Arguably the most notable feature on the Homer skyline, after the Homer Spit, is the glacier that looms large in the center of the Kenai Mountains that ring Kachemak Bay. It sparkles blue in the summer sunshine, reveals deep waving ribbons of dark rocks and debris like a child’s finger-painting, and on those rare moonlight nights, glows almost as brightly as the moon itself.
But while many have made the trek up to the glacier’s lake in the summer, only the most adventurous have experienced the glacier up close. Unless, that is, they know how to seize the perfect moment to visit.
At its next meeting, the Homer City Council will approve one of two budgets, depending on the outcome of next week’s tax vote (see related story below). If all goes well, a tight but bearable budget will allow for most city services to continue. If voters turn down the reallocation of a portion of the city’s sales tax, however, most departments will lose personnel and city residents will lose services.
Exactly what services they will lose, however, was the subject of debate at this week’s committee of the whole meeting prior to the broadcast evening city council meeting, when council members discussed their preferences.
What the city of Homer’s services will look like for the next few years is in the hands of Homer voters next week with a special election on a temporary sales tax reallocation.
The city currently collects .75 percent sales tax dedicated to a fund to encourage the development of roads and trails. But facing a $1 million budget shortfall thanks to cuts in state funding and ever-increasing costs of doing business, the city council and staff are asking voters to reallocate that Homer Accelerated Roads and Trails Program funding to the general fund for the next three years while the city finds another way to pay its bills.
Veterans on the Kenai Peninsula will continue to have help getting to and from medical services, thanks to the renewal of a transportation grant in the amount of $250,000 to the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs.
Any veteran on the Kenai Peninsula can get free transportation to the VA medical clinic in Kenai or outpatient clinic in Homer, as well as any VA-authorized vendors, like pharmacies, hospitals and medical specialists. Forest Powell, with the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs, says it even counts for trips to Anchorage, if the local VA refers a vet to a doctor in the city.
“You, as a veteran, get free transportation from here to the VA and return back, free,” Powell said.
Ask Jim Miller if he’s an artist and he’ll say he doesn’t look at the masks, wood carvings, bone, ivory and metalwork he’s made for decades now that way.
“I don’t consider myself an artist,” Miller told the group gathered last week at the Pratt Museum. The Port Graham resident spoke at the opening of an exhibit of the museum’s rarely seen collection of Native Art from across Alaska. “I consider myself a wood-worker.”
However, many might disagree.
Despite taking the helm during a time of significant state cutbacks, new University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said he is excited to head to Juneau and share with legislators the value of the investment they make in the university.
Johnsen, who has a background both with the university and with leadership positions for Alaska Communications and Doyon, Limited, an Alaska Native corporation, said that’s why he is touring the university’s community campuses, such as the two on the Kenai Peninsula.
Those searching for locally grown carrots, spinach, seafood and even flowers will have another option beyond the Homer Farmers Market next year thanks to a pilot project food hub being organized this winter.
If all goes according to plan, the food hub will create a virtual marketplace connecting consumers with producers and organizing a centralized location once a week where food and products are distributed.
Kachemak Bay is home to an arguably disproportionate number of biologists and marine wildlife experts, not to mention the self-taught experts who derive their living from the ocean waters.
But far less data than you might expect has been collected and analyzed about the bay. A recent decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration naming Kachemak Bay as the next Habitat Focus Area under the administration’s Habitat Blueprint project may help with that effort, however, and it can’t come a moment too soon.
Even before this summer’s extraordinary plankton blooms, and a largely unprecedented influx of herring and whales, the bay has been changing. Declines in shrimp and crab, as well as possible strains on shellfish could have profound impacts on the economy and ecological diversity of the area, the administration said.
Homer Mayor Beth Wythe has filed as a candidate for state House, saying her experience with city government has prepared her to devote herself to the needs of the Southern Peninsula.
“This is also a pretty natural step from what I’m doing locally, to expand out and step forward and serve a slightly larger area,” Wythe said Monday.
Wythe, who has worked for the Homer Electric Association for 30 years, most of that time in the human resources department, is currently completing her masters degree in public administration. If elected, however, she said she would make it her full-time job.