Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:42 PM on Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Proposed traffic solution: Right turns only

Council passes record retention revisions to include electronic correspondence

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

At the meetings of the Homer City Council on Monday, the Transportation Advisory Committee presented an idea that some Homer drivers have already figured out in navigating streets across the Sterling Highway.

Take right turns only.

During the Committee of the Whole meeting and the regular meeting, Transportation Advisory Committee member John Velsko floated the idea of making the streets between Lake Street and Pioneer Avenue that intersect the Sterling Highway — Waddell Way, Heath Street, Poopdeck Street and Main Street — right turn only.

For example, to cross the highway at Main Street to go to Old Town, motorists would have to figure out alternate routes. A driver on Pioneer Avenue heading east would pass Main Street, turn south on Heath Street, turn right on the highway (also called the Bypass) and then take a left onto Main Street from the middle turn lane. A driver needing to go east, or left, on the highway from heading south on Main Street could take a right, or west, onto the Sterling Highway, turn left onto Ohlson Lane, then take Bunnell Avenue back up to Main and a right turn on the highway. In heavy summer traffic that sometimes can be faster than waiting for a safe break in traffic.

"Essentially what we'd be creating is a big roundabout in town," Velsko said. "Until the city and state get some funds to put turning lanes and traffic control with a stop light at Main and the Bypass, this is a short term and possibly a long-term solution and would only cost a couple hundred dollars."

Homer has $2 million in a state grant to put in a traffic signal at Main Street and the Sterling Highway — the worst intersection for making left turns east or west — but the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has not yet scheduled construction of the traffic signal.

The right-turn rule is only an idea at this point and did not come to the council as a resolution for action. Council member Francie Roberts, also a Transportation Advisory Committee member, said the committee would consider the idea further at its August meeting, but wanted to keep the city council informed.

Council member Beth Wythe asked that once the committee has a more concrete proposal, it should ask city staff to develop a resolution identifying specific intersections for the rule with a map.

The council passed an ordinance amending the city code section on records retention. City attorney Tom Klinkner, of Anchorage law firm Birch Horton Bittner and Cherot, suggested the amendments to organize and clarify the code, make the code consistent with state statutes and identify city records better for management purposes, particularly in light of the increase in electronic communication since the code was enacted in 1984.

The amendments to the old code add "electronic records" as a category of records to be managed. They also define which kinds of documents can be excluded from retention. The council passed the ordinance, but the discussion led to how council members should handle its own emails.

"That's the primary reason this ordinance came about," said City Manager Walt Wrede.

Wrede said he is working with Holly Wells, also one of the city's attorneys, on a city email retention policy. Wells noted council emails are public records and should be preserved.

"So I should be saving every single email I get then?" asked council member David Lewis.

"Right now, you should save everything. You should have a file, a city council file," Wells said. "Because this area has not been litigated in the state of Alaska, we're flying blind in some sense."

Last week, Alaska released more than 24,000 pages of emails to, from or copied to former Gov. Sarah Palin in response to media and citizen public records requests made in 2008 after Palin ascended to national attention when she became the Republican Party candidate for vice president. Those emails included ones sent from Palin's private email accounts concerning state business.

Wythe suggested council members do what she does and copy Wrede or City Clerk Jo Johnson on emails concerning council business. That way emails get saved on city computer servers. In-house city email also is saved on city servers.

"That's fantastic. It might be a good practice if everyone does that," Wells said.

The council also passed an ordinance establishing a preliminary budget and authorizing expenditures for phase 1 improvements to Karen Hornaday Park. It passed a corresponding resolution appropriating $5,000 to the Homer Foundation to support community efforts to create an improved playground at the park.

Miranda Weiss and several other parents of the Homer Playground Project spoke in favor of those actions.

"The existing playground has been loved long and hard over the years and needs some new life," Weiss said. "(The $5,000) will jumpstart all our efforts."

Council member Barbara Howard voted against the appropriation on principle, saying nonprofit requests should come during the regular budget cycle.

"If we pass this, we are opening the box for all others to come through the door," she said.

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