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Levy funding would restore 1923-vintage City Hall to modern standards, elminate need for rented space

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF TROUTDALE - If Troutdale voters approve a $7.3 million bond levy in November, the wood-framed, 1923 vintage Troutdale City Hall will be fully restored and once again serve as city government offices and City Council Chambers. After months of discussion and adjustments — and years without a centralized administrative building — the city of Troutdale will give voters this fall the opportunity to support a $7.3 million bond levy to restore its 90-year-old downtown City Hall.

The City Council voted in April to ask voters to consider a bond to fund comprehensive renovations to the distinctive wood-framed building at East Historic Columbia River Highway and Southeast Kibling Street. The amount going on the Nov. 5 ballot reflects projected costs at least two years after voter approval.

If approved, the levy would fund an overhaul of the two-story building, address serious safety and structural concerns and allow the return of employees and offices now occupying leased space in two downtown locations since old City Hall was vacated in 2011.

The levy authorizes the city to issue general obligation bonds up to $7.3 million, increasing the property tax rate by approximately 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Annual property tax for a Troutdale home assessed at $200,000 would increase from $3,496 to about $3,552 — $56 per year — based on the current tax rate of $17.48 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The project includes demolishing and reconstructing two sections added to the south and east sides of the original 1923 structure in the 1970s and '80s, repairing the foundation and structural beams, including an upgrade of the latter to support wind, snow, ice and earthquake structural loads. The building would be constructed to Americans with Disabilities Act standards, including parking spaces.

Heating and ventilation systems would be replaced.

The levy-funded plans also include building a parking deck on city-owned land just across Kibling Street, adding approximately 19 spaces.

City Councilor David Ripma, who has advocated restoring old City Hall since before it was vacated, is hopeful voters will see the value in bringing the iconic structure back to public use.

"It's a historic building — a friendly building, built by Troutdale citizens 90 years ago," he said. "Eighty of those years we've invested very little in it, and it's served us well. It's the people's building, and I hope people will see it that way and (restore) it to the city's building." PMG FILE PHOTO - After structural damage was found in the rafters above Troutdale City Council Chambers and other areas of old City Hall in 2011, the building was vacated for rented office space nearby.

Reinvesting in old City Hall, Ripma maintained, is simply the most cost-effective option for the city, while also preserving some of the laid-back, semi-rural character of the city by the Sandy River.

"A $7.3 million bond measure will bring the building up to modern, ADA standards," he said. "We can put a fully modern facility in that building. It's the least expensive option no matter how you cut it: We own the land, the parking lot and the parking lot across the street. There's no way it wouldn't be more expensive to build a new building."

City Manager Ray Young noted that even if voters approve the bond levy, work on old City Hall would not likely get underway for a year or two. The amount of the bond request was adjusted by 7% to allow for contingencies and reflect short-term increases in construction and materials costs.

"It could be one to two years down the road," he said, noting myriad details involving engineering, architectural drawings, and foundational, structural, plumbing and electrical assessments. "We have to have it all laid out to create a level playing field, so contractors can come in and bid on the same thing."

Until the proposed project or some new alternative is completed, the city will continue to lease office space in two downtown locations for approximately $5,000 to $6,000 a month.

"Right now we're on a one-year lease," Young said of the temporary city offices, noting the need to return storefront space on Historic Columbia River Highway to retail use. "I feel fairly secure in the next couple of years we won't have trouble with the current (office) locations."

Until its spacious chambers on Kibling Avenue can be restored, the City Council meets in the Kellogg Room of the Troutdale Police Community Center at 234 S.W. Kendall Court, a facility the city owns and leases to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office for its eastern operations center.

Councilor Glenn White is aware the dollar amount of the bond may seem like a lot to some residents, but he believes the long-term value is what's best to focus on.

"What voters don't realize is we haven't invested in City Hall in over 100 years," he said. "Anything else we would do will cost more money and allow for bigger city government."

White is confident that voters who support the bond levy this fall will make a sound investment in the future of their community.

"There's something about that building," he said. "The first mayor of Troutdale walked those same halls (as did revered former mayors) Glenn Otto and Paul Thalhofer. It's just special."


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