Top stories 2013: Homer turns on gas, repeals bag ban, launches numerous building projects
The New Year — 2013 — began with Homer preparing to take a step many longtime residents thought might never be taken: bringing natural gas to the southern Kenai Peninsula.
“I remain skeptical from a history of about 40 years of hearing about natural gas to Homer,” said former Homer Mayor Jim Hornaday.
In other city news, the Homer City Council-approved ban on thin, disposable plastic bags sparked controversy. Council members Beau Burgess and Davis Lewis said the bags were a burden to the solid waste system and threatened the environment. Opponent Justin Arnold criticized the ordinance and led a ballot initiative drive so voters could weigh in. They did and in October repealed the ban.
During 2013, the Homer landfill was converted to a transfer site, with a new facility and new contractor to run the operation. Southern penin-sula waste is now hauled to the Cen-tral Peninsula Landfill near Soldotna.
Ten-year anniversaries and production milestones marked the year for several local businesses. Google dubbed Homer the state’s eCity for 2013. A perceived “anti-business attitude” on the Homer City Council led to formation of the Homer Voice for Business.
At the harbor, Buccaneer Energy’s Endeavour-Spirit of Independence jack-up rig was a guest for more than 200 days at the Deep Water Dock, before it was moved to the Cosmopolitan site near Stariski. Longer-than-expected repairs kept the M/V Tustumena out of service for almost a year. Homer’s share of cruise ship taxes launched numerous projects, with more to be completed in 2014.
A July murder on Poopdeck Trail remains unsolved, with a $10,000 reward offered. After more than a year of procedural delays, a Jan. 27 trial date has been set for Anthony Resetarits, 21, and Joseph Resetarits, 19, who were charged with one count each of second-degree sexual assault in a September 2012 incident.
In July, locals turned out in force to break bread with Gov. Sean Parnell and First Lady Sandy Parnell at Homer’s first Governor’s Picnic. In October, voters elected newcomer Gus VanDyke and incumbent Bryan Zak to the city council.
As the year comes to a close, a citizen-led petition drive is in the works to change Homer from a first-class city to a home-rule city, the Homer City Council passed its 2014 budget without adding new taxes, and the $12 million natural gas project is online for completion in 2014.
Hornaday is among those already enjoying its benefits.
“I’ve had it for two months and it looks like I’m going to save 40 percent overall,” said Hornaday. “I’m very glad to get it.”
The project to bring natural gas to the southern Kenai Peninsula became visibly apparent as Enstar Natural Gas began stockpiling pipe in a storage area near Kachemak Nordic Ski Club’s Lower Baycrest-D.O.T trailhead. In anticipation of the work, Enstar selected Chumley Inc. of Sterling to construct the trunk line to bring natural gas from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City.
The city’s ban on thin, disposable plastic bags went into effect in Homer Jan. 1, with businesses allowed to continue using what they had until their stock was depleted. Ordinance sponsors, council members David Lewis and Beau Burgess, proposed the law, saying use of the disposable bags “creates burdens on the local solid waste system and degrades the environment.”
An assembled gray whale skeleton that washed ashore in Halibut Cove in 1999 found a home at the Pratt in January as the centerpiece of the exhibit “Encounters: Whales In Our Waters.” The project involved the efforts of more than 100 volunteers led by Homer’s resident “bone man,” Lee Post.
The Steven Craig family celebrated Craig’s return after the Homer snowmachiner became lost. The intended two-hour trip from the family’s East End Road home to Caribou Lake became a 50-hour nightmare after Craig encountered foul weather and didn’t return home as expected. The ground and air search efforts of more than 100 volunteers paid off, with Craig found cold and wet, but OK.
Longtime Popeye, Homer and Voznesenka wrestling coach Steve Wolfe was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. As a result, his name is now among the greats in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla.
Seven months after beginning the process, the Homer City Council gave its 6-0 approval of the special assessment district that will fund construction of the 73-mile, $12.7 million natural gas distribution line serving almost every city property from the Homer Spit to Skyline Drive.
Sen. Mark Begich made a quick stop in Homer and met with more than 100 area residents in the commons of Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage. Homer Mayor Beth Wythe praised Begich for his focus on “building a strong economy for Alaska.” Those attending asked Begich to comment on a wide range of topics including passage of the Violence Against Women Act, postal reform, oil and gas development in the state, education, health care, gun control and the nation’s $16 trillion debt..
