Council forms task force for HERC

After several amendments, much confusion and more than three hours, the Homer City Council adjourned their Monday night meeting with a task force dedicated to exploring possibilities for utilizing the Homer Education and Recreation Complex.

The HERC has been the subject of much discussion and study over the years, and now that the city council has officially decided not to consider the building for any involvement in a new police station, it’s up for grabs. The council passed a resolution Monday that forms a task force dedicated to evaluating certain questions regarding the HERC’s usefulness. They include:

∙ Can the upstairs of the HERC be safely used with no capital improvements?

∙ What are the minimum improvements that would be needed to safely use the entire HERC facility and cost associated with those improvements?

∙ What are the desirable improvements that need to be made to the entire HERC facility to allow it to be used to its full potential for the next 10 years?

∙ What would it cost to demo the HERC and build a new facility that meets the recreation needs of the community on the existing site?

According to the resolution, the task force will consist of seven members along with an advisory student member. No more than one member from the council itself will be able to sit on the force, as well as no more than one member from the Parks, Art, Recreation and Culture Advisory Commission. Up to three seats on the task force can be filled by non-city residents.

When it came to authorizing funds for the task force to use in its work, debate and amendments were plentiful. Member Donna Aderhold had originally proposed taking $10,000 from the Old Middle School Depreciation Reserve Fund and giving it to the task force in order to pay for consultation with Stantec, the architecture firm that has produced studies of the building in the past.

Council member Heath Smith has been a vocal opponent of spending any more money on studying the HERC than necessary.

“If we’re going to put into place a task force, I think it’s important as council member Aderhold has stated that they have the right tools at their disposal in order to get us that information,” Smith said during the committee of the whole meeting before the regular council meeting. “And so, I’m not opposed to Stantec being on board. I’m not going to be in favor of the $10,000.”

During the regular meeting, Smith moved to cut the funding amount for the task force down to $3,000, which was debated and eventually approved. Aderhold said she’s comfortable giving the task force less money to get answers from Stantec to start with, and that if they need more they can come back to the council later.

Council member Shelly Erickson had also brought forward a resolution to allow the city manager to send out a Request for Proposals for the HERC. She said her main concern is that by taking on two major projects at the same time — the HERC and the new police station — the city could be tied up in both for years or potentially not have enough money to finish them.

“Issuing an RFP will open the door to potential stakeholders who are interested in investing the building and effective use of the space; and … If a successful proposal is received and contract is negotiated, revenue from the HERC will be used to pay down the financing of the Police Station building, before going into the general fund,” according to the resolution.

Ultimately, Erickson agreed to have the council vote the resolution down with the understanding that she can bring it back again in the future. Council members debated that it was too early in the process to send out an RFP.

The deadline to apply for the HERC task force is May 7. Mayor Bryan Zak will make the appointments to the task force, which will be approved by the council at its May 14 meeting.

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