Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 7:32 PM on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gas line flows through process

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

Four big-ticket items benefiting Homer and the surrounding area are in the Senate's version of the capital budget, Homer lobbyist Linda Anderson told the city council during the council's regular meeting Monday:

• Homer area natural gas pipeline, $10 million;

• Homer cruise ship dock and passenger facility improvements, $6 million;

• Homer Airport terminal apron taxiway pavement, $3.2 million;

• Homer-East End Road rehabilitation, mile 3.7-12.2, $3.5 million.

"We're very pleased about that," Anderson reported telephonically, specifically referring to the pipeline and the cruise ship dock improvements. Anderson and Yuri Morgan of Anderson Group LLC are the city's lobbyists.

The pipeline funding would allow for natural gas to be distributed from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City. It is the second phase of a two-phase project begun last year with construction of a pressure regulation plant near the intersection of North Fork Road and the Sterling Highway and gas line that goes as far south as Chapman School.

The dock improvements include not only upgrades to the city's deep water dock, but also restrooms and a covered area for passengers awaiting ground transportation. The funding also would result in a paved trail from where the Spit Trail ends to Coal Point, with benches, signage and a restroom; public restrooms and covered bus stops at two downtown locations; and public art and landscaping features.

The $3.2 million funding for taxiway paving is a step in implementing the Homer Airport's master plan.

Chris Post, project manager with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said the East End Road funding focuses on design and right-of-way acquisition for an almost two-mile stretch between Kachemak Drive and Waterman Drive.

It will mirror work already completed up to Kachemak Drive, however continuation of the existing bike trail will be on the opposite, or bay side of East End Road.

As of noon Wednesday, Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 46, the capital budget was still in the Senate Finance Committee. That committee is co- chaired by Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, and Sen. Bert Steadman, R-Sitka.

Anderson told the council it was anticipated the House might make additions to the capital budget, but not deletions. She also did not expect a conference committee to address differences between the Senate and House versions.

"That means, by end of week when the Legislature adjourns, we should know if the House will pass this and these projects are still in budget," said City Manager Walt Wrede. The session ends Sunday. "Then it's still a question of what the governor's going to do."

When city representatives visited Juneau earlier this year, they met with Gov. Sean Parnell's chief of staff and budget director regarding the city's legislative priorities and have remained in contact through correspondence. The city has developed a web page offering updates specifically on the gas line and encouraging the public to contact Parnell, as well as House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Kenai, and House Finance co-chairs Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Bill Thomas, Jr., R-Haines.

"We'll certainly ramp that up if this passes the Legislature," Wrede told the Homer News. "We will try to meet with the governor, maybe invite him to Homer or meet with him in Anchorage if we can. One of things we wanted to do was get a coalition of parties together so he can see this is not just a Homer thing. This is southern Peninsula thing with broad regional support. We hope to have the borough, borough school district, hospital, city and Kachemak City — a real broad coalition so they can see this is a regional deal."

Finance Director Regina Mauras provided the council with a water and sewer update, comparing budgeted and actual figures for 2009 and 2010. For 2009, budgeted revenues were based on a usage of 143.5 million gallons, with only 123.2 million used. In 2010, the budget was based on 143.5 million gallons with 121.1 million used. Mauras said the numbers indicated that businesses, specifically, were more conservative in their use of water and that the economy may have played a part in driving down usage.

"For the city, what it means is that we've either got to look at raising rates or decreasing expenditures or evaluating the amount we put in the depreciation reserves," said Mauras.

The possibility of a Cook Inlet jack-up drill rig spending three to four months next winter at Homer's deep water dock was presented to the council by Wrede. The rig's owners, Buccaneer Alaska, need a safe place to tie up the rig and work on it in preparation for work in Cook Inlet.

"This is a potentially good source of private sector jobs and revenue for the Port and Harbor Enterprise Fund," Wrede said in his report to the council. "One thing that might get the public's attention, however, is that the legs of the rig stand up straight and will be twice as high as the (harbor's) high-mast lights."

Contractors working on the deep water or Pioneer docks pay the city 5 percent of what is billed to customers, according to Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins.

"I hate to ask, but there's no way it will get wedged into the mud so it can't get out in the spring?" said Mayor James Hornaday, referring to the George Ferris, a drilling rig that required explosives to dislodge its legs from Kachemak Bay mud in 1976.

"It won't put its legs down at all," Hawkins said of Buccaneer Alaska's rig.

The next meeting of the Homer City Council is April 25, beginning with a work session at 4 p.m.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.


In other action at the April 11 meeting of the Homer City Council:

• Mayor James Hornaday proclaimed April 10-16 the Week of the Young Child and National Library Week, and recognized the Homer Bantam Hockey Team as state champions;

• Passed Ordinance 11-11, appropriating $9,000 for construction of the West Homer Elementary Trail project;

• Passed Ordinance 11-12, stipulating a grant of $2,800 be used for playground equipment at Bayview Park;

• Introduced Ordinance 11-13 and amending it appropriate $15,000 from the Port and Harbor Reserve Account for the purpose of implementing the long-term parking permit plan and for new signage at the approach ramp, with a public hearing and second reading for April 25;

• Made numerous amendments to Resolution 11-036, amending the fee schedule for long-term parking permit fees and agreed to postpone approval until a clean copy of the resolution could be reviewed at the April 25 meeting;

• Addressed Resolution 11-037's seven recommendations to the Land Allocation Plan;

• Passed Resolution 11-038, with amendments that identified it as the award of a sole source contract to HDR Alaska Inc. for the sewer treatment plant bio-solids disposal feasibility study and design of replacement sewer treatment plant polymer injection equipment, for a total of $59,928;

• Passed Resolution 11-039, supporting a bill to end requirements that employees who terminate some or all participation in the Public Employees' Retirement System of Alaska pay termination costs and make the changes retroactive.