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Indefinite delays for ACC

The 98-year-old Ashland Community Center has been closed after an engineering study said the trusses are unsafe, the ceiling and a wall are bowed, and the roof is in danger of collapse.

The wood-frame building that houses the center, run by city Parks & Recreation, hosts some 20 group meetings or events weekly, says the city’s website. Those groups will be left to find alternative spaces while the city waits for further engineering studies to determine whether or how much of the building can be restored.

A study by Marquess Engineers found the northern wall of the Community Center main hall was bowing outward, or deflecting. Marquess determined the condition is “unacceptable,” as further deflection could cause the building to collapse. The study also found that any attempt to bring the deflecting wall into plumb, short of removing and replacing the trusses, will not be safe or effective.

The report says “the best way is to completely remove and replace the ceiling, with new wood trusses,” notes Matiaco. “It’s too flexible. It’s also not feasible to reuse any of the wood it’s made of. They said it could collapse.”

At this point, Marquess is taking questions and comments from the city, then it will issue its final report, allowing city project manager Kaylea Kathol of Public Works to get cost estimates from a cost estimator.

Asked whether the center could be a tear-down, Kathol said, “It could be. We want to see the costs of rehab. At that point, it’s something only the City Council can decide.”

Kathol said the city has no idea how long the center will be offline. The city’s website says it is working to figure out the cost and duration of “full restoration and repair and to determine the feasibility of temporary measures to alleviate safety concerns.”

Kathol put to rest any temporary notions, noting, “this degree of structural weakness is not something we want the public exposed to. There is no temporary, quick fix to get the public back in there in the near term.”

Kathol said the sagging of the main hall ceiling is from missing ceiling joists that stud walls are supposed to bear on.

A disadvantage facing the city is that the 3,800-square-foot building was built well below present-day standards, using studs thinner than 2-by-4, with studs and joists spaced farther apart than normal, which could prompt the bulging north wall, Kathol said.

A Marquess report summary confirmed that the external wall is likely due to “deflection produced by thrust in the main roof trusses” — which Kathol said is her “main concern.”

Marquess also said the floor in the main hall is uneven because concrete footings have settled, resulting in weakened joists.

City Attorney Dave Lohman said a series of repairs and an injury triggered discovery of the roof issues. City crews were installing new lights and sound baffles to dampen echoes in the main room when a light fell on a woman in a dance class. She was taken to the hospital with cuts, treated and released, and, he said, she filed a claim against the city.

During repairs, said Lohman, one city worker noticed the north wall had a serious bulge in it. The city immediately called a structural engineer, who said the building has “serious structural problems.”

Lohman added, “We got the diagnosis and preliminary report because we wanted to hurry up and look at it, then we’re asking structural engineers what it might cost.”

Parks & Recreation will be “making every effort to accommodate groups elsewhere, but some disruption of the activities of the users of the Community Center will be inevitable,” said the city website.

Ashland Contemporary Theatre was about to open a new play, “The Good German,” at the center Saturday but was forced to move it to Carpenter Hall at the Oregon Shakespeare Theater for its first two weekends. It runs at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, repeating the following weekend. On its third weekend, it will be at Grizzly Peak Winery. See details at ashlandcontemporarytheatre.org.

The community center was built by contractor A.L. Lamb for the Women’s Club with funding help from Jesse Winburn, said Ashland historian George Kramer, who got it placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It underwent a major restoration in 1985. It sits on Winburn Way next to Pioneer Hall and across from Lithia Park.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Ashland Tidings / Jamie Lusch The Ashland Community center is closed.
Ashland Tidings / Jamie Lusch The Ashland Community center is closed.