With the Homer special election coming up on June 26 for city voters, it’s time to review what you know about the issue — funding a new police station — before you head to the polls.
Here’s what you need to know before casting your vote:
• The Homer Police Station, opened in 1979, has been in disrepair and in need of expansion for several years. Police Chief Mark Robl has worked extensively with the Homer City Council on sharing the needs of the police station. Problems he has addressed include occasional flooding of the holding cells, and the fact that the station has no separate detention cell for women or minors. If a minor and an adult were to be in the holding cell at one time, which Robl did say is a rare occurrence, the station would be in violation of federal law. The station currently uses physical barriers to keep male detainees separate from women or minors within the same cell.
• Proposition 1 asks city voters to approve the city going out to bond for $5 million to help cover the cost of a new police station. This bond would be paid back by raising the city sales tax rate by 0.35 percent, from 4.5 percent to 4.85 percent. This equates to an extra 35 cents for every $100 spent. The majority of that added tax (0.3 percent of it) would go toward paying off the bond debt. That portion of the tax would sunset on Dec. 31 of the year the city has raised enough money to pay it off. The remaining 0.05 percent of the added sales tax would remain, according to the proposition, in order to pay for continued maintenance costs for the building.
• Homer voters voted down a previous proposition to help fund a new police station in October 2016. That proposed project had been estimated to cost around $12 million.
• The current proposal for a new police station has the project coming in at $7.5 million. The city council had to decide between a larger, $8 million building, or a smaller, $6 million project, and chose the latter. However, during a work session with a moderator, council members identified additional aspects they felt were essential for the new station, which brought the revised estimated cost up to $7.5 million. This included a daylight basement. They also officially selected the Waddell site as the location for the new station and ruled out converting the Homer Education and Recreation Center.
• The plan for the new police station is for a roughly 11,500 square foot building, with about 4,200 square feet being taken up by a daylight basement. The station would also include a sally port used to transfer people from vehicles to the jail, six cells with one of them being a detention cell and one just for women, a training room, and expanded evidence storage. Homer Police currently store evidence off site due to lack of space. Contrary to rumor, the plan does not include a pool or a shooting range.
• Robl predicts the new police station, as presented in the $7.5 million design, will meet the department’s needs for 20-30 years before there is another need for expansion.
• Absentee voting has already started. It will be available at Homer City Hall, 491 E. Pioneer Avenue, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. through Monday, June 25. The city is also accepting vote my mail applications, which have to be sent to the city clerk by Friday, June 22. To be counted, absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than June 26 and received by the clerk before the canvass of ballots, which is at 2 p.m. on June 29. Applications for electronic submissions must be received by the clerk no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, June 25. Applications for by mail or electronic transmission ballots are available on line at www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/cityclerk or at the clerk’s office.