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Public safety building at Third and Howard streets in Newberg will undergo renovation in about a year

There is some good news for the city of Newberg's public safety building: the city has been awarded an $815,687 grant to upgrade the building to current seismic standards, all at no cost to the city.

The Newberg City Council voted to accept the grant from Business Oregon on July 16.

"For all the city buildings we did a seismic study for each building and it was about a year ago," Jay Harris, public works director, said. "It was found that all the city facilities aren't up to current seismic codes, which is to be expected because of the age of the buildings."

With new information surfacing about the predicted Cascadia zone earthquake, the seismic standards have changed and the city applied for available grants to upgrade what is arguably the most important building in town.

"It is the home of the city's emergency operation center," Newberg Public Works Superintendent Russ Thomas said. "Should anything happen like the Cascadia earthquake, we have a very good chance of the building still being there, still being usable, still being functional with an additional seismic upgrade."

Many of the employees at the public safety building are first responders and it will serve as a command center should a major earthquake or other disaster strike. In addition, if Yamhill County loses its 9-1-1 facility in an emergency, Newberg's public safety building becomes the backup.

"You've got to have a place that has power, that has shelter, that has the ability to connect to the outside world," Thomas said. "To know what can we do and not only is the building is safe, but we are working on other things to insure that our communication systems are available and we have a generator there that provides power to the facility and it only provides power if the facility is standing."

The Cascadia subduction zone is a fault that measures more than 621 miles long and stretched from northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, to Cape Mendocino, Calif. The recurrence period for the subduction zone is 240 years to 600 years, according to USGS. However, according to Oregon's hazard preparedness website, estimations are "predicting that there is about a 40 percent chance that a 9.0 will occur within the next 50 years."

The last known 9.0 earthquake in the Northwest was in January 1700. Geological evidence indicates that such great earthquakes have occurred at least seven times in the past 3,500 years.

Geologists believe the quake will impact some 140,000 square miles and affect 7 million people after two to four minutes of shaking, motivating the seismic upgrades to the public safety building. Construction won't begin for about a year because of the time required to design the project, go out for bids and gain approvals from the city.

"We want to make sure that we are doing our best to provide a facility for the welfare and protection for the citizens in our community," Thomas said. "If we get a grant and the opportunity, why don't we go for it?"

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