Homer City Council discusses budgetary legislation during regular meeting

The Homer City Council adopted three ordinances during the regular meeting May 10.

The Homer City Council met Monday night to discuss legislation concerning the upcoming fiscal year budget and COVID-19 relief and vaccination distribution funding.

Remodeling is ongoing in the Cowles Council Chambers, City Hall, to allow in-person attendance, but until contractors complete that work, meetings will be held remotely through the Zoom online platform.

The council adopted Ordinance 21-24, which was introduced April 26. The ordinance allows the acceptance of grant funds in the amount of $278,416 from the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services for distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as other COVID-19 related recovery and prevention strategies. Council member Donna Aderhold reminded the council that the funds had already been appropriated through an emergency ordinance, and the memorandum had already been signed by the state.

According to Jenny Carroll, City of Homer special projects and communications coordinator, the funding supports the pop-up vaccination sites across Homer, as well as support for local prevention efforts.

“The state made these monies available to the municipalities to support the ongoing work that I continue to do, that public works and planning did around the mass (vaccination) events, and the hospital,” said Carroll. “It is a grant to those activities that the city took on behalf of those activities to support the hospital staff, support the city staff for very specifically vaccination efforts.”

The Council also adopted Ordinance 21-25, which is an amendment to the fiscal year 2021 capital budget by appropriating the State of Alaska Community Assistance Program funding in the amount of $76,842.94 from fiscal year 2021 to the Fire Capital Asset Repair and Maintenance Allowance (CARMA) Fund, as well as authorize expenditures of up to $260,000 from the Fire CARMA fund. The funds will be used to update the volunteer fire department’s breathing apparatus system, which is in need of replacement. The department has been unsuccessful in its pursuit of grant funding for the updated equipment.

According to Rob Dumouchel, city manager, the funds will purchase around 34 breathing apparatus systems, one for each firefighter.

“Some of our equipment is at the point where (manufacturers) are not making the parts anymore,” Dumouchel said. “We’ve strung out what we have for as long as it’s safe, and it’s important to get this updated.”

Ordinance 21-27 was also adopted and amends the Homer city code title 14.08.040 to create a process for waiving the requirement that property has to be connected to city sewer as a condition precedent to be connected to city water.

“I really like that this code change proposes not just the allowance for a waiver, but a very criteria under which it is expected those waivers may occur. I think that’s really good policy,” said council member Rachel Lord. “It’s very clear to the public, it’s clear to staff, and it’s clear to council. Anytime we have outlined in code someplace where there is a potential for a waiver, whether it be an administrative waiver or a waiver by action of council, I think this approach is a well thought-out and defensible approach to doing things like granting waivers. I fully support it.”

Ordinance 21-28 was introduced to amend the fiscal year 2021 capital budget authorizing a transfer of $247,181 from the general fund to balance the General Fund Capital Asset Repair and Maintenance Allowance which would eliminate the negative balance in the CARMA fund. After many of the council members raised concerns of moving a quarter of a million dollars from the general fund, the council voted against the ordinance in search of more viable options.

The council also removed Resolution 21-034 from the agenda as no action could be taken. The resolution read, “A Resolution of the City Council of Homer, Alaska Consolidating the Capital Asset Repair and Maintenance Allowance/Reserve Fund Accounts.”

The City Council also heard from Peter Torkelson, executive director of the Alaska Redistricting Board, who explained the upcoming process and status of redrawing legislative district lines for Alaska. Per the 2020 census, Alaska’s population is 733,391, meaning the target population for each of Alaska’s 40 House districts will be 18,335. District lines are redrawn every 10 years to accurately represent the changing population in Alaska. According to Torkelson, the board is unsure of when the redistricting process will begin since the census data is still being processed. The board has 90 days after the data is received to adopt a plan.

The next City Council Regular Meeting will be held at 6 p.m., May 24, in which the fiscal year 2022-23 operating budget will be presented. For more information, visit https://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/citycouncil/city-council-regular-meeting-251.

Reach Sarah Knapp at sarah.knapp@homernews.com