Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

A water project pump house in North Pole will be formally dedicated to Howard “Buzz” Otis of North Pole at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Otis, a longtime businessman and strong supporter of economic development, died in a small plane crash in 2017.

Longtime friend Jeff Cook realized Otis had never been officially recognized for his good work and he came up with an idea that everyone else has enthusiastically embraced.

Construction on a new piped water system in the city of North Pole began in 2018 and this summer, homes and businesses are being connected to that system. Phase Two continues this summer and it is hoped that next summer the remaining homes and businesses will be connected.

The new system was needed due to the discovered migration of the chemical sulfolane into the water table. Flint Hills Resources, then owner of the North Pole Refinery, the city of North Pole and the state of Alaska are currently engaged in a lawsuit against the former refinery owners, Williams, over this spill. A court trial is expected to begin in the fall. Meanwhile, this water project was created to protect water quality for residents. It is funded 80% by Flint Hills Resources and 20% by the state of Alaska.

“As part of the piped water project there is one major building, the pump house, for the piped water system,” Cook said. “It occurred to me that there had been no formal recognition of Buzz Otis for all he did for the North Pole community in particular and the Fairbanks area in general. Buzz lived in the general North Pole area and owned both businesses and land for future development in North Pole.”

He thought naming the pump house after Otis would be a great way to recognize him. It didn’t take long to build support among friends, family and community members.

Then North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward introduced an ordinance at the North Pole City Council, approving naming the pump house in honor of Otis. The city of North Pole is the owner of the piped water system and the pump house.

Here is everyone who helped make a sign possible for the building: Lettering was provided at cost by Arctic Fire and Sign Company of Fairbanks, and paid for by the city of North Pole. It was installed at no cost by Ghemm Company of Fairbanks, the contractor for the pump house building. The bronze plaque dedicated to Otis was provided by Keith Blanchard and funded by Fairbanks Youth Sports, Flowline Alaska and Jeff and Susan Cook. It will be installed by Hector’s Welding of North Pole and the city of North Pole Public Works Department.

The plaque includes a photograph of Otis and says “The Howard ‘Buzz’ Otis Pump House. June 29,1953 — May 27, 2017.”

“This Pump House is proudly named for Howard Buzz Otis, in honor of his memory. Buzz was a man of many passions. First and foremost was his devotion to his family. He was a loving husband and a proud and involved father. Buzz was dedicated to his faith, and that dedication involved numerous service projects as well as worship. Buzz was a committed friend who had great intuition for when someone needed assistance, attention and kindness. Buzz was passionate about his community, and his service projects included economic development, beautification and the general betterment of the place where he lived, worked and played. Buzz was an all-around sports enthusiast and in particular promoted youth sports. One of Buzz’s favorite sayings was ‘A rising tide floats all boats.’ His upbeat attitude and ‘can do’ spirit caused many projects to float to the surface with great success. Buzz’s love for his family, friends and community will be truly missed by all.”

The short dedication ceremony will be held at the pump house, at 2000 Peridot in North Pole.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.