Council OKs next step toward new police station

Homer is one step closer to seeing a new police station.

Members of the Homer City Council voted unanimously at their Monday meeting to approve a resolution that directs Stantec Architecture to create a 10-percent concept design for a new police station to be located at Heath Street and Grubstake Avenue, to the tune of about $6 million in construction costs.

The resolution was passed after council members made several amendments, which included eliminating two of the site options — a $9 million facility at the same location and an option that would rework the city’s HERC building. Council Member Heath Smith said during the meeting that the council already knows the city can’t afford the $9 million option.

During a work session held on the police station issue before Monday’s regular meeting, City Manager Katie Koester took council members through each of the options. She explained that Police Chief Mark Robl has gone over his basic needs for a new facility and in doing so reduced the square footage the police station might need, planning for a phased approach to the building instead.

The estimated cost of a phased approach to building a police station comes in at just under $7 million.

Koester noted that there could be some additional costs to building.

“We haven’t soil samples, and we haven’t done any work on that site,” she said. “We don’t know what we’re getting into, so they really want to make sure that that disclaimer’s out there in case, you know, you do start digging and find some surprise.”

Other concerns expressed during the work session and council meeting were the ability to raise funds for the project.

Council members noted that residents have been resistant to the idea of increased taxes to make up the difference of the facility’s cost.

“There really are minimal grants at this moment,” Koester said.

The cost for Stantec to create a 10-percent concept design for one site option is estimated to be about $12,000.

Also at Monday’s meeting, council members approved a resolution committing Homer to working toward becoming more “universally accessible to all.” The resolution focuses on the Americans With Disabilities Act and how to bring the city into better compliance with it.

Proposed by council member David Lewis, the measure stipulates that the ADA committee already established by the city will draft a comprehensive plan and make suggestions for how the city should prioritize accessibility.

It also states that Homer will explore joining the World Health Organizations Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, a stipulation that caused some debate among council members and opposing comments among residents.

Tess Dally, who sits on the ADA compliance committee, commented that becoming a more accessible city would not only improve the quality of life for residents, but also result in an increased number of visitors.

“It is both a human rights issue and an opportunity for our tourist industry to reach a vastly underserved population,” she said.

The resolution was passed four to two, with council members Shelly Erickson and Tom Stroozas voting against.

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