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City Hall

For the entire time I've been on City Council, I've advocated we need to start paying attention to the problem of our City Hall building. We've spent upwards of five million dollars on upgrades and maintenance since that time, but haven't fixed the fundamental problems. The Anacortes American recently reported that my opponent and I differ on the the schedule, but apparently not the need to address City Hall. The American reported on this issue in 2019, as well, and the problem isn't going away. It's time we confront it head on.

What's Wrong with City Hall?

Built in 1915 as a one-story building with an earthen basement for the Elks Lodge, our current City Hall has a number of problems, the most fundamental of which is that it is vulnerable to a large earthquake because its floor joists have no mechanical connection to the foundation. That's a common vulnerability in older buildings, which jump from their foundations in a significant seismic event. Connecting the foundation to the joists can be accomplished with steel retrofits.

In 2007, the City unsuccessfully applied for a FEMA grant for $3.6 million in seismic retrofit work that was anticipated to take 24 months and require staff to move out of the building. The grant application included the following description of the building:

Methods of construction used are pre-code and do not meet modern structural design standards to resist moderate seismic forces. The concrete reinforcing, if any, is dated. The floor framing system is not tied to the supporting concrete walls and beams. Interior post to beam connections are secured by toe nails. ... Problems associated with the seismic structural issues include, but are not limited to, loss of life, injuries to occupants, loss of access to critical records, possible loss of critical staff at a time of immediate need. At times of public hearing or assembly the building can be occupied by more than 200 people.

Most distressingly, we've known about this problem for decades, but have failed to address it. When the Nisqually quake hit in 2001, staff reportedly ran from the building to escape it. Since that time, instead of mitigating this risk, we've moved the Boys and Girls Clubs into the basement. As an example—when we received a grant for solar panels, we were limited on the number that could be installed because the roof didn't support even that modest amount of weight and wind/snow loads. It's irresponsible for us to ignore this problem and potentially lose lives—and our primary municipal building—as a result of a failure to confront a challenge and effectively plan for our facilities.

Other problems include:

What Should We Do About City Hall?

The most important first step is to develop a plan and schedule for replacement, so we stop spending money on a failing building. That plan should address the following:

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