Fireworks, flares illegal, dangerous despite rain

Homer fire officials are warning that while fireworks and flares are always illegal and dangerous, celebrating with sparks this Fourth of July is a particularly bad idea because of the high fire danger on the Kenai Peninsula.
While recent days have been cloudy and a little precipitation has fallen, it is not enough yet for fire officials to relax. While vegetation is wetter, areas under the forest canopy are still very dry and fire danger remains high.

Card Street fire is 25 percent contained

Though confined to a smaller burn area, the Card Street Fire stands at 25 percent contained as of Tuesday morning and continues to impact recreation users of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, prompting no-fire warnings for the Homer area as well.
The Skilak Lake and the Swanson River Recreation areas are closed to hiking, boating and fishing until further notice, refuge officials caution. The Upper Skilak Lake Boat Launch Ramp remains open but people are cautioned to avoid using it unless necessary, said Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Manager Andy Loranger.

Relief on Heath Street

Traffic congestion around the library, post office and bank on Heath Street may get relief if a route is approved to gravel a road from Grubstake to Lake Street.
The Homer Advisory Planning Commission held a public hearing on Wednesday night to look at two possibilities: A link between Heath and Lake streets through an extension of Grubstake Avenue. The other plan linked Heath to Lake Street via Bonanza Street.
The difference meant either acquiring land from Homer Electric Association or land for sale on the old Waddell homestead, where a collection of tourist cabins serve summer visitors.

Dog killed in brown bear attack off Diamond Ridge

A brown bear reportedly killed a dog in the Misty Ridge area off Diamond Ridge Road last week, and area biologists are urging caution when dealing with wildlife and dog relations, especially when moose and bears are active.
Jeff Selinger, Kenai area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said while reports of bears killing dogs are not an everyday occurrence, they aren’t unheard of, either.

Food pantry asks ‘plant a row’ for the hungry

As summer solstice soars by, and gardens on the Southern Peninsula are starting to get rolling and with that up-and-coming abundance, there is an opportunity to share the bounty with some of the community’s less fortunate.
Diana Jeska, board president of the Homer Food Pantry, said fresh vegetables are sometimes hard to come by for the 100-or-so families that depend on the food pantry each week. While local grocery stores donate vegetables that may have passed their prime, lettuce and other greens don’t last very long. Homer Farmers’ Market growers often donate their excess, but this time of year, that doesn’t amount to very much, either.

Homer celebrates new harbor building

The stately new Harbormaster’s Office at the Homer Port and Harbor illustrates political patience and tying not just a few frayed ends.
“To most people, it seemed like this building went up overnight, maybe even like magic,” said Harbor Master Bryan Hawkins at the building’s grand opening celebration Thursday. Construction crews completed the $2.3 million building in early May. Harbor staff moved in May 16, ahead of schedule.
“I’m here to tell you that it wasn’t magic that constructed this building, and simply wishing didn’t make it happen either. What made this much needed improvement move from the City’s capital improvement list to completion was just good old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves hard work,” Hawkins told a gathering at the grand opening.

Navy presents case to council, community

A rapid-fire presentation Monday afternoon at the Homer City Council did little to calm the concerns of dozens of residents who turned out to discuss and object to the U.S. Military’s plans to train in the Gulf of Alaska starting this week.
The U.S. Navy and Air Force will be conducting training exercises, which started this week, in an effort to improve communication and techniques, but residents, especially those with a stake in the fishing industry, have expressed concerns that the sonar to be used and munitions to be detonated will have a negative impact on the fish and marine mammals in the region. The U.S. Navy has denied any substantial impact will occur from the training exercise, dubbed Northern Edge 2015, which will occur 24 nautical miles south of the shoreline of the Kenai Peninsula over the course of 11 days. Three Navy destroyers, a submarine and several contracted vessels as well as some 200 aircraft and 6,000 U.S. military personnel will be involved.

Fires to the north keep emergency personnel on high alert

Electric line workers and southern peninsula firefighters quickly contained a fire started on the Old Sterling Highway on Monday by downed power lines, but continued hot, dry weather and two large fires burning to the north have emergency personnel on high alert this week.
Temperatures on the Kenai Peninsula climbed well into the 80s in some areas Monday and red flag weather warnings have driven the fire danger high on the peninsula this week, as firefighters battle blazes to the north.

Audit draws concern, city says mistakes corrected

End-of-the-year reporting of the financial status of the city caused an external audit of the city of Homer to have several red flags in its external audit this year, but city council members say the problems were accounting mistakes, not lost or mismanaged monies.
Michelle Drew of BDO, the firm that conducted the external audit of the city finances, said staff turnover contributed to the errors, which mainly stemmed from monies being recorded incorrectly in end-of-the-year reports, while day-to-day accounting records by the city were accurate.
“Despite that fact that we did issue the two findings and did the restatement, the statements are materially correct,” said Drew during the Homer City Council’s committee of the whole meeting. “It is basically a clean or unmodified audit opinion.”

Navy exercises draw protest

Framed by a backdrop of stormy skies and chilling winds, protesters of the upcoming Navy training exercises in Alaska waters raised banners, beat drums and boarded boats to circle alongside the Homer Spit on Friday in an effort to raise awareness about concerns voiced in other coastal Alaska communities.

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