Story last updated at 2:33 p.m. Thursday, December 12, 2002

City recommends new library site
by Carey James
Staff Writer

The proposed new Homer library is one step closer to finding its home after City Manager Ron Drathman released his site recommendations Tuesday.

In the report, which analyzed five sites in the city, Drathman compared costs of purchasing and preparing land as well as other criteria and recommended two sites in a tie for first place.

The site of the old intermediate school on the corner of Pioneer Avenue and the Sterling Highway tied with a parcel of land above First National Bank Alaska on Heath Street and Hazel Avenue. Both lots are owned by the city.

Drathman reported that with the school site there were no costs for land acquisition or utility extension, but there would be a cost for demolition of the old school.

The Heath Street location was not on the original list of sites the city council asked Drathman to investigate, but was added after another site along Hazel Avenue was deemed too small, and adjacent property owned privately was not for sale.

The Health Street site was ranked No. 1 in costs to the city.

Another lot popular with some looking at the various potential sites is located at the base of the Poopdeck Trail above Petro Express Tesoro. Drathman estimated the purchase price of the property at around $250,000, and added that there would be road construction costs of around $150,000.

On the other hand, the property, which ranked in a three-way tie for third based on the manager's criteria, would appeal to those rooting for a site near the proposed Town Square Project in the center of town.

The recommendations also looked at a parcel in the central Town Square area and noted that, based on costs alone, this was the most expensive property to build on, with utility costs estimated at $300,000 and road construction costs estimated at $450,000.

The final site examined was a lot behind the library. The lot, which would likely be accessed by Main Street, would require land acquisition costs of around $150,000 and road costs of $200,000.

The study, which is entirely advisory, will now be looked at by the city council as well as the Library Advisory Board. Board members Nancy Lord and Dan Coyle said Tuesday evening they had not had a chance to study the recommendations, but were glad to see them come in well before the mid-January deadline the council had given Drathman.

In past meetings, Lord told the council that the site selection was vital to efforts to raise funds for the project, as many grant-providers ask for a location and building plan prior to awarding money.

The council also heard from Rep.-elect Paul Seaton on potential state funding for the library. Seaton said the state's fiscal situation for the next year does not look good, and chances for state funding of the library are slim. He suggested the council and the library look into the possibility of partnering with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Kenai Peninsula College for funding through the recently passed state bond on construction of future education facilities.

Seaton said at this point it is the best option he could offer for receiving state funding, but added many of the details of how the entities would interact on the project were unclear.

Library Director Helen Hill said the library is still researching the option and appreciates Seaton's efforts to look for funding for the project.

Carey James can be reached at cjames@homer