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Regarding City Hall The mayor responds

The Tidings’ Friday, March 6 editorial about the upcoming bond measure to reconstruct City Hall and perform structural repairs on Pioneer Hall and the Community Center summarizes many important points but also omits other important information, which I would like to supply:

First, the City Council, acting on the advice of its architectural firm, ORW, initially opted to replace City Hall with a new building on the same footprint.

ORW explained that demolishing and replacing would cost no more than reconstruction, with the added benefits of reduced construction time and 600 square feet of additional interior space. However, the project would still have to be reviewed by the Historic Commission as part of its land-use approval.

Advocates of historic preservation objected and the city responded promptly with a town hall and by consulting with the chair of the Historic Commission. It became apparent that the principle of historic preservation itself was critical and that a restoration approach to reconstructing the building could reduce the impact of construction on the downtown.

The council responded, again promptly, by committing to historical preservation for City Hall and by engaging a recognized expert in historical preservation to advise on the best approach in design and construction techniques for the project and share his recommendations with the Historic Commission — all of which should expedite both the land-use approval and construction processes.

The Tidings has been invited to report on this development so that the public can be well informed about exactly what is happening with City Hall as they prepare to vote on the bond.

City Hall’s safety problems have been known for many years, but this is the first council to actually put forth a practical solution to the voters for funding. We appreciate the Tidings’ editorial concerns and sincerely hope we will receive its support — as well as the support of Ashland citizens — when the ballots come out in May.

John Stromberg is mayor of Ashland.

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