Vote ‘yes’ on Prop 1 for new cop shop

A few weeks ago the security alarm at the Homer News went off on a Saturday. We’ve always known the Homer Police work hard to protect our town, but that incident showed us how lucky we are to have good police and why they deserve a new police station.

After the security company notified us about the alarm, we asked for an officer to do a security check. One of our reporters met the officer at the Homer News and found an open door. The officer went in and made sure the building was safe. All was well — the wind had blown open a door that hadn’t been latched properly.

The men and women of the Homer Police work hard to keep us safe. We think they should get the best training and the best equipment. They should be paid well for a job where bad guys try to hurt them. They should get good health insurance, good benefits and — here’s where voters come in — safe working conditions. The police, dispatchers, jailers and, yes, prisoners deserve a building that’s safe and comfortable.

Right now the people we trust to protect us work in a concrete block monstrosity that’s an embarrassment to this town. It’s outdated. It floods. The housing situation for prisoners violates federal guidelines. There’s not enough evidence storage. It’s crowded and cramped.

The Homer City Council has looked at all the options for fixing the cop shop. Remodeling it won’t work — it’s that bad. After two task forces, numerous meetings and considerable debate, the best option they’ve come up with is a scaled-down new building that will cost $7.5 million. Proposition 1 asks voters to approve a $5 million bond. As civic buildings go, that’s on the Atco trailer side of the scale.

To pay for it, Prop 1 asks voters to approve raising the city sales tax by .35 percent, or 35 cents for every $100 of purchase. If you spend $2,000 — or about the cost of feeding a family of four for the three summer months sales tax is collected on food — the new tax adds $7 more to your tax bill. Once the bond is paid off, that tax sunsets except for .05 percent, or 5 cents for every $100, to pay for maintenance on the building.

We know that for some taxpayers pinching every penny that could be significant. We know that Homer has one of the highest sales taxes in the state. But we don’t have high property taxes like Anchorage — 16.40 mills for all services compared to 4.5 mills for the city of Homer. We also know that seasonal sales tax relief has given citizens a tax break they didn’t have when we first built the police station.

Sales tax revenues also have dropped because of online retailers like Amazon who don’t collect local sales taxes. Amazon sucks away retail sales but doesn’t pay back to communities, and they sure as heck won’t pony up to pay for a new police station.

The smart people of the city have squeezed every penny and tried every approach to running city government. Prop 1 is the best solution they have found to building a new police station.

We think the people who keep us safe deserve a new home.

After that incident at the Homer News, we wrote a letter to Chief Mark Robl and City Manager Katie Koester thanking the department for keeping us safe. The best thank-you they can get from voters is easy.

Vote “yes” on Prop 1.

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Willy Dunne is a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. (Courtesy photo)
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