2016: The news in review

  • Randall White, co-event lead chairperson for Relay for Life in Homer, backflips into the 40 degree Homer harbor water. Eighteen people jumped into the water at the first Homer Halibut Plunge, raising $1300 for the American Cancer Society, White said. Those who missed out can join in on the frigid fun next year, as the group plans to make it an annual event.

January

Homer’s beaches became the site of an environmental horror show as dead murres washed ashore in December 2015 and January this year. Every few yards along the tidal wrack line, the white chests of dead birds stood out among kelp and driftwood — some intact and some scavenged by eagles looking for a winter food supply. In the summer of 2015, Alaska’s common murres also suffered a complete colony collapse and failure to breed. Though many of the murres appear emaciated and starved to death, the scientists studying the die-off were unsure of the cause. “They’re telling us something is going on in the marine ecosystem,” Heather Renner, a bird biologist with the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, said. “The harder part is figuring out exactly what this means.”

Options for the city of Homer’s new public safety building were introduced at a Homer City Council work session on Monday, Jan. 11. The council chose Option 3, a police-only building and a $1 million upgrade of the existing fire hall. In May, the city council agreed to put to the voters a bond proposition that would ask voters to back a $12 million bond and pay for it with a six-month, .65-percent sales tax increase. The bond went to the Oct. 4 ballot, but was shot down by voters. The city is still looking for alternative ways to provide updated facilities for the police and fire stations.

Spenard Builders Supply general manager Bruce Turkington retired after 41 years at Homer’s local building supply store.

Miranda Weiss, Bob Shavelson and Gart Curtis led an effort to address the lack of public space to get out of the weather at the Homer Harbor. The group proposed to build the Boat House, a maritime pavilion on the site of the old harbor office near Ramp 2. The proposed Boat House would be a 45-feet-by-35-feet pavilion that might include windbreaks, benches, picnic tables, and an outdoor fireplace.

Eva Saulitis, a beloved Homer poet and scientist, died with family present on Jan. 16. Saulitis was one of the first writers to combine scientific and artistic writing. She also wrote about her breast cancer in the Homer News and other publications. In the five years after her diagnosis, Saulitis threw herself into a frenzy of intense, introspective creativity, writing books of poetry and nonfiction: “Many Ways to Say It,” “Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss among Vanishing Orcas,” “Prayer in the Wind” and “Becoming Earth.”

KBBI recognized long-time volunteer Randi Somers by dedicating a section of their music library in her name. During the Jan. 14 KBBI meeting, station manager Dave Anderson and local musician Atz Kilcher honored Somers for her 36 years of service to the station.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 24 hit the lower Kenai Peninsula, though it caused very little damage. Aside from a lot of broken items from pottery to bottles, Homer and Anchor Point had no reports of injuries or major building damage. Most described the quake as several short, sharp shocks and steady rumbling that went on for from 30 seconds to a minute. The quake struck deep and hard, 80 miles down. Because of its depth the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center also did not issue a tsunami warning, although the Homer Spit evacuated as a precaution.

February

Police charged Dellan Vanbuskirk, 30, in two separate incidents of robbery that occurred in January — first-degree robbery on Jan. 6 of the Short Stop Tesoro Gas Station and on Jan. 16 of a man on the North Fork Anchor River bridge. Police did not charge Vanbuskirk with a Dec. 28 armed robbery of Fat Olives Espresso, but a criminal compliant for the Short Stop robbery links Vanbuskirk to that crime and Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said that Vanbuskirk is their prime suspect. Police caught Vanbuskirk after local media put up web stories and social media alerts on Jan. 22 seeking information on the suspect and police received a tip that lead Alaska State Troopers to a Mark Lane home in Anchor Point. Vanbuskirk was arrested near the home after a chase. He also had a warrant for a Dec. 26 charge of driving while license revoked.

The Board of Education named John “Zen” Kelly as the replacement for 12-year member Sunni Hilts, who served her last meeting in early December. Kelly has a family history of long-time educators and is a business consultant in the private sector, specializing in the fields of accounting and information technology.

