After about six months of work and research, members of the Homer Education and Recreation Complex Task Force presented their findings to the Homer City Council.
Two members of the task force gave a brief presentation to the council at its Monday, Dec. 3 meeting, highlighting the report’s main recommendations for what to do with the 60-year-old building that has become a much contested eyesore in the city.
After studying the building, former reports made at the request of the city, and community recreation buildings elsewhere on the peninsula, the task force recommends keeping the HERC in “warm status” for the next five years — that is, allow the community members that currently utilize the bottom floor of the larger building on the HERC site to continue using it.
The task force also found that the upper floor can also be used after minor improvements to bring it up to code. The group recommends that the city pay for immediate necessary improvements to keep the building from deteriorating further.
The main component of the recommendations rests on a five-year waiting period. The group suggests the city provide for continued use of the main HERC building (referred to in the report at HERC-1) for the next five years — raising user fees and making other cost-saving moves in the meantime — to give the city time to find a public-private partnership.
This is the method the task force recommends for paying for any substantial remodel, or a new build.
One example of what that partnership could be is local charter school Fireweed Academy, which is looking to combine its two school sites and has expressed interest in using the HERC to do so. Older Fireweed students use part of West Homer Elementary School and younger students use a building on East End Road.
If such a partnership is not found within five years, the task force reports that the HERC will no longer be viable and the city will have to consider demolishing it or making major improvements.
The group found that, currently, it would cost about $750,000 to demolish the HERC 1 building and $250,000 to demo the HERC 2 building, an older building now used by Public Works.
As for building new on the site, the group found it’s another story.
“A new 8,500-square-foot building would be a minimum size, with perhaps 12,000square feet being an optimum size,” the report states. “The current HERC-1 offers 16,000 square feet. Roughly, new government construction costs about $400 per square foot; therefore an 8,500-square-foot structure would run about $3.4 million dollars for conventional construction.”
Task force members said the next immediate steps should be for the city to schedule a work session to go over and discuss the final report on the HERC. They also suggest the city form a new task force or committee this winter dedicated to investigating “community capacity to spearhead funding methods to address community recreational and educational needs” for the HERC.
Read the task force’s full final report and recommendations here at cityofhomer-ak.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/city_council/meeting/28781/herc_tf_final_report_11_30_18_high_res_-_copy.pdf.