Frtiz Creek area resident Barrett Fletcher gives the invocation before a Tuesday, Sept. 17 2019 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting as a representative of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster at Homer City Hall in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Frtiz Creek area resident Barrett Fletcher gives the invocation before a Tuesday, Sept. 17 2019 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting as a representative of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster at Homer City Hall in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Year in review

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to clarify the matter of a Regulatory Commission of Alaska ruling on the natural gas distribution line and to correct typographical errors.

As the teen years of the 21st century ended, the watch word for Homer was “change.” Some changes made Homer safer and better, like a four-way stoplight at Main Street and the Homer Bypass. Other changes caused anxiety and stress, as forests on the Kenai Peninsula burned, threatening entire towns and for days cutting off the only road onto the peninsula.

A Procustean budget that forced every agency — no matter the size — to lie in the bed of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes caused chaos in university, schools, art and public radio funding. So angry were some at Dunleavy that a recall effort caught fire, even in tiny Homer.

From school superintendents to city managers, local leadership saw changes, with some announcing job moves or retirements. Voters kicked out incumbents and voted in new leadership.

But despite whirlwind changes, the year ended with hope. A New York woman drove a borrowed blue Subaru to Homer seeking out stories of more good as she toured all 50 United States. A new Coast Guard captain brought compassion to the U.S. Coast Guard Hickory crew as they healed from their loss of their shipmate, Chief Warrant Officer Mike Kozloski — and then right before Christmas, a New York foundation paid off the mortgage for his widow’s home.

Here are the top stories of the year:

January

A house explosion rocked the west side of Homer and served as a rude awakening for many a week before the New Year. The first edition of 2019 had more details about the destruction of the two-story home that had been under construction near Endless View Loop at about Mile 166 Sterling Highway. The natural gas explosion leveled the house and scattered debris across the highway, closing the road for several hours. The family that owned the house was not there at the time, and no one was hurt.

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) set off for Juneau to be sworn in as the new District 31 Representative in the Alaska Legislature. Vance replaced Paul Seaton by winning the last election for the Alaska House of Representatives. She was sworn in on Jan. 15.

Homer’s first baby born in 2019 came in with a bang. Sequoia Snow Bettinger, born on Jan. 1 to Allyse and Owen Bettinger in South Peninsula Hospital, had a wild ride shortly before and after her birth. The Bettingers rode a snowmachine through a blizzard from their homestead several miles east of Homer down to the road system. After her birth, Sequoia started exhibiting some breathing problems and was flown to an Anchorage hospital for extra monitoring. She was welcomed by big brother Juneau Hawk, who was 4 at the time. “He held her more in the hospital than we did,” Allyse said of her son.

Homer High School Athletic Director and wrestling coach Chris Perk was inducted into the Alaska Wrestling Hall of Fame. Perk wrestled his way through Homer High as a student and graduate, and went on to wrestle in college at Pacific University.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Sean Dusek announced his impending retirement in January. He was set to stay with the district until June of 2019. He has served as the superintendent for five years.

The city of Homer discovered that its deal to help pay for a natural gas distribution line from Anchor Point to Homer was costing much more than originally thought. The project in 2012 was presented as possibly costing $2.5 million over an $8.15 million state grant, but was discovered in 2019 to have a balance of $5.4 million.

February

The Homer Hockey team came the closest it had in program history to a state championship in February, but fell to Palmer in the final game of the Division II state championship tournament in the Mat-Su Valley. Homer came back from being behind 4-2 to leading Palmer 5-4, before the game got tied up at 5-5. In overtime, Palmer scored to win the state championship 6-5.

The Homer City Council considered whether to approve about $175,000 in matching dollars to support Set Free Alaska, a Mat-Su Valley-based addiction treatment organization, in its application for a state grant to help create an inpatient addiction treatment center in Homer. Ultimately, the city decided against using public funds to support the religious nonprofit. Set Free Alaska still won the grant and moved ahead with its plans to bring addiction treatment to Homer.

In response to the proposed budget by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District began evaluating programs and teacher positions for elimination. School district and school board representatives met in Homer for a budget discussion. Local principals said the teacher to pupil ratios could go up, with fewer teachers and larger class sizes, if the $20 million in one-time funding allocated by the Alaska Legislature was indeed vetoed by Dunleavy. The one-time funding was ultimately restored.

