Students take ‘long walk to water’

and help others in South Sudan

Earlier in the 2015-2016 school year my sixth grade students read “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park.   The book chronicles the life of Salva Dut and the lost boys of Sudan. My students were touched by Salva’s journey and by his continued efforts to bring clean water to the people of South Sudan.

As a class, my students decided to join the Iron Giraffe Challenge 2016 to help raise money for the Water for South Sudan Foundation by taking their own “long walk to water” from West Homer to Land’s End. Their goal was to raise $1,000.

On May 5, 2016,  all  my 5th and 6th grade students, numerous parent volunteers and myself  (being pushed in a wheelchair due to an unexpected knee injury a couple days before) set off on our walk. It took us a little less than 3 hours, with only a quick stop for lunch. Not one student complained of being tired. Not one student complained of being cold, even when the wind picked up and the rain started falling. We celebrated our achievement with the warmth and hospitality of the folks at Land’s End.

When it was all said and done my students raised exactly $1,051, all of which will help bring much needed clean water to communities in South Sudan.  

I would like to extend a huge thank you to the community of Homer and every parent volunteer for helping my students understand the value of service learning. And to my students, you did it! I am so proud and honored to have been your teacher this year. I know you will go on to do great things. Have a wonderful summer!

Erika Thompson

5th/6th grade teacher

West Homer Elementary


June 6: Mary Epperson Day

By mayoral proclamation, Monday, June 6, 2016, will be Mary Epperson Day in the city of Homer. That date is Mary’s birthday, and since first proclaimed in 2010, the day has honored this extraordinary woman for her lifetime of volunteer service to our community. 

Mary is largely responsible for the vibrant arts and education community we enjoy today in Homer, contributing much of her time and energy to the advancement of the arts. She was an inspiring leader — in some cases a founding leader — for local organizations such as Homer Council on the Arts, Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, Pier One Theatre, Inlet Winds, Homer Youth String Orchestra Club, and the Homer Foundation, which provides funding for local arts organizations. 

Mary was equally passionate about education and lifelong learning, working tirelessly for decades for the establishment of Kenai Peninsula College’s Kachemak Bay Campus. She advocated not only for the construction of the campus in Homer, but also for development of several academic and job training programs, including some that are still in demand today. 

Mary was always quick to say that she was not alone in her efforts to enhance the quality of life for everyone in Homer, and in years past during any sixth of June celebration, she took the opportunity to recognize others who serve as volunteers. Since Mary passed away in April, we do that now in her behalf.

Thanks so much to all Homer’s dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers who give so generously of their time, talent, and resources to support worthwhile causes that strengthen and enhance this wonderful community. 

With gratitude,

Kris Holderied, Chair
Kachemak Bay Campus Community Advisory Board 

Carol Swartz, Director

Kachemak Bay Campus

NOTE: A celebration of Mary Epperson’s life will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25 in the Mariner Theatre of Homer High School.


What do you think?

I have a little problem with the way the city administration and council are moving their revenue around. We start with our city properties, namely the old borough school site at the intersection of Pioneer Avenue and Sterling Highway. 

This property was acquired from the borough to be used for space and facilities directed at our community’s future “young people” who become old people. As this process takes place their needs change from “youthful facilities, to more mature facilities” and a plan is fomented to redirect the use of this property to meet the needs of the police and firemen.

The price tag to tear down the old facility is purported to be a million dollars.

A couple of years ago when the University of Alaska rented this space for class rooms and offices they remodeled, the space on the North end of the complex which houses the basketball court. Renovation costs were a few hundred thousand dollars. The university utilized this space for several years until they were able to get funding for expansion of their campus five blocks away. This facility worked well for the university with one major problem, which was the heating system. Since that time the city of Homer has been plumbed for natural gas. 

Today the council and administration propose dipping into the city’s Permanent Fund account in order to “frontload” the Public Safety Project, a “new police and fire department joint project.” They would like to follow this up with a bond sale to raise $12 million to build the project. 

Stop! Let’s look at this.

$1 million to tear down a useable building?

$12 million to displace or redirect the use of four-and-a-half acres of property meant for public and youth activities? No plan too replace this space?

QUESTION: Where will you get four-and-a-half acres in the center of our community to replace this?

The city has the authority through eminent domain to acquire space for Public Safety, with demonstrated need a police station or fire station may go anywhere.

ARGUMENT: The location for a safety facility needs to be safe of a tsunami threat. The joint facility of police and fire will be less expensive.

COMMENT: What if we leave one of the facilities where it is and relocate the other? The current location is large enough to expand  either to two or three times its current size.

ARGUMENT: We formed a committee to look into all possibilities for this project and they concluded this was the best option. If we disregard their recommendation, they will be mad.

