With only a few days left before Homer officials are expected to take action on the special assessment district, several residents are coming out against building the natural gas trunk line into town.
The Homer Special Assessment District, or HSAD, will finance construction for the pipeline. According to information put out by the City of Homer, that construction will cost property owners in the district a maximum of $3,283 for each lot. They are asked to make payments over the span of 10 years.
The assessment is a problem for some property owners, especially David Duke. He’s president of the Baywatch Condominium Association. At Monday’s Homer City Council meeting Duke said the assessment is putting an unfair financial burden on condo owners.
“Each condominium owner will be assessed as if they are an individual property owner even though the condominium association building is on one lot, just like an apartment building. Instead of a $3,200 assessment, the condominium building will be assessed $39,400,” he said.
Duke pointed out apartment buildings have only been assessed the single-lot fee. He said he would like to see other options such as assessing condos the same rate as apartments, charging the association as a single lot or basing the fee on the size of the lots.
Michael Kennedy said he has his own concerns about this financial proposal by the city.
“I think we should try to back up and see if the city ever had any business forcing the citizens to pay for private infrastructure of a non-essential service,” he said.
In an unusual move, Mayor Beth Wythe handed over her gavel and made a few comments during the public hearing. She said she is not opposed to natural gas coming to Homer, but is against having residents pay for Enstar infrastructure. Wythe said if this were a financially viable project for the natural gas company, they would not need government backing for the construction’s roughly $12 million price tag.
“If you bond $12 million, regardless if you get it from the Borough who will give you a favorable return, or you bond it through another source, you are obligating the citizens of this community to pay that $12 million back,” she said,” Whether you have people who default on their property payment, whether you have the money to make it happen, you are obligating them to $12 million or more, because you don’t really know what the exact total is going to be.”
Wythe said the city does not have a clear enough idea on how to repay that bond if officials need to start payments before collecting assessments.
Though, City Manager Walt Wrede mentioned later in the meeting that initial payments on any loan would be toward the interest only and principal payments wouldn’t start until around 2015. He said that would mean smaller fees at the start. But Wrede said the city council will need to find money for a dedicated fund to pay down the interest.
Other residents, like Nell Gustafson took issue with the approval process for the HSAD. If property owners are against the measure, they must submit their objections to the city in written form. The deadline is Jan. 25 at 5 p.m.
“Think how it would be if the election of the President of the United States depended on people going to the polls to vote no. They want so-and-so out of office. How ethical is that,” she said.
City officials say, at last count, 288 of the 3,855 lots have said no to the assessment. Meg Mitchell has been a Homer resident for the last 30 years. She said even if the HSAD is approved, she isn’t sure she will hook up to the trunk line.
“Unless you guys start offering some funding source, there’s going to be lots of people in my position who may want it,” she said.” And I think I’m an easy case. I think I’m going to be an easy fix. But it’s still going to cost me $3,000, $5,000, $6,000 to convert over.”
The Homer City Council will hold another public hearing on Jan. 28 beginning at 6 p.m. Officials are expected to take action on the measure during their regular meeting.