It makes sense that Homer should do as large a build out as possible when it comes to gaining natural gas for the entire town. It makes little sense to do this piece meal when we have come to the painful lessons learned from water and sewer costs not evenly distributed throughout the town.
With the water and sewer system, whole subdivisions on Diamond Ridge, West Hill and East End Road are not hooked up. This may be fine for those homeowners who have a well and a septic system. They aren’t paying for a system that is expensive to operate, but those who are paying – pay dearly. That’s because the larger the volume of users, the lower the costs. The fewer there are, the more we pay.
A build out of the entire City of Homer limits means every home from Bay Crest Hill to Kachemak Drive would have access to natural gas in the next few years. Costs would be economically distributed over the population. We would all pay the same price.
If the Homer City Council, in upcoming meetings, decides to reduce the boundaries to a lesser area, it could bog down the system for years to come. Whole swaths of the town would be left with the time to vacillate amongst themselves, some wanting to create a Limited Improvement District to pay for getting gas, others against the idea.
Those who have the means to keep paying for expensive stove fuel or electricity to heat their homes would be free to do so, while their more struggling neighbors would keep on keeping on. Then, at some future date when an LID is formed, the cost for gaining distribution lines to bring natural gas to that neighborhood would be significantly higher. Every year, materials and labor costs go up.
No doubt some people will chose to see this as a property owner’s choice issue. Or they will say the City of Homer is forcing something on them. We see it more as a case of – we’re all in this together. Let’s try to do the right thing for our community’s bottom line, for our selves, our neighbors and our environment.
Natural gas is cleaner. It will help businesses reduce what they spend on heat and increase their spending in other areas – like hiring more employees. It will eliminate fuel tanks and their spilling, leaking and dripping. It will reduce our CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
The public testimony portion of the question before the Homer City Council will be a chance for everyone to have a say, to ask questions, to help devise standards for the task ahead. This is a chance to be a part of the process. Our hope is that individuals pack the city council meetings to take part.
If the city council does adopt the plan to take Homer proper as the area for an LID, it will be doing an unusual thing. Cities usually go neighborhood by neighborhood, subdivision by subdivision. That process is how ENSTAR built distribution lines from the Mat-Su Valley to Sterling, block by block.
Homer City Manager Walt Wrede demonstrates a possible plan for doing a city-wide project, by reducing construction costs and the time it takes to achieve access to natural gas in our homes. But it won’t be easy or the common path for a city government to take. Homer will be forging a new path among towns. It will take foresight, planning and public input.
But the end goal is toward solving what many rightly consider an energy insecurity. Homer’s highest cost of doing business is due to the costs of fuel. Homer’s high cost of living is due to the costs of fuel. This is a problem we can solve together, finally, now that other options are at hand.
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