After months of debate, the Homer City Council voted to approve a controversial overhaul to the city’s water and sewer rate structure. The sometimes heated conversation about the plan pitted Homer city government against the local business community.
After many delays – including a “no” vote followed by reconsideration and another round of public testimony, the matter of water and sewer rates came before the council again Monday.
At its Committee of the Whole meeting, council members pondered a four-point proposal put together by the group “Homer Voice for Business,” which stands vocally opposed to the plan. The group’s suggestions included using unexpected revenue from last winter’s stay of the Buccaneer jack-up rig Endeavor to offset rate increases and the formation of a new commission to re-examine water and sewer rates.
Council member David Lewis was not happy about some of the group’s activities, calling an ad it ran in the Homer News “misleading. He noted that local business owners had an opportunity to participate in the process of restructuring water and sewer rates, when a special task force was formed last year.
Addressing another common complaint of Homer Voice for Business, council member Beau Burgess noted that under the new rate structure, 58 percent of the city’s water users would see a decrease in their rates.
But the point – at least for the Homer business owners who have been showing up to city council meetings over the last few months – is that that savings is borne on the backs of a few local businesses.
"We have a lot of businesses ... that would save some money but they're not concerned about saving a couple of dollars," said Land’s End Resort Chief Financial Officer Josh Garvey, who has been vocal in his efforts to stop passage of the rate overhaul. "They're looking at the overall community and thinking about what is best for the overall health of the economy."
At the council’s regular meeting Monday night, Garvey and other business owners went on to accuse city officials of waste and mismanagement.
Two members of Homer Voice for Business have filed to run for city council this fall.
When it came time to vote, council member Bryan Zak attempted to pass Homer Voice for Business’s proposals but was shot down by his colleagues. In the end, Zak’s was the only “no” vote against the overall ordinance.
Homer Mayor Beth Wythe noted that when it comes to water and sewer rates, there “always seems to be a loser.” She urged those in the business community who are unhappy with the result to consider getting involved in city government.
The City of Homer’s new water and sewer rate structure will go into effect January 1st, 2014.