Koester: Station still needed; next step up to council

In an election where all three Homer City Council candidates opposed a $12-million bond to build a new Homer Police station, voters followed the candidates’ lead and rejected Homer Proposition 1.

That proposition would have paid for a new station with a six-month, April-September, 0.65-percent sales tax increase. City officials calculated the average cost to taxpayers would have been $43 a year.

The station was to be built on the site of the Homer Educational and Recreational Complex and incorporate part of the old school building in its design. With unofficial results, Prop 1 was failing with 607 no votes, or 53 percent, to 540 yes votes, or 47 percent. However, about 300 absentee, early voting, special needs and questioned ballots remain to be counted, so the result could change.

Homer City Manager Katie Koester, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl and Public Safety Building Committee chair Ken Castner all said they were disappointed at the vote. Koester said she was heartened by the people who did favor the new police station.

“I think the public is frustrated with the high cost of public facilities, which I understand. However, there are costs associated with building a facility that meets current codes and standards with public dollars that cannot be avoided,” Koester said. “I don’t know a person who has toured the current station that did not walk away an ardent supporter of a new one. The need for a new police station has not gone away, but the next steps are in city council’s hands and I will be looking to them for guidance.”

Robl also thanked the voters who did support the new station.

“I’m not sure why it failed. I hesitate to guess the reason,” he said. “I didn’t hear from people not in support of the project.”

Castner said he tried his best to convince voters of the need for a new police station and why the proposal was the best way to do it.

“I gave it my best shot,” he said. “I feel terrible for the people who work there.”

The bond proposition authorized borrowing up to $12 million, but Castner said he thought construction could be done for less than that. The Public Safety Committee and design team had whittled the Public Safety Building project down from an initial $30 million concept to a police-station only building and $1 million in improvements to the existing Homer Volunteer Fire Department station. The committee also cut costs for a new building by repurposing the HERC, mainly for evidence storage and a firing range.’

Even at that, voters balked.

“When we got down to problem solving, everyone was convinced we were going to build a Taj Mahal,” Castner said.

Shelly Erickson, the top vote-getter in the three-candidate city council race, said she thinks financial uncertainty in Alaska played a role in rejecting the bond. Voters also defeated a Kenai Peninsula Borough proposition to raise the sales-tax purchase cap from $500 to $1,000 and another proposition phasing out the borough’s optional $150,000 senior property tax exemption.

“Look at the stuff that failed at the borough,” Erickson said. “I think with our world so uncertain and the state going to put either an income tax or sales tax, we don’t know. I think things are tighter for people than we’re acknowledging.”

The second-place council candidate, Tom Stroozas, said he supported a new police station, “but not at that price.” Erickson and Stroozas won election in the two-seat council race. He said he thinks the police station plan can still move ahead.

“I feel confident that we will be able to bring a plan to the community that the people of Homer will approve and we can move forward with this structure,” Stroozas said.

Castner said the council didn’t have an alternative plan.

“There is no Plan B,” he said. “It wasn’t my responsibility to have a Plan B. Plan A was to get this passed and work on the construction project.”

Bryan Zak, the presumptive winner in the Homer mayor race, said the next step is working with the Public Safety Building Committee, asking it to come up with a new plan and bring it to the council.

“Have the council work together and see what we can pull out of the ashes now that it got defeated,” Zak said.

Castner said that will happen without him.

“I guess I’m done. My job is over,” he said.

Robl said he didn’t know what would come next.

“I don’t have any ideas at this point. I think it’s time to sit back and let this rest for a while before we discuss any options,” he said.

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

 

More in News

Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. The veteran Alaska legislator was passing through Homer while waiting to take the M/V Tustumena ferry to Kodiak. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Clem Tillion, PFD founder and former legislator, dies at 96

Tillion died Wedneday, Oct. 13, at Halibut Cove home.

Thunder Mountain High School on April 18.  Earlier this fall, vandalism including stolen soap dispensers and toilets clogged with foreign objects such as paper towel rolls were a problem at schools nationwide and in Juneau. But, principals say the local situation is improving. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
After brief surge, vandalism subsiding at local high schools

Principals say internet trends, stress likely behind incidents.

In this Jan. 8, 2020, photo Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, heads to a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. An Alaska man faces federal charges after authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill Murkowski, according to court documents unsealed Wed., Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,File)
Delta Junction man faces charges over threatening Murkowski’s life

Authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill the senator.

Donna Aderhold recites the Homer City Council oath of office and is sworn in for duty at the city council meeting on Oct. 11. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
New council members sworn into duty Monday

Newly-elected Homer City Council members Shelly Erickson and Jason Davis and re-elected… Continue reading

Runners participate in boys varsity race at the Ted McKenney XC Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. The trails recently reported incidents of vandalism and theft. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Vandalism and theft reported at Tsalteshi Trails

One trail user reported stolen skis recently and multiple signs have been defaced.

At left Bonita Banks, RN, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) nurse at Homer Medical Center, and at right, Annie Garay, RN, Community Health Educator, pose for a photo at South Peninsula Hospital on Sept. 27, 2021, at Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
New hospital community health educator starts

Garay, a Homer raised nurse, came home to ride out COVID-19, wound up doing pandemic nursing.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Montessori school goes to universal indoor masking

As of Tuesday, eight KPBSD schools were operating with universal indoor masking for staff and students.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Crabbers look at cuts to quotas

Tanner, opilio crab quotas cut on top of cancellation of fall king crab fishery.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Judge sides with psychiatrists who alleged wrongful firing

Two psychiatrists said they were wrongfully fired when Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office.

Most Read