With less than three years of service to Homer, Grant Aviation dropped the southern Kenai Peninsula from its schedule. Reasons for the change were not forthcoming from the company, which continued to provide service to Anchorage, Bethel, Cold Bay, Dillingham, Dutch Harbor, Emmonak, Kenai, King Salmon and Valdez.
The Terrace, an assisted living facility run by Homer Senior Citizens Inc., made numerous changes to its operation and management following an investigation and report by state health officials. Complaints received during 2012 included, among others, failure to meet the medical needs of residents, follow prescribed dietary guidelines and provide medications correctly. A $10,000 fine and improvements totaling $58,000 resulted. An inspection by state confirmed The Terrace had made “significant corrections,” according to Michelle Ziemer, certification and licensing program manager and one of the investigating officials.
Ilya Gherman, 53, of Anchor Point was arrested on two counts of kidnapping and two counts of third-degree assault with a firearm, and second-degree misconduct involving a weapon. A grand jury indicted Gherman on two counts each of kidnapping and third-degree assault and one count of second-degree misconduct involving a weapon. A trial is set for late February 2014.
Anchor Point skier Kinna Ledger was selected to represent the United States at the 10th Special Olympics World Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. At the February competition, Ledger took a bronze medal in the 50-meter event with a time of 29.65.
Homer’s Lady Mariner Nordic skiers took top honors at Boroughs. The competition was held at Lookout Mountain, with competing teams from Kenai, Skyview, Seward and SoHi. The Mariner boys claimed third place.
Homer City Council gave its official OK to a not-to-exceed $12.1 million contract with Enstar Natural Gas to bring natural gas to the city. “Now it’s Enstar’s turn to get to work,” said John Sims, manager of Enstar’s corporate communications and customer service. Before month’s end, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved a $12.7 loan agreement between the borough and the city to finance a natural gas utility special assessment district.
After an Alaska Wildlife Trooper stopped Timothy K. Igou, 26, of Homer for failing to signal a turn, the trooper discovered a suspected meth lab in the man’s vehicle. Igou was arrested on one count of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, with additional charges related to the alleged meth lab pending. Igou entered a change of plea agreement in late December.
A ruling by a federal civil jury exonerated three Homer Police officers and their employer, the city of Homer, relating to a 2006 shooting at the airport. The unanimous verdict of the eight-member jury found that Cherry Dietzmann and her children, the plaintiffs in the $45 million suit against the city and officers, did not prove that Homer Police officers Stacy Luck and Dave Shealy shot Jason Anderson Jr., then 2, in a shootout involving the boy’s father, Jason Anderson Sr., then 31, with Homer Police and U.S. Marshals seven years ago at the Homer Airport.
After two and a half days of deliberation, a Homer jury acquitted William O. Daugherty of Homer on three felony counts of kidnapping, third-degree assault and third-degree weapons misconduct. The jury found Daugherty guilty on two counts of fourth-degree assault, domestic violence. A Kenai judge sentenced Daugherty to time served for the fourth-degree assault conviction.
South Peninsula Haven House announced the winners for the 2013 Women of Distinction and the “Hero of the Heart” awards: Amy Bollenbach, woman of wisdom; Ingrid Harrald, woman of distinction, Katherine Dolma, young woman of distinction, and Kris Holderied, hero of the heart.
Showcasing the area’s wintertime beauty, the Homer Epic was called “the most gorgeous race I have ever done,” by first-place female skier Aubrey Smith of Wasilla. The 100K (approximately 62 miles) event, with a course that began and ended at McNeil Canyon Elementary School and looped around Caribou Lake, attracted 71 skiers, fat bikers and runners.
Anchorage angler Leszek Kuligowski caught the winning fish in the Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament. His prize included a $15,372 first-place check and $25,875 in side bets.
D&L Construction was selected by the Kenai Peninsula Borough as the contractor to transfer waste from Homer to the Central Peninsula Landfill upon completion of the new transfer site facilities.
Monte Davis, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, announced he would be leaving that position once a replacement was found or Sept. 1, whichever came first. Davis became executive director in 2011, replacing Paul Dauphinais. In May, chamber board member Jim Lavrakas was chosen as Davis’ successor, with Davis agreeing to continue with the chamber until mid-August.
