City Hall decision needed
Ashland officials and residents have debated a new City Hall — where to build it, how much it should cost — for two decades. City staff is now pushing the City Council to move forward because the existing City Hall is a lawsuit (or many lawsuits) waiting to happen.
Built in 1891 and expanded in 1913, the building overlooking the Plaza would come tumbling down in the event of an earthquake. And it probably wouldn’t even take a quake as big as the Cascadia megaquake geologists say is in the region’s future.
City Attorney Dave Lohman warned the council in a study session last month that, because the city knows a major earthquake could happen, and that the building wouldn’t survive it, doing nothing exposes the city to liability. If a plan is implemented and work is in progress, that would limit the city’s exposure, he said.
The council is considering several options for a new City Hall or a seismic retrofit of the existing structure.
Rebuilding on the Plaza or retrofitting the existing building are the two least costly options. The others are remodeling the Briscoe School building and putting a new building at the Civic Center location that houses the council chambers.
Besides the cost advantage, the downtown option is popular with many residents, who see the historic location as part of the city’s identity.
The important thing is to make a decision soon. The project will take a couple of years to complete, and costs will only continue to increase.