themselves in less than a year. Of the projects approved, all would be paid off in less than five years.

“If you look at the table, there are good payoffs for most of the facilities,” said Public Works Director Carey Meyer, referring to a chart accompanying the ordinance.

On an amendment proposed by council member Francie Roberts, the council made a decision some building owners also have made: that the cost of conversion for some projects has too long a pay-out period and might not be worth it. Roberts deleted and the council approved not converting to natural gas the Homer Police Department and the Homer Volunteer Fire Department buildings. 

The police station would cost $42,000 to convert, with a pay-out period of 14.2 years. Meyer said the high cost is because the station would use a dual gas-fuel oil boiler so that if there was a disruption in gas service, the public safety building — considered a vital emergency facility — would still have heat.

Meyer said the city also is questioning figures showing the police station uses relatively little fuel, about $4,000 in heating oil a year. It has two furnaces, one upstairs and one downstairs, and the number seemed low, Meyer said.

The issue with the fire hall is that it is now heated with electricity. To convert to natural gas would require a new boiler and heating system.

The ordinance also did not fund conversion of the Harbormaster’s Building because it’s due to be replaced in the near future. Another high energy user, the harbor Ice House, uses electricity to run freezer compressors, and thus would not benefit from a natural gas conversion.

Meyer said the city will need to design the gas conversions. With the expenditure, it can go ahead with bringing in service lines and meters to buildings this summer and do the conversion over the winter.

With council member Beau Burgess absent, the council approved the ordinance unanimously. Mayor Beth Wythe said she had not received notice from Burgess explaining his absence and ruled that he had an unexcused absence. Burgess said by phone he had emailed city clerk Jo Johnson that he planned to be absent because of travel to the Lower 48, but Johnson apparently did not act on his email because she is on vacation.

A resolution to subdivide Lot 2, Tract A, the Pier One Theatre lot on the Spit, into lots for recreational and marine industrial use died for lack of a motion. Currently zoned marine industrial, the proposal was to better define uses on the lot. In discussions at the committee of the whole meeting, the council backed off from that idea. It also voted down another resolution authorizing issuing a request for proposals for a 10,000-square-foot section of that lot for lease. The Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society has expressed interest in leasing a small lot. The sense of council members was to back off and issue a request for proposals for leasing all or part of Lot 2, Tract A, including potentially a continuation of the Pier One Theatre lease, to gauge nonprofit and commercial interest in the lot.

In other action, the council approved:

• The reappointment of city economic development director Katie Koester to the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District;

• Recommended reappointment of Rick Foster to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission;

• Reappointed Franco Venuti to the Homer Advisory Planning Commission;

• Approved a $36,000 special services contract with the Alaska Department of Public Safety for use by Alaska State Troopers of the police station and for transporting state prisoners to and from arraignments and jail;

• Approved a Port and Harbor Building Task Force;

• Granted a contract to Homer Senior Citizens Inc. to provide meals to the Homer Jail;

• Awarded a $598,000 contract to Arno Construction for road improvements to Crittenden Drive and Waddell Street, and

• Awarded a $171,000 contract to Puffin Electric for rebuilding the Homer Spit Boardwalk on the west side of the harbor.

Burgess said he was a subcontractor with Puffin Electric on the boardwalk project, but had declared a council member conflict of interest with the city. If he had attended Monday’s meeting, Wythe would have had to decide if he should be excused from the vote on the contract.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

More in News

Christie Hill prepares to play “Taps” during the 9/11 memorial service on Saturday. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Homer honors lives lost during 9/11

The Homer-Kachemak Bay Rotary held a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony at the… Continue reading

Judith Eckert
COVID-19 patient says monoclonal antibody infusion saved her life

Antibody infusions highly effective in reducing risk of hospitalization, according to FDA trial ..

A sign flashing “Keep COVID down” also offers information on where to get testing and vaccines on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
SPH holding steady in COVID-19 surge

Despite hospital crisis in Anchorage, Homer’s hospital not impacted, spokesperson tells Homer City Council.

Brie Drummond speaks in support of mask mandates on Monday, Sept. 13, for the Kenai Peninsula School Board meeting at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. During a work session before the meeting, the district presented revisions to its COVID-19 mitigation protocols. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
School district revises COVID-19 mitigation plans

The revisions come as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Alaska and on the Kenai Peninsula.

A protester stands outside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin building in Soldotna on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Parents square off over masks at school board meeting

Some parents said they will keep their kids home if masks are required, while others say they’ll keep their kids home if masks aren’t required.

.
Borough School Board election

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly election

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

.
Homer City Council election

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

Janie Leask, a Homer resident, spoke in support of the new multi-use community center during Monday night’s city council meeting, stating the need for community recreation is vital.
Council moves forward with HERC plans

After years of discussions and planning, the Homer City Council is quickly… Continue reading

Most Read