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Fireweed Academy expresses interest in HERC

Courtesy of the City of Homer

As the Homer Education and Recreation Complex Task Force contemplates what to do with the HERC building, some are expressing interest in occupying the space.

But the panel has several questions to answer before it makes its recommendations on what to do with the building to the Homer City Council this fall.

Fireweed Academy Principal Todd Hindman, told the HERC task force Tuesday that he’s interested in consolidating both of Fireweed’s current locations into one campus, which he said could be the HERC.

“I didn't think it was going to be big deal being a principal of two different locations, but I quickly realized that having two locations, you can't have a consistent school culture,” he said.

Hindman said the school would use most if not all of the building.

Some on the task force questioned if the building would still be available for community recreation, another use the task force is considering heavily.

Hindman said if Fireweed took over the HERC, the school would be willing to open up the building after school hours.

“So if we had a community group that wanted to come in and teach an adult art class or something like that, they could do it in a classroom?” asked task force member Deb Lowney.

“That should be doable, yes,” Hindman said.

The task force is likely to make its final recommendations to the city council on what to do with the HERC in November.

Among the many possibilities, the task force is weighing whether the HERC could provide more space for community classes and recreation. Demolishing the HERC entirely and building a new facility is also up for discussion.

But before the task force makes its recommendations, bringing the HERC up to code for any possible use still presents a substantial hurdle.  

Deputy City Planner Julie Engebretsen said right now the stairwell is considered a firebreak.

“So you can have people upstairs and people downstairs,” she said. “The fire marshal considers those separate spaces.”

The task force has been considering whether it could renovate just a portion of the building, but Engebretsen explained that new building codes may require the city to remodel the entire facility even if it wants to only open a small portion to the public.

The state fire marshal will ultimately make that determination, but the city will need to specify its plans for the HERC before the fire marshal can give it the green light for any kind of use.

Task force member Barry Riess, who spoke with the fire marshal, emphasized that point Tuesday.

“So what the fire marshal was saying is, ‘I want to know what you're going to use the facility for,’” he said.  “Then they can apply some of the things that are in the Alaska statutes to go ahead and determine does it meet certain fire parameters.”  

The task force may hire an architect to provide some insight on what the new building codes may mean for the future of the HERC.

The task force is also scheduled to host two work sessions next month. The first will be with public works on Sept. 5 and the second will be a joint work session with the city council on Sept. 24.

Renee joined KBBI in 2017 as a general assignment reporter and host. Her work has appeared on such shows as Weekend Edition Saturday, The World, Marketplace and Studio 360. Renee previously interned as a reporter for KPCC in Los Angeles and as a producer for Stateside at Michigan Radio. Her work has earned her numerous press club awards. She holds an M.S. in journalism from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in women's studies from the University of Michigan.
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