The city council debated a ban on all commercial cannabis operations and a proposal for regulating by zoning district the newly legal businesses. The council heard nearly 2.5 hours of testimony on two cannabis ordinances, with overwhelming testimony for commercial cannabis and against prohibiting it. However, the testimony did not sway some on the council. “In the end I don’t want to see Homer become more cosmic than hamlet. There’s a balance there,” said council member Heath Smith, who introduced the ordinance banning commercial cannabis. Mayor Beth Wythe introduced an ordinance proposing a city vote on whether to ban commercial cannabis at the Feb. 22 city council meeting. Both ban attempts failed, as did a citizen petition to put the ban question to voters. The council in March passed the ordinance regulating commercial cannabis by zoning district.

Homer Police made a record $1.5 million pot bust on Feb. 12, serving a warrant on a 4,400-square-foot warehouse on Collie Street off East End Road with the help of the State Drug Enforcement Unit-Soldotna. Law enforcement found about 1,000 marijuana plants, many with buds. The bust is the largest in Homer and one of the largest in the state. Police charged Joseph V. Gabryszak, 32, with three counts of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, with one count for intentionally manufacturing a controlled substance, one for possessing more than 25 marijuana plants and one for maintaining a building used for keeping controlled substances. Gabryszak ended up receiving a 360-day sentence with 300 days suspended and a $5,000 fine with $5,000 suspended for his large grow operation after pleading guilty to an amended charge of attempted fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance on April 19.

March

Republican Party members on the lower Kenai Peninsula joined a record turnout statewide in the party’s Presidential Preference Poll. Voters in House District 31, which includes Homer, cast their preference for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, reflecting the statewide results. Cruz won with 38.4 percent to reality TV star, businessman, and now-president-elect Donald Trump’s 36.6 percent. Trump won the Republican nomination nationwide and went on to win the Nov. 8 presidential election. Though Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, Trump won the electoral college and will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017.

Homer’s Relay for Life group held their first Homer Halibut Plunge at the Homer Harbor where 18 people jumped into the chilly water to raise $1,300 for the American Cancer Society. Organizer Randall White said the group plans to make it an annual event.

Three Homer anglers placed in the top three spots in Homer’s 23rd Annual Winter King Salmon Tournament. Eric Holland took first place with a 26.45-pound king, Kelly Grose placed second with his 25.25-pound king, and Colt Belmonte placed third with his 24.8-pound king.

An overwhelming majority of Homer-area Democrats caucused for presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Saturday, March 26 Alaska Democratic Party caucus. Statewide, Sanders received 81.6 percent of the delegates and 79.6 percent of the votes. A diverse group of voters from all age groups and both genders caucused for Sanders. Turnout at the caucuses equaled 119 percent of the 2008 turnout. In District 31, Sanders received all 16 delegates. Rival candidates Hillary Clinton, who would go on to win the national party nomination, and Rocky De La Fuente did not receive the 15 percent of the vote required to earn a delegate.

April

The Homer News ran a series addressing the growing heroin addiction problem in Homer and the lower Kenai Peninsula. Several community members including Homer criminal defense lawyer Andy Haas, executive director of Kenai Peninsula Youth Court Ginny Espenshade, and Dr. Sarah Spencer of South Peninsula Hospital spoke to the growth of heroin abuse in the community. Spencer also held an opiod overdose training session open to the public on April 9 where she taught how to recognize an opiod overdose, how to help and how to administer the opiod overdose reversing drug Naloxone. The Homer City Council held a work session on April 11 to establish how the city can assist community members and groups in combating the heroin and opioid issue.

Mary Epperson, the “creative heart of Homer,” died at age 93 on April 11, surrounded by friends and family. Epperson helped found many arts and charitable organizations in Homer, including the Homer Foundation. She was also known for teaching piano in Homer for many years, teaching from home and then in a building she bought in 1982 and named Etude Studio.

Alaska’s Legislature went beyond and ignored the voter-mandated 90-day limit on April 17. As of April 19, the Legislature remained stuck on resolving a budget crisis it had faced prior to the start of the session on January and had yet to pass an operating or capital improvement budget; agree on how it will fund those budgets; come up with a long-term fiscal plan that will close an estimated $4 billion gap between a budget at current levels and oil revenues; and resolve differences between the House and Senate on changes to oil and gas tax credits.