Locally owned Bay Welding Shop celebrated the construction of its 100th boat. Founded in 1994 by Allen and Linda Engebretsen and managed by their son, Eric, the company averages six boats a year.
After arriving in Kachemak Bay Aug. 24, 2012, and spending 218 days at the Homer Deep Water Dock, the Endeavour-Spirit Independence, Buccaneer’s jack-up rig, departed for the Cosmopolitan oil and gas lease site near Stariski.
Fifty-five runners, bikers and skiers crossed the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club’s annual Sea to Ski Triathlon starting line. The course included a 5K run, 7K bike and 5K ski from Mariner’s Beach to the DOT trailhead.
More contracts were awarded for the project to bring natural gas to the southern Kenai Peninsula. Geovera LLC of Homer was selected by Enstar to survey for distribution lines. Kachemak City awarded Clark Management of Anchor Point the contract to construct that area’s distribution system.
The Homer Public Library’s Celebration of Life Long Learning honored Ken Castner, with Homer High School student Ethan Kizzia recognized as the 2013 Youth! Learner.
With 30 years in education, 18 at McNeil Canyon Elementary School, teacher Sheryl Sotelo received the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship. She was one of 27 science, technology, engineering and mathematic educators chosen for the program. Sotelo will spend 11 months in Washington, D.C., working with sponsoring agencies including the Department of Energy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and NOAA.
Putting Homer’s share of the cruise ship tax to use, the city made plans for constructing restrooms, a guard house and a waiting area at the base of the Deep Water Dock; paving the parking and staging area at the dock; building new public restrooms in downtown Homer; addressing Kittiwake gull deterrence and cleanup on the dock; and launching an extension of and improvements to the Spit Trial.
Local runners and walkers rallied in support of April 15 Boston Marathon bombing victims, circling the new Homer High School track 26.2 minutes, one minute for each marathon mile. Many wore shirts, hats and jackets commemorating the Boston race.
With 16 years of coaching the Homer High School Mariner football team and two runs at the state championship, Camron Wyatt decided it was time for a break. “It’s not about a coach and it’s not about a player. It’s about how we work together as a team and help others out,” said Wyatt.
Having opened on the same day — May 1, 2003, — Homer Physical Therapy, owned by Sallie Rediske, and Cosmic Kitchen, owned by Michelle Wilson and Sean Hogan, celebrated 10 years in business.
Carol Swartz, director of Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage, was presented with the 2013 UA-UAA Meritorious Service Award at KBC’s graduation ceremony. It honored Swartz’s 26 years of commitment and service to the university and the community of Homer. Swartz also was recognized with an Alaska State Legislature citation.
As the school year came to a close in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, three southern peninsula school principals said good-bye to the district and new principals were selected. Kari Dendurent was chosen to replace Ron Larson at Homer Middle School; Homer High School Assistant Principal Doug Waclawski was selected to replace HHS Principal Dr. Allan Gee; Judy Standafer was chosen to replace Susan B. English Principal Sheryl Hingley in Seldovia.
After a bumpy beginning to the season due to frozen pipes and other weather-related problems, the Glacier Drive-In opened its doors with new owners Jill and Lee Pedersen, long-time acquaintances of the popular Spit restaurant’s former owners, Sonny and Nancy Smith.
As they have in year’s past, volunteers turned out for the annual Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center’s Cleanup Day. They collected bags of trash for recycling and disposal, but found one thing they couldn’t pick up: the ground-covering slush of a slow-departing winter.
The Homer Boys and Girls Club shut down its program while a task force looks at the future. Reasons for the closure included the expiration of the lease for space in the city-owned Homer Education and Recreational Complex, the building’s uncertain future and the club’s declining membership.
A little-known Homer nonprofit, Museums Alaska, was the recipient of a $265,000 Rasmuson grant. Through Museums Alaska, museums and cultural centers can apply for up to $35,000 to purchase contemporary, original art in all media by living Alaska artists.
Bret Herrick, 52, who was charged with kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, cour counts of third-degree assault and third-degree theft relating to an Aug. 3 2012, incident, pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and two charges of fourth-degree assault, all misdemeanor charges, and was sentenced to 1,080 days in jail with 860 days suspended, or 220 days to serve, with three years probation. With time served and an adjusted sentence for good behavior, Herrick was released from Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai.
