Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:47 PM on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Senate keeps gas line in budget

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

An update on a southern Kenai Peninsula natural gas line, closed doors barring the public and an overflowing crowd kept things interesting during the Homer City Council's meetings Monday.

City Manager Walt Wrede reported on a recent trip to Juneau to encourage funding for a natural gas line from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City.

The gas line is at the top of the city's capital project list, with $10.1 million for the project in the Senate Finance Committee's version of the capital budget.

For awhile the Senate Finance Committee refused to release the budget, insisting if Gov. Sean Parnell vetoed one energy item, none will get funding. Parnell called the Legislature into a special session April 18, with the capital budget among the items to be addressed.

"We made a quick trip when it was learned the House was going to hold meetings on the capital budget," said Wrede of his and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Bill Smith's attendance at a joint hearing of the House Special Committee on Energy and the House Resources Committee.

"They wanted to get a sense of the energy projects bundled together because of all the controversy. I think it went well. ... We'll see how that goes."

Late Tuesday, the Senate finally passed and sent to the House a version of the budget that still includes $10.1 million for the gas line.

Prior to an afternoon work session, the council met in executive session at the request of Wrede. According to a memo from City Clerk Jo Johnson to Mayor James Hornaday, the subject of the meeting was "airport apprehension incident and boatyard fire." The meeting's agenda stated that immediate knowledge of the matters "would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the government unit and attorney client privilege," two reasons permitted by Alaska statute for a meeting of public officials to be held behind closed doors as permitted by Alaska statute. Future public disclosure of what was discussed during the closed-door meeting is unlikely, Johnson told the Homer News.

As the 6 p.m. regular meeting of the council began, people crowded into the chambers, drawn by the mayor's recognition of Mark Robinson. Having taught choir at both Homer Middle and High schools since 1989, Robinson also was the artistic director of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra from 1989-2007, and has been director of the Kenai Peninsula Community Chorus since 1994. He works collaboratively with Pier One Theatre in musical productions and with the high school swing choir; donates after-school and weekend hours to help students prepare for borough, state, regional and national competitions; and his community-student collaborations have resulted in Carnegie Hall performances, commemorating the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, through participation in the "Rolling Requiem," and choir tours in Italy, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

A late-arriving and unsuspecting Robinson thought the recognition, which was noted on the agenda simply at "Homer High School Choir," was, indeed, paying honor to eight high school students selected for the 2011 All-National Honor Choir.

After Hornaday completed reading the recognition and the enthusiastic applause died down, a smiling Robinson said, "Wow. I didn't expect this. This is not what I had in mind when I rushed down here this afternoon. Thank you. Thank you."

In response to a request from council member David Lewis, City Clerk Johnson reported two proposals were received by the Friday deadline for use of the 18,164 square-foot, two-story, city-owned building at the corner of Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue known at the HERC, Homer Education and Recreation Center. One proposal was from the Boys & Girls Club, which currently occupies the ground floor; the second proposal was from Fireweed Academy, a K-6 charter school currently divided between an East End Road building and a portion of the West Homer Elementary School building. Because of financial information included in the proposals, details of them will not be released until after the Lease Committee reviews them on May 17.

Built in 1956, the HERC was originally the Homer High School. Beginning in 1998, the top floor was leased by the Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage. Completion of the college's new 7,000-square-foot building in March made the HERC space no longer necessary for KBC.

The Boys & Girls Club has occupied the lower level since December 1999. According to Kelly Jackman, director of the Homer clubhouse, the club leased the space the first year. Since then, it has received an in-kind donation from the city for its share of the rent, utilities and maintenance.

"From my heart, I have appreciated everything you've done for us with the building," Jackman said during a public comment portion of the meeting. "When after-school programs do close, juvenile crime rates do rise. That is definitely a fact. This is something we really need to understand. It could be a dire situation for our little community. ... We really need a safe place for kids to go after school. ... I'm hoping we have a future in this town because we need it."

The next scheduled meeting of the Homer City Council is May 24.

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


In other action at the regular meeting of the Homer City Council on Monday:

• Mayor James Hornaday proclaimed May 15-21 as National Public Works Week and May 8-14 as National Hospital Week;

• Passed Ordinance 11-14, accepting and appropriating a $15,000 Rasmuson Foundation Grant for developing the Homer Public Library's collection;

• Passed Ordinance 11-15, amending city code with regard to harbor parking regulations;

• Defeated Ordinance 11-16(A), appropriating $20,000 from the water sewer depreciation reserve to purchase a used light tower and a used diesel plate, with councilmembers Kevin Hogan and Lewis opposing the ordinance;

• Introduced Ordinance 11-17, amending the 2008 Homer Comprehensive Plan to incorporate the Homer Spit Plan and recommending approval of the amendment by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, public hearing and second reading scheduled for May 24;

• Introduced Ordinance 11-18, appropriating $7,793.75 for sandblasting and recoating a CAT loader, public hearing and second reading scheduled for May 24;

• Introduced Ordinance 11-19, establishing a preliminary budget and authorizing $486,948 for the renovation and expansion of City Hall, public hearing and second reading scheduled for May 24;

• Defeated Ordinance 11-20, amending city code regarding permission of single family and duplex dwellings as conditional uses in General Commercial 1 zoning districts, with councilmembers Francie Roberts and Barbara Howard opposing the ordinance;

• Passed Resolution 11-046, approving the city's participation in the proposed, borough-sponsored Kenai Peninsula Borough Health Insurance Working Group, with council member Howard opposing it;

• Passed Resolution 11-047, approving the city's participation in a Kenai Peninsula Borough project addressing the Federal Communications Commission Narrow band mandate;

• Passed Resolution 11-048, approving the 2011 annual operating plan between the city and the Alaska Division of Forestry;

• Passed Resolution 11-049, awarding $28,500 to Paul's Services of Anchor Point for improvements to the access of Carter Drive, and $52,475 to East Road Services of Homer for Jack Gist drainage and field improvements;

• Postponed Resolution 11-050, awarding a contract for the Soundview Avenue-Woodard Creek culvert replacement.