South Peninsula Syringe Exchange received a $1,000 grant from The Awesome Foundation, providing funding for a pilot program over the summer. The program also got support from private donors, the Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic and South Peninsula Hospital. On June 21, the first syringe exchange was held at the South Peninsula Hospital Training Center on Pioneer Avenue. Intravenous drug users can exchange dirty needles and syringes for safer injection kits, get condoms, Naloxone overdose response kits, HIV and hepatitis C testing, and counseling. The Exchange meets 5-7 p.m. the first and third Tuesdays of the month at the South Peninsula Hospital Training Center on West Pioneer Avenue. To remove one legal barrier to participating, the Homer City Council repealed a ban on possessing drug paraphernalia. By year’s end, the program had received $1,036 in supplies from the North American Syringe Exchange Network, enough to keep the program going into 2017. Through Dec. 20 the program had 75 visits, disposed of 710 syringes and distributed 2,615 safer syringe kits and 19 Naloxone kits. The mean age of clients is about 30 years old, with half in their 20s. Most of the clients came from the 99603 zip code area, with about 30 percent saying they were homeless.

Ian Reed flew a Calidus gyrocopter aircraft from Seattle to Homer, arriving in Homer on Friday, April 15. The trip took 19 flying hours over five days, with mostly tail winds and was the first Calidus to be flown to Alaska.

May

Kenai Peninsula Food Hub launched in Homer on May 4, marking the start of a program that allows local food producers to sell to local consumers outside of the farmers market. Members of the food hub can place an order online a few days prior to a set pick up, which is Wednesdays in Homer’s case, and then get fresh produce, eggs, fish, meat and other local products in one quick outing. The food hub opened for Kenai-Soldotna shoppers on May 12.

Elaine Grabowski retired from her position as departmental services coordinator at the Homer Volunteer Fire Department after 32 years of service. Jaclyn Arndt took over the position.

Don and Sherry Stead opened Homer’s second brewery, Grace Ridge Brewing, on May 13.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board announced it would decide in June whether bus route scheduling for southern peninsula schools would change from the current single-tier system to a two-tier system. Though the decision was postponed until August, the board approved the change to a two tier system, which will save the district over a half million dollars in transportation costs. After a series of community meetings, some heated with parent, school staff and community member concerns about how the time changes would affect daily schedules, the school district released the new 2017-2018 school schedule. Elementary schools begin first, most starting just before 8 a.m., with middle and high schools starting an hour later.

Homer resident and Quest College student Parker Sorensen and his friends Quest graduate and Juneau-native Iris Neary, Quest student Giovanfrancesco “Frenchie” Varoli, and Swiss pre-med student Florence Nikles were the first group to summit Denali for the 2016 season. The four mountaineers summited the mountain on Friday, May 13. After descending, they confirmed with Denali rangers that they were the first to summit. The group left their base camp on April 25 and spent 20 days traversing Denali.

Homer residents Don Arseneau, Dick Lewis and Gail Sorensen were honored along with 20 other veterans from World War II and the Korean War in an Honor Flight from Alaska to Washington, D.C., April 26-May 1. The veterans visited the World War II, Korean and Vietnam war memorials, the Lincoln Memorial, Roosevelt Memorial Park, Arlington Cemetery, the Smithsonian Museums and took a tour of Washington, D.C. Throughout the trip, military and veteran groups turned out to greet them, media snapped photos, and travelers in airports reached out to shake their hands.

 

Homer naturalist and educator Carmen Field, 53, died of breast cancer on May 31. The Alaska Conservation Foundation late gave its Jerry Dixon Award for Excellence in Environmental Education to her. Her husband, Conrad, and daughter, Eryn, accepted the $1,000 award at a ceremony in September.

June

Fireweed Academy principal Kiki Abrahamson announced that she would be stepping down as head of the charter school. Abrahamson started teaching at the founding of Fireweed n 1997. She had been principal since 2012. Todd Hindman, principal and founder of Anvil City Science Academy in Nome, will take over as principal.

Owner Carl Sanche opened Panama Red, a gardening store specializing in indoor gardening supplies, particularly for the cannabis market. The store also offers supplies for growing produce outside or in high tunnels.

