Council passes utility, public assessments code rewrite

Members of the Homer City Council put a lid on a code rewrite that was months in the making at their Monday meeting at Homer City Hall.

The council passed an ordinance that repeals and reenacts titles 14 and 17 of Homer City Codes — the titles dealing with public utility systems and public assessments. The work consolidates the water and sewer system regulations, updates old definitions and “creates uniformity” between city service and assessment practices, according to the ordinance text.

The ordinance was first introduced at a meeting near the end of May and was spearheaded by council members Rachel Lord and Tom Stroozas. The council broke out into a round of applause when the ordinance finally passed after a few more rounds of substitution and amendments Monday.

Lord commented at the meeting that the code rewrite required significant work on the part of the city’s paid legal counsel, Holly Wells from Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot in Anchorage. All council members thanked Wells for her work as city attorney over the past decade, as another motion approved at the council meeting was awarding a contract for legal services to a new firm — Jermain, Dunnagan & Owens, P.C., also of Anchorage.

Wells used her time to comment as city attorney to thank city staff and council members for their cooperation and work over the years.

“On a personal note, I’d also like to take a moment to thank the numerous city employees, council members and Homer community members I’ve worked alongside and served for over 11 years,” Wells said. “Many of you have become lifelong friends and all of you have made me a more adept and skilled lawyer.”

Wells said that, in particular, City Manager Katie Koester and City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen are some of the best at their respective jobs that she’s seen in Alaska.

Other action taken at the council meeting includes:Adoption of the city’s annual Capital Improvement Plan, which outlines major planned infrastructure projects for the next five years and identifies legislative funding requests. The Homer barge mooring and large vessel haul out repair facility, large vessel port expansion and a sidewalk for Main Street are among the priorities identified for the fiscal year 2021 state legislative request.

Enacting an ordinance that will allow commercial buildings to be up to 75 feet tall in the East End Mixed Use District, with a conditional use permit.

Council members discussed when and where to take a council retreat. Council member Donna Aderhold said she would spearhead the effort to schedule the retreat, which will be an extended work session that is open to the public during which members will discuss overall goals for council work. Aderhold said she’d like to have the council finalize a date at their next meeting.

Approved a memorandum that authorizes the city manager to solicit accounting work not exceeding $10,000 to have a third party analysis of the Homer Accelerated Water and Sewer Program history and reporting. Mayor Ken Castner explained that records and accounting when it comes to the HAWSP fund have been changed and muddled over the years, and that the city needs someone to help sort it out. “Not only is it going to cost somebody their time to unravel it, but there’s going to be significant work for the (city) staff because the first thing that that person’s going to do is ask for (information.) … So there’s going to be significant staff time involved in kind of sorting this thing out. But the $10,000 pales in comparison to what our risk is in not getting this thing figured out.”

The council will next meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14 at Homer City Hall.

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