I am pleased to see that the conversation about recreation in Homer and its importance to the health and safety of our community is beginning to see the light of day. I really hope that people will make sure that this conversation is supported by facts when applicable, as well as opinions.
I am specifically speaking to people calling the old middle school facility “derelict” and “un-safe.” This facility has been looked at by engineers and other knowledgeable people with close attention being paid to health and safety. When the subject of asbestos is brought up, people need to understand that the asbestos in the HERC building has been encapsulated and is safe. The hazard (and expense) to the public comes when the asbestos is disturbed, as it would be if the facility were to be torn down.
I have been attending city council meetings, as well as public safety building committee open houses and meetings, to voice my opinions on and my frustrations over the speed and one-sidedness of the decision-making process for a site for the new public safety building.
At these meetings my voice (as well as others) seems to go unheard. The council or committee moves on, as if the various points brought up are too insignificant to be addressed.
On Oct. 8 at the open house for the site selection portion of the process, we will have been presented with only one site option. A rubric for assessing sites was established. Being more than four acres was worth five points out of 100 but all other sites were eliminated, and not evaluated at all, due to being less than four acres. I do not understand why the rubric was not used for all sites, as there was at least one other very feasible site that came close to four acres (3.6). There also were lease options that were on the table until the Homer City Council presented and passed a resolution in one meeting, stating that the site for the future public safety building must be owned by the city of Homer.
Where is the flexibility needed to address the inadequacies that face our police and fire department without pitting our citizens against public safety if they are for recreation? Do people realize how expensive this public safety building project is going to be, and that paying for it will require a lot more from the city of Homer than going to the Legislature with a site owned by the city? There will have to be an increased mill rate or a bond in order for the project to be funded. How expensive and unsafe would it be to dismantle the present facility? Where would the current and future uses for the HERC building and the surrounding area (skateboard park, basketball courts and green space) be housed after this site is used for a public safety building? How appropriate is it to have the police station and fire hall in such close proximity to the Homer Middle School? Why is a shared site the only option being looked at?
There are so many questions and concerns not being addressed. I am asking the city of Homer to please slow down and come up with answers before moving on with this project. The recreational needs assessment will be coming out in April, which will provide everyone with a lot more information about the recreational needs of the Homer area. I believe that recreation and public safety are two pieces of the same equation. It would be better to move slowly and have a plan that is based on good information than to go quickly and leave out important pieces that we will regret in the future.
I am speaking as a concerned citizen and an advocate for a healthy community,