Homer will soon see a new police station, but the city still has to decide what to do with the current building. On Monday, the Homer City Council began that discussion, and it’s leaning toward keeping the building.
During a work session Monday, the city council considered multiple options for what to do with the current police station after the department moves into its new building in 2019.
The council discussed everything from renovating the space to demolishing it. But selling the building wasn’t appealing to the council.
“I am not in favor of selling the property because of its proximity, actually, being a part of the parcel with fire hall and some future use that could be garnered from that,” said Council Member Heath Smith.
Council Member Caroline Venuti added that it may be difficult to sell the building.
“So I think it'll be sitting there for a long time, empty,” she said
Venuti suggested the possibility of turning the building into a new location for the Homer Food Pantry and Council Member Shelly Erikson mentioned the possibility of turning it into a homeless shelter. City Manager Katie Koester said preserving the building for community use or leasing the building out opens up a Pandora ’s Box of questions.
“There are building code considerations for a new use,” she said. “So is the lease even responsible for bringing the building up to code with the change of use?”
Koester did float the idea of moving the city’s public works department into the building, but she said the department’s current space will be useable for some time.
“Building maintenance, I’ve been told by the public works director, can safely use the space that they're in for the next five, seven, 10 years,” she said. “It’s fire marshal approved for that. It is a need that we know will come in the future.”
Right now, public works has two locations. Public Works Director Carry Meyer said he would like to consolidate the department into one space. He said the current layout was never meant to be permanent, and it’s problematic to have a portion of the department in a tsunami area.
But Meyer is not sure the police building would work for the department’s new location. As for assessing what purpose the building could serve in the future, Meyer said the council will need more information.
“To make a real intelligent decision, we need to spend a little money to do a lead based paint and asbestos survey in that building,” he said. “Come up with an estimate for what it would cost to demo. Come up with an estimate with it would take to renovate for public works.”
Council members agreed needing more information before moving forward. But even if the city does demolish the building, Fire Chief Terry Kadel said the Homer Volunteer Fire Department would like to use the building for training before the city tears it down.
“It’s very rare that a department gets to use a commercial building for purposes of destructing the building,” he said. “So if you can imagine entering a commercial building with commercial structure doors and things like that for broaching and breaching doors and things like that would be important. It would be quality training.”
City Manager Koester told council members she would return with more information on demolishing the building and possible requirements for leasing the building.