Doctor points to need for syringe exchange program

For doctors who treat patients with infections and diseases caused by using dirty syringes, it makes perfect sense; it is much cheaper to offer those using intravenous drugs a safe, free way to get clean hypodermic needles than it is to treat the problems dirty ones create.
That was the message Dr. Sarah Spencer, who works with clients suffering from addiction in both Ninilchik and at South Peninsula Hospital, presented to the Homer City Council last week. While no program is in the works yet, Spencer said she wanted to get people talking about the idea, in part because it can be fairly controversial.

Sales tax increase tabled ‘til May 2016

An ordinance proposing a vote on a 1 percent city sales tax increase between April and October drew public testimony Monday night, and the council moved to postpone action on the move until it had a better idea of what the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the state planned to do with sales tax next year.
The seasonal sales tax proposal was popular in community meetings held this year to discuss the $1 million city budget gap. But the council and staff opted for a vote to consider reallocating the Homer Area Roads and Trails program sales tax of .75 percent for three years instead of asking voters to approve the sales tax increase. Had last week’s vote failed, however, the city was ready to move on the seasonal sales tax vote, having introduced the idea last fall and postponed the ordinance calling for a vote until this week’s meeting.
Crisi Matthews, a business-owner on the Homer Spit, testified that the seasonal sales tax increase would cost visitors a lot of money and could cause them to reduce their spending when in Homer.
She estimated that for a family of six like hers who visits Homer for a couple days to go fishing, sales tax alone would cost them $355 for the fishing trip, $90 for four nights’ accommodations and $81 for food, for a total of $526 in sales tax alone.

Council approves $20 million plus budget

The Homer City Council approved a budget of nearly $21 million Monday night after adding funding for trails and sidewalk work, and debating the need to hire a lobbyist.
The 2016 City of Homer operating budget approved this week contained some $750,000 in cuts, including the reduction of 6.5 staff positions, as well as budget reductions for many departments, including the Homer Public Library, which reduced its book and supply budget by $29,000.
But it was ample compared to the budget that would have been approved had city voters not approved a reallocation of sales taxes last week (see related story, this page). A draft budget containing $467,000 in cuts had the Homer Area Roads and Trails program sales tax re-appropriation not passed would have resulted in 70 percent cuts to the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Pratt Museum city contributions, as well as closed the popular HERC building, reduced community recreation programs to drop-in activities only and closed the library 12 additional hours due to personnel cuts.

Voters approve HART Fund tax reallocation

Only a handful of Homer’s voters – less than 500 — showed up to vote in the recent special election that decided the fate of the city’s budget, but those that did, voted overwhelmingly to temporarily shift taxes earmarked for city roads and trails to the general fund to bail out a $1 million budget shortfall.
Some 13 percent of Homer city voters turned out last Tuesday to weigh in on a temporary fix to the city’s budget crisis using Homer Accelerated Roads and Trails fund taxes — .75 percent of sales taxes collected in the city — for the general fund for three years. The move is anticipated to bring in just enough to cover the budget gap, which was created in part by the elimination of the state revenue sharing program as well as cuts to state funding to the Homer jail, which is shared by Alaska State Troopers.

Haven House director announces resignation

Dec. 7, 2015 – Jessica Lawmaster, Executive Director for South Peninsula Haven House recently notified the Board of Directors of her intent to resign her position effective February 19. Lawmaster, who was named Executive Director in 2012, will be relocating with her family to the Seattle area. In thanking Lawmaster for her service, the Board […]

Alice’s reopens after flooding

Alice’s Champagne Palace, a popular bar and restaurant on Pioneer Avenue, has endured a lot in its decades of history in Homer, from changing ownership, hours, kitchen offerings and management. But few incidents rival what staff found when they walked in the door early on Nov. 17.
Water was raining down through the building at a rate of 2,000 gallons per minute, pouring through the floor boards from the top level, through the main level, and down to the basement, where six inches of standing water filled the space, overwhelming the facility’s drains.
“It was a torrential downpour in here,” said Josh Tobin, general manager of Alice’s.
During the mid November cold snap, a cast iron fitting in the building’s sprinkler system had frozen and split in two. For six hours, the sprinkler system gushed water unnoticed, ruining drywall, soaking insulation and causing a disastrous mess throughout the building, Tobin said.

Community invited to ‘Share the Spirit’

After 23 years organizing the annual Share the Spirit holiday gift and food basket drive for those in need, Shari Daugherty said she never ceases to be amazed by the generosity of the community of Homer. It comes in all shapes and sizes, she said. Some people rush up to her at the last minute, apologizing for not giving earlier and pressing their entire wallet into her hand, telling her to take whatever those in the community need. Another memorable man pulled up out of the blue with a truckload of high-quality toys, like Erector Sets and Lincoln Logs. She said there are as many different ways to give as there are people in Homer.

Hilts retires from Seldovia school board

Sitting with school board members from around the country in Washington, D.C., longtime school district board member Sunni Hilts said she was struck by something. Everyone was talking about politics and advocacy and other issues. But it was what they weren’t talking about that bothered Hilts.
“I stood up and said, ‘I haven’t heard children mentioned for three days,’” Hilts, a longtime Seldovia resident, said.
Her comment changed the direction of the conversation — a meeting of the National Association of School Boards, which Hilts attended as the president of the Alaska association.
“It was an incredible opportunity and an incredible responsibility,” Hilts said. “I would just sometimes pinch myself to think I’m from this little town of Seldovia and I’m sitting in Washington, D.C., and making a difference.”

Skating Grewingk provides intimate Alaska encounter

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.

Budget debate pits core against community

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.

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