There is little doubt the structure housing the Homer jail and police station is in need of help. The kind of assistance where you walk away and start over again in a new building. The Homer Fire Department structure also holds lamentable inadequacies such as too short ceilings and doors for large fire trucks that today do more and carry more than their predecessors.
Outgrowing infrastructure, but still utilizing it, must feel like a strapping farm boy still trying to fit clothes he wore at a much shorter, skinner stage. Little doubt would enter the minds of many citizens, after a brief tour, that clearly the conditions are not appropriate or functional at the police department any more. For that facility, its officers and dispatchers, the inadequacies have reached a near crisis point. The fire department fares slightly better, yet dangers lurk in that structure as well.
No doubt getting public approval for a new facility will prove a contentious issue. Debate ahead will focus on selecting the next site for a new public safety building. The city administration proposed two sites on land the city owns. Good idea – this will save money that would have had to be spent on acquiring land. That means either the inaccessible Town Center or the Homer Educational Recreation Center land where the Boys and Girls Club is located.
Emotions will run strong in either direction.
Is it good for Homer’s image to have its police station on a highly visible corner as tourists enter the vacation town for the first time?
The Town Center isn’t really that. It’s a forest right now, for the most part. True, one where vagrants camp and crimes have taken place. Only a trail runs through it, no roads. There will need to be roads, solid adequate roads that emergency vehicles can navigate safely. Roads cost a lot of money.
The argument can be made that with or without a public safety building proposal, Homer needs more access to take pressure off the current roads of a small town grown larger through the years.
The debate should be robust and thoughtful. Council members make the ultimate decision on where the next public safety building should go.
Access to funding also faces huge hurdles. How will Homer convince legislators to approve some, or all, of the $15 million price tag in an age when hub centers in rural Alaska endure police and jail facilities matched only by Third World conditions? Those facilities range broadly and are potentially outrageously expensive to build.
It will take concerted effort on the part of local politicians, officials and citizens to help explore the case. Homer’s facilities serve a broad population base. It is a hub city in its own right, the only jail for hundreds of miles. How much longer can four jail cells and seven beds stand up to the task? On a busy night, prisoners are sleeping on the floor.
The security issues also make for a strong case: entrances and exits are insecure. Wires are exposed, taped to the ceiling. Poor air ventilation has the potential to make the people who keep Homer safe sick. High turnover due to stressful conditions proves expensive when it comes to training and retaining dispatchers. How much money is wasted in training and then training again?
As Homer takes the steps in the beginning of the process, we hope folks will inform themselves fully of the situation and what may be at stake.
Let’s give support even while asking a few tough questions ahead.
Comments are closed