Council approves HERC task force members; still unsure how to include PARCAC seat

The city’s long awaited and discussed Homer Education and Recreation Complex task force now has the go-ahead to get to work, but its final list of members is still up in the air.

The Homer City Council voted at its Tuesday meeting to seat the council with the seven members selected by Mayor Bryan Zak from the list of applicants. They are: Larry Slone, Michael Haines, Paul Knight, Karin Marks, Chrisi Matthews, Barry Reiss and David Derry. Reiss and Derry will fill seats as non-residents.

The group is tasked with evaluating options regarding the HERC’s usefulness. Questions they are tasked with answering include:

Can the upstairs of the HERC be safely used with no capital improvements?

What are the minimum improvements that would be needed to safely use the entire HERC facility and cost associated with those improvements?

What are the desirable improvements that need to be made to the entire HERC facility to allow it to be used to its full potential for the next 10 years?

What would it cost to demo the HERC and build a new facility that meets the recreation needs of the community on the existing site?

What the council could not decide on Tuesday was how to add a representative from the city’s Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Commission to the task force. Currently, it is set up with seven members and an advisory student representative. According to the language of the resolution that established the task force, no more than one member from the council itself will be able to sit on the force, as well as no more than one member from the Parks, Art, Recreation and Culture Advisory Commission.

Throughout its last two meetings, members of the council have stated that they’ve received comments from people who thought that wording meant a PARCAC representative was guaranteed a voting seat at the table. In order to accommodate this, the council first asked Zak to reevaluate his list of applicants and replace one of the seven selections with Deb Lowny, a member of the PARCAC commission and the person it chose to submit an application to the task force.

A resolution up for vote at Tuesday’s meeting sought to simply add a representative of PARCAC as a voting member, bringing the total number of task force members to eight.

“Given the excellent qualification of the seven appointments the Mayor presented at the May 14 City Council meeting, it would be prudent to expand membership to eight,” the resolution states.

Council member Shelly Erickson attempted to amend the resolution so that the task force would have a PARCAC representative as an advisory role, not a voting seat, as well as an advisory seat for a council member. She said she worried about having an even number on the force because it could create problems with no way to break a tied vote.

City Manager Katie Koester clarified that a 4-4 vote on an eight-member task force would result in a failed vote.

Ultimately, the council decided to delay the issue until its next meeting in order to have a vote with a full council. Council members Donna Aderhold and Tom Stroozas were absent Tuesday.

“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that we as a city can’t recognize the importance of having someone from the Parks and Rec committee on the HERC task force,” said Ingrid Harrald, a member of PARCAC, during public testimony. “I appreciate the concerns of odds and evens on councils, but we have all been to meetings where we vote with an even number of people, and it works out fine. So I don’t feel like that’s a valid concern. I don’t think it outweighs the importance of having someone who represents our Parks and Rec and has the knowledge…”

Council member Caroline Venuti brought up what she saw as an issue with gender equality on the makeup of the task force, something she mentioned at the council’s last meeting as well.

“I think that’s a little lopsided on the male side,” Venuti said of the task force makeup. “… I think it’s always nice to look at gender equity in everything that we do as a city.”

Task Force member Larry Slone addressed this idea during public comment, saying he thought it was political and that certain applicants who might be better qualified for the task at hand should not be excluded on the basis of gender.

“In a commission like this, I don’t think that’s at all warranted,” Slone said. “As far as I can determine, this is a … neutral issue.”

Council member Rachel Lord thanked Venuti for bringing the matter up.

“I know there was some back and forth at our last meeting, trying to … ascertain if that was really a thing,” she said. “And I do believe that it’s a thing.”

“To implore that as a community, that when we put together bodies, that we at least consider gender balance, I think that it is very easy to do and it’s easy to overlook,” She continued in her council comments.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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