Melissa “Missi” White, a 23-year U.S. Air Force veteran, was hired as the new executive director of South Peninsula Haven House. Pratt Museum director Diane Converse announced that she would be stepping down for family reasons. She had been director since 2010.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game gave the city of Homer a $60,000 grant to build an enclosed fish cleaning shed at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon. Fishermen cleaning fish at outdoor tables have had to brave what Reeling ’Em In fishing columnist Nick Varney called “a squadron of sky rats with the manners of turkey buzzards.” By year’s end, Master’s Way Construction had started work on a timber-frame shelter with a concrete pad.

The Homer City Council appropriated $1 million for improvements to the Homer Volunteer Fire Department Fire Hall.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Member Brent Johnson introduced a measure to move the South Peninsula Hospital service area boundary 14.5 miles south and about 1.5 miles north of the Ninilchik Bridge. Johnson said people in that area were more likely to go to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna than SPH in Homer. SPH supporters said if the boundary was moved, the hospital would lose revenue. The boundary was created in 1969 before CPH was built. In a 4-4 vote, with one assembly member absent, the proposal failed at the July 26 meeting.

BayWeld held an open house for the 54-foot King Island, the 176th boat built by the company and its biggest ever. Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation commissioned the boat. It was christened in a ceremony on June 9 with the King Island Dancers.

The former deputy chief of Kachemak Emergency Services, Stephen Boyle, 43, was arrested and charged with six counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. A woman in her 20s and now living in Florida alleged that when she lived in Homer and was between the ages of 9 and 15 she had been sexually assaulted by Boyle. The woman contacted a Florida county sheriff who then contacted Homer Police. Boyle had been out on bail, but in late November turned himself in to jail and is now at Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai. He has a change-of-plea hearing in early January.

Josh Tobin, a marine mammal stranding network volunteer, and Kasey Mayhew, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration law enforcement officer, on June 22 freed a humpback whale entangled in a mooring line and buoy in Kachemak Bay. Like unreeling in rope from a spool, the two kept pulling on the 600 feet of line as the whale rolled away from them. They cut the line 5 feet from the line and pulled the rest through its mouth.

 

July

Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff crashed her Cessna 206 floatplane in Halibut Cove near the Saltry restaurant about the same time that the Danny J tour boat was docking. Rogoff’s plane clipped a tree and lost a pontoon as she tried to land in the cove. People in boats quickly rescued Rogoff and she escaped without injury.

Carmen Ricciardi opened Carmen’s Gelato on June 11 on the Homer Spit, offering authentic Italian gelato. He learned to make gelato while studying at the Italian Culinary Institute in Calabria, Italy.

Through a $43,000 grant from the Tesoro Foundation, the first of 30 publicly-accessible automatic external defibrillators is installed at the Anchor Point Senior Center. The grant will put at least one public AED in every community on the Kenai Peninsula. The AEDs can help save the life of someone in cardiac arrest and restore regular heartbeats.

Timeless Toys, a beloved toy shop owned by Becky Pfeil since 1997, closed its doors on July 15. Pfeil had hoped to sell the business, but instead wound up selling the Main Street building and lot.

Homer Police responded to an uptick in public drunkenness calls over the summer. At a Homer City Council meeting on July 25, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl told the council police had gone to 56 calls this year, 16 of them for people so drunk they had to be taken to the hospital for a medical assessment. Robl said it’s the most public drunks he’s seen in one year in his 32 years on the police force.

Pokemon Go, the popular augmented reality game that can be played on smart phones, gained a Homer following. Some of the local Pokestops — places where players can get items to play the game — identify buildings or features that no longer exist, like Mary Epperson’s Etude Studio next to the Homer Council on the Arts. Although the game shows the building, it’s now an parking lot.

A1 Cultivation planned to build a cannabis cultivation facility and retail shop in an old concrete-block garage in Happy Valley, but neighbors objected to the store on the Sterling Highway in the Plumb Bluff Estates subdivision. Stan Hill, president of the Plumb Bluff Estates Homeowners Association, said it wasn’t a good fit for the area. At year’s end the application was still under review. Two other Homer area growers also applied for and have received cultivation licenses, Talisman Farms on Crossman Ridge and Cannaboyd on Lowbush Street. However, no one applied for licenses inside Homer city limits.

