Story last updated at 2:22 p.m. Thursday, April 25, 2002

McLay dropped from Homer port commission
by Joel Gay
Staff Writer

Val McLay has been on the Homer Port and Advisory Commission since 1991 and chairman the last four or five years, and while he applied for another three-year term, Mayor Jack Cushing chose not to reappoint him.

"He never contacted me," McLay said, "never gave me any indication" of why McLay's application was turned down.

Cushing was in Japan this week and not available for comment, but McLay said he suspects he was dropped from the commission because of his outspokenness.

"I made them a little upset with me because I speak my mind," said the lifelong Homer resident. "I have a tendency to speak my mind, and I do."

On several occasions, McLay has publicly disputed Homer City Council decisions that went against the commission.

One recent example stemmed from the council's decision to sell 20,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel dredged from the Small Boat Harbor for use in the Ocean Drive Loop bluff erosion project. Those dredge spoils, by city ordinance, are not supposed to leave the Spit. Most recently they were made available to Spit users for $5 a cubic yard.

But when the Ocean Drive Loop erosion project needed fill material and was in danger of exceeding its budget, the council in January agreed to sell the spoils for $1 a yard.

Council members said they considered the reduced price a city contribution to the homeowner-funded project. They also sided with Ocean Drive homeowners who said the Spit was built of sand and gravel eroded off their bluff, and that trucking it to the Ocean Drive project wasn't really removing it from the Spit.

That didn't sit well with McLay.

"Why do they ask our (harbor commission) opinion and then go and do something else," he asked.

Cushing sent McLay a certificate of appreciation for his service, but nominated Cathie Ulmer for the post. Also nominated for reappointment were commissioners Bill Choate and Paul Mackie.

Port Director Bill Abbott praised McLay for his service, saying he was a valuable commissioner and a good chairman who kept the meetings moving yet allowed for plenty of public input. "He's been good to work with," Abbott said.

McLay said he was the only commissioner who had been around during the initial planning of the new Pioneer Dock, and hoped to serve long enough to see that project come to completion.

"You can't really be upset" about not being nominated again, he said, "because it's an appointed position. What bothers me is that we have a hard time keeping the commissions full, and when you've got someone willing to stay on, I think it's advantageous to the city as a whole to keep 'em."

In addition, he said his experience as a fisherman, longshoreman and operator of the ferry terminal makes him a valuable commissioner, McLay said.