A suspicious bomb-like devise resulted in the evacuation of 370 students and staff at Homer High School. It also brought charges of first-degree terroristic threatening against 18-year-old high school senior Zachary Fraley and a 16-year-old student. In September, Fraley pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct. The boy’s case was referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice. Fraley received a suspended imposition of sentence subject to the conditions that he complete 80 hours of community work service and write a letter of apology to the high school and local papers.
“I am deeply sorry about the incident that I inadvertently caused,” Fraley said in court.
Results from radiocarbon dating raised questions about the origin of a bone found on the beach near Mariner Park. Testing results indicated it was a woolly mammoth tusk dating back about 20,400 years, which placed it right at the peak of the Naptown Glacier, a period when ice blanketed the area. “So we’re not sure where it came from,” said geologist Dick Reger of Soldotna. “
Individuals, teams and sponsors made for a successful Relay For Life. The event raised more than $75,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Low salmon runs resulted in an emergency order from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, closing the Anchor River, Deep Creek, Ninilchik River and Stariski Creek until mid-July. Catch-and-release of king salmon also was closed on Cook Inlet within one mile offshore south of Ninilchik River to Bluff Point.
Unhappy with the plastic bag ban, local resident Justin Arno led a petition drive to put repeal of the ban before city voters. Collecting 260 signatures of registered voters, Arno had the required 20 percent of those voting in the last city election, and the repeal initiative was certified for the Oct. 1 ballot.
With the help of a $2.275 million legislative grant, Ninilchik Emergency Services broke ground for a new building at a new site. A construction contract was awarded to G&S Construction Inc. During 2012, NES made 146 runs, including 138 ambulance and 8 fire calls.
Happy to have winter finally over, residents became alarmed when lawns failed to turn green. The culprit, according to Lydia Clayton of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extensions Service, was a root-suffocating sheet of ice and a later-than-normal thaw.
Fast responders from the Alaska Division of Forestry, Homer Volunteer Fire Department and Kachemak Emergency Services stopped an East End Road grass fire in its tracks. Classified a human-caused fire, flames were shooting up to four- and six-feet by the time firefighters arrived. Not wasting any time, they “knocked it down in a hurry. They contained it right away,” said Will Hutt, a lieutenant with the Homer Police Department.
When fire erupted in a Hesketh Island sauna and wind spread it to nearby brush, firefighters responded from the Division of Forestry, transported to the site by Mako’s Water Taxi. Firefighters from Seldovia also responded. The combined effort managed to contain the fire to a half-acre.
Homer musician Ray Garrity, 53, died in a four-wheeler accident on June 26. He was a member of the band, Ray-Jen Cajun. About 100 friends and family held a New Orleans-style Second Line jazz procession down Pioneer Avenue for Garrity.
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, presented Vietnam War veteran Sgt. Randy Clifford with a duplicate set of military medals in a ceremony at the American Legion Post 16. A helicopter door gunner, Clifford was wounded in combat in 1971. His original medals got lost after he was sent home.
“I’m one of the lucky ones. Over half the guys I flew with were either killed or wounded. I’m not complaining. I got off easy. A lot of guys never saw their 20th birthday. If there are any heroes around, they’re the ones,” Clifford said.
For the second year in a row, Anchorage runner Jake Moe won the 10K to the Bay Spit Run, winning with a time of 32:40.
Buccaneer Energy announced that drilling with the jack-up rig Endeavour-Spirit of Independence had found oil- and gas- bearing zones at its Cosmopolitan No. 1 site off Stariski near Anchor Point. The Endeavour had been moved to the site from Homer in March and started exploration. Buccaneer later released the results of its exploration, saying one well could produce 7.2 million cubic-feet a day.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, visited Homer and spoke at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center’s monthly luncheon. She also visited Seldovia for its Fourth of July parade, where she was named the Old Crab, and then was Grand Marshal for the Homer parade.
At the chamber she spoke in favor of gay marriage — “Marriage equality is what I prefer to call it,” Murkowski said. “There should not be any discrimination. That due process should be afforded to all. That includes those who have chosen to love somebody of the same sex.”
