Heeding the advice of structural engineers, the city of Mount Angel is moving toward replacing its 88-year-old city hall with a more functional and seismically stable building.
The current city hall, located in downtown Mount Angel on Garfield Street, houses the offices of the Mount Angel Police Department and of city staff. The city has long had problems with the building's leaking roof, but it wasn't until a structural assessment of the building was completed in May last year that more serious safety concerns came to light.
"It was discovered that the building walls were constructed with hollow clay tile which is a fragile material," reads the minutes from the May 2, 2016, city council meeting. "That means that the building is seismically unsound and will not withstand the seismic activity expected to be produced by the Cascadia Subduction Zone."
City Manager Amber Mathiesen said it's crucial that Mount Angel's city hall and police facilities are able to withstand a natural disaster like the Cascadia earthquake. "All of our public safety operations run from city hall," Mathiesen said. "After a major earthquake, our police services would need to be up and running."
The city considered retrofitting the building, but Mathiesen said it wasn't a viable solution. "In order to retrofit the building, we would need to vacate the building, we would need to build exterior walls outside the construction site and rebuild the walls," Mathiesen said, which she said would be a lengthy and expensive process.
In addition, Mathiesen said a retrofit would require the city to bring the building up to compliance in other areas. Because of the review process required for a retrofit, the building would also need to be updated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It would also need a new roof, new walls and new interior components to bring it up to code, Mathiesen said.
Mathiesen said that according to the city's estimates, a retrofit would come at a similar cost, or even cost more, than building a brand-new city hall."The issue then becomes, do we want to spend that large sum of money on an old building with less functionality, or on a new building that would suit our activities," Mathiesen said.
Beyond the building's safety issues, Mathiesen said it no longer meets many of the city's needs. For example, the building's web servers are currently housed in a converted bathroom. "It's not ideal to have water pipes next to electronics," Mathiesen said.
The building also doesn't have any conference rooms or formal council chambers — Mount Angel City Council holds its meetings in the Mount Angel Public Library's community room, and city staff often holds meetings at nearby restaurants for lack of a better meeting space.
With those considerations in mind, the city has been moving toward building a completely new city hall and police facilities building.
In February this year, the Mount Angel City Council authorized city staff to sign a contract with LRS Architects of Portland, which created conceptual floor plans and cost estimates for the project of building a brand-new city hall.
At the July 3 city council meeting, LRS Architects presented two building concepts. One of the concepts is a two-story building occupying half of a block. That building would be located on East Church and South Garfield streets, across the street from the current city hall.
The city already owns part of the lot being considered for the half block option.
The other concept is a one-story building occupying a full block. Though the city council has identified an area of the city in which it would like the building to be located, the city does not currently own any land suitable for the full block option.
The architects identified pros and cons for both options. The half block option would be built on land that's already majority-city-owned, but a two-story building is more expensive than a one-story building. A two-story building would also make the city hall offices, planned for the second floor, less accessible. The half block option would also have more limited parking.
Meanwhile, the full block option would cost less to build, be more accessible and would have more parking options, but it would require the city to find land to build it on. In addition, the bigger lot size would lead to additional costs.
The presentation included preliminary cost estimates for the two options: the half block option would cost an estimated $9,770,668 and the full block option would cost an estimated $9,363,275.
For a city whose 2017-18 proposed budget totaled just over $8 million, either option will require some sort of financing plan.
At the July 3 meeting, the city council authorized city staff to examine different financing options for the building. Mathiesen said city staff is aiming to have that report completed by the Aug. 7 city council meeting. Mathiesen said some of the possibilities for financing include a general obligation bond, private/public partnership or leasing the building from a private developer.
Mathiesen said further along in the process, the city will begin collecting feedback from residents, who will have the opportunity to influence the look of the building's façade.
"The building has been well-used, and well-used past its intended useful life," Mathiesen said.