Kachemak City balks at draft wastewater services agreement

The Homer City Council on Monday postponed action until no later than August on a resolution approving an intergovernmental agreement with Kachemak City regarding wastewater services. 

Before the regular meeting, at the request of Mayor Beth Wythe, the council met in executive session to consider its negotiation strategy on that agreement, a matter that “would adversely affect the finances of the city,” a memo on the need for executive session said, citing a provision of Alaska’s Open Meetings Acts allowing executive sessions.

The cities are working to renew an agreement under which Homer provides sewage treatment for Kachemak City. The draft has gotten some pushback from Kachemak City officials and residents over an increase to a base sewer user fee of 3,500 gallons. Kachemak Mayor Phil Morris sent the council a letter citing a city survey of 56 homeowners with measurable water service — mostly hauled water — showing an average use of 2,045 gallons a month, including the Bear Creek Winery.

“By any measure 3,500 gallons is vastly inaccurate and, as such, is discriminatory,” Morris wrote.

In a phone interview, Morris said, “The whole problem is the thing is flawed. It’s now based on gallons. Clearly we’re being charged for a hell of a lot more than we’re using.”

Morris also criticized Kachemak City being charged a lift station fee averaged over the cost of five lift stations when Kachemak City only uses one lift station and the Homer Spit uses four, he said. Enacted in a water-sewer fee schedule revised last August, the lift station fee attempts to recover the cost of running and powering lift stations used to move sewage uphill to the wastewater treatment plant on Beluga Slough. Morris said in effect Kachemak City subsidizes the Spit lift stations.

Morris’ letter also criticized Homer for not including a Kachemak City representative on the water-sewer rate task force which recommended the rate change. Kachemak City had put $1 million into the Homer treatment system, Morris said.

“We kind of figured we must be partners in this deal,” he said. “It’s partly our fault. We never enforced the fact that we would have somebody on that thing (the task force).”

At the Committee of the Whole, council member Bryan Zak said he felt the intergovernmental agreement was old and needed revision. City Manager Walt Wrede said the council has asked him to amend the agreement for review by the council and Kachemak City. Morris said he got an email from Wrede on Tuesday saying the council had concerns about large parts of the agreement and the city of Homer will come up with a new draft. The water-sewer rates also will be reviewed in the spring, putting the issue back on the table.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.