Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:47 PM on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Track project moves ahead

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Steps are being made toward replacing the Homer High School's track. An ordinance to get funding for a design study will be heard by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly at its first meeting in April, and an RFP, request for proposal, was been published by the borough for a design study to include removal of the existing track, drainage control for the existing playfield and the new track, and a new track with enhanced running surface.

"Things are looking good," said Bill Steyer, coach of the school's track and field and cross country running, as well as founder of the "Save Our Track" committee, advocates for the track's replacement.

Among the five capital projects in Ordinance 2011-19-78 is the request for $75,000 for the design of a new track. The ordinance is sponsored by Borough Mayor Mike Navarre. It was introduced to the assembly March 13 and is scheduled for a hearing April 3.

The RFP packet was posted on the borough website Friday. Within a short time, interested parties had begun downloading copies of the plan, including two out-of-state responders: Beynon Sports Surfaces of Tualatin, Ore., and D. A. Hogan and Associates, a consulting engineering and landscape architecture firm in Seattle, Wash.

A pre-bid meeting for the RFP is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the borough's public works conference room in Soldotna. Proposal packets are available from the borough, with information available online. Proposals are due to the borough by 4 p.m. March 28.

Borough mayor Mike Navarre said timing of the ordinance and development of the design package would allow for construction of the track to be done this summer if funding for the project, estimated to cost $750,000-$1.1 million, is received from the Legislature.

"I expect (the ordinance) will pass and we'll get the project ready so that if we're able to get the money from the Legislature this year, which we're cautiously optimistic about, then we'll be able to get the project completed this summer," said Navarre.

"If we didn't have the bid ready and got money from the Legislature, just from the timing standpoint, we'd never be able to get it ready this year."

Navarre has visited the Legislature once this year and plans to go back to Juneau in early April "to monitor what's going on and see if I can't help a number of things that the borough has on its capital list," he said.

"I have talked to both the track supporters and (assembly members) Bill Smith and Mako Haggerty about getting some funds this year so that it could be designed and, in case we get the funding, it could be completed this summer. A lot of people are supporting it. There's lots of good reasons for it."

Smith, who represents the city of Homer, said track funding from the state "looks fairly promising. The mayor's done good work in Juneau, so we have good hope."

Haggerty, who represents the southern peninsula, said he expects the ordinance will pass.

"Someone might take exception and the next thing you know we'll be talking about it, but I have a feeling there's going to be some support that shows up for it," he said. "This is the first step in getting this going. ... The mayor's very optimistic that we're going to be able to find the funding for (the track)."

In 2009, Dr. Alan Gee, HHS principal, closed the track to events involving other schools due to the track's deterioration. In October, the track was closed for all uses after area residents testified before the borough assembly about the risks posed by the track's condition. Following their testimony, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Risk Assessment Committee recommended the track "be shut down immediately, posted accordingly, and rendered unusable."

Shortly before his term ended, Borough Mayor David Carey devised a plan to use $663,000 from the borough's general fund toward the track replacement with hopes of receiving additional funding from the Legislature.

After Navarre was elected as borough mayor in November, he opted to request a legislative appropriation for the track, rather than dipping into borough coffers.

Steyer believes Navarre's efforts and the assembly's passage of the borough mayor's ordinance would increase the possibility of receiving legislative support for the track's replacement.

"My understanding is they're getting it all set up, putting forth some 'skin' by dedicating some funding. Obviously from the get-go Navarre and his administration and other people have been promoting the track," said Steyer.

"I think they're feeling comfortable enough doing this with the hope that it'll be funded. I feel pretty good about things, but you never know until the end."

Read Ordinance 201-19-78 and the bid documents on the borough website, www.borough.kenai.ak.us.