Stormy, a fat, black cat living at the Fritz Creek General Store, was reported to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Food Safety and Sanitation Program, and was evicted. Having a cat in a store where food is prepared violates Alaska’s food safety code. Local residents pushed back against the change, but the owners of the general store found the cat a new place to live. Bumper stickers have since been made that read “Stormy for Fritz Creek Mayor.”

March

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) held a town hall meeting at Kachemak Bay Campus on March 2, during which community members and students sent a barrage of heated questions her way about Dunleavy’s proposed budget, especially the proposed cuts to education. The room was packed with people spilling out into the hallway. Some town hall participants yelled at Vance — others interrupted her or wouldn’t let her finish speaking. Several high school students spoke to Vance about the value of a public education, telling her that it’s important to protect if the state wants students to return to live and work in Alaska.

A fire severely burned the old Bay View Inn near Mile 170 of the Sterling Highway on the way out of Homer. No one was injured in the blaze at the inn that had been closed since 2011. Firefighters found smoke and flames coming from two rooms when they arrived, and worked to prevent the fire from spreading to more rooms.

Members of the community questioned representatives from Pebble Limited Partnership when they visited Homer for a presentation on ongoing permitting processes and the draft environmental impact statement being done on the proposed mine slated for Bristol Bay. The final EIS is slated for early 2020.

The first woman in history to win the Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament, Shayna Perry of Eagle River, won the annual tournament with a 26.7-pound white salmon.

Wasabi’s Bistro outside Homer on East End Road was vandalized with multiple racist messages that were spray painted onto the side of the building. The person did it some time over the course of the night, and was not caught. One of the owners of the restaurant is black, and her husband, the other owner, said this was not the first time their family has been targeted in Homer. Members of the community continued to show support for Wasabi’s by going to dinner there and putting up signs with positive messages outside the building.

The city of Homer voted to extend city water service to an address outside of city limits off East End Road. A development company seeking to build apartments on a lot in Kachemak City, where there is already infrastructure for city water but where water is not hooked up, offered to pay $100,000 for a hookup fee. Mayor Ken Castner introduced the ordinance and voted on it, breaking his campaign promise that he would not vote to break ties. The council reconsidered the ordinance at their next meeting, but a motion to rescind the ordinance failed and the deal went forward. The council then launched into a discussion over several meetings about setting up a future policy to control how city water could be extended to lots outside city limits in the future, if at all.

April

Homer hosted a Native Youth Olympics invitational at Homer High School for the first time since the lower Kenai Peninsula started participating in the event. Students from all over Alaska compete in traditional Native games such as the high kick, the wrist carry and the seal hop.

The Homer Foundation got a new director in Michael Miller, who replaced Joy Steward. A Wisconsin native, Miller had also previously lived in Alaska.

Flo Larson was named Homer’s Lifelong Learning for 2019, and Homer High School senior Theodore Castellani was named the Lifelong Youth Learner. Larson is a former math teacher who has lived in Alaska since 1969. She has also taught in Jakarta, Singapore and Kuantan. Castellani was a member of the Homer swim team and the Drama, Debate and Forensics team. He also participated in high school and community musicals and was heavily involved with the Homer Farmer’s Market, which his parents helped found. Castellani went on to attend Dartmouth the next year.

Joe Woodin, CEO of South Peninsula Hospital, resigned citing “unanticipated circumstances” that would prevent him from remaining in the position. Noel Rea of Networx-Health as the interim CEO. Woodin was in his position at the hospital for just over a year.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District hosted a meeting in Homer to discuss the possible consolidation of Homer High School with Homer Middle School. The move was being considered as part of the district reaction to the possible loss of major funding from the state thanks to budget vetoes by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Residents asked questions about how middle schoolers would be fit into the high school building and how resources and teachers would be restructured. In the end, the consolidation wasn’t necessary as school funding was restored.

A Homer student won first place in the annual Caring for the Kenai event, in which students come up with inventions or campaigns that seek to improve the quality of life and the environment on the Kenai Peninsula. Homer student Austin Cline took first place for his proposal, “Plastics Reimagined,” which involved taking No. 5 plastics and converting them into filament for 3D printers. No. 5 plastics are not recyclable on the peninsula.

