Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 3:28 PM on Wednesday, July 25, 2012

City council again considers plastic-bag ban

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

The Homer City Council passed on first-reading a proposed law that would ban sellers from providing disposable plastic shopping bags. The ordinance was one of several ordinances introduced at the meeting Monday night that will go up for a public hearing and final action at the council's next meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 13.

Introduced by council members David Lewis and Beau Burgess, if passed, the law would prohibit sellers from providing customers with a plastic bag not intended or suitable for continuous reuse. The ban also would apply to material marketed as biodegradable or compostable that is less than 2.25 mils thick. A mil is equivalent to .0001 inches. The purpose of the ordinance is "to decrease the use of disposable plastic shopping bags" because the use "creates burdens on the local solid waste disposal system and degrades the environment."

The law would not apply to plastic bags sold for the collection of waste, produce and newspaper bags, bags used to contain dampness or leaks from frozen or wet goods, bags to package bulk items and baking goods, and bags containing prescription drugs.

In a public comment period on matters on the agenda, no one spoke against the ordinance, with several praising it.

"It's a great step for the city and it's a really good idea," said Rachel Lord.

In 2009, Lewis had proposed a 25-cent fee for plastic bags, but withdrew the ordinance after public opposition.

In other action, Lewis also introduced an amendment to a mid-year budget appropriation that would give a $10,000 grant to the Homer Hockey Club to buy new batteries for its Zamboni ice grooming machine. Mayor James Hornaday broke a 3-3 tie in favor of the amendment.

Council member Francie Roberts said she voted against the Zamboni battery appropriation because she didn't think a mid-year appropriation was the time to give grants to nonprofit organizations. "I would be very wary of doing that in the future," she said.

The amendment was made to an ordinance appropriating $14,310 for new tablet devices and software, $5,000 for harbor float repairs, $33,600 for new library software and $50,000 for a new Public Works steamer boiler unit to thaw frozen culverts. The ordinance passed on first reading and goes up for public hearing and final action at the next council meeting.

The mid-year appropriations were part of a packet of ordinances proposed by Homer City Manager Walt Wrede after an unanticipated surplus due to sales tax revenues caused by high fuel prices and revenue from a jail service contract. One ordinance pays off several energy funds and another adds $544,280 to depreciation reserves. Those ordinances also passed on first reading and go up for public hearing and final action at the next council meeting.

Burgess asked that the $14,310 appropriation for tablet computers be separated from the main ordinance. The appropriation would purchase tablet computers such as the Apple iPad for use by council members to receive email and view council documents. To consolidate email and protect council member's private computers in case of a court action seizing them, the city has recommended council members correspond using city email addresses set up on tablets.

In a memo to the council, Systems Manager Nick Poolos estimated the city would save $23,000 in five years by going digital and not printing the phone-book size council packets. This week's packet, for example, is 350 pages long and printed on both sides.

Burgess objected to purchasing tablets because he thought the same goals could be accomplished at a lower cost. On a 5-1 vote, with Burgess voting against, the appropriation passed on first reading.

In other action, the council:

• In response to a petition by Paul Banks Elementary School parents, revised the sign code to allow changeable copy signs in the zoning district that includes the school as well as other districts;

• Accepted a $448,116 state grant to rebuild the Beluga Slough Trail;

• Appropriated $30,000 to relocate the Mariner Park entrance on the Homer Spit away from a corner;

• Excluded a lot owned by Don and Donna Rae Faulkner from the Ocean Drive Loop seawall special service district;

• Accepted the donation of two paintings by Homer artist Gaye Wolfe to the city;

• Accepted a state grant of $4.2 million for ramp and harbor improvements;

• Passed a resolution expanding the scope of work by the Port and Harbor Improvement Committee to consider upgrading the Port and Harbor Building.

• Passed resolutions noting the insufficiency of petitions to create an Ocean Drive Loop paving improvement district and a Kachemak Drive Phase III Water and Sewer improvement district.

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