HERC task force plans to recommend the city pursue a private-public partnership

Oct 11, 2018

Credit Courtesy of the City of Homer

The Homer Education and Recreation Complex Task Force will likely recommend that the city pursue a private-public partnership in order to preserve the HERC building.

The task force wants the city to put its energy over the next five years into finding an entity that’s willing to help fund upgrades to the building in order to utilize the space.

Julie Engebretsen is the deputy city planner. She said the task force came up with this plan because it’s unlikely residents will approve higher taxes to pay for building renovations, especially after a bond was just passed for a new police station.

“There doesn't seem to be consensus that people will be willing to pass another bond measure for the renovation and operations and maintenance of the HERC building,” she said. “So it feels like there is not sufficient city resources to do a renovation on that structure or even for long-term operations and maintenance.”

She said the plan acknowledges that at some point the building cannot continue to operate as it is now. Eventually, the city or another entity will need to renovate it or tear it down. But while the city pursues a partnership, parts of the building can still be used.

“I think the basement would be used as it is now,” she said.  “The basement is confined by fire marshal regulations, safety regulations for use of the gym and the Zumba Room. There's a potential that the upstairs could be used and that's where the city or the task force is really looking for a partner.”

The task force approved hiring a fire marshal to inspect the upstairs for potential uses such as professional services or education. The Kachemak Bay Campus temporarily leased the upstairs of the HERC building, but moved out in 2010.  

The task force is also planning to receive input from residents through a community forum but has not hammered out the date for the event. The task force’s next meeting is on Oct. 16.