Howard: Citizens must be involved in decisions

Homer is a unique place on earth that attracts a wide diversity of people to live and work here. Collectively, we are responsible for determining and maintaining the quality of life that fulfills the needs of the vast majority of our residents.

With that said, we are moving into a new era of “go fund yourself” as we witness the significant reductions in federal and state monies that have historically been relied upon to help meet our local service needs. Our present and future challenge is determining the level of public service we want/need and are willing to pay for by taxing/charging ourselves.

We must involve our citizens in this discussion, and with that input, determine our way forward.

Certainly, my guiding principle is providing quality public health and safety services that are financially sustainable. The umbrella of health and safety covers the essential services of police and fire, complying with all regulatory requirements for our public water and sewer systems, and improving and maintaining our roads year round.

The biggest challenge facing us is identifying the level of service we want in police and fire, and our willingness to fund the required infrastructure and human resources. This is best accomplished through involving the community and engaging professional services that can help determine necessary modernization and costs of either existing facilities, or creation of new facilities, and determine the appropriate balance of needs and ability to pay. In short, we need to develop a program that our community can get behind, and support to fruition. To this end, I look forward to our future community outreach program to move us closer to a viable solution of this complex issue.

Identifying the correct financial balance in our water and sewer utilities is reasonably straight forward. We need to identify our financial obligation to maintain reliable facilities and work to achieve it. This will not happen overnight, but it needs to be a goal that the community strives to achieve.

I believe our current public works approach to our transportation needs is well founded. It is not broke, so “don’t fix it.” However, we need to be mindful of our equipment replacement fund to assure we are capable of meeting essential equipment needs as they arise.