Harbor office construction begins with award of bid

After, well, who knows how many years exactly, a new Homer Harbormaster’s Office is finally going to happen.

“The city has had a new harbormaster’s office on capital improvement lists for quite some time, but the actual planning and design of this has occurred in the last year,” said Carey Meyer, director of Homer’s Public Works Department.

A high level of community involvement with the Port and Harbor Advisory Commission and the city council’s effort to place a new office among Homer’s top priorities has helped get construction started, according to Meyer.

Overlooking Homer’s small boat harbor, the harbormaster’s current 2,000-square-foot headquarters is a combination of three separate structures, one of them originally a restroom that was remodeled into office space for the harbor officers (see related story, page 2). The new facility will still overlook the harbor, but from the opposite side of the action.

At its June 23 meeting, the city council awarded a $2,082,697 contract to Steiner’s North Star Construction Inc. of Homer to begin work on the 4,778-square-foot building, as well as a section of wood-framed boardwalk for Deepwater Dock Trail.

Moving the office from Spit Road to Freight Dock Road accomplishes several goals. First, at the existing location space was limited.

“The new building is more than 4,700 square feet so putting that footprint in this location was not feasible,” said Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins. “But where to go? We beat ourselves up over that quite a bit, putting the new office in many locations in the harbor. In the end, although I hate to lose a view of the mouth of the harbor, that (Freight Dock Road) location made sense.”

While it removed it from the busy tourist section of the Spit, the new location places the Harbormaster’s Office in the center of the harbor complex.

“It will continue to provide easy access to harbor users, but also will be closer to the Deep Water Dock, the 30-acre industrial site and the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Meyer. 

It also puts the office near harbor expansion to the east, a project that has been discussed for years.

“My views on that have not changed. It is very necessary and I think will become a reality sometime in the future,” said Hawkins of additional harbor space.

Designed by Klauder and Company Architects, the external colors of the new harbormaster’s office will match the color schemes evident on boats in the harbor: overall gray sides with blue stripes. Rather than flat, the water-facing side will be rounded and extend over the bank.

“That will provide the harbor officers a better view of the small boat harbor,” said Meyer.

Also included in the contract with Steiner’s North Star Construction is a wooden boardwalk curving around the harbor-facing side of the building as part of the newly extended Spit Trail.

The building’s interior allows space for Hawkins’ 16 full-time employees and nine summer staff. While they don’t all work out of one location, they do meet each morning to discuss maintenance and operations and for the day’s outgoing and incoming harbor officers to compare notes.

In addition to the employees, there is the ebb and flow of boat owners, fishermen and curious members of the public stopping by the office for information. Similar to the existing office, the new building design includes a lobby and counter for addressing the public’s needs. A conference room and work area for staff also are taken into consideration, as is a garage and work area where routine maintenance can be completed.

Parking for employees will be located near the new facility, “but we’ll also be able to provide a place where, if you’re towing a boat at the time, you’ll be able to park easily and do your business unlike at the existing building where there’s room for single vehicles to park,” said Meyer. “If you happen to have a boat with you, you end up parking a long way away. Hopefully this will be more convenient for users of the small boat harbor to interface with the harbormaster.”

As part of the city’s 1-percent-for-art program, proposals will be presented to the city council at its next meeting on July 28, according to Renee Krause of the city clerk’s office.

With an eye toward the future, expansion of the new Homer Harbormaster’s Office also has been taken into consideration.

“Adding on means going up and we’ve designed for that,” said Hawkins. “We know the walls are built to take that. There’s nothing structural that would have to be accomplished when we decide we need more office space. We know where elevators would go and we know where stairs would go. We planned for that eventuality.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.