City OKs bond for gas distribution
The big-ticket item at the Homer City Council's regular meeting on Monday was Ordinance 13-03(S)(2), authorizing the city to issue a natural gas distribution special assessment bond in the principal amount not to exceed $12.7 million for the finance, design and construction of natural gas distribution improvements.
The 22-page ordinance, which includes a loan agreement with the Kenai Peninsula Borough as lender and the city as borrower, passed with all six council members, including Barbara Howard who attended telephonically, voting in favor of it.
Postponed until March 11 at City Manager Walt Wrede's request was Resolution 13-017(S), approving an agreement between the city and Enstar Natural Gas Company for constructing improvements within the Homer Natural Gas Distribution System Special Assessment District in the amount of $12.1 million. The dollar difference between the ordinance and the resolution reflects administrative costs for which the city is responsible.
"We are still not quite ready," said Wrede of discussions continuing between the city and Enstar. "Postponing is not a major setback because we won't have the funding available until at least March 19. That's the soonest the borough can take up the loan agreement."
Public Works Director Carey Meyer gave an explanation of the flooding and damage caused to the city's sewer system by recent weather conditions including warm temperatures and heavy rains. Wrede also pointed out on a normally active day the system handles about 800,000 gallons of water, but was flooded with what may have been more than five million gallons.
In addition to repairs to the system, Meyer noted "weeks of staff time to try to bring the plant back up," and assured the council "we've come up with a way to make sure it never happens again."
Original estimates of $10,000 in damages to the plant have since grown to $100,000 and will be paid out of the water and sewer depreciation reserve account.
"What little I understand of our insurance, the treatment plant is one of the facilities that's insured, but it has a $100,000 deductible," said Meyer.
Wrede said during past budget cycles, the city "took some risks" and increased deductibles.
"This time it didn't pay off," he said.
On a related matter, the council approved Ordinance 13-05, amending the city's operating budget to cover three $3,500 emergency payments totaling $10,000 made by the city to tenants affected by the sewer system's recent problems.
Curious about the value to the city of the Endeavour-Spirit of Independence jack-up rig, the council approved Resolution 13-022, sponsored by Mayor Beth Wythe and council member Beau Burgess. It authorizes Wrede to seek proposals to analyze the economic impact of the rig, which has been tied up at the Deep Water Dock since September.
"The presence of the Endeavour has created an economic stimulus in the community during what is normally a slow time of year," the resolution said, noting benefits associated with sales taxes, moorage, contracts with local businesses and employment for local workers. "It would be beneficial to know and more fully understand the scope and depth of the economic impacts associated with having the Endeavour here."
An update on installation of new library software was presented to the council by Eileen Faulkner, president of the Library Advisory Board. The software is responsible for cataloging, checking in and out and putting items on hold. It also will allow users to sign up for emails and text alerts when items become available. Switching to the new software will require closure of the library to the public March 4-5.
Faulkner also brought attention to the need for more board members.
"We appreciate those who have volunteered, but need one, preferably two more people," said Faulkner. The next meeting of the board will be at city hall at 5 p.m. March 5.
Continuation of Waddell Way through Heath Street to provide an alternate east-west traffic corridor was addressed by the council. The subject will be discussed in greater detail once more information is available from stakeholders in the area, namely Homer Electric Association.
Recreational vehicles got some downtown parking space with the council's approval of Resolution 13-021. It creates day parking - from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. -- at the Homer Education and Recreation Center parking lot from the second weekend in May until Labor Day.
The next meeting of the Homer City Council will be March 11, with the Committee of the Whole meeting at 5 p.m. and the regular council meeting at 6 p.m.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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