Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 1:14 PM on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Council elected to lead, and that means acting to get gas to community

It was disheartening to hear a Homer City Council member express reservations last week about the council taking the lead on the build-out of a natural gas distribution system.

Getting gas to Homer has been discussed for a long time — a lot longer than just the past three years. But for the past three years, Homer and Kachemak City officials and residents have lobbied hard to get us where we are now.

The time to express reservations was three years ago when it first looked like getting gas to Homer had moved from the dream stage to the realm of possible. The time to discuss the merits of the project has passed; it's time to get the lines built and gas flowing into homes and businesses.

And the council is the entity that needs to step up to the plate and get it done — sooner rather than later. In fact, Homer residents should be wondering why the council and the city as a whole aren't as prepared for this project as Kachemak City is. That community is ready to go. Now. It asked residents last fall if they were willing to tax themselves for a gas line (they said "yes" overwhelmingly). That city also has begun forming a local improvement district, or LID, to fund a gas distribution line. The Kachemak City Council will vote next month on approving the LID. If more than 50 percent of the property owners object, the LID won't happen.

Whatever method the Homer council chooses to do the build-out, the public will have plenty of chance to comment. While the council should thoughtfully consider the most effective, efficient way to do the project, members should resist the urge to over-think and over-debate it and take a look at what's being done in Anchor Point and Kachemak City to get gas to residents in those communities. Homer doesn't need to reinvent the wheel.

The council needs to remember the answers to these basic questions: Will natural gas in Homer improve the quality of life in Homer? Will natural gas make for a better business climate? Is lowering energy costs and, consequently, the cost of living in Homer a good thing? Is providing the means for residents to have access to natural gas a proper role for city government?

The answer to all of those questions is yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

In case anyone on the council needs reminding, it's economically challenging to live and run a business in Homer. The No. 1 hurdle is the high cost of energy, which boosts the cost of everything else. If energy costs go down, residents will have more money to spend or save. Entrepreneurs will be able to invest more in growing their businesses. New businesses will be more willing to take a look at Homer because there's less financial risk. A lower cost of living will make it easier for young families and senior citizens — and everyone in between — to make their home in Homer. All of that creates a healthier, stronger community.

And what about the proper role of government? The city can and should provide for its citizens what its citizens can't provide for themselves. That includes infrastructure like roads, water and sewer, an airport and harbor — and gas distribution lines.

It's time for the council to act, not talk and balk.