May

City officials signed the bond documents to begin the process of constructing Homer’s new police station. The city bonded out for $4.1 million in debt funds to pay for the project. Voters approved going out to bond for $5 million for the police station in a special election in 2018. The total project was slated to cost $7.5 million.

Anchor Point resident Steve Walli won the Anchor Point King Salmon Calcutta Tournament with a 28.45-pound fish. In all, 77 anglers participated in the annual event. Walli won $2,310 for his catch. It was his second time taking first place in the tournament, having also won in 2017.

Alaska Salt Co., a locally owned and operated business that makes and sells products using salt from Kachemak Bay waters, moved into a permanent storefront on the Homer Spit. Previously, the business sold online and operated out of a smaller location next to the Salmon Sisters store on Ocean Drive.

Homer announced its new fire chief: Mike Kirko. Replacing former Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Terry Kadel, Kirko previously worked as fire chief and CEO of North Whidbey Fire and Rescue in Oak Harbor, Washington. Kirko brought 34 years of experience with him to the job in Homer.

The Homer boys soccer team won the Peninsula Conference championship for the first time in program history. With the win, the Homer team was on its way to the State Championship for Division II soccer in Anchorage. The Homer girls took second place in the conference championship with the Soldotna High School girls team taking first.

Homerites were woken up by a magnitude 5.8 earthquake that struck at 1:50 a.m. Monday, May 27 southwest of the Kenai Peninsula, about 40 miles deep. No damage was reported.

The Homer girls team took fourth place at the State Championship for track and field in Anchorage. The Homer softball tea, meanwhile, won first place at the Northern Lights Conference Championship in Kenai for the third year in a row.

June

Thurmond’s Far West Auto in Anchor Point celebrated 50 years in business with a Customer Appreciation Day complete with free food and a classic car show.

The Aspen Suites Hotel, a new hotel in Homer, had its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony and short speeches by Homer Mayor Ken Castner and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce. The 72-room hotel also has locations in Juneau, Kenai, Soldotna, Anchorage, Haines and Sitka.

The principal of Chapman School in Anchor Point, Conrad Woodhead, announced he was resigning to take a job in Anchorage. Woodhead was not only the Chapman principal for eight years, but was also the Native Education Coordinator for the entire school district. He moved on to take a job as Career Technical Education and Residential Director for the Lower Yukon School District. One of Woodhead’s accomplishments in the school district, and a goal for his next position, was working to raise Native student graduation rates.

The city council voted not to put a piece of city-owned property on Main Street back on the market. The 1.3 acre lot had been up for sale for years ever since the Homer Public Library was built on Heath Street instead of Main Street. The city had taken the lot off the market in 2018 because it wasn’t selling. The owners of Grace Ridge Brewery, which is planning to expand, were interested in buying it, but the council ultimately voted not to put it back on the market.

The Swan Lake Fire started on the Kenai Peninsula near the community of Sterling. It was ignited by lightning and reached about 4 square miles in about a week’s time.

July

With the July 4 edition, the Homer News increased its size from a tabloid to a broadsheet format — the same size as big city daily newspapers. The price also went up to $1.

The Swan Lake Fire in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge increased in size to 77,000 acres.

Facing a $135 million veto by Gov. Mike Dunleavy of state support to the University of Alaska, UA President Jim Johnsen said “everything is on the table” as far as reductions in programs. Dunleavy also sliced $2.7 million in state funding for public radio and cut the Alaska State Council on the Arts budget. That meant $74,000 in cuts to KBBI radio in Homer. Interim General Manager Scott Waterman and Board President Genie Hambrick said in a statement they did not anticipate that after 40 years KBBI would close, but that the loss of state funding would shift the burden onto local donors and supporters. Artists in Homer staged a protest against the arts cuts by draping in black cloth a sculpture in front of the Kachemak Bay Campus.

Set Free Alaska, a planned faith-based residential addiction treatment home for men in Homer, had its hopes quashed again when neighbors in the Portlock Drive area off East End Road challenged a potential site. Set Free Director Phillip Licht said he disagreed with the neighbors’ interpretation of subdivision covenants, but didn’t want to be in an area where they were unwelcome. Set Free eventually found a location near Mile 15 East End Road in a former lodge, though some neighbors there also opposed that location. Licht said the facility will open in April or May, with an office in downtown Homer.

A 57-year-old Maryland man died in a float plane crash in Tutka Bay when a DHC2 Beaver crashed on take off.

