Council works on wish list

What should be on the city’s list of legislative requests? 

That was the topic of conversation during the Homer City Council’s work session Monday afternoon and the first item addressed during the regular meeting’s public hearing that evening.

As outlined in Resolution 13-087, which would adopt the city’s 2014-2019 Capital Improvement Plan and establish the capital project legislative priorities for fiscal year 2015, the top five items on the wish list are:

• Improvements to the city’s water storage-distribution;

• A new public safety building to replace the existing Homer Police Station built in 1979 and the Fire Hall built in 1980;

• A new harbor sheet pile loading dock to be constructed between the existing barge ramp and the fuel dock and to be used to transfer heavy loads by crane onto barges and landing craft;

• A fire department fleet management plan; and

• A bundle of local road projects.

In addition, the resolution includes two federal legislative requests:

• Phase 1 of the Deep Water-Cruise Ship Dock expansion; and

• The East Boat Harbor.

When to make the requests was one of the considerations addressed by the council. With regard to the public safety building, City Manager Walt Wrede said, “The Department of Corrections has pretty much indicated they want to see a new jail here. They would probably put money into that.”

While waiting a year would allow more time for planning, it also could mean changes resulting from next year’s election.

“We could be dealing with a whole different administration in Juneau,” said council member David Lewis. “Police, fire, public safety may not be their main objective.” 

Based on work already done to develop the city’s wish list, council members Barbara Howard and Francie Roberts, as well as Mayor Beth Wythe, urged proceeding this year.

As described in the CIP packet, the $15.3 million estimated total project cost for a new public safety building would be a three-year project, with a site selected this year, design work done during 2014-2015, and construction done during 2016-2017. Police Chief Mark Robl and Fire Chief Bob Painter said two sites they have considered are the town center area and the current location of the HERC, Homer Education and Recreational Complex.

Two amendments made to Resolution 18-087 during the council’s evening meeting included rewording item 4 to say “fire department equipment upgrades” and item 5 to specifically say “an east-to-west transportation corridor” to go through town, rather than simply referring to local roads projects. 

How to include nonprofits in the CIP list also was raised, and Wythe indicated at the direction of the legislators a separate section in the CIP booklet has been set aside for nonprofits that have been approved by the council.

After discussion of items to add and remove from the CIP, the council unanimously chose to postpone action on Resolution 18-087 until the Sept. 9 council meeting and to have a public hearing on it at that time. 

During the council’s evening meeting, Jim Lavrakas, the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center’s new executive director, introduced himself to the council. The former staff photographer for the Anchorage Daily News said he believed his background in media and communications would prove a strength in his role with the chamber. 

“Our chamber should be the place where people can get the best information about the town, history, recreational opportunities, what it’s like to live here and, most importantly, the kinds of economic opportunity they can look forward to,” said Lavrakas.

In a move not on the agenda, Wythe stepped away from the council table and asked Jo Johnson, the city clerk, to join her at the microphone, where Johnson was presented with a plaque honoring her recently earned designation as a master municipal clerk. With more than 200 members of the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks, less than 25 have achieved that level, Wythe pointed out. Johnson has been Homer’s senior city clerk for seven years.

Wrede noted during his report to the council that he, Wythe, Koester and Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins had met with the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard when the Commandant visited Homer earlier this month.

“My favorite part was hearing him (ask) why people keep asking him if the Coast Guard is planning to move boats out of Homer, why would (the Coast Guard) do that,” said Wythe.

In other action Monday, the council:

• Adopted Ordinance 13-32, amending the city code to adopt flood insurance rate maps and code revisions recommended by FEMA;

• Adopted Ordinance 13-33, providing necessary mid-year adjustments to the operating budget;

• Failed to adopt for lack of a quorum Ordinance 13-35, creating a water and sewer advisory commission; Lewis and Zak voted for the ordinance; Roberts, Dolma and Howard voted against it;

 • Adopted Ordinance 13-37, amending the definition of “discontinued,” to exclude from the time for which a nonconforming use may cease the time from the death of its operator until the use is legally available for transfer to a successor operator;

• Postponed until Sept. 9 Resolution 13-088, confirming the assessment role, establishing dates for payment of special assessments and establishing delinquency, penalty and interest provisions for the Kachemak Drive Phase II Water and Sewer Special Assessment District.

The next regular meeting of the Homer City Council will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 9.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at