Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 2:04 PM on Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Boys & Girls Club not yet homeless

Council extends lease until end of May; group works to find permanent solution

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

The embattled Homer Boys & Girls Club got some breathing room to continue raising money and come up with a new plan for staying in what's now called the Homer Education and Recreation Complex, or HERC. With no objection, the Homer City Council at its Monday meeting approved extending the club's lease until May 31, 2012, or the end of the school year.

"I just would like to thank the council and the city manager for supporting the club," said Kelly Cooper, a volunteer who helped organize a task force to keep the club going. "We look forward to working with you on the building."

Formerly known as the old Homer Intermediate School, the club has been in the downstairs area of the building since 1999. The Kachemak Bay Campus used the upstairs of the building until moving out last spring, and the City Manager and Planning Department have been using the upstairs of HERC while renovations are going on in Homer City Hall. City Manager Walt Wrede said Monday night Steiner's North Star Construction is almost done with the addition. His office and planning expect to be back at city hall early next year.

As part of the lease, the Boys & Girls Club will pay $750 a month for utilities. Council member Bryan Zak introduced an amendment lowering that to $1 a month, but it failed.

In a presentation at the start of the meeting, Cooper and Jim Micciche, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, spoke on the progress of the task force. About 30 people at the meeting stood to show their support for their club — and sparing the council more public testimony, Cooper said.

Since the Homer club's founding, the Kenai Peninsula clubs have invested $1 million in keeping it running. With a summer program, the club costs $67,000 a year to run, or $37,000 for the school-year program. The club hasn't had a summer program in three years.

"This has to succeed. We're very interested in making it succeed," Micciche said of keeping the Homer program going.

Cooper said recent fundraisers have brought in almost $14,000, with two more fundraisers and a pledge drive coming up. The task force has formed a building committee to look at solutions for the HERC, such as making it more energy efficient and addressing hazardous materials issues like asbestos insulation. Community Recreation Director Mike Illg presented a draft plan for a Homer Recreation Center that would remodel it into a center for educational and recreational programs for all ages. The plan also presented a fee schedule for raising money by renting it out for events like birthday parties, performances, weddings and workshops.

Wrede also noted that the HERC could be rented for uses like Fireweed Academy, Homer's local charter school, if code requirements like sprinklers were added. Organizations sometimes don't have money to pay for costs like that upfront, but the cost can be recovered through rent, he noted.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.