Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:23 PM on Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Firefighter honored for bravery

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Praise, appreciation and words of thanks were voiced often during the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly's once-a-year visit to Homer on Tuesday.

None more so than when Gregory L. Collins of the Kachemak Emergency Service Area Fire Department was recognized by KPB Mayor Dave Carey for his act of bravery on the morning of Sept. 3. Collins, a firefighter and emergency trauma technician, was at Glenn's Welding that morning when he noticed smoke coming from a small cabin on the property.

After becoming aware an individual was in the burning structure, Collins risked his own life by entering the cabin and rescuing the person "who was on fire and would have otherwise perished in the fire," said Carey.

With Bob Cicciarella, KES chief, standing by, Carey presented Collins with a commendation noting the service area and borough's eternal gratitude for Collins' exemplary service and commitment.

"All of us in the borough hopefully never have to dial 911, but if we do, we should have a comforting feeling that individuals who respond will do so in an eager, professional way and will help you in a time of need," said assembly member Charlie Pierce, District 5-Sterling/Funny River.

The city of Homer received compliments from assembly members for the Homer Spit Plan, which the assembly approved for incorporation into the city's Comprehensive Plan. Craig Chapman, borough finance director, and his staff were recognized for receiving a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association. Appointments of several individuals to advisory planning commissions across the borough was an opportunity for Carey and the assembly to express appreciation for all individuals serving in such capacities.

The assembly also heard thanks expressed by members of the public for visiting Homer, for their commitment to public service and for listening to the concerns of southern peninsula residents.

"Comments and compliments. We don't get a lot of them up north," said Hal Smalley, District 2-Kenai. "They're nice to hear."

An ordinance accepting $4.5 million from the state of Alaska for repairs to borough roads set off sparks for some assembly members. The list includes 27 gravel road projects and 12 paving projects, all of them in the north, central or west areas of the borough.

"I'm hoping in discussion you might explain why there are no projects on the east or this side of the peninsula," said Milli Martin, former assembly member, during a public hearing on Ordinance 2011-19-09.

Saying he was disturbed by the exclusion of road projects in the southern and eastern portions of the borough, Mako Haggerty of District 9-South Peninsula said he wanted to raise the issue the next time the assembly went to Juneau.

Sue McClure, District 6-East Peninsula, agreed with Haggerty's comments.

"And I will join him in Juneau and try to right a wrong because excluding south and the entire eastern peninsula is just wrong," said McClure.

Formation of the Anchor Point Utility Special Assessment District, of USAD, was approved and $723,410 appropriated to construct a pipeline to deliver natural gas to residents within the USAD boundaries.

"We've worked hard for 35 years in Anchor Point, hoping to get gas from that well out North Fork Road," said Emmitt Trimble of Anchor Point. "This is a great opportunity for the community."

The Homer Solid Waste Transfer Facility construction project got a green light with the assembly's acceptance of an $8.9 million legislative grant from the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. The baling and landfill facility's permit with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation expires in 2013, and plans call for household waste to be transferred to the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna.

"We expect the first stage of construction to go out for bid in a few weeks" said Bill Smith, who represents District 8-Homer. "Perhaps we'll get some earthwork done this year."

Fire and emergency services fared well at the Tuesday meeting, with funding for projects and equipment going to the Bear Creek Fire Service Area, Nikiski Fire Station, the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Service Area and the Kachemak Emergency Service Area.

The Tsalteshi Trails Association received assembly approval to expand its trail system in Soldotna with an additional 52 acres of borough land adjacent to Skyview High School. The assembly also approved a preservation designation for 80 acres northwest of the Homer Airport. Earlier this year, the city of Homer passed a resolution urging the assembly designate the acreage as wildlife habitat. Following the city's recommendation, the "preservation" designation indicates the area is needed for "stabilization or maintenance of natural features, historic value, known nesting areas of migratory birds ... or other reservations to preserve natural resources and aesthetic qualities."

The assembly passed a resolution once again requesting Gov. Sean Parnell include in the capital budget funding for a natural gas pipeline from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City.

"We're hoping in that age-old rule of 'three times a charm' because this will be the third time it goes before the governor," said Hal Smalley, District 2-Kenai.

Linda Murphy, District 4-Soldotna, was less optimistic.

"I'm happy we passed the resolution... however, I don't think that's what'll happen," said Murphy. "(Parnell) said the state's never funded a gas line and he's not going to let that happen. I don't think that argument holds weight, but we'll wait and see."

Homer's "Save the Track" committee put in a strong showing Tuesday night. Coaches, teachers, students and parents were on hand to seek support for repairing the Homer High School track. Two years ago, Dr. Allan Gee, HHS principal, closed the track to events with other schools because of the track's unsafe conditions. Gee recently said unless funding can be found for repairs this school year, he will close the school to use by HHS students, as well. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has included this track with others in funding requests to the legislature. The district estimates repairs to the Homer track will cost $750,000.

"The reason I'm here is to request your urgent action to propose the renovation of the track as a capital improvement project for the upcoming legislative session," said Bill Steyer, head coach of the HHS cross-country running and track and field programs. "We have a track over a quarter century old and it's crumbling to pieces. And I mean literally crumbling."

The next meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will be at the Borough Assembly Chambers on Oct. 11.

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