A Boise, Idaho, fisherman took the lead in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby. Greg Betts caught a 244-pound halibut on July 30 while fishing with Capt. Mike Crawford on the Kachemak King with Bob’s Trophy Charters. That lead didn’t last long when Daniel Spies of Soldotna landed a 251-pound halibut on Aug. 11. Five days later on Aug. 16, Austin Nelson of North Pole bumped Spies from the top slot when he caught a 252.2-pound halibut while fishing with Homer Ocean Charters. He held the lead and collected $15,000.

 

August

A political action committee, Wythe is Right! Seaton Must Be Beaten, raised about $16,000 to help Republican Party District 31 candidate and Homer Mayor Mary “Beth” Wythe in her race to win the party nomination against Rep. Paul Seaton and Anchor Point businessman John Cox. The PAC cannot coordinate efforts with Wythe. Its money came from The Accountability Project, another PAC funded by Lynden Inc. business manager Jim Jansen, Advance Supply Chain and Prosperity Alaska. Wythe raised $21,000 of her own.

Seaton easily beat Wythe and Anchor Point businessman John Cox in the Republican Party primary on Aug. 16. He won by 47 percent to Cox’s 29 percent and Wythe’s 25 percent. With no opponent in the November general election, Seaton was elected to an eighth term. Seaton and his supporters said they thought negative campaigning by a PAC supporting Wythe turned off voters.

A citizen group seeking to ban commercial cannabis in unincorporated areas of the Kenai Peninsula Borough got a second chance to collect sufficient signatures and hit the threshold of 898 valid signatures. However, the petition wasn’t received in time to be on the October ballot and instead will be on the October 2017 ballot.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers sought information on the fisherman who abandoned a personal-use setnet in Kachemak Bay on Aug. 28. The net caught 79 fish and a river otter, all of it wasted.

 

September

The city of Homer put out a request for proposals to manage the Animal Shelter. Longtime animal control officer and animal shelter manager Sherry Bess announced that she would not submit a bid and would be retiring at the end of the year. The contract was later awarded to Amy Ware of Alaska Mindful Paws.

LFS of Bellingham, Wash., purchased Redden Marine, a chain of marine supply stores that includes a Homer store, Kachemak Gear Shed. LFS made the top offer in a receivership sale, outbidding Englund Marine & Industrial Supply of Astoria, Wash. Other than the change in name, the store will remain the same, said Gear Shed Manager Greg Squires. “We’re going back to what we always do,” he said.

After the traditional end of the tourist season on Labor Day, tourism related businesses reported a banner season for 2016. The Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center broke several records, including a one-day number of visits at 219, topping the one-day record in 2015 of 95 visitors. The chamber had almost 12,000 visitors from May to Sept. 5.

Vandals again tried to destroy the annual Burning Basket, Expand, but an attempted premature torching only charred the basket, still wet because of rain. Volunteers repaired the damage, and then circled the basket with campers and trucks over the weekend to protect the community art project. The basket was ceremonially burned as planned.

Eleven-year Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education member Liz Downing resigned her District 8 seat. Homer Community Recreation Director Mike Illg was later appointed to fill out her seat.

Kauai, Hawaii, writer Kim Steutermann Rogers became the first Storyknife fellow at the women writers retreat founded by mystery writer Dana Stabenow. Stabenow plans to expand the retreat to six cabins and a community building. By year’s end three donors had given $50,000 each to fund three cabins.

Kachemak Bay Family Planning’s REC Room was the first program under a new state law to receive approval for its curriculum and presenters to talk about sexual health and reproductive education in public schools. The KPB School Board gave the program the green light at its Sept. 12 meeting.

 

October

Bryan Zak won against fellow Homer City Council member David Lewis in the race for Homer Mayor. Zak and Gus VanDyke chose not to run for re-election to their council seats. Homer City Council candidates Shelly Erickson and Tom Stroozas won election to the two, 3-year seats. They were the top-two candidates in a three-way race, defeating Kimberly Ketter.

Homer voters also defeated a $12 million bond proposition and a 0.65-percent sales tax increase to build a new Homer Police Station. The proposition failed 53 percent “no” to 47 percent “yes.”

