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Community Center, Pioneer Hall committee convenes Friday

Andy Atkinson / ashland TidingsAshland City Council asked city staff to take a closer look at the cost of repairing Pioneer Hall and the Community Center at its last meeting.

An architect, a historic preservation consultant, a developer and two city councilors will take their first inside look Friday at necessary repairs to Pioneer Hall and the Community Center.

The first meeting of the Community Center and Pioneer Hall Ad-Hoc Committee is scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday, June 25, at the Pioneer Hall Courtyard, 73 Winburn Way, Ashland.

At its May 18 meeting, Ashland City Council unanimously voted to appoint a citizen group of construction professionals to “review, analyze and make recommendations” for economical options to repair and reopen Pioneer Hall and the Community Center.

The city issued a request for proposals in fall of 2020 after the council directed staff to address structural “deficiencies” in the roof and floor systems of both buildings. At the April 20 meeting, the City Council elected not to approve a contract with an engineering firm and councilors proffered the idea of forming an ad-hoc committee.

By mayoral appointment, the committee includes architect Chris Brown, historic preservation consultant George Kramer, developer and contractor Gil Livni, and councilors Shaun Moran and Stefani Seffinger.

The committee may access all city documents pertaining to the facilities, including recent reports and code reviews. The committee may not alter the condition of the buildings without prior staff approval, according to city documents.

The committee is slated to bring a recommendation back to the City Council by Sept. 21.

City Manager pro tem Adam Hanks said the initial request for proposal, which was focused on complete building rehabilitation, may be reinstated after the committee’s evaluation.

“Council can have that conversation about what is the desired use or uses of those buildings, who is best served — possibly between city and parks — to have management ownership control of the facilities, and then with those two pieces being discussed, pick a path to go down,” Hanks said at the June 15 council meeting.

The committee is charged with proposing a “bare bones,” up-to-code path to reopen the buildings. Moran said the committee’s recommendation does not preclude further rehabilitation at a later date, “when the financial situation of the city improves,” but opening the buildings for lowest cost is the goal at present.

“Because we have had members of our community concerned about this, I think it’s really important that we look at this with their open eyes, so that the community will feel we’ve done the best we can in terms of repairing these buildings in the most cost-effective way,” Seffinger said.

Councilor Tonya Graham said that when she voted in favor of forming the committee, she voted in favor of their research, but did not pledge consent on their final proposal. The committee’s recommendation may be one part of a larger plan, or the council may choose another direction when the analysis is complete, she said.

Graham said she supports the committee’s overall effort as an example of citizens getting involved in the work of the city.

“I want to make sure that this council has the flexibility to take this information and work with it, rather than simply saying we are going to do whatever the ad-hoc committee comes back with,” Graham said.

Mayor Julie Akins and Councilor Stephen Jensen confirmed the language councilors approved did not bind the body to implementing the committee’s recommendations.

The committee’s scope of work, appointed members and timeline for research passed the council unanimously June 15.

Included in the committee’s first meeting materials is a report and building code analysis on Pioneer Hall dated Feb. 21, 2018, at which time the facility did not have fire sprinklers or alarms, and required renovations to ingress and egress points, the kitchen and restrooms to meet building code.

According to a structural report by Marquess & Associates Inc. — the engineering firm initially selected for the rehabilitation project — the Pioneer Hall roof sags, the historic stone chimney is hazardous without reinforcement and floor beams need strengthening, but “treated logs below grade are in good condition.”

At the Community Center, the roof sags, the north exterior wall slants and the floor is not level.

“It is clear that the existing wood framing is not rotted or degraded, although some structural members are not functioning as intended, or have failed, or have failed and been repaired previously,” according to the report.

The report includes a series of detailed, conceptual recommendations for resolving each structural vulnerability.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.