Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 10:10 PM on Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Federal grant may help fund Homer transfer site

By Brielle Schaeffer
Morris News Service - Alaska

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey was talking trash at the April 19 assembly meeting.

And no, it wasn't about any of his pupils or colleagues. It was about the Homer Solid Waste Transfer Site.

To help with the high cost of the Homer Landfill's closure and conversion to a trash transfer site, the Kenai Peninsula Borough applied for a federal USDA rural development grant earlier this month.

"We are applying for a federal grant to help us with the transfer site," he said. "USDA has grant funds set aside for solid waste type of projects. We meet all their qualifications."

One of them includes being classified as an economically disadvantaged community.

Carey said the borough is below a line the federal government sets for disadvantaged areas, especially in the communities surrounding Homer. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District's free and reduced lunch program in its schools is one of the indicators the government uses to determine this, he said.

"We have to show they meet the highest qualifications and they do," he said.

There is one pool of money for all the projects throughout the country, according to Carey.

Along with the grants, the USDA also offers loans with low interest rates. "Blend the two together, the interest rate is lower," he said.

The federal grant funding appears to be the borough's best bet to fund the estimated $12 million Homer landfill project conversion.

Carey said he hoped for state grant funds but because the Homer site was in full compliance with state regulations it did not qualify for those funds.

"We have followed every rule the state required," he said. "If we had broken the rules and had been contaminating, we would have been eligible to receive funds."

The other option the borough was working toward was lobbying the state Legislature to include some funds in its capital budget. The transfer facility is the borough's top priority when it comes to getting funds from the state and federal government, Carey said.

Carey expressed displeasure with Senate President Gary Stevens not including the Homer Solid Waste Transfer Facility in the state budget.

"We certainly assumed Sen. Stevens would put it in the budget and it didn't happen," Carey said. "After they submitted it we found out they didn't put it in."

He said the borough was surprised that it wasn't included in the budget, after numerous meetings with politicians on the borough's priorities.

With the Legislature's special session the borough might still have some hope of getting some of the transfer facility funded.

"We are certainly very hopeful Speaker (Mike) Chenault will put this project in the budget. We don't know at what amount," Carey said.

Brielle Schaeffer is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.