In Kenai Peninsula Borough elections, voters approved two bond propositions, one for $10 million to expand the Central Peninsula landfill and another for $4.8 million to expand the Homer Medical Clinic and improve the ventilation system at South Peninsula Hospital. Voters spiked a proposition to raise the maximum amount of a purchase subject to sales tax from $500 to $1,000 that also would have exempted residential rentals from sale taxes. Another proposition that would have lowered in phases over time the senior property tax exemption from $300,000 to $150,000.

Homer Police charged and arrested Lee John Henry, 55, in the 2013 murder of Mark Matthews nears the Poopdeck Trail. Police broke the case after a witness came forward with new information about the murder and making a link to Henry through DNA evidence found on Matthews. Police arrested Henry without incident on Oct. 16. A jury trial was scheduled for January 2017, but was postponed to give Henry’s attorney more time to examine police reports and documents.

At the first Homer City Council meeting with new Mayor Bryan Zak and two new members, the council passed a resolution implementing a new graduated harbor rate schedule. At year’s end, Homer City Manager Katie Koester said the current software cannot accommodate the new rate structure, and in January the city will ask for a request for proposal for new software and a budget appropriation to cover the cost. That could delay implementation for another year.

 

November

District 31 voting results mirrored the national election, with voters in most precincts supporting New York businessman Donald Trump. District wide, Trump got 57 percent of the vote to 32 percent for former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton won by 48 percent in the Diamond Ridge and Kachemak/Fritz Creek precincts. “I think it’s a miracle he won,” said Trump supporter Philemon Morris.

After winning re-election, Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, joined a majority caucus in the Alaska House of Republicans, Democrats and independents. Seaton and two other Republicans, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, helped create a 22-member majority. The Alaska Republican Party later imposed sanctions on the three Republicans for joining Democrats and independents. The sanctions would deny the three GOP support and allow the party to encourage other Republicans to challenge them in the Republican Party primary. Seaton said most of his constituents he’d heard from supported him in joining a majority caucus.

“I had told everybody all along that I didn’t seen the majority coalescing just on partisan grounds, but on a comprehensive, a sustainable fiscal plan,” Seaton said.

Construction began on the SPARC, the South Peninsula Athletic and Recreation Center, on property next to Homer Middle School. Organized by the Soccer Association of Homer, the $650,000 public-private collaboration will build a steel-frame, fabric covered structure with indoor playing fields. By year’s end the frame had gone up and the fabric stretched over it.

Longtime fisherman Ken Jones, 72, died in a kayak accident in Kachemak Bay. Fellow fishermen in six boats and crews searched for him, and found his kayak and then body on Nov. 14. Jones was part of a group of commercial fishermen in the 1970s who built and expanded the fleet, passing on their knowledge to the latest generation.

“Alaska: The Last Frontier” reality TV show members Eve and Eivin Kilcher published a cookbook, “Homestead Kitchen,” that became a local best seller. The Kilchers also appeared with other members of the show, their aunt Mossy Kilcher, and Homer’s famous singer, Jewel Kilcher, on a Christmas Day holiday TV show on CBS.

 

December

With Mayor Bryan Zak breaking a tie vote of 3-3, the Homer City Council rejected a proposal to consider consolidating 911 dispatch services with the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The motion was to explore moving dispatch services now done through the Homer Police Department to the Soldotna Dispatch Center.

The Homer City Council passed a $21.6 million budget for the 2017 fiscal year. It rejects amendments that would have cut $65,000 from the Homer Public Library’s personnel budget and $130,000 in a cost of living adjustment for city workers. The council also defeated a budget amendment to require employees to pay $75,000 of the increased cost in health insurance premiums.

After the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly failed to reverse a resolution limiting who can make the invocation before assembly meetings, the American Civil Liberties Union Alaska sued the borough. The resolution only allows hospital or police chaplains and members of groups that meet regularly for the purpose of sharing a religious perspectives to make an invocation. The ACLU claimed that policy violated the freedom of religion provisions of the Alaska and U.S. Constitutions. The assembly had overturned its resolution, but on reconsideration reversed that decision.

By a 70-percent “no” vote, Homer Electric Association members rejected a proposal to deregulate HEA Inc. and remove it from oversight by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. The HEA board, acting also as the board of the Alaska Energy and Energy Cooperative, a subsidiary of HEA, later voted against deregulation, too.

Anna Frost can be reached at anna.frost@homernews.com. Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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