Task force poised to evaluate the future of the HERC

Apr 10, 2018

The Homer Education and Recreation Center.
Credit Courtesy of the City of Homer

The Homer City Council is poised to create a task force to explore the cost of updating the Homer Education and Recreation Complex, or the HERC, for future use. But it postponed its decision on the matter Monday.

The HERC was previously evaluated as a potential site for a new police station, but that idea was scraped over concerns about hazardous material in the building. The gym is currently the only portion of the HERC the community uses.

The task force would be charged with evaluating whether the upstairs could be used without any capital improvements, the cost of improvements needed to use the entire building, and the cost of constructing a new building on the site among other questions.

The council postponed its vote on the resolution to follow a companion ordinance that would give the task force a $10,000 budget to answer those questions with the help of the engineering firm Stantec.

The firm produced a report on the HERC when the city was considering it as a site for a new police station.

Council member Tom Stroozas told other council members that nothing has changed since Stantec produced the report.

“What was in there hasn’t changed. We’re certainly not going to learn anything new by spending more money,” he said.

Council member Heath Smith supports soliciting Stantec’s knowledge about the building, but he does not want the city to pay for Stantec to travel to Homer or additional assessments.

“We’ve paid a tremendous amount of money already on two different studies,” Smith explained. “So, if it’s basically an interpretation that we need from those two different studies to make that determination, I don’t know that it’s going to take that kind of money to do that.”

Council member Donna Aderhold sponsored the ordinance. Aderhold said previous reports on the HERC do not answer new questions the task force will be attempting to answer.

“They did not address issues like ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance. They did not answer questions about what it would take to put in a sprinkler system,” Aderhold explained, “things like that have come up relative to how we might use this building if it is not part of a police station.”

Aderhold agreed that Stantec will likely be able to answer those types of questions based on their previous assessment of the building, and she moved to postpone the measure.

Aderhold added that she will likely make amendments to further define the scope of Stantec’s work and potentially reduce the task force’s budget.

The council is holding a public hearing on the ordinance allocating the funds, and  it will reconsider the resolution to create the task force on April 23.