Council talks animal control, water assessments, budget

In its first meeting after a short summer break, the Homer City Council on Monday moved forward on issues basic to city government— water, animal control and the budget. It took these actions:

• Held a public hearing and approved a substitute on Ordinance 16-38, an overhaul of the city’s animal control laws;

• Discussed and postponed Resolution 16-78, an act that would establish how property owners in the Shellfish Avenue-South Slope Drive water main project could pay to hook up to the new line; and

• Introduced on first reading Ordinance 16-41, amendments to the 2016 budget that came about because of $95,000 in insurance savings.

The council had earlier introduced the animal control ordinance, but City Attorney Thomas Klinkner had suggested more changes to it. The council approved a substitute version. Because the changes were significant enough, the council postponed action to allow more public comment and consideration at the Aug. 8 council meeting.

“I think it’s past time we’ve developed something where responsible dog owners don’t have to put up with irresponsible dog owners,” said Robert Archibald in public testimony.

The animal control changes came about on the recommendations of the Sustainable Animal Control Review Committee. The new ordinance would add a section prohibiting animals from being carried in the back of pickup trucks if not restrained in kennels or on cross-tethers. It also would prohibit animals from being held in a person’s lap while driving. It also better defines when an animal is “at large,” including a section defining restraint as being “competent voice control.”

The $727,000 Shellfish Avenue-South Slope Drive project will be paid mostly with grants, but about $239,000 would be paid by 17 property owners. The project is a bit unusual in that it is not a Special Assessment District initiated by property owners but by the city. The resolution sought to define how property owners who hook up to the waterline would pay. The resolution uses the same principle as that of the Homer Natural Gas Special Assessment District, with each property owner paying the same cost no matter the size of the property — about $14,000. However, no property owner would pay an assessment unless connecting to water, a difference from the natural gas assessment.

That idea came in for criticism from Beau Burgess, a Shellfish Avenue property owner and former city council member. Burgess was on the council when it approved the natural gas special assessment district. He asked the council to postpone action on the resolution. Burgess said it didn’t seem fair that the owner of a 2-acre lot would pay the same as the owner of a 20-acre lot.

“I would encourage you to apportion the cost more proportionally,” Burgess said.

Representatives of the Quiet Creek Condominium Homeowners Association also said they should not be on the assessment roll because they would not get any benefit from the waterline. The condo association paid for a waterline extension already, said homeowners association president Harold Lockwood.

Council member Donna Aderhold said the memo and resolution weren’t clear on when interest rates would accrue and what a homeowner would pay if connecting to the waterline. She also said she thought there should be some language defining what happens if a lot is subdivided. She moved to postpone, and the council agreed to consider the resolution again at its Aug. 22 meeting.

On the issue of the $94,000 budget windfall, several city departments put in requests for things like replacement of an automatic external defibrillator replacement at the Homer Public Library and replacement of a Public Works snowplow and sander truck. Council member Heath Smith had pulled introduction of the ordinance from the consent agenda to allow for discussion. Council member Gus VanDyke questioned paying $1,400 for a new AED at the library. He noted that there are AEDs at the fire hall. The city of Homer has taken the lead on the Kenai Peninsula with putting AEDs in public places, including behind the city clerk’s desk in the Cowles Council Chambers.

Homer Police Chief Mark Robl told VanDyke that medic response times can be from 5 to 10 minutes, and that with a cardiac arrest victim, “that is too long.”

A motion by council member Bryan Zak to pass the insurance savings back to city workers failed on a 5-1 vote. The council unanimously approved introducing the budget amendments. Those amendments come up for a public hearing and final action at the Aug. 8 regular meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, Homer City Hall.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at