Homer Mayor Ken Castner swore in Mark Kirko as the new Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief. Kirko took over from former chief Robert Purcell, who had been serving as interim chief.

August

Crews on three Good Samaritan boats rescued five people when their boat capsized near Gull Island. Four victims were taken to South Peninsula Hospital for minor injuries. The first mariner to respond, Scott Burbank of the Seabird, said at first he thought the people in the water were kayakers.

A group of property owners at the end of Dorothy Drive off East End Road — including country-western music star Zac Brown — sought approval from the Kenai Peninsula Borough on a state petition to vacate a section-line easement that goes by their property. The group cited public safety concerns for why they want the easement removed. The borough Planning Commission denied approval.

A statewide effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy started, with a Homer group joining the cause. In two hours of collecting signatures at WKFL Park, more than 430 people signed an application to start the process; by the end of the weekend almost 1,100 signed.

Homer Head Start staff and supporters held a demonstration at the Ocean Drive school to protest a veto by Dunleavy of $2.7 million to the Rural Alaska Community Action Program, which funds state Head Start programs. The loss of funding meant Homer and five other programs could be closed.

A motion to introduce an ordinance forcing the Homer mayor to vote in the case of a tie failed in a 4-2 vote. Council member Rachel Lord sponsored the ordinance in response to Homer Mayor Ken Caster’s refusal to break tie votes, although Castner did break the tie in an ordinance to extend water to a Kachemak City lot that Castner had sponsored.

Wildfires on the Kenai Peninsula flared up in mid-August. Firefighters knocked back a 60-acre fire on the south end of the North Fork road that threatened homes in the North Fork and Diamond Ridge areas. A fire near Caribou Lake grew from 50 to 700 acres, causing concern for cabin owners in the popular recreation area. Further north in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, high winds caused the Swan Lake fire to increase, closing the Sterling Highway for several hours on one day. Fire officials imposed a total burn ban for Southcentral Alaska. The fires hit the Kenai Peninsula with heavy smoke, disrupting the late summer tourist season.

New South Peninsula Hospital Chief Executive Officer Ryan Smith started work in late August. Smith previously worked as chief financial officer at SPH from 1996-98, and had been CEO at Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna from 2006-11.

Morgan Laffert, the service coordinator at Hospice of Homer, started Death Café in Homer, part of an international movement to provide safe, open spaces for people to gather and talk about death.

A public meeting held by Hilcorp Alaska LLC to conduct seismic testing in the lower Cook Inlet got heated when people blew air horns and asked pointed questions. Hilcorp Operations Manager called Hilcorp “a smaller company,” but days after the meeting BP announced it sold its Alaska properties to Hilcorp for $5.6 billion.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska agreed to a settlement between Enstar Natural Gas and the city of Homer, Kachemak City and the Kenai Peninsula Borough saying that Homer area natural gas consumers would not have to pay more than a $1 per thousand cubic feet tariff and that the surcharge will sunset in 2032, if not sooner.

September

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, held a constituent meeting in early September at Captain’s Coffee. Vance returned to Homer from Juneau during a break between special sessions. She said she wouldn’t budge on her campaign promises of fighting against a state income tax and for a $3,000 Permanent Fund Dividend. The meeting turned tense when some accused Vance of not being communicative enough.

The Alaska World Arts Festival started its two-week run with First Friday openings. It included shows like Quixotic, The Fab Four and Tom Bodett’s True Stories as well as the Homer Documentary Film Festival and the annual Burning Basket.

Continued wildfires delayed deliveries on the Kenai Peninsula, with some stores reporting shipments coming three or four days late. Sales spiked when customers heard deliveries were late. “It was like a hurricane,” said Save-U-More manager Mark Hemstreet.

An ordinance to codify how the city of Homer extends water deliveries outside its boundaries failed in a 3-2 vote. That meant the current rule stands and the only way lots outside the city can connect to city water is for them to be annexed.

Bay Weld Boats launched its largest boat ever — and the largest boat built in Homer — when crane crews lowered the 74-foot Goldbelt Seawolf into Kachemak Bay at Northern Enterprises Boat Yard. The crane to launch the boat was so big it needed a second crane to assemble it. It’s the 210th Bay Weld boat built. It took 11 months and 10,000 man-hours to build, employing 40 people.

