Story last updated at 1:07 p.m. Thursday, September 19, 2002

Residents get 'home turf' edge

Borough assembly meets in Homer

by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

When the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly met in Homer on Tuesday, some local residents took advantage of the opportunity.

"I probably wouldn't have driven down to Soldotna to testify, but since you're all here, I thought I'd come down," said Steve Gibson, a Homer logger and sawmill operator who addressed the borough's spruce bark beetle timber sale policy.

Gibson was one of five locals who spoke on a variety of topics at the meeting, held in the Homer City Council chambers at city hall. He said he took "strong exception" to two proposed timber sales in Homer, one behind Paul Banks Elementary School and one on Baycrest Hill.

"Fire danger is often overestimated down here," he said. Gibson presented the assembly with a letter from Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Painter also opposing the sale.

Members of the public are each allowed three minutes. Most went over.

Scott Cunningham, chair of the Kachemak Emergency Services Area, thanked assembly members for their support.

Cunningham said the KESA has received a Federal Emergency Manage-ment Administration grant for a new pumper engine, and has begun assembling a stable full of tankers and ambulances.

"I wanted to thank you for all the support," he said, "and let you know we're not just wasting our time out here. We've just been too busy to come and thank you in person.

"Our big project right now is the McNeil Canyon fire station," Cunningham said. "The $300,000 (in grant money awarded to KESA) toward that station is incredible. It gives us the funding to go to other sources and show that we have borough support."

In contrast to Cunningham's comments were remarks made by Lloyd Schade, president and founder of the Eastland Fire Department, which falls smack in the midst of the Kachemak Emergency Services Area.

Eastland approached the assembly earlier this summer, seeking a piece of the borough pie in the form of U.S. Forest Service grant money distributed among several borough fire departments, and was turned away.

"I want to thank (Assembly President) Tim Navarre and the others who tried to pass funding for Eastland," Schade said. "The assembly's refusal to help the Eastland Fire Department was a grave injustice to the people of our community."

Listing the assembly members who voted against the funding, including Milli Martin and Chris Moss of Homer, Paul Fischer of Tustumena, Betty Glick of Kenai and Pete Sprague of Soldotna, Schade said he'd personally like to thank them, as well.

"It takes great time, expense and dedication running a fire department," he said. "Since they've taken the monkey off my back, we can protect Eastland country and not be concerned about our neighbors. The assembly and the Bagley administration do not understand our problem.

"They've won the battle, but the war is not over yet."

Homer City Councilman Rick Ladd spoke about Mayor Dale Bagley's recent veto of a public roads standards ordinance (See related story, this page.), but made it clear he was not speaking for the city council.

Finally, Steve Rykaczewski spoke on behalf of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, thanking the assembly for a recent resolution recognizing Homer's Dave Brann, who was awarded the governor's citation for trails excellence earlier this year.

Brann, considered the "father of Nordic skiing in Homer," was a founder of the ski club, and was instrumental in creating, maintaining and promoting trails in the Homer area.

Navarre thanked Rykaczewski for his comments, and thanked Brann, who was in the audience, for his dedication.

Several locals also were recognized by the assembly in a resolution commending the "Kenai Wild" salmon-branding program and its participants. The program was developed last year to revitalize the commercial fishing industry in the area by establishing a quality certification program for Cook Inlet salmon, creating a higher-value product and promoting the product to high-end niche markets.

Navarre also recognized several area politicians and candidates in attendance at the meeting, including Homer Mayor Jack Cushing, borough mayor candidate Ken Lancaster of Soldotna, state House candidate Paul Seaton, R-Homer, state Senate candidate Tom Wagoner, RM-Kenai, and District 7 assembly candidates Paul Zimmerman and Doug Ruzicka.

Chris Bernard can be reached at cbernard@homernews.com.

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