City should include public in HERC conversations

City should include public in HERC conversations

  • By Janie Leask
  • Thursday, November 16, 2017 8:41am
  • News

Changes are once again in the wind for the old Homer Middle School, fondly known as the HERC. This time, there’s conversations among some City Council members to sell the land and building. The HERC (Homer Education &Recreation Complex) sits on a 4.3-acre chunk of prime Homer real estate on the corner of the Sterling Bypass and Pioneer Avenue which some consider to be the “gateway” into Homer.

In the past, the building has been used as classroom and offices of the UAA KPC Kachemak Bay Campus, temporary offices for city employees during remodel work on other buildings, and the home for the Boys &Girls Club. True to its name, the HERC is currently used as a site for community recreation. Inside there’s youth basketball, Zumba, youth gymnastics, Pickleball and badminton. Outside there’s the skateboard park.

The proposal of erecting a public safety building on the HERC site was recently turned down by the voters, but during this process, the city requested the restriction for educational and recreational use of the HERC be removed and the city get clear title to the property. The Borough agreed, thus paving the way for the city to dispose of or use the property as it wishes … including selling it.

Over the years, the city has discussed several options for the HERC from demolishing the building, mothballing it, to now possibly selling it. Yes, it’s an old building that needs upgrades, but it’s in a prominent location that residents and visitors alike see when they drive into our town and it’s actively being used for recreation. There’s still a cost to be incurred by the city to heat the building to offset any adverse snow load to the roof, so why not keep the building open to the existing groups while exploring possible new uses?

Rather than viewing this venerable old building as a deficit, I would invite the City Council to explore what the HERC can be: a community recreation center, an after school center for our children who are impacted by the new bus schedule, a community park, a site for community classes, etc.

Some Homer City Council members feel the South Peninsula Area Recreation Center (SPARC) can meet the recreation needs in our community. The City provided $189,000 in capital funding for the SPARC and is now, through a 2018 budget amendment, proposing an additional $20,000/year (for 5 years) in operating funds to the SPARC “to help prepare the community for an alternate use of the HERC.”

While the SPARC is a wonderful community asset to which my husband and I have contributed both time and money, it has its limitations. There are not enough hours in the day for the SPARC to absorb all of Homer’s community recreation needs and the SPARC’s flooring doesn’t work for some sports.

I urge the City Council to engage the public in a conversation about the HERC before any decision is made which would permanently seal the fate of this important public asset.

Janie Leask is a lifelong Alaskan with a love of recreational sports and a strong belief in community involvement.

More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchor Point house fire leaves one dead, one in serious condition

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Snow and debris from an avalanche can be seen near Mile 45 on the Seward Highway on Monday, March 29, 2021. (Photo courtesy Goldie Shealy)
Center promotes avalanche awareness

The Chugach Avalanche Center in Girdwood will begin its daily forecasts Saturday.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Historic sockeye run predicted for Bristol Bay

ADF&G says 2022 run could break this year’s record

The entrance to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in the Tongass National Forest was covered in snow on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, a day after federal authorities announced the next step in restoring the 2001 Roadless Rule on the forest. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Feds put freeze on Roadless Rule rollback

On the Roadless Rule again.

Alaska man pleads not guilty to threatening 2 US senators

If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

Commercial fishing vessels are seen here on the Kenai River on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Fishing industry takes a hit during pandemic

Overall fish harvesting jobs in Alaska dropped by the widest margin since 2000 — 14.1% — in 2020.

FILE - The Olympic rings stand atop a sign at the entrance to the Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., on July 8, 2020. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, declared "squaw" to be a derogatory term and said she is taking steps to remove the term from federal government use and to replace other derogatory place names. The popular California ski resort changed its name to Palisades Tahoe earlier this year. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)
Interior secretary seeks to rid U.S. of derogatory place names

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday formally declared… Continue reading

Most Read