Fritz Creek resident Barrett Fletcher, founding pastor of the First Lower Peninsula Congregation of Pastafarians, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, delivered the invocation wearing a pasta colander at the start of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting in Homer. Fletcher founded the church in response to a prior assembly rule that invocations could only be delivered by a faith with an established presence on the peninsula.

“May the great Flying Spaghetti Monster rouse himself from his stupor and let his noodle appendages ground each assembly member in their seats, reminding them of the purpose of their election to this body and helping them to stay focused on the tasks at hand,” Fletcher said.

Café Cups closed its doors after the current operators, Jessica and Pavel Mikhail, decided not to exercise a lease-to-buy option from owners Jennifer and Dave Olson. The Olsons sold the restaurant with the iconic cups on its façade to the Little Mermaid, and it will continue as an eatery, but without the cups. Cups opened in January 1990.

A New York writer, Mary Latham, stopped in Homer as part of her More Good tour that has taken her to 48 states in her quest to find uplifting stories. Latham had been driving around the country since 2016 in her late mother’s blue 2008 Subaru. In Alaska, she borrowed another blue Subaru. Latham planned to write a book about her stories. On Dec. 1, she finished her 43,000-mile journey at her Orient Point, Long Island, New York home, visiting all 50 states and staying in 154 homes.

After a 34-year run, the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby ended in September after the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center announced the 2019 derby would be the last. Jason Schuler of Wahpeton, North Dakota, was the last angler to win the jackpot, taking home $13,160.50 for his 224.2-pound halibut. The chamber said it ended the derby because of declining ticket sales. The season-long derby will be replaced in 2020 with a shorter halibut tournament similar to the chamber’s popular Winter King Salmon Tournament. In other chamber news, Executive Director Debbie Speakman announced she was resigning effective Sept. 17. Visitor center manager Jan Knutson filled in until new director Brad Anderson started in December.

A Homer jury acquitted a Homer woman on felony drug charges following a seven-day trial. Michelle Hoyt, 43, had been accused of fourth- and third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. Prosecutors alleged Hoyt deceived an employee at Scotts Pharmacy into giving her another person’s prescription. Hoyt said a clerk gave her the man’s drugs by mistake.

The Fresh Sourdough Express Café and Bakery closed for good at the end of September. Owner and founder Donna Maltz started the Ocean Drive landmark restaurant in 1982 after driving her van up to Alaska, baking all the way. Donna Maltz met Kevin Maltz in 1984 when he came in to interview for a job; they married in 1988.

October

In Homer city elections, voters overwhelmingly approved an ordinance that would ban retailers from providing single-use plastic bags. The Homer City Council in 2012 first passed such a ban, but it was overturned in a citizen initiative. Voters also elected Joey Evensen and Storm Cavasos-Hansen to two seats on the council, rejecting incumbents Shelly Erickson, the third-place candidate, and Tom Stroozas. In the final tally, Erickson lost by seven votes, but chose not to ask for a recount.

In Kenai Peninsula Borough elections, two propositions failed. Proposition 1 would have changed the borough government to a manager-based system, and Proposition 2 would have raised the sales tax cap from $500 to $1,000.

Homer High School senior Autumn Daigle won the Region III cross-country running title in Palmer and later won the Division II girls state championship.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeanette Greene took command of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory, the first woman to take command of the buoy tender. Greene assumed command from Cmdr. Charter Tschirgi, who had been interim commander since May 21. Greene is a 2005 U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate. She moved to Homer with her husband, Eric, and their sons, Grady and Sawyer.

Outgoing Homer City Council member Tom Stroozas filed a complaint on Oct. 7 challenging the residency of newly elected council member Storm Hansen-Cavasos. Stroozas, who lost re-election to the council, said he had received information that Hansen-Cavasos lived outside the city limits in 2019. At its Oct. 14 meeting, the council certified the election results and Homer City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen swore in Joey Evensen and Hansen-Cavasos. The council also authorized an investigation into her residency to be done by Jacobsen, City Manager Katie Koester and the city attorney. Following that investigation, the council voted 4-1 and found Hansen-Cavasos to be a qualified city resident. Stroozas filed a lawsuit in November challenging her residency and seeking a restraining order to keep her from being on the council. After Judge Andrew Guidi denied the restraining order, Stroozas and the city filed a joint motion seeking to dismiss the case, which each side paying its own legal and court costs. Guidi granted the motion.