Repaving of the Sterling Highway in Homer gave locals a taste of big-city traffic jams when construction limited travel to one lane. At one point, traffic was backed up from Lake Street to Pioneer Avenue.
Frustrated with what it called an anti-business attitude on the Homer City Council, Homer Voice for Business formed. It urged people to speak out against proposed water and sewer rate changes. Some large-volume business users would pay a higher rate. At a meeting in August, the city council passed the new rate changes that would be calculated on a “cost-causer, cost-payer” basis. Commercial and residential customers pay the same rate, but users in areas that have sewage lift stations pay a higher rate.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration extended the comment period for the halibut catch-sharing plan another 14 days, less than the 45-day extension asked for by Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowksi.
Local writer Tom Kizzia’s “Pilgrim’s Wilderness” was published in July and received rave reviews. By year’s end it had been listed on “year’s best” lists by Amazon Books and Mother Jones Magazine.
Gov. Sean Parnell and First Lady Sandy Parnell were the hosts of a Governor’s Picnic at Karen Hornaday Park. Joining them were Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and commissioners from several departments. Parnell also spoke at the Kachemak Bay Rotary Club and turned the valve on a natural gas connection at South Peninsula Hospital — a symbolic ceremony to mark the construction of a natural gas trunk line and city distribution lines from Anchor Point to Homer.
A Homer boy, Anthony McAllistar Guerra, 9, drowned at Bishop’s Beach when he got caught in the outflow at Beluga Slough. Guerra was taken by medevac to Providence Alaska Medical Center and later died on Aug. 2.
Two people walking on the Poopdeck Trail between Hazel Avenue and Pioneer Avenue on July 28 found a dead man later identified as Mark Matthews, 61. Homer Police determined Matthews had been murdered. By year’s end police had not charged anyone with the murder and increased to $10,000 a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his killer.
Tonee Walker, 58, accepted a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to third-degree and second-degree assault. Her agreement called for a sentence of 12 years with eight years suspended. Following a July 15, 2012, incident during which Walker shot at Trooper Trent Chwialkowski in his patrol car after Chwialkowski tried to stop her, Walker has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and four counts of third-degree assault.
On July 25, an Iowa fisherman, Gene Joes of Bellevue, caught a 236.20-pound halibut while fishing with Capt. David Bayes of Central Charters. No one beat his record by the end of the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby Sept. 15, and he took home a prize of $21,281.50.
A 9,000-square-foot waste transfer facility opened Aug.1 at the Homer landfill and baling facility. The landfill was shut down, and Homer’s waste loaded to be disposed of at the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna. The old baling facility was converted into a recycling area.
The Alaska Redistricting Board created new districts for the 2012 elections, but was later ordered by the Alaska Supreme Court to redo them. The new districts put Homer back in a Senate district that includes Kodiak Island, now represented by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and out of District O, now represented by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna. Seldovia and the south side of Kachemak Bay will go into a new House district. At year’s end the board waited for final judgment on the revised plan.
The Dario and Sabine Schwoerer family from Switzerland stopped in Homer during a 12-year mission to visit every continent and climb the seven summits. They celebrated Swiss Independence Day with the Kilcher family and other Swiss-Americans.
A San Diego, Calif., woman, Claudia Rose, swam across Kachemak Bay on her 40th birthday, only the fifth person known to make the 4.6-mile swim and the first one to do it without a wet suit and just in a regular tank swimsuit.
Longtime Homer resident and author Jim Rearden published his 28th book, “Old Alaska: Events of the 1900s.”
Google named Homer Alaska’s eCity for 2013, an award recognizing Homer as being the strongest online business community in the state. The eCity recognition was based on research analyzing the online strength of local small businesses, including the likelihood they had websites, used blogs, promoted on social media and sold goods online.
Homer High School mathematics teacher Mark Casseri was named the school’s athletic director for the 2013-14 school year.
With some natural gas distribution lines in Homer complete, and the Anchor Point-Homer main trunk line mostly finished, in early September Enstar Natural Gas started gas service to homes and businesses in the downtown area.
The Homer City Council selected the Homer Education and Recreational Complex lot and a Town Square lot as the two preferred sites for a proposed new public safety building that would include a fire hall, police station and jail. The council approved putting the public safety building at number two in its capital improvement list to be submitted to the Alaska Legislature for grants. It seeks $1.5 million to fund design costs and appropriated $300,000 from public safety depreciation funds for the project. Mayor Beth Wythe suggested using the current fire hall as a recreational building when the new public safety building is finished. Improvements to the city’s water-storage distribution network topped the list.
