Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 7:42 PM on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Council changes city's wish list

Everything from dock improvements to downtown restroom included in request

Staff Writer

Cruise ship visitors to Homer won't have to wait in the rain if the Alaska Legislature funds a last-minute capital improvement project request passed by the Homer City Council on Tuesday night. Providing bus shelters at the Deep Water and Cruise Ship Dock is part of a $6 million request to improve facilities for visitors and residents paid for out of revenues from a cruise ship gambling tax.

If the Deep Water and Cruise Ship Dock Facility Improvements request is approved, Homer could see these enhancements:

n Upgrades to docking fenders and bollards at the dock on the north side of the Homer Harbor;

n A public restroom and guard house at the dock;

• A covered waiting area for passengers;

n A paved parking area and covered waiting area in the main part of the harbor for passengers using buses;

n A paved trail along the Mud Bay side of the harbor and the Outer Dock Road, with pullout view areas;

• Completion of the Homer Spit Trail from Coal Point Park on Fish Dock Road to the end of the Spit;

• Public art and landscaping;

n Dock improvements to eliminate kittiwake seagull and other bird nesting areas on the understructure and purchase of a forklift broom attachment to clean the dock; and

n Downtown restrooms and covered bus stops at two locations.

At Tuesday's noon luncheon of the Homer Chamber Commerce, City Manager Walt Wrede briefed chamber members about the proposed dock and city enhancements. Homer has seen an increase in cruise ship dockings from two in 2009 to 15 planned dockings this summer. The state now considers Homer an "emerging port."

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, told city officials Homer was eligible to receive part of $30 million available to cruise ship ports collected from the state cruise ship gambling and head taxes and encouraged Homer to submit a capital improvement project request. As part of the city's Integrated Cruise Ship Enhancement Strategy, Wrede proposed the $6 million in projects.

The project doesn't benefit only the Spit, but areas where cruise ship passengers might visit. Downtown public bathrooms have been a longtime dream of those in the visitor industry.

"They're looking for a lot of things, but priority number one is often a bathroom," Wrede said of passengers visiting Pioneer Avenue and other retail areas.

The harbor industrial area beyond the old chip pile would be spruced up. A rough gravel parking area would be graded, paved and fenced off to eliminate problems with dust and uneven terrain.

Usually, the city revises its annual CIP list in the fall, ranking 15 projects it would like to see funded by the Legislature. The council made room on the list by taking off a tidal power feasibility project. The city is no longer seeking direct state grant support for the tidal project. In passing the resolution, the city council put the cruise ship passenger enhancements on the table for consideration this session for the 2012 state fiscal year starting July 1.

Chamber member and Realtor Angie Newby said at the luncheon that she wasn't a big supporter of cruise ships, but thought the project worthwhile.

"I'm very excited about this. If we can use these funds appropriately, this can benefit the whole community," Newby said. "We've been talking about downtown restrooms since the 1980s."

The city council also moved the Anchor Point-Homer Natural Gas Line to second place on its ranked list (see story, page 3).

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.