COMMENT: It wasn’t their (the committee) job to determine the cost of loss of this site and facility, to future generations of users. Let’s speculate for a moment about the future: how are your finances doing? the state’s? the borough’s? the city’s? Do you think our town is going to shrink or grow in population, children, government? Look at the last six months: We have re-appropriated $1 million from the HARP (Homer Accelerated Roads Project) to cover a $1 million shortfall in our general fund for running our city. 

We are now asked to tap our city’s permanent fund for $1 million to front load the Public Safety project (the new police and fire facility) and increase our tax burden to repay a bond of $12 million. We are asked to tear down a facility and re-appropriate the use of public space that would cost at least $12 million to replace. 

FACT: We are told that the payment on a 30-year bond will be close to $1 million per year.

We are told that maintenance and upkeep along with increased cost to staff this facility will be nearly $1 million per year.

My question is: Is this really how we want to move into the future? By the way, the HARP fund along with the Accelerated Water and Sewer funds are what we use to help bring new services into the community. 

In two-and-a-half years we have to come up with a replacement source of revenue, for the general fund shortfall, when the HARP revenue sunsets, which is another $1 million.

You do the math.

Life is not easy and life is not fair. Sometimes the best answer is no!

John Fenske


Students learn from artist

Nanwalek and Port Graham Schools recently enjoyed having artist Drew Michael, funded by the Artist in the Schools Grant and the Alaska Council on the Arts, during our traditional Sea Week.  We are so grateful for this grant, council, and our provider and advocate for the arts, the Bunnell Street Gallery.

Each year, during the spring minus tides, each of our schools and communities engages in learning activities related to the marine environment in which these students and residents live, work, play, and subsist. Through Drew Michael’s residency in our schools, students were able to learn printmaking, and created pieces reflective of their culture and environment.  For our students, it is exceptional to work with a professional artist.

We are grateful for the opportunities afforded our students through Artists in the School Grant and the Alaska Council on the Arts, and by the Bunnell Street Gallery, and thankful that our legislators, including Rep. Paul Seaton and Sen. Gary Stevens, support the infusion of arts and artists into our schools.

Nancy Kleine, principal


Homer needs fair harbor rates

On June 13 the Homer City Council will hold a public hearing about setting new rates for moorage in the Homer Harbor.

I am personally opposed to the rates proposed by the Port & Harbor Commission.

The council directed the commission to come up with a fair and equitable rate structure. I know the commission has worked on this issue for a very long time and it has been very contentious.

I do not agree with their recommendation. 

Larger boats use more space on a square foot basis, use more public right of way and require more expensive infrastructure.

Here is a comparison under the current rate structure of $43.49 per lineal foot: 

A 30-foot boat at $43.49 per lineal foot is  $1,334.40 a year. A 10 x 30 boat uses 300 square feet sitting in the harbor.  On a per square foot basis, the rate  is 37 cents per square foot. 

A 75-foot boat at $43.49 per lineal foot pays $3,261.75 a year.  A 25 x 75 boat uses 1,875 square feet sitting in the harbor. Based on a per square foot, the rate is 14 cents per square foot.

This is a comparison using the new rate  proposed by the commission which caps at 86 feet:

A 30 x10 foot boat uses 300 square feet at the proposed rate of 43.49 + 1.50 (.05 per foot x 30 feet) = $44.99  by lineal foot. Under the new proposed rate the cost would be $1,442.88  annually. Based on 300 sqf of boat the sqf rate would be 37 cents per sqf.

A 75 x 25 foot boat uses 1,875 sqf at the proposed rate of 43.49 plus 3.75 (.05 per foot) = 47.24 by lineal foot. Under the new proposed rate the cost would be  $3,543.75.  Based on 1,875 square feet  of boat, the square-foot rate would be 16 cents per square foot.

I do not support a flat fee on square foot method. I support a graduated fair and equitable rate that recognizes how much more space and infrastructure the larger boat uses compared to a smaller boat. Smaller boats should not be paying double.

The system has been  broken for a long time. I recommend that we put new rates in place that will serve the harbor for the long term.  The increases that are needed should be instituted gradually over time until we reach a fair and equitable level for all users.

Using a square foot comparison you can easily see we are renting to the larger boats at a cost that is less than half of what the smaller boats pay. 

I encourage all small boat owners to take the time to understand these rates and weigh in. The large boat owners have already weighed in.  In City of Homer  Memorandum No. 16-084  dated May 13, 2016, you can read the following: “A square foot model was discussed and after much input from large vessel owners that a square footage method was unfair, the Port &Harbor Commission decided against it.” 

In the days of declining state and federal funds it is imperative that we are charging rates that reflect the true cost of providing space in the harbor to all boats.

Thank you.

Sharon Minsch