Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:49 PM on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

City considers 'wish list' to submit for state funds

Pick your projects, but pick them carefully was Homer City Manager Walt Wrede's message at the Homer City Council meeting on Monday.

The city's CIP, capital improvement plan, list for 2011-2016 included 15 items, one of them a $10 million natural gas pipeline from Anchor Point that Gov. Sean Parnell cut from the state's capital budget. In drafting a new CIP list for 2012-2017, a dozen of the old projects have been deleted and 12 new ones added, with the city continuing to pursue natural gas for the southern Kenai Peninsula.

From discussions about the gas line with Gov. Sean Parnell, however, "one thing seems pretty clear. If this project makes it into the governor's budget, the city should not expect to see any other large CIP (capital improvement plan) projects approved this year," said Wrede.

An item remaining from last year's CIP list, the dredging of the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, commonly known as the Fishing Hole, received support from community members, biologists and a representative of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Monday. At issue is the lagoon's original design for water to be at a 12-foot depth during low tide, according to Jim Hasbrouck, Alaska Department of Fish and Game regional supervisor for sport fish in central Alaska.

"Currently, approximately 60 percent of the lagoon is four feet or less in depth," said Hasbrouck. That is decreasing smolt survival, reducing the area in which salmon can swim and reducing the fishing area. Adding to the lagoon's problems is a fast-growing algae with spines capable of lacerating fish gills.

Hasbrouck said a new Fish and Game hatchery in Anchorage will help ease the stress on smolt, but dredging would restore the lagoon to the depth of its original design, stabilize the slope and improve water quality.

Council member David Lewis questioned Hasbrouck about the level of support the state would give if dredging of the lagoon remained as one of Homer's priorities. Although Hasbrouck said he could not speak for the department, his presentation was an indication that dredging the lagoon was "pretty important to us."

Retired fish biologist Nicky Szarzi spoke of the many residents and visitors who have fished in the lagoon and the impact of that use.

"I think the CIP request to dredge the lagoon is an excellent investment in the city of Homer, both from the standpoint of entertainment of the citizens of Homer, the peninsula, the state, the United States and the world, and from an economic standpoint and contribution to businesses in the Homer area," said Szarzi. "In its heyday, 2002-2003, when it had its most participation, it rivaled Anchor Point, Deep Creek and Ninilchik River combined."

Improvements to Karen Hornaday Park, another CIP item, also received public support at the meeting.

"The park is a shining jewel is our community," said Miranda Weiss, co-chair of HoPP, Homer Playground Project, a volunteer-driven effort to rebuild the park's playground.

Jonathan Walker, a pastor of Church on the Rock, said his congregation includes 130-140 children between one and 12 years of age.

"It's been my observation over the past 17 years that we struggle to keep young families in our community," said Walker. "I see this as one of the many layers of keeping families in the community."

To view the draft 2012-2017 CIP list, visit www.citofhomer-ak.gov/cityclerk/capital-improvement-plan-2012-2017-draft.

Flood insurance rate maps prepared by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, raised concern among council members at Monday's meeting. The maps are used to determine if structures are located in flood zones. Existing within a flood zone impacts the ability to get insurance. The maps can be seen on the city's website at www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/planning.

"(FEMA) has given us the next 90 days to decide to refute or appeal what they gave us," said Rick Abboud, city planner. "I'm trying to get them down here during the 90-day comment period, to get everyone in this room and have them explain in layman's terms what these (maps) mean."

Each of the following ordinances were passed:

• Ordinance 11-37, appropriating a Community Preparedness Outreach Award of $5,000 from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, no objection from council;

• Ordinance 11-38, amending the FY 2011 operating budget by appropriating $70,000 from the Water and Sewer Reserve Account to pay an agreed-upon amount settling an eminent domain action; council member Bryan Zak voting against the ordinance and council members Barbara Howard, David Lewis, Francie Roberts, Kevin Hogan and Beth Wythe voting in favor of the ordinance;

• Ordinance 11-39, amending the FY 2011 operating budget by appropriating $12,600 from the Port and Harbor Net Assets Budget for the purpose of reconciling a clerical oversight; no objection from council;

• Ordinance 11-40, amending the FY 2011 operating budget by appropriating $10,000 from the Port and Harbor Reserves for a detailed basin survey of the small boat harbor; council members Hogan and Zak voting against the ordinance and council members Howard, Lewis, Roberts and Wythe voting for the ordinance.

The council also approved:

• Memo 11-132, amending the Permanent Fund Committee's regular quarterly meeting dates;

• Memo 11-133, vacating a portion of Spruce Lane;

• Resolution 11-092, awarding a contract for an insurance benefit broker and consulting services to Mercer Health Benefits of Spokane, Wash., in the amount of $48,000.

The next meeting of the Homer City Council is Oct. 10, with the Committee of the Whole meeting at 5 .m. and the council's regular meeting at 6 p.m.

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