Bunnell Street Arts Center held an “indigenized fall,” with a kuspuk group show, a performance piece by Emily Johnson and a workshop with Native leaders to teach Bunnell staff about how to more respectfully host indigenous artists. A highlight of the kuspuk show was a 12-foot tall kuspuk by Dillingham artist Amber Webb that includes images of missing or murdered indigenous women.

A Homer woman, Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, 38, went missing from her Main Street home on Oct. 17. The last known sighting came from security camera footage showing her leaving her Main Street apartment at 12:13 p.m. Oct. 17. She had been walking to a 1 p.m. appointment at SVT Health Center, but never showed up. Volunteers searched the downtown area the weekend after she went missing. Search-dog teams tracked her path from Main Street to Pioneer Avenue near Heath Street, but her scent disappeared in what search-dog handlers called a “car pick up.” Homer Police searched cell phone, social media, bank and other records and found nothing. Murnane’s family believes she was abducted. Throughout October, November and December, volunteers canvassed areas on the lower Kenai Peninsula. By Christmas Eve, Murnane remained missing.

The city of Homer filed for a conditional use permit to expand a parking lot by the Seafarers Memorial on the Homer Spit. Harbor users argued they needed more parking on the Spit, but the idea got some pushback. The Homer Planning Commission denied the permit.

November

A Homer man survived a bear attack near Diamond Ridge Road on Nov. 4. A member of the U.S. Coast Guard, the man suffered a laceration to his scalp and had non-life threatening injuries. The man encountered a sow with cubs on hiking trails. He was able to get help at a nearby home.

The Fair Share campaign opened an office in Homer to collect signatures for a statewide citizen initiative. If passed, the initiative would change Alaska’s oil-and-gas tax structure for North Slope legacy fields by increasing the gross tax rate, eliminating net tax credits and increase Alaska’s share of oil revenues as profits rise.

Following an evidentiary hearing on Nov. 12 for Lee John Henry, the man accused of murdering Mark Matthews in 2013, Kenai Superior Court Judge Lance Joanis delayed a planned November jury trial. Joanis allowed prosecutors to use a new analysis of DNA evidence found on Matthews’ body they said linked Henry to the victim, and because the defense needed more time to have its one expert look at the new evidence, the judge continued the trial to April.

Madison Story ended a 26-year title drought when she became the first Homer girl to win a state swim crown. Story raced to a victory in the girls 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2 minutes, 7.07 seconds. Story’s mother, then Corise Bittner, was the last Homer girl to win a state title, with victories in the backstroke and the 200 IM — the same event Madison won.

The Homer volleyball team swept Kenai Central to take the Southcentral championship. The team then went on to state and, in a nail biter where it looked like they might have their hopes dashed in early losses, battled their way back in three elimination games to defeat Kenai Central to take its first state crown since 1990.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Kelly Cooper announced on Nov. 14 that she planned to challenge Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, in the race for House District 31 Representative. Under the borough’s term-limit rules, Cooper can’t run for re-election to the assembly. Cooper registered as undeclared, and said she doesn’t know yet if she will run as an independent in the general election or seek the Democratic Party nomination as a nonpartisan candidate.

December

New Pratt Museum Executive Director Jennifer Gibbins started work on Dec. 2. Gibbins, an Alaskan since 2004 when she moved to Cordova, took over from interim director Marilyn Sigman, filling in at the museum after former director Laurie Stuart left in the summer.

Two years after it first applied for a standard cultivation license, the first operation to apply for a commercial cannabis license inside city limits finally got approval for a license. Owned by Janiese Stevens and Dan Coglianese, Alaska Loven It, on Kachemak Drive passed its final inspection on Nov. 20. Stevens said they hoped to be selling product within three months.

Homer got its second full traffic signal on Dec. 10 when stoplights at Main Street and the Homer Bypass powered up. The four-way signal mostly runs green on the Bypass with yellow left-turn caution lights, but stops traffic for vehicles on Main Street crossing or turning left.

An old fight over public access, recreational use and protection of critical habitats started up after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced it sought comments on a stand-alone regulation change that would repeal a ban on personal watercraft or Jet Skis in the Kachemak Bay and Fox River Flats Critical Habitat Areas. The fast, nimble watercraft had been banned in 2000.