Homer Police charged Eric Laurence, 37, of Montreal, Quebec, with stealing $2,000 in high-end wines from the Grog Shop. Police said video cameras caught Laurence taking rare wines such as a 2005 Guigal La Turque worth $536. Laurence had been working at a Homer organic farm.
Artist Dan Coe installed a fireweed mural on the Driftwood RV Park fence on Bunnell Avenue, the first of several public art projects in Bunnell Street Arts Center’s Old Town AIR, or artist in residence, program.
The troubled Tall Tree Road bridge over Stariski Creek once again was damaged by fall rains. Hilcorp Alaska, which has natural gas wells in the area and uses the bridge, said it would help with bridge repairs.
A Kenai grand jury indicted Anthony Resetarits, 21, and Joseph Resetarits, 19, with one count each of second-degree sexual assault. The brothers had been charged in October 2012 in an incident at a September 2012 teenage and adult drinking party where a boy was sexually assaulted with an object. After numerous delays and continued preliminary hearings, the grand jury formally charged the men. A trial date was set for the week of Jan. 27, 2014.
In Homer city elections, political newcomer Gus VanDyke won election to the Homer City Council, taking a seat vacated by council member James Dolma after he chose not to run for election. A repeal of the plastic bag ban easily passed, but Justin Arnold, the city council candidate who also organized the bag ban repeal, did not get elected. Council member Bryan Zak won re-election in a close race with Corbin Arno. Before absentee and questioned ballots were counted, Arno had a four-vote lead on election night, but Zak pulled ahead in the final tally.
The failure of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to pass a continuing resolution in Congress caused a partial shutdown of federal facilities, including the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. It also meant the cancellation of a planned open house for the R/V Tiglax, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research vessel. Technically, a visitor center trail in Beluga Slough was closed, but hikers pushed aside a barricade and used it anyway.
A Nikolaevsk man, Andres “Andy” Afonasiev, 46, died in a house fire in Nikolaevsk.
Buccaneer Energy moved the jack-up rig Endeavour-Spirit of Independence to Port Graham after closing drilling operations at the Southern Cross Unit in upper Cook Inlet. The Endeavour had moved north to Southern Cross after drilling at the Cosmopolitan site. The Endeavour joined another jack-up right, Escopeta Oil’s Blake 151, in Port Graham.
The M/V Tustumena returned to service in late October after scheduled repairs at the Seward Shipyard ran far longer than expected. The ferry went to the shipyard on Nov. 1, 2012, and was supposed to be back in service by April 17.
“We’re just happy that it’s back in the water and can transport people and supplies safely,” said Seldovia City Manager Tim Dillon.
“This is certainly a welcome relief. It’s our highway, our connection to Homer and a critical link for businesses and residents here,” said Ian McGaughey, public affairs spokesperson for Seldovia Village Tribe and president of the Seldovia Chamber of Commerce. “We’re very, very happy to have it back. It’s been a trying experience for everyone.
Homer High School graduate Mica Thomas returned to town with members of Quixotic, a Kansas City, Mo., performance troupe, to sell-out shows at the Mariner Theatre. Thomas, who also was a Pier One Youth Theatre alumnus, is Quixotic’s associate artistic director.
The Homer City Council defeated a resolution that would have allowed the Bay View Inn to continue its nonconforming use in a rural residential zoning district. Owned by the late Dennis Novak, a former city council member, because of issues regarding Novak’s estate, the Bay View Inn had not reopened within the 12-month period required under city code for a nonconforming use to continue. Mayor Beth Wythe and City Manager Walt Wrede had sponsored an ordinance to amend the definition of “discontinued” from the 12-month period to “until the use is legal available for transfer to a successor operator.” That ordinance failed on a 6-0 vote. In a later meeting, after the Homer Advisory Planning Commission recommended extending that time period to 24 months, the council extended the discontinued period to two years.
