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Ashland to build new city hall on same site

Ashland plans to build a new city hall on the same site rather than trying to retrofit the old building to withstand an earthquake.

Ashland City Hall, which faces the downtown Plaza, was built in 1891 as a fire station. The walls are made of unreinforced brick that was coated in stucco veneer in 1913. Later additions made with concrete and concrete blocks add to the hodgepodge of building materials.

On Tuesday night, Ashland City Council agreed with Public Works Director Paula Brown’s recommendation to construct a new city hall.

Brown said a new building will be safer for employees and visitors, while also providing more usable space through a redesign of the floor plans. Building from scratch will also be faster — shortening the time that city employees who work at city hall will be displaced.

The council voted unanimously to approve a $485,831 engineering and architectural design contract with the firm ORW Architecture. The contract includes $81,400 to upgrade the design to meet high standards for energy efficiency and environmentally friendly design.

Councilors said paying more in the short term to construct an energy-efficient building will pay off in the long run.

Councilor Tonya Graham noted a new Ashland City Hall will be designed to last 100 years. An energy-efficient building is the most cost effective choice for the lifetime of the building, she said.

The city has yet to identify where it will get the estimated $7.25 million needed to build a new city hall.

City Administrator Kelly Madding said staff members will bring payment options for city hall and other potential capital projects to the council for discussion in early 2020. A bond is one possibility for covering costs, she said.

“We don’t have $7 million sitting in the bank for a new city hall,” Madding said.

The council previously rejected more expensive options to replace city hall that included building a taller four-story building for $12.3 million, turning the recently purchased Briscoe School property into a city complex for $15.3 million or renovating the Ashland Civic Center on East Main Street to house multiple city functions for $18.9 million.

Councilor Julie Akins said the plan to build a new city hall at the current site is a good strategy. She noted residents made it clear in earlier meetings they don’t want a Taj Mahal of a city hall.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Ashland's historic City Hall is in need of a seismic upgrade. Daily Tidings/ Denise Baratta