Homer Boys and Girls Club Closes, Lays Off Employees

     After several years of uncertainty over its long-time home in the HERC building, the Homer Boys and Girls Club is shutting its doors and laying off employees. Officials say the club will be closed after the school year ends next week.

     Ryan Tunseth is president of the Board of Directors for the Kenai Peninsula Boys and Girls Club, which operates clubs in Kenai, Soldotna, Nikiski, Kasilof, Seward and Homer.

     Tunseth says the Homer club will be closing up after school lets out for the summer next week. The club’s summer program will not take place this year and its director, Colleen Powers, will be laid off later this month.

     For several years now, the Homer Boys and Girls Club has faced uncertainty about its location in the City of Homer-owned HERC building, an aging and expensive-to-maintain structure that city officials have wrestled with how to fund.

     Tunseth says he does not blame the City of Homer for the club’s problems. 

     "I think that the city was in a tough position," said Tunseth. "They certainly didn't want to be kicking us out ... but at the same time, the money needed to come from somewhere."

     Tunseth says the uncertainty with the HERC building is not the Homer club’s only problem.

     "We hadn't really been doing justice to the Homer community in how we were operating," he said. "It's just been such a back and forth that we felt like it was not fair. If we're going to be in Homer ... we (need) to have a long-term plan ... and really have that model be sustainable so that we can really be there for the kids of Homer."

     Another problem is a drop in attendance over the last year or two, form a high of about 70 kids per day to only about 20 per day now.

     Tunseth says that while the board comes up with a long-term and sustainable plan for the Homer Club, a newly-appointed task force will focus on where it will be located, with the hope of reopening the club in time for next school year.

     Kelly Cooper is a Boys and Girls Club board member who has been working for months to help the Homer club achieve sustainability. She says that because of its size and location, West Homer Elementary School would be the ideal choice for a new home for the Boys and Girls Club.

     Cooper also hopes that a ballot effort to create a parks and recreation service area for the southern peninsula will ultimately be successful but, even in a best case scenario, that’s not likely to happen until the borough election in the fall of 2014.

     She says that there is no doubt that there is a need for the Boys and Girls Club in Homer and the community has been very generous with time and money to try to keep the club on its feet.

     Tunseth says that if all of the issues with the HERC building can somehow be worked out by next school year, the board would love for the club to be able to stay there. Barring that, a local elementary school does seem like the best alternative option.