Recreation center receives city funding challenge

Plans to build a covered recreation center in Homer got a big boost from the Homer City Council on Monday night as the council voted unanimously to approved an appropriation of up to $189,000.
There is a catch, however. To access all the money, the group must raise double that amount. In kind contributions will count too, but at a lesser level. That didn’t seem to worry Daniel Zatz, one of the primary organizers of the project, who said he would do everything he could to make sure that youth were playing soccer on the covered field by Sept. 30 of this year.
What started out as a plan to construct a simple 70-by-120-foot covered metal frame structure to allow Homer youth to play soccer year round has ballooned into a 72-foot-by-156-foot structure that would allow for soccer games and other activities to occur simultaneously, Zatz said. Pickle ball players, for example, who are likely to lose their home if and when the HERC building turns into part of the new police station, will have a home under the roof of the South Peninsula Athletic and Recreation Center. So will people looking for a place to walk or let their children play in the winter.

Water taxi provides ‘bird’s-eye’ view on Kachemak Bay

Step onto the 28-foot, 15-passenger M/V Torega, and one of the first things you might notice is the little wooden plaque that reads, “They’re all good birds.”
Karl Stoltzfus is the owner of Bay Excursions, operating the Torega, as well as the 20-foot, 6-pack Soleci. Both boats are recognizable, painted bright yellow and black — taxi colors.
Stoltzfus started his water taxi business in 1995 and has carved a niche over the years, specializing in birding, wildlife and photography tours. His clients come from Canada, the Lower 48, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, England, Japan and China.

Grubstake Avenue pushes Waddell out of the ‘Way’

There was a time — many years ago — when you could actually consider taking Waddell Way as a shortcut from Lake Street to the post office.
The decision was generally based on the number and size of potholes stretching across the short, gravel/mud road.
New shocks and struts? Or getting to the post office before 5 p.m.? Tough call.

Katie Sullivan serves coffee and customers at K Bay

Katie Sullivan was eight years old the first time she tasted coffee. She was immediately drawn to the rich, dark aroma and full-bodied flavors. Throughout high school, she frequented coffee shops and today, drinks five to six cups a day.
She also works on the other side of the counter, as a barista, perfecting the fine art of making coffee.
Sullivan received her initial training in Homer at Captain’s Coffee five years ago. She worked for awhile at Far Out Café, and has spent the past two years working at K Bay Café.

Chapman says goodbye to longtime teachers

Chapman School is getting ready for a big retirement party May 6, and everyone’s invited. The party starts at 6 p.m., and celebrates two retiring educators at the school: kindergarten teacher Donna Austin and special education teacher Linda Brady.
“They are two of the most professional educators I’ve worked with,” said Chapman Principal Conrad Woodhead.

Voucher program loses funding

An appeal filed by the Independent Living Center with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities was denied on Friday according to ILC executive director Joyanna Geisler.
Beginning July 1, funding for the Independent Living Center’s transit voucher program to serve the elderly and disabled populations on the Kenai Peninsula will end. For 19 years ILC has provided discounted transit vouchers to clients in Homer, Kenai/Soldotna and Seward.
“Kachecab has worked with the Homer Independent Living Center through practically our entire existence as a company,” said Kachecab owner Chris Fischer. “Together, we have provided thousands of rides for hundreds of elderly or disabled people in the Homer area.”

Recreation, road paving discussed by council

As budgets tighten across the state, Homer City Council officials this week put funding paving projects around the city under the microscope, as well as funding for a proposed community recreation facility.
Councilmember Heath Smith asked at the last meeting for more information about a request to use $638,000 from the roads and trails fund to pave city streets throughout the community. Smith said he had driven many of the streets and didn’t think all of them warranted repaving yet.
“I’m not an engineer, but they didn’t seem like they needed to be done,” Smith said.
City staff, however, said the roads have been identified as those that are high-use, or will soon need to be repaved. The city typically brings forward a series of paving projects every three years, they said.

Opioid/heroin addiction sparks syringe exchange program

The effort to proactively respond to the opioid and heroin addiction problem on the Southern Kenai Peninsula got a big boost this week as a syringe exchange program pilot project was funded through the Awesome Foundation. The Awesome Foundation is a global community providing $1,000 no-strings-attached micro-grants to a wide range of projects from individuals and organizations.
At Monday night’s Homer City Council meeting, Councilmember Catriona Reynolds announced the funding.
“I can’t believe we pulled it together so quickly,” Reynolds said.

Commercial cannabis moves forward on Kenai peninsula

Kenai Peninsula cannabis businesses have taken a step forward, now that Kenai Borough Assemblyman Blaine Gilman has withdrawn his ordinance to put peninsula cannabis businesses back on the ballot.
Gilman withdrew his ordinance at the April 19 meeting in Seward — at least for now, he said.
“There’s a vocal crowd of (cannabis business) supporters, but there’s no consensus on the peninsula,” Gilman said.
Ordinance 2016-10 would have placed a question on the October ballot of whether the Kenai Peninsula Borough should adopt local options to prohibit the operation of commercial marijuana establishments in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, outside of cities.

Putting the power of peonies to work on Pioneer Avenue

Just as spring starts to bud around town, a collaborative project aimed at revitalizing Pioneer Avenue is sprouting up among businesses, nonprofits, government agencies and landowners on one of the town’s busiest streets.
“Peonies on Pioneer” plans to use Homer’s many assets “in the arts, recreation and agriculture to strengthen the physical, social and economic fabric of Pioneer Avenue.”
“We want visitors and locals alike to linger on Pioneer,” said Asia Freeman, lifelong Homer resident, director of Bunnell Street Arts Center and member of the Pioneer Avenue Revitalization Task Force.
In a press release, the task force listed the program’s goal as, “courting community and customers to explore and experience our unique sense of place; a modern Alaska community with homestead values.”

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