Homer Police said recent burglaries of Tech Connect, Timeless Toys, the Salvation Army and a Skyline Drive lodge were possibly drug related. Police charged Joshua Johnston, 24, with breaking in to Tech Connect and the Salvation Army, and alleged he stole Apple iPads, iPods and headsets from Tech Connect and a safe with $1,900 from the Salvation Army. Several other defendants also were charged in the Tech Connect burglary. The burglaries are related to an increase in heroin and methamphetamine use in Homer. Police said they credited Facebook posts with leading to tips that solved the Tech Connect burglary.
Thirteen passengers and two crew members survived a crash landing of an Era Alaska Beechcraft airplane when it came down on its belly at the Homer Airport. At year’s end, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration still hadn’t determined why the landing gear didn’t work.
“You just wait for that wing tip to drop down when you’re skidding 100 mph on your belly and you’re done,” said one passenger, Shelly Gill. “It didn’t happen. I don’t know if it was something she (the pilot) did, but if it was something she did, she ought to get a medal.”
Heavy rains caused flooding and a mudslide on East End Road near Bear Creek Drive. Drivers had to take a detour on Kachemak Drive. The storm also caused flooding in Anchor Point and a Kalifornsky Beach subdivision in Kasilof, prompting Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre to sign an emergency disaster declaration.
Homer citizen Ken Castner announced plans to start a petition to change Homer’s government status from a first-class city to a home-rule city. As a home-rule city, Homer citizens would write a constitution.
“A constitution would open up new pathways for the citizenry to feel more enfranchised with government,” Castner said.
Alaska Ferry Adventures and Tours, a 27-year-old travel reservation business, closed its doors at the end of October following a dispute with the Alaska Marine Highway System over how it pays commissions for ferry bookings. The AMHS said it would no longer pay travel agents commissions for bookings made by Alaskans on ferry travel in state. Alaska Ferry Adventures and Tours said it could not absorb the cut in commissions and continue to stay in business.
Homer residents with ties to the Philippines helped out family and friends after a double whammy of an earthquake and typhoon hit the country. Nathaniel Brown and his mother, Berna Brown, had been visiting family and survived both the earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan. The house they stayed in was destroyed in the quake, but they got a home built before the typhoon hit. The Browns helped with recovery efforts there, and their aunt, Becky Pfeil, owner of Timeless Toys, did a fundraiser in Homer. Filipino exchange student Yusra Sahi’s family survived, but she heard a close friend was the only one in her family to survive the typhoon. Sahi collected donations for the Red Cross at Homer High School.
By mid-November the natural gas trunk line and Homer and Kachemak City distribution line projects were mostly complete, with 22 miles of the trunk line, 37 miles for Homer and 9 miles for Kachemak City installed, bringing gas to 330 new customers. The second phase of the Homer distribution line will be done in 2014.
The construction season came to a close — at least for dirt and exterior work — with completion of major projects. New restrooms for downtown Homer, the Deep Water Dock and the end of the Homer Spit were built, a staging area for cruise ship passengers at the Deep Water Dock was done and groundwork was started for a Spit Trail expansion to the end of the road. Boardwalks at the harbor also were replaced, streets were paved or repaved on Soundview Avenue, Fish Dock Road, Smokey Bay Way, Klondike Avenue, West Fairview Avenue, Town Heights Lane Greatland Street and FAA Drive. Traffic calming and pedestrian improvements also were done in Old Town.
A 2000 Homer High School graduate, Josh Chambers, gave his family some good news and bad news for the holidays. The good news? He’d be coming home from deployment with the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan. The bad news? He got shot in the leg. Chambers returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., where he had been stationed, and was met by his wife, Erin. He’s expected to recover fully from his injuries in about a year.
The Homer City Council passed a 2014 budget without raising new taxes. After first voting to cut funding for the Pratt Museum and the Homer Foundation to pay for more firefighter-medics, the council restored the cuts and found the money to make a children’s librarian position full time. The council also approved a new city employee health-insurance plan that raised the employee contribution.
A standing-room only crowd at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center speaks out against House Bill 77, a bill that would streamline permitting on state lands and waters. Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, sponsored the meetings in Homer and Kenai after he received overwhelming opposition to the bill. Citizens protested parts of the bill they said would limit public participation.
“I’m hopeful that folks will be convinced that the bill can be improved,” Micciche said. “It’s not going to get my vote if it’s not going to protect the right of Alaskans to participate.”
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