Homer City Council - June 24, 2019

Jul 2, 2019

Even on a slow day, the Homer Boat Harbor is a busy place. But if you are captaining one of the many 100-plus-foot vessels berthed there, navigating in water that is barely deep enough while avoiding dozens of small skiffs as you turn around, it’s far from ideal. Bryan Hawkins, port director and harbormaster for the City of Homer, addressed the Homer City Council Committee on the Whole meeting on Monday night.

“The name of this show is the dance of the elephants, big boats moving in a small boat harbor. This is just another day in the life of a vessel owner in Homer Harbor, because the harbor has fourteen feet of water at zero tide. So, when you start getting into the minus tides like this day is – those big boats are stirring up bottom mud, too,” Hawkins said.

More than a decade ago, the city looked into the feasibility of constructing a large vessel harbor to the north of the existing small boat harbor, but it didn’t pencil out. Last year, however, the city and the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers took another look. According to Hawkins, the current increased use, the project now looks feasible.

“We have a recommendation to resume the general investigation. They have placed it on their work plan for 2020. And if that is agreed to in the presidential budget for new projects then they’ll be ready to go in. If it’s not accepted in their work plan budget, they’ve put it in for their 2021 budget. One way or the other, they are anxious to get working on this.”

The city says it often has to turn away large vessels, including support vessels for the oil and gas rigs, which would prefer to winter in Homer rather than at ports further south. Hawkins said the study is likely to find the project even more favorable as more of the details of the potential economic impacts and costs are fleshed out.
To move ahead with the $3 million study, the city will have to come up with a minimum of $750,000 for a preliminary design as federal funds only cover half of the expense. Even then, state funds, which covered half of the study in 2008, could be hard to come by given the current economic climate statewide.

“We have reengaged with the state, said Hawkins, “We need to follow up on that. We need some commitment from them on this. The purpose of this is to show why it’s beneficial for state, federal and local governments to build harbors. Our share still is a big nut to crack, so, we need to put our heads together and figure out what we need to do about that.

Homer Port Director and Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins presenting on the harbor expansion project at Monday night’s Homer City Council Committee on the Whole meeting. The proposed large vessel harbor would be located between the existing deep-water dock and the entrance to the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Member Kelly Cooper updated the Homer city council Monday night on her plans to introduce an ordinance asking the voters to approve switching to a borough manager form of government.
Cooper said the idea has been proposed multiple times over the years.

“I believe that this would actually be a cost savings in the long run,” Cooper said. “It would bring stability to the borough with hiring a borough manager that has the experience and qualifications to do that.”

The borough mayor would be then become the chair of the assembly, Cooper said, and would have veto power and a more active role on the assembly. Cooper noted that 12 of the 19 boroughs in the state that have the borough manager form of government.

“When the mayor is elected, he is paid a salary. It has nothing to do with their qualifications. It has to do with whether they are electable. Over the years, we have had mayors who we’re qualified and who were not qualified. Quite often we see additional costs by making mistakes, by litigation that we may not have had – had we had an experienced, qualified manager in that role.”

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Kelly Cooper, speaking during Monday night’s Homer City Council meeting. Cooper plans to introduce the ordinance at the July 2 assembly meeting. If approved, the issue would go before the voters this fall.