Homer may be in for uncertain times ahead as the U.S. Coast Guard looks at consolidating bases in a federal mandate to cut budgets.
That came from Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo in a discussion with Homer City Manager Walt Wrede during a trip to Juneau. Wrede and Mayor Beth Wythe traveled to the capitol last week to take part in discussions relating to Homer’s position on the 2014 Capital Budget list and relevant legislation.
“Besides slogging for capital projects, we went to visit the Coast Guard admiral. He had words of caution,” Wrede told the city council Monday night. “We talked about their housing needs, what their needs might be in the future. They need more housing for turnover crews. He cautioned us about sequestration and shrinking budgets. They may be looking at consolidating bases in Cordova and Kodiak – one is about to be replaced. That’s something we will have to keep an eye on.”
Homer appreciates the Coast Guard’s marine detachment, which homeports the Cutters Roanoke Island and the Hickory, Wrede said. “Anything we can do to keep the Coast Guard, that is what we’ll want to do,” he said. “We may need to make a decision to make Homer an even more attractive place for the Coast Guard to be.”
Wrede also delivered the application for the Homer Port and Harbor bond bank sale, a $4.2 million bonding project. It is now before the bonding board. Matched to the Governor’s capital budget appropriation of $4.2 million for harbor projects, if it survives the budget process in these closing days of the session, this places Homer in a position to begin funding maintenance overhauls this summer.
Going into the coming year will be a potentially difficult time for municipal governments. Gov. Sean Parnell has asked the legislature for more cuts to both the operating and the capital budgets.
Mayor Wythe said given the outlook that Homer will see a reduction in revenues, smart planning needs to take shape for projects.
“In the long-term, we will be better off if the community develops a better strategy for what they request and not send in as many requests,” Wythe said. “We got a better sense of what they would really like to see and how they would like to se it. As revenue is reduced it will be necessary for the city council to have a linear way of thinking that takes everything into consideration.”
A 10-year plan outlining priorities and steps needed to get there will need to be worked on, she said. This will mean Homer completes the front work so projects are very near to shovel ready.
Homer has invited Gov. Parnell to host his annual governor’s picnic in Homer, along with larger traditional cities where it is hosted. This will give an opportunity to show the governor and commissioners the Homer Area Natural Gasline and to discuss needs for Pioneer Avenue and Lake Street’s continuous outbreak of potholes. Department of Commerce Commissioner Bell is interested in the gasline build out plans. Homer is seen as a model for how Fairbanks and other remote locations may gain natural gas, Wrede said.
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