Gifts, good-byes mark Monday’s council meeting

Celebrating 30 years as sister cities, the Japanese city of Teshio gifted representatives of Homer, including the Homer City Council, with “happi coats,” garments frequently reserved for festivals. Amidst an evening of budgets, ordinances and resolutions, the coats, which arrived in time for the meeting, added a splash of color in the council chambers as council members and staff modeled the bright yellow and orange garments.

Monday also marked the last meeting for Barbara Howard, who was first appointed to the council in April 2008, elected later that year and re-elected in 2011. 

“I urge the council to remember Barbara’s sound decision-making skills,” said Kelly Cooper, newly elected to represent Homer on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. Prior to Howard serving on the council, she and Cooper served on the board of directors for the Homer Chamber of Commerce and the South Peninsula Hospital. “Sound public policy, stewardship, responsibility, consensus building. I’m sure each of you can remember when she used those terms. … A politician makes decisions on behalf of friends. A statesman makes decisions on behalf of the people. Barbara Howard is indeed a statesman.”

Cooper’s comments drew applause from members of the public and the council and were followed by more expressions of appreciation for Howard’s contributions.

“You may be getting away from the table, but you will be called upon,” said Mayor Beth Wythe. “I will call on you on a regular basis as long as I’m at this table.”

As evidence that Howard will not be completely stepping away from city-related activities, Resolution 14-107, adopted by the council at Monday’s meeting, amended the make-up of the Vessel Haul-Out Task Force so Howard could remain as its chair.

Council member Beau Burgess, noted for his lengthy comments, displayed Howard’s parting gift for him: a one-minute hourglass.

“More importantly, I will sincerely miss Barbara’s clear sightedness and low tolerance for BS. I’m going to miss that almost more than anything,” said Burgess.

Howard’s service to the city has included serving on the Permanent Fund Committee, beginning the city’s volunteer appreciation events, spearheading the Citizens Academy and being “a driving force in all that’s happening at the harbor,” said council member Francie Roberts. “I see her like a mother figure.”

Saying she was humbled by the many comments of appreciation, Howard also drew laughter when she said, “I have six children. That’s part of why I don’t tolerate too much.”

Looking at the six-member council, Wythe said, “I actually never made the correlation of six children before.”

Howard will be replaced on the council by Catriona Lowe, whose presence at Monday’s meeting was noted by Burgess. 

“I really appreciate you showing up to all the council meetings, being the candidate that really jumped in and participated. Welcome aboard,” said Burgess.

Lowe, along with council member David Lewis and Mayor Beth Wythe, who were re-elected in the Oct. 7 municipal election, will be sworn in at a special meeting of the council Oct. 20.

The council got a look at the draft budget for fiscal year 2015 on Monday. It projects General Fund revenues of $12.1 million, an increase of $181,798 over the 2014 budget, and proposed expenditures of $12.1 million. Sales tax was projected at $5 million, an increase of $75,659 from 2013, and real property tax at $2.8 million, a decrease of $11,073. 

The budget will be discussed during the Committee of the Whole and the regular council meeting Oct. 27. It also will be addressed at the Committee of the Whole and at a public hearing during the regular council meeting Nov. 24. A final public hearing will be held before the council adopts the budget at its regular meeting Dec. 8.

In Monday action, the council:

•Approved Ordinance 14-46, identifying chauffeur license fees in the city’s fee schedule;

•Approved Ordinance 14-47(A), appropriating $105,000 for Barge Mooring Facility Phase 2, upland improvements;

•Introduced Ordinance 14-49, relating to helipads and heliports, with a public hearing and second reading scheduled for Oct. 27;

•Adopted Resolution 14-093, the city’s 2015-2020 Capital Improvement Plan and establishing the capital project legislative priorities for fiscal year 2016 that include water storage and distribution improvements, a new public safety building, construction of a harbor sheet pile loading dock, a fire department fleet management plan and development of an east-to-west transportation corridor; 

•Approved Resolution 14-109, certifying the result of the city’s Oct. 7 election (see related story, page 9).

A special meeting of the Homer City Council will be held Oct. 20 to swear in the newly elected and re-elected council members and mayor. The next meeting of the Committee of the Whole is 5 p.m. Oct. 27, with the regular meeting of the council at 6 p.m. 

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at