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Homer City Council approves creation of new city departments

Sabine Poux

The Homer City Council created new departments at their Jan. 8 meeting by passing an ordinance introduced last summer.

City Manager Rob Dumouchel initially proposed the ordinance to create separate library and information technology departments for the city, which had been combined since 2021. He also proposed creating a community development department. This would place planning, economic development, zoning, platting, permitting inspection, city enhancement programs, and parks and recreation services under one director.

While council members and commissions supported most of the proposed changes, Council Member Shelly Erickson said moving parks and recreation to a new department raised concerns in the community. She worked with Council Member Jason Davis to create a substituted ordinance addressing issues around a potential lack of staffing and funding.

“What this will do is it'll leave everything as is, except for community rec and the parks staying where they're at,” she said, “and will give us a little bit more time to actually figure out where, what it needs to look like, and that people are feeling comfortable and good about it.”

The council unanimously passed the changed ordinance. They also passed a substituted ordinance lowering speed limits in cul de sacs and roads with dead ends to 15 miles per hour. The substitution clarified where the reduced speed limits would be applied.

Funding for multiple projects in Homer got greenlit through ordinances, including replacing a fish grinding building and improving drainage, designing and rebuilding a pressure reducing station on Ben Walters Lane, and pavement restoration on Heath Street. A design contract also got approved to advance the restoration project.

Many ordinances were introduced and discussed. One included setting aside nearly $288,524 to meet local funding needs for the Homer Harbor Expansion investigation.

Penelope Haas objected to the ordinance on behalf of the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society.

“I recognize that you're not voting to spend that money right now, but it still seems kind of poor timing to dedicate that funding,” she said, “it seems like it would be much more appropriate and proper to wait until we have federal and state funding dedicated before we set aside that large number of dollars.”

Haas brought up a need to include more public input and how demand for the expansion was potentially decreasing in her comments as well.

The council introduced another ordinance sponsored by Davis to conduct an engineering study looking into a pedestrian underpass for the Sterling Highway. It would connect the Diamond Creek Recreation Area with the Roger’s Loop Trailhead. Davis said if passed at the next meeting, the study would work towards convincing the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to include the underpass in rehabilitating Sterling Highway as part of the State Transportation Improvement Program.

“That will be a signal to them that we really are committed to this, that we have what they call ‘skin in the game,’ and that we're serious about our plans to eventually connect our trail system to that underpass,” he said.

He also included an amendment to require memorandums of understanding for all groups involved.

Through the meeting’s consent agenda, the council introduced ordinances adding roads to the city’s official road maintenance map, allowing the city to accept donations, and to install mobile restrooms in Jack Gist Park and Karen Hornaday Park.

They appointed administrative roles for the city staff as well as members to the Homer Comprehensive Plan steering Committee and the Port and Harbor Advisory Commission. The city also authorized contracting HDR Engineering to work on grant applications, entered a contract with Appaloosa Integrated Construction and Consulting Services, and accepted a method to receive funds from the shared fisheries business tax program.

Homer City Council will meet again on January 22.

Jamie Diep is a reporter/host for KBBI from Portland, Oregon. They joined KBBI right after getting a degree in music and Anthropology from the University of Oregon. They’ve built a strong passion for public radio through their work with OPB in Portland and the Here I Stand Project in Taipei, Taiwan.Jamie covers everything related to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, and they’re particularly interested in education and environmental reporting. You can reach them at to send story ideas.