Forest Grove City Hall to close during construction
If you need to make a trip to Forest Grove City Hall, you might consider doing it before the end of October.
The business of the city government will continue past then, but it might be a little trickier to find the right person to talk to. Staff who normally work at City Hall will be dispersed across various locations around Forest Grove while the building is being remodeled.
Paul Downey, Forest Grove's finance director and assistant city manager, said staff will soon be asked to vacate the premises. Those who work in the engineering office next door have already been displaced, as that office is being completely rebuilt.
Downey updated members of the Forest Grove City Council on the construction project in the heart of downtown on Monday, Sept. 26.
City Hall will be a construction zone through the winter. Most staff are tentatively scheduled to return to the building at the end of March 2023, with those who will be working out of the new Development Services Annex — which will replace the old engineering office — moving in by mid-April.
In the meantime, city staff and services will be scattered across several sites:
• Engineering staff are now working out of the historic WSC Insurance building at 2000 Pacific Ave., on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Main Street. They are located on the second floor.
• Utility billing and municipal court staff will move to the Forest Grove City Library at 2114 Pacific Ave., on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Birch Street. They will occupy the east half of the Rogers Room. Court proceedings will continue to be held at the Forest Grove Community Auditorium, 1915 Main St.
• IT staff will use the office and conference room in the Community Auditorium.
• Other City Hall staff will move to a Clean Water Services administrative building at 1585 Poplar St., just south of Highway 47. The logistics of the move are still being figured out.
Downey said about 90% of City Hall visitors will still be able to find the services they're looking for in downtown Forest Grove, even if they won't all be centralized at City Hall while it is under construction.
"There was no one location in downtown big enough for us," Downey said. "It's kind of difficult, when you're one of the bigger places in the downtown area, to put everybody in one spot."
Work began in March with the demolition of the old engineering office.
The $8 million construction project remains on budget, according to Downey, although it is burning through its contingency funds — the money set aside to address additional expenses — faster than expected.
Downey said the renovations involve pulling out and safely disposing of hazardous material in the old buildings, including asbestos. There is more hazardous material than project planners had thought, he added.
Additionally, for the Development Services Annex, the building foundations had to be redesigned at one point, Downey said. That has put construction about two weeks behind schedule.
"It's always interesting in downtown Forest Grove when you start digging into the ground," Downey said, noting that some tanks, concrete blocks and contaminated soil were found below the building site.
The annex will be two stories high when it is complete, matching the height of City Hall.
Most of the changes to City Hall itself won't be visible from the exterior, but the interior is being overhauled. Almost all the furniture in the building will be replaced as well, Downey said.
"A lot of the employees have really old furniture and chairs," he said. "We want everything to look nice, and also to function for the employees and help them ergonomically."
Downey told Pamplin Media Group that the public will notice some changes when City Hall reopens and the new Development Services Annex opens.
Planning, engineering and building permits will be handled at a service counter in the annex, while most other city services will be housed at City Hall. A second-floor counter is being taken out, although the second floor of City Hall will still be used as office space.
"There will be more room for the public … and we'll be able to better serve the public, because right now, it gets to be quite noisy at City Hall," Downey said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with more information from Paul Downey.
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