More Funding Needed for New Harbor Office

     Planning for the new Homer Harbormaster’s office could be delayed slightly. The cost of the project is a little more than the city originally thought. 

     There’s a special task force that’s been meeting since September to talk about the new building. Officials say it’s necessary because the current harbormaster’s office is too small and too outdated for the amount of staff and business that happens at the Homer port and harbor.

     Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins has said money to pay for most of the new facility is coming from a legislative grant. That’s $1.5 million right there. Back in September, Hawkins said there was a timeline in place for the project.

     “The group is going to work really hard on design all through the winter. By spring, the goal is to have the plans bid-ready. Bid the project and build in the summer and fall, and with a goal of being complete by December 2014,” he said. 

     But there might be a slight snag because of the facility’s cost. The current design has a price tag of a little more than $2.3 million. Hawkins has said using port and harbor enterprise funds to help make up the difference would be an option, but more is still needed. During a recent meeting of the Port and Harbor Task Force, there was some discussion about where that additional money could come from. 

     City Manager Walt Wrede mentioned this was part of a normal process of stepping back and re-evaluating once the design work gets to a certain point. He said a low-interest loan could be an option. But Hawkins pointed out it’s likely something like that wouldn’t be approved by the Port and Harbor Commission. He said commissioners have said they didn’t want to borrow money to complete the project. The group discussed using other pots of money for covering the costs of outdoor components. 

     Wrede said there might be a good case to get more money from the legislature to help with the increased cost, but he needed to find out more details. The design plans called for a building that was roughly double the size of the current public facility. The members of the task force could revise those plans to see what sections could be cut out. 

     According to budget documents, the Homer Port and Harbor pulled in more than $4 million in revenue last year. Hawkins has said that could increase with this new facility because it would make it easier to court new business and pull in federal and state dollars. And this new building is part of a long-range expansion plan for the harbor.