Local News

Meetings explore fiscal gap solutions

At meetings in Homer and Ninilchik last week, Alaska Department of Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck laid out the cold, hard facts. Like a sourdough looking to get through the winter with half a food cache full of moose, Alaska has a fiscal gap it has to close in three years before its savings reserve runs out. 

Closing that gap won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty and it can’t be solved by cuts alone.

Enrollment down, funding at risk

Enrollment for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is hovering at 90 fewer students than originally projected, which may mean a nearly $1 million cut to expected local and state funding for the 2015–2016 school year.

Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones discussed a one-day snapshot from the school district’s annual 10-day count of full- and part-time student enrollment with the Board of Education at the Sept. 8 meeting. On Sept. 1, the single day from the count Jones presented, the number of full-time students was down by 98.

Vandals destroy Burning Basket; artists will rebuild

Despite an attempted torching on Friday night and destruction of the Burning Basket early Sunday at Mariner Park, artists on Sunday morning said they will rebuild “Reach: A Basket of Remembrance and Unburdening.”

“We are going to still have a Burning Basket,” said artist Mavis Muller, the facilitator of the annual project. “The only thing that’s missing is the basket.”

The basket was to be presented to the community at 1p.m. today. It still will be, Muller said.

Reynolds to delay introduction of beach ordinance

A proposed ordinance that would restrict driving on Homer beaches east of Bishop’s Beach won’t be introduced until January, council member Catriona Reynolds said last week. Reynolds had said earlier she and council member Francie Roberts intended to introduce a compromise beach policy ordinance at Monday’s regular Homer City Council meeting.

City attorney Thomas Klinkner also released a memorandum addressing some confusion regarding city and state authority over municipal tidelands in the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area.

Homer pickleball players bring home the gold

One of Homer’s newest sports might have a funny name, but pickleball has become a great sport accessible to all ages. 

It’s played both indoors and outdoors on a badminton-sized court with an oversized ping pong paddle and a whiffle ball. It combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong and can be very fast and competitive. In Homer, pickleball meets in the historic gym 5:30-7:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and noon-2 p.m. Sundays at the Homer Education and Recreational Complex.

Injuries sustained at fairgrounds plague quilter year after incident

The intricate patterns of quilts made by Laveda Youngblood reflect the 80-year-old’s artistry. For more than 20 years, she has selected, as well as created her own designs. She’s matched fabrics, embroidered and appliqued detail. She’s stitched by hand and machine hundreds of quilts that have become gifts for her husband, Tom, their family and friends; have been displayed in numerous shows and earned her a reputation as a talented quilter.

Seaton holds meetings on revenue this week

As the city of Homer starts its budget debate at the next Homer City Council meeting on Monday, the larger question of how to balance the state budget also continues. 

This week, Rep. Paul Seaton is the host of town hall meetings in Ninilchik and Homer to discuss state revenue options to address Alaska’s current fiscal situation. Commissioner of Revenue Randy Hoffbeck will attend to listen and answer questions, Seaton said in his August newsletter.

Those meetings will be:

Citizens pay up for gas

On Tuesday, a week after Homer property owners were to have paid the first installment on their Homer Natural Gas Special Assessment bill, city officials were still tallying how many people had paid the assessment in full, had paid the first installment, had received deferments and had failed to pay anything. 

Homer City Manager Katie Koester said she will have a report ready by today to include in the Homer City Council’s Sept. 14 meeting packet.

10 things to know about upcoming load and launch ramp replacement

1. The Load and Launch Ramp will be closed Sept. 15-Dec. 15.

2. Rebar sticks out of the current concrete launch ramp because of degradation, erosion has undercut areas in the lowest part of the ramp and tripping hazards exist on the float system.

3. Total project cost is about $3.5 million, with approximately $800,000 coming from the city of Homer and the remainder from a state grant.

 

It’s a wrap

Update: The caption has been corrected on the fishhook sculpture photo properly identifying it as a circle hook.

And like that, another furious tourist season draws to a close — or nearly so — on the Homer Spit. A great blue heron was among the Labor Day weekend visitors. Like many others on the Spit, it likely will head someplace else soon.

Warm summers prepare for spruce bark beetle return

If you lived in the woods on the Kenai Peninsula in the 1990s, you may not want to read this article. Those were the years when the spruce bark beetle outbreak killed most of the mature spruce forest on the Kenai, some 3.5 million acres. 

Living out Homer’s East End Road, my wife and I spent our weekends cutting down our beautiful old-growth Sitka spruce trees and burning the slash. Our view improved dramatically, but so did the cold wind coming up from Kachemak Bay, as well as the vehicle noise from the road.  

Local peonies grace Obama hotel suite

Though President Barack Obama’s three-day visit to Alaska this week didn’t bring him to the lower Kenai Peninsula, he got a scent of Homer when local flower grower Alaska Perfect Peony was picked to provide the official presidential bouquet at his Anchorage hotel, the Captain Cook.

“It was pretty exciting,” Alaska Perfect Peony owner Rita Jo Shoultz said on Tuesday. “It was quite the honor.”

Will high-tech fish freezing come to Spit?

A thawed salmon filet that tastes the same as a fresh one? Is this too good to be true?

A group that calls itself Ocean Rich Communities of Alaska, or ORCA, says it is interested in bringing a high-tech Japanese freezing technology to the Homer Spit that can produce once-frozen fish indistinguishable from fresh fish even by Japan’s top sashimi chefs. The technology, they say, can freeze fish and other food for up to 30 years with no major degradation in quality. 

City faces $1 million shortfall next year

Starting at the Sept. 14 Homer City Council meeting, the city’s 2016 budget will dominate its discussions. The biggest question will be how to fill a probable $1 million budget gap in a general-fund budget of about $12 million. 

“That’s the shortfall I’m looking at,” said City Manager Katie Koester. “The truth is, $1 million is a lot to come up with.”

Jewell: Denali name change is final

Late Sunday, U.S. Rep. John Boehner, an Ohio Republican and Speaker of the House, said he was “deeply disappointed” that President Obama allowed U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to restore Denali’s name from Mount McKinley.
On Monday, Jewell said it doesn’t matter.
“The name change is official. The mountain is Denali. I’ve already signed the paperwork. You can cheer if you like; I hope that you do,” she told Alaska reporters in a brief meeting during the GLACIER conference in Anchorage.
Jewell said she signed the paperwork Aug. 28.

NONPROFIT NEEDS

KBBI is looking for a volunteer to help stuff envelopes for a mailing on Sept. 8, 9 and/or 10 any time between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Located at 3913 Kachemak Drive in town by city hall.

Contact:  235-7721 ext. 221 or email dorle@kbbi.org

 

Homer Council on the Arts is in need of volunteers to paint (interior walls) and a sound system for the gallery.

Contact:  Peggy Paver

hcoa@homerart.org

Race to Alaska will return next summer

KETCHIKAN — The boat race that challenged contestants to sail, paddle or pedal their vessels from Washington to Alaska will return next year.

This summer’s Race to Alaska was a simple concept: teams raced the 750 miles from Port Townsend, Wash., to Ketchikan for a $10,000 first-place prize, reported the Ketchikan Daily News.

The Northwest Maritime Center sponsored the first race and has announced that it will hold another one on June 23, 2016. 

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