Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:07 PM on Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Seawall tax topic of meeting today

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

It was a mixed bag of praise and criticism at Monday's city council meeting. A special meeting of the Homer City Council has been scheduled for tonight at 5 p.m. to address the topic attracting the most criticism, specifically Resolution 12-051, setting a mill rate for the Ocean Drive Loop Special Service District.

At Monday's meeting Mayor James Hornaday recognized kayak instructor Tom Pogson for receiving the National Water Safety Congress Award of Merit and for being a "valuable instructor" for the Community Recreation Program. Pogson's efforts to fundraise through kayaking events and his commitment to promoting kayaking and kayaking safety also were noted by Hornaday.

Deb Cox and Miranda Weiss, co-chairs of the Homer Playground Program, also received "Mayor's Recognition" for their leadership in the community wide effort to build a new playground at Karen Hornaday Park. The effort involved more than 580 volunteers working three shifts a day from May 20 to May 28, as well as donations of equipment and tools, preparation of food and provision of childcare.

"Some people have suggested that we turn the natural gas pipeline over to these gals," said Hornaday, drawing laughter with his reference to bringing natural gas from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City.

A resolution to establish a 2012 mill rate of 10.0264 for the Ocean Drive Loop Special Service District was no laughing matter for residents Paul Hueper, Don McNamara and Donna Rae Faulkner.

In 2002, a seawall was built to control erosion along Ocean Drive. The special service district of properties in the area was created to keep the seawall operational. In order to fund $30,000 of repairs, the resolution attempted to set a mill rate within the district before a June 15 deadline.

"This would put the mill rate among the highest in the state of Alaska," said Hueper. "It speaks of mismanagement from the very beginning. ... It's not fair."

"What is your alternative? Who would you have pay for maintenance of the seawall? Because if you say the city, what you're talking about is me, Francie (Roberts), Beau (Burgess)," said council member Beth Wythe, pointing to other council members and referring to the costs being paid by all city residents rather than those within the special service district.

Maintaining they have in good faith paid for repairs to their portion of the seawall McNamara and Faulkner asked to be removed from the special service district.

"We've been responsible from the start," said Faulkner.

A motion by Wythe to amend Resolution 12-051 by removing McNamara and Faulkner from the assessment role was advised against by Thomas Klinkner, city attorney.

"By ordinance, the council determined which (properties) to include in the service district. ... I am not certain amending the resolution is the vehicle to successfully exclude this particular property," said Klinkner.

After more discussion and an attempt at another amendment, the council failed to pass the resolution, lacking the necessary four votes. Council members Wythe, David Lewis and Roberts voted in favor of the resolution; Burgess and Bryan Zak voted no; Barbara Howard was not present.

"I'm a little disappointed we weren't able to reach a solution on the mill rate," said Wythe at the close of Monday's meeting. "By not doing so, we have now exposed the entire community to maintaining the seawall ... and leaving us open for any additional funds we may spend this year."

Roberts also expressed disappointment and urged council members "on the prevailing side" to reconsider.

Taking "full responsibility" for the resolution not passing, Burgess said, "Someone has to step up and propose a long-term solution (to maintaining the seawall). We've had 10-15 years of people batting the ball around."

On Tuesday, Burgess issued a motion to reconsider Resolution 12-051, with a special meeting today at 5 p.m.

The next regular meeting of the Homer City Council will be June 25.

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