By Naomi Klouda
The City of Homer came out with funding for its top three priorities in the Alaska 2014 Capital Budget so far, a grant for Homer Port and Harbor improvements, help with a new fire station and dollars toward replacing the faulty harbormaster office.
“We did OK. We gave the legislature our whole CIP list (Capital Improvement List) and we were successful in the sense that the top three were addressed,” City Manager Walt Wrede said Monday.
These appropriations await the governor’s signature, but have a good survival chance since they were not politically tied. The harbor improvements came at the governor’s recommendation as a $4.2 million matching municipal grant program.
Now, the city will start to sell $4.2 million in matching bonds to raise money for a slew of projects from repaving the boat launch to fixing faulty ramps and rotted docks, Wrede said.
Another $2 million is a reappropriation from a legislative grant that was to make intersection improvements at Main Street and Sterling Highway. Now that $2 million will be split instead on two other projects. Part should go to construction of a Skyline fire station, a building to store and access fire equipment closer to residents who were underserved by the more distant Kachemak Emergency Service Area and the Homer Volunteer Fire Department.
The other half of the $2 million reappropriation would go to start on a solution for a new harbormaster office. The harbor office is in one of the oldest city-owned facilities and contains numerous safety hazards. A new building is recommended on the site across the harbor toward the Deep Water Dock.
The Kachemak Emergency Services Area will benefit from a $250,000 grant for a building on Diamond Ridge, across the street from the KPEN-KTGL radio station.
“We want to build a second KESA station, a modular unit. Right now we need a place to put our equipment and we’ve been leasing buildings over time for their storage,” said KESA Fire Chief Bob Ciccarella. KESA owns five acres of land it purchased in 2005 where the unit will go.
“We have 214-square miles of coverage. We almost have to run two separate fire departments – one on Diamond Ridge to serve all the way to Anchor Point. Then we have the station out 12 miles East End Road that extends out East End to the (Russian Old Believer) villages.”
The $250,000 will let them start construction this summer, hopefully, Cicarella said.
With the addition of both the Skyline Fire Station and the Diamond Ridge unit, home-owner fire insurance premiums could go down. Ciccarella found that after many years at a No. 10 ranking, the ranking was lowered to an 8B class and that qualified residents within five miles of Diamond Ridge for lower premiums.
The multi-pothole pocked Lake Street might finally see a fix through a $5 million repaving project. Also in store is a new phase of East End Road improvements and money for the Beluga Lake airport float plane base.
The Pratt Museum moves $250,000 closer to its new building construction with a grant awaiting the governor’s signature.
Revenue sharing projection for the City of Homer is about $400,000 this year. That’s money that could be reduced in the future. Revenue sharing for cities was tied to the progressivity revenue under ACES, Alaska Clear and Equitable Share. But ACES is now gone in the new SB 21 oil tax structure that will be used by the state to calculate oil revenue.
In the new system, revenue sharing will be tied to corporate income tax, said Rep. Paul Seaton. That money would come from what is predicted to be a shrinking general fund.
City officials are already discussing how to offset possible future revenue losses, Wrede said. “I think there will be less revenue, along with the less expenditures in the operating and capital budget both in years to come. I think we’ll have to understand that and pay for more things on our own,” Wrede said.
The city administration and the Homer City Council will talk about a refocus in the weeks ahead.
“We have a big list. We come to the legislature with a top 10 or a top 15 list and I think we’ll need to be really focused on one or two or three projects,” Wrede said.
(Approx. $33 million:)
Planning/Design vessel to replace Tusty: $10 mil.
Homer Lake Street rehabilitation: $5 mil
Homer Harbor: (Municipal grant): $4.2 mil
KPB Central Peninsula Landfill: $3,472,619
KPB Road Projects: $2 mil
Harbor building and Skyline fire station; $2 mil
Funny River Natural Gas Pipeline: $1.3 mil
East End Road Rehab: $850,000
Ninilchik Bridge Replacement: $500,000
Greer Road: $400,000
Seldovia generator replacement (HEA): $250,000
Beluga Lake Float Plane Base Study: $250,000
Pratt Museum new facility: $250,000
Ninilchik EMS/Fire Station: $225,000
Diamond Ridge KESA fire station: $250,000
Ionia Barn (Kasilof): $150,000
Voznesenka Loop Road: $100,000
Kenai Pen. Fair Assoc. Weatherization: $100,000
A.P. Fire/EMS Sewer System Replace: $50,000
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