Story last updated at 4:46 p.m. Thursday, October 17, 2002

Business as usual for new council
by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

Homer's new city council members faced an uneventful agenda during their first meeting Monday after being sworn in before an audience of fewer than half-a-dozen people.

During a brief special meeting held at city council chambers prior to the regular council meeting, newly elected council members Rose Beck and Doug Stark were sworn in by City Clerk Mary Calhoun.

Jack Cushing also took the oath of office to begin his fourth term as mayor, and Mike Yourkowski, Ray Kranich and Rick Ladd all returned to council seats. Councilman John Fenske, who was not up for re-election, watched from the audience.

Stark used the occasion to comment on his election. He said he remembered looking out over the city from his newly annexed home on the night he initially threw his hat in the ring for the council race.

"It was really beautiful," he said. "I'm really honored to be a part of Homer and a part of the council. I'd like to thank the people that elected me and the people who didn't, because they're my constituents, too. It's a great council, and I think we're going to do wonderful things in the years to come."

In a unanimous vote, Yourkowski was elected mayor pro tem after being nominated by Fenske.

"It's one of those positions that's seldom called on, but when it is, it's incredibly important," Fenske said.

Cushing also called a break to give the councilmembers an opportunity to choose new seating assignments at the council table, a seniority-based preference that he called "a longstanding city council tradition."

Much of the actual meeting was devoted to joint reports from City Manager Ron Drathman and Public Works Director Carey Meyer. Meyer answered council questions about the new seawall and the Heath Street road upgrades, among other topics.

Drathman said the state Department of Transportation plans to pave the north section of Heath Street, which was recently opened between the police station and Homer High School, in the spring.

Some consideration is being given to the intersection there and the three-way stop at the high school and Lake Street, he said, including moving the three-way stop to the Heath Street intersection, or putting in a traffic light.

"DOT is going to come down and do another traffic study," Drathman said. "There've been a lot of changes there."

Meyer said the seawall project is progressing well.

"We installed the last few sections of the wall itself, and it's looking pretty good," he said. He said the work crew identified an abrasion problem on some of the panels caused by rocks and sand being washed against the wall.

"The material didn't hold up as well as the manufacturer said it would," Meyer said. "No one is concerned about the wall standing up to the pounding of the waves, but the abrasion of the rocks is causing problems."

As a solution, he said, the crews are installing spruce planking along the panels as a sacrificial buffer.

"It's sacrificial in some ways, but it will take a long time to wear away 2-inch planking," he said.

Meyer said he believes the manufacturer will cover the cost of the planking, which was not part of the initial budget.

"He gave us the bulletproof presentation, and it didn't live up to his promises," he said. "There will be no cost to the property owners."

In other business, the council:

* Settled upon an evaluation process for Drathman's review, and set Monday as the date for the evaluation. The council will meet in executive session.

* Voted to appoint Lane Chesley to the planning commission, Margaret Ladd and Sue Mauger to the Library Advisory Board, and Cherish Bee McCallum to the Parks and Recreation Committee.

* Adopted ordinances accepting and appropriating a state grant for community jail improvements; appropriating funds from Public Works reserves to purchase a Caterpillar grader; accepting tax foreclosed property deeded to the city by the Kenai Peninsula Borough; amending the city zoning map to zone portions of the annexed area; and amending city subdivision code.

The council meets next on Monday for Drathman's evaluation. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Chris Bernard can be reached at