Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:16 PM on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gas line, track get Parnell's OK


Just hours after Gov. Sean Parnell signed a $2.9 billion statewide 2013 capital budget that included an $8.150 million grant to build an Anchor Point to Homer natural gas line, the Homer City Council passed a resolution starting a focused discussion of public financing for building a gas distribution system in Homer.

After three attempts to fund a natural gas line from Anchor Point to Homer, and after two vetoes by Parnell of previous Alaska Legislature appropriations, Parnell on Monday finally gave Homer some good news: the gas line is a go.

Parnell's budget also gives to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District a $1.1 million grant that will rebuild the Homer High School track.

"I'm very pleased," said Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer. "I'm glad we were able to work with the governor and the Senate to put together a budget that had very few vetoes, and none in District 35."

The city of Homer also rejoiced at the good news.

"The city's very excited about the prospect of natural gas in Homer," said Katie Koester, community and economic development coordinator. "Natural gas is one of the biggest economic development opportunities to come to Homer for a long time."

Homer City Manager Walt Wrede is on vacation and was not available for comment.

"The real work is about to begin," Koester said on Monday before the council meeting. "Now we need to look at building a distribution system and how that's going to be financed, and include the public in that discussion."

The council resolution starts that discussion. Introduced by council member Beau Burgess, and passed unanimously, the resolution sets a June 4 date for a workshop to include representatives from Kachemak City, Enstar Natural Gas Company and the borough. Because council member Beth Wythe works for Homer Electric Association and could have a conflict of interest because she works for another public utility that previously expressed interest in building a natural gas line, Wythe was excused from the vote.

When built, the gas line will continue from Chapman School in Anchor Point, follow the Old Sterling Highway to the Sterling Highway to West Hill Road, go up West Hill Road and through the center of town on Fairview Avenue.

The resolution starts a discussion of how to build out from the main distribution line and if the city should finance part of that build out.

Enstar spokesperson John Sims said permitting will start soon, with construction possibly starting late this year.

Rebuilding the Homer High School track was another capital project that had strong local support. Runners and track supporters attended several meetings of the council last fall urging it to support the grant request. Homer High School track coach and Kachemak Bay Running Club president Bill Steyer said a runner's long-distance attitude helped supporters push through the proposal when others said it couldn't be done.

"It's been a long wait," he said. "It was a team effort against all odds."

Steyer said Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre had been instrumental in getting funding. Hoping for Parnell to include the track in the state budget, the borough assembly had already appropriated funds for an engineering study to fix the track. The project will repair drainage in the Mariner stadium so that the football field could get artificial turf if future funding is acquired.

Other Homer and lower Kenai Peninsula projects in the Legislative capital budget survived, including:

• $100,000 for Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon improvements;

• $100,000 for Pratt Museum building design and construction;

• $50,000 for the Kachemak Bay Campus Pioneer Building addition;

• $10,000 for the Kachemak Bay Equestrian Association's Cottonwood Horse Park;

• $60,000 for the Kachemak Shellfish Mariculture remote oyster setting facility;

• $2.5 million for Sterling Highway, Anchor Point to Baycrest Hill, rehabilitation;

• $2.275 million for the Ninilchik Emergency Services Fire and EMS Station project;

• $1 million for the Seldovia Boat Harbor;

• $330,000 for a Seldovia value added manufacturing plant;

• $300,000 for a Halibut Cove mussel farming demonstration project;

• $244,000 for Anchor Point Senior Center improvements;

• $188,000 in facilities upgrades for the Kenai Peninsula Fair Association in Ninilchik;

• $100,000 for the Kachemak Emergency Service Area Diamond Ridge Road community center and fire training facility;

• $52,500 for the iTouch Project for lower peninsula schools;

• $50,000 for a Nikolaevsk Inc. multiuse facility;

• $24,800 for Ninilchik Senior Center improvements; and

• $7,500 for Jakolof Bay and Rocky Road dusting.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.