Council looks to create task force to answer question of the HERC

The Homer City Council will soon vote on whether to create a task force dedicated to answering questions about the Homer Education and Recreation Complex’s future.

The council introduced an ordinance at its Monday meeting to fund such a task force with $10,000 to figure out the financial resources that would be needed to use the HERC, whether a tenant for the building is a feasible option, and more. The $10,000 would be for the task force members to get answers to their questions from Stantec, the engineering firm that did a report on the HERC when it was being considered as a location for a new police station. The council was also poised to vote on a companion resolution to establish the task force, but postponed their vote for the next meeting so that it can follow the ordinance, which will have its second reading and public hearing at the April 23 meeting.

The HERC has long been a source of headache for the city and its residents. For a while, some of its space was being considered for use in a project to build a new police station, but that idea has since been scrapped. Other ideas that have been discussed as possibilities for the HERC’s future are a convention center, using it purely as a recreation complex, and selling the property altogether.

A task force would be responsible for investigating whether the HERC could be used for recreation safely, and without any capital improvements made to the building first, according to the resolution. It would be tasked with sussing out the minimum improvements that would be needed and the cost associated with them.

“I struggle (with) wanting to spend any more money as far as kind of assessing this building,” said council member Heath Smith of the allocation ordinance. “We’ve paid a tremendous amount of money already on two different studies, so if it’s basically an interpretation that we need on those 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, who sponsored the ordinance, said that Stantec, having done a thorough review of the HERC, will have information that task force members will need. She agreed to look at the ordinance again and possibly amend its scope and adjust the dollar amount.

“It seems to me that the best expertise out there is Stantec, because they’re the last ones that really looked at the building and have some understanding of it,” Aderhold said. “And so for the task force to be able to tap into that expertise, to get answers to specific questions, would be very helpful.”