At the Dec. 9 Homer City Council meeting, Homer City Manager Katie Koester gave the council a 90-day notice that she planned to resign. Koester and her family will move to Alaska’s capital for her to take a job as Public Works and Engineering Director for the City and Borough of Juneau. Koester started in 2015 when she replaced longtime former City Manager Walt Wrede.

In a first for the city, the Homer City Council went to a two-year budget cycle, passing budgets for both 2020 and 2021.

In an early Christmas gift, a Sept. 11 foundation paid off the mortgage for the home of Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski, a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory crew member killed in a crane incident in January. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation paid the mortgage for the Port St. Lucia, Florida, home Kosloski’s widow, Brienne Kozloski, and their four children. The foundation was formed to honor Siller, a Fire Department of New York firefighter killed in the collapse of the Twin Towers during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Longshore workers picketed the loading of 22,000 metric tons of sulfur at the Deep Water Dock. Members and supporters of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Alaska, the workers alleged Chumley’s Inc. hired longshore workers at substandard industry wage and benefit conditions. HJ Baker bought the sulfur from the Marathon Oil Refinery in Nikiski, a byproduct of a refinery process that removes the polluting chemical from fuels. The sulfur was shipped overseas to Mexico to make fertilizer.

In the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, volunteers with the Kachemak Bay Birders logged a record 80 species in the Homer area, including three species never before logged in the bird count.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com. Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

Emergency medical technicians help victims of a boat capsizing up the Homer Harbor load and launch ramp on Tuesday afternoon, July 30, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. Crews in three Good Samaritan boats, from front to back, the Torega, the Grotta Nove, and the Seabird, rescued five people from an overturned skiff near China Poot Bay. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Emergency medical technicians help victims of a boat capsizing up the Homer Harbor load and launch ramp on Tuesday afternoon, July 30, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. Crews in three Good Samaritan boats, from front to back, the Torega, the Grotta Nove, and the Seabird, rescued five people from an overturned skiff near China Poot Bay. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Kirko, center, shows volunteers search areas at the fire hall as part of an effort on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, to find Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, reported missing on Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. About 50 people showed up that afternoon in an unsuccessful effort to find the missing woman. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Kirko, center, shows volunteers search areas at the fire hall as part of an effort on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, to find Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, reported missing on Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. About 50 people showed up that afternoon in an unsuccessful effort to find the missing woman. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) addresses a crowd of people during a legislative update meeting Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 at Captain’s Coffee in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) addresses a crowd of people during a legislative update meeting Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 at Captain’s Coffee in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Recall Dunleavy organizers Ann Keffer, right, in hat, and Pat Cue, behind Keffer, take signatures at a Recall Dunleavy rally held on Aug. 1, 2019, at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska. At left, former Homer Rep. Paul Seaton, NP-Homer, signs a form. Seaton lost to Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, in the general election. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)

Recall Dunleavy organizers Ann Keffer, right, in hat, and Pat Cue, behind Keffer, take signatures at a Recall Dunleavy rally held on Aug. 1, 2019, at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska. At left, former Homer Rep. Paul Seaton, NP-Homer, signs a form. Seaton lost to Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, in the general election. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)

Richard Gustafson asks Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) a heated question during a town hall meeting Saturday, March 2, 2019 at Kachemak Bay Campus in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Richard Gustafson asks Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) a heated question during a town hall meeting Saturday, March 2, 2019 at Kachemak Bay Campus in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Racist messages are spray painted onto a wall at Wasabi’s Bistro, shown here Thursday, March 21, 2019 just outside of Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Racist messages are spray painted onto a wall at Wasabi’s Bistro, shown here Thursday, March 21, 2019 just outside of Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Homer Mayor Ken Castner, left, swears in new Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Kirko, center, as former Acting Chief Robert Purcell, right, watches at the Homer City Council regular meeting held July 22, 2019, in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall, in Homer, Alaska. Castner also read a letter of appreciation Painter, a former HVFD fire chief, thanking him for coming out of retirement to serve as acting chief. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer Mayor Ken Castner, left, swears in new Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Kirko, center, as former Acting Chief Robert Purcell, right, watches at the Homer City Council regular meeting held July 22, 2019, in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall, in Homer, Alaska. Castner also read a letter of appreciation Painter, a former HVFD fire chief, thanking him for coming out of retirement to serve as acting chief. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information)

