Council puts police station funding question on special election ballot

The City of Homer is again asking residents to vote on funding a new police station — one the Homer Police Department still says is badly needed — this time in a June special election.

Members of the Homer City Council voted in their May 14 meeting to put a proposition on the ballot asking residents to allow the city to go out to bond to the tune of $5 million. The police station is slated to cost around $7.5 million. At the meeting council members also postponed approving members of the Homer Education and Recreation Complex task force.

According to the ordinance that was passed, the city would ask voters to OK a year-long 0.35 percent sales tax increase. The funds raised by this tax would be used to pay off the municipal bond. Part of the tax is scheduled to sunset in December of the year the city raises enough money to pay off the debt. A small portion (0.05 percent) of the sales tax would remain in place to cover continued maintenance of the new station.

Council members argued both over the wording of the proposition and the timing of the election. Some worried that it would not be clear enough to residents that part of the proposed sales tax would remain in perpetuity to cover maintenance, while others thought adding more words to the proposition would only confound voters.

They also debated between holding the June special election that was eventually selected or putting the proposition on the October regular election ballot. Council member Heath Smith argued that, because the city doesn’t yet know what kind of tax measures the Kenai Peninsula Borough will put on its own ballot, Homer should avoid cluttering that election with too many tax propositions.

Some council members, like Donna Aderhold, worried that posing the question to voters in June would not leave the council with enough time to complete thorough public education on the subject. The likelihood of a small voter turnout was also discussed.

The council also approved at the meeting a measure appropriating funds for a public education campaign ahead of the June 26 election.

Another debate stretching into the night surrounded the newly formed Homer Education and Recreation Complex task force. Mayor Bryan Zak had been charged with appointing members to the seven-person task force, and his selections were supposed to be confirmed at the May 14 meeting.

However, several members of the public, the Parks, Art, Recreation and Culture Advisory Commission, and a few council members expressed concern that a member of PARCAC was not included in his selection.

PARCAC member Deb Lowney said during public comments that the commission had been under the impression — based on the language in the resolution that created the task force — that PARCAC was guaranteed a seat at the table.

According to the resolution text, “the task force will consist of seven members plus an advisory student member, no more than one member from the Homer City Council, no more than one member from the Parks, Art, Recreation and Culture Advisory Commission, and no more than two seats filled by non-city residents.”

Ultimately, the council agreed to postpone confirming the task force members until Zak reevaluated his list of appointees to include a member of PARCAC from among the applicants.

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