For decades, Homer has debated what to do with the 1950s-era former high school building sitting on more than four acres of real estate at the entrance to town. The HERC building, with its small gymnasium and connected classrooms, has been used by the Kachemak Bay Campus and the Homer Boys and Girls Club, and was examined more recently as space that could be renovated to serve as storage associated with a proposed new home for the Homer Police Department.
After plans for the new police station were downsized and relocated to Heath Street, the Homer City Council once again took up the dilemma of what to do with the main HERC building, as well as a secondary building, which is currently used by the public works department.
In January, the city asked the community for letters of interest from any entity interested in taking over the space. It received four responses, but none of those interested submitted a proposal. With deferred maintenance piling up, the council this week moved forward with steps toward demolishing the building, including funding for a study of the scope of work that would entail.
Earlier estimates put demolition costs at close to $1 million, with much of that cost coming from the expense of trucking the material to Kenai for disposal. At Monday's committee on the whole meeting, the council briefly discussed the possibility of selling the 4.3 acre parcel, as is, to avoid the demo expenses, but several on the council objected, saying a parcel that size centrally located in town was a huge asset to the city.
Council member Donna Aderholt commented that the parcel was originally donated to the community by homesteaders, who did so with the intention of its continued public use.
“To sell it for profit," said Aderhold, “I have a real problem with that philosophically.”
The council briefly discussed the desire to build a community recreation center facility, and reviewed similar facilities in other communities throughout the state.
At Monday night’s regular meeting, the city council honored two new members of the Homer Police Department, officers Kellen Stock and Tyler Jefrees, as they were sworn in by Homer Police Chief Mark Robl on Monday.
The city council and staff also heard a report from Rep. Sarah Vance on the state budget issues and some of the budget items that were removed from veto list proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy earlier in the summer.
Vance told the council that seniors can expect to see state senior benefit funds deposited into their accounts Sept. 1 and payments would be retroactive to the date they stopped receiving them after the governor vetoed funds for the program.