The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information)

Trinity Hotshots battling the Swan Lake Fire hold the line during burnout operations along the Sterling Highway in Alaska on Aug. 26, 2019. (Photo courtesy Great Basin Incident Management Team)

Trinity Hotshots battling the Swan Lake Fire hold the line during burnout operations along the Sterling Highway in Alaska on Aug. 26, 2019. (Photo courtesy Great Basin Incident Management Team)

A spruce tree flares up in the North Fork fire as it burns near the south end of the North Fork Road on Sunday evening, Aug. 18, 2019, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

A spruce tree flares up in the North Fork fire as it burns near the south end of the North Fork Road on Sunday evening, Aug. 18, 2019, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Nancy Yeaton of Nanwalek speaks at a Hilcorp meeting on lower Cook Inlet seismic testing on Aug. 23, 2019, at Land’s End Resort in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Nancy Yeaton of Nanwalek speaks at a Hilcorp meeting on lower Cook Inlet seismic testing on Aug. 23, 2019, at Land’s End Resort in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The original van of the Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe marks the business’ origins. The landmark business closed last month in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The original van of the Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe marks the business’ origins. The landmark business closed last month in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Donna and Kevin Maltz pose in the original Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe van on Sept. 27, 2019, as the landmark business held a going-out-of-business garage sale at its Ocean Drive location in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Donna and Kevin Maltz pose in the original Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe van on Sept. 27, 2019, as the landmark business held a going-out-of-business garage sale at its Ocean Drive location in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

A man crosses the Homer Bypass Road as a driver turns left from Main Street onto the bypass using the new stoplight at the intersection. Homer’s second stoplight became operational on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

A man crosses the Homer Bypass Road as a driver turns left from Main Street onto the bypass using the new stoplight at the intersection. Homer’s second stoplight became operational on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer longshore workers picket on the Homer Spit by Freight Dock Road on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. They were part of a group of about 20 Alaska International Longshore and Warehouse Union members or supporters hold an “area standards” picket in response to Chumley’s Inc. use of workers to load a sulfur hauler ship the ILWU alleges are paid substandard wages. From left to right, are Grant Lane, Paul Gregoire, Carley Conemac, Jeff Allmendinger and Brian Dingman. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer longshore workers picket on the Homer Spit by Freight Dock Road on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. They were part of a group of about 20 Alaska International Longshore and Warehouse Union members or supporters hold an “area standards” picket in response to Chumley’s Inc. use of workers to load a sulfur hauler ship the ILWU alleges are paid substandard wages. From left to right, are Grant Lane, Paul Gregoire, Carley Conemac, Jeff Allmendinger and Brian Dingman. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

From left to right: Juneau Bettinger, Allyse Bettinger, Sequoia Bettinger and Owen Bettinger rest on a bed in front of a tray of gifts Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska. The Bettingers celebrated the arrival of their newest family members on Jan. 1. Sequoia was Homer’s first baby born in the new year. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

From left to right: Juneau Bettinger, Allyse Bettinger, Sequoia Bettinger and Owen Bettinger rest on a bed in front of a tray of gifts Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska. The Bettingers celebrated the arrival of their newest family members on Jan. 1. Sequoia was Homer’s first baby born in the new year. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Sonya Ivanoff, 8, participates in the Eskimo Stick Pull during the Kachemak Bay Traditional Games invitational Saturday, March 30, 2019 at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Sonya Ivanoff, 8, participates in the Eskimo Stick Pull during the Kachemak Bay Traditional Games invitational Saturday, March 30, 2019 at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Shayna Perry of Eagle River holds up her 26.7-pound white king salmon while accepting first prize in the Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Coal Point Seafoods in Homer, Alaska. Perry is the first woman to win the tournament, according to the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Shayna Perry of Eagle River holds up her 26.7-pound white king salmon while accepting first prize in the Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Coal Point Seafoods in Homer, Alaska. Perry is the first woman to win the tournament, according to the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Homer’s Brenna McCarron (right) prepares to send the ball up the field under pressure from Soldotna’s Ryann Cannava during the girls championship game of the Peninsula Conference Soccer Tournament on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Homer’s Brenna McCarron (right) prepares to send the ball up the field under pressure from Soldotna’s Ryann Cannava during the girls championship game of the Peninsula Conference Soccer Tournament on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

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