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Project also involves basement waterproofing, upgrades to other systems over the next two years.


Work will begin in January to strengthen the Washington County Public Services Building against a severe earthquake and upgrade other features.

The project is scheduled to last up to two years, during which many county departments will move and the board of commissioners will conduct public meetings elsewhere.

"This is going to be a challenging and disruptive project," said Don Bohm, the assistant county administrator who will oversee it, at a (Dec. 20) briefing for county commissioners.

The building is at 155 N. First Ave., Hillsboro.

The building houses county administrative offices and departments such as assessment and taxation, health and human services, and land use and transportation.

The work will be done in phases — the building has a north wing and a south wing — and county officials soon will announce a plan for when and where offices will move.

Planning for the project has been in the works before county commissioners announced it more than a year ago.

The estimated cost is $29.2 million, $22.3 million of which is for actual construction. The rest was for planning, relocation costs and a contingency fund.

SERA Architects of Portland and JE Dunn Construction, whose West Coast offices are in Portland, are the main firms involved in the work. There will be numerous subcontractors.

The largest amount, just under $14 million, will be drawn from the county Gain Share fund. It represents state payments that offset county property tax breaks to qualifying businesses, based on state income taxes generated by jobs created by those businesses making investments of at least $100 million. Washington County is the largest recipient of Gain Share funds.

Other sources are the county's fund for building and equipment replacement, and special funds.

When it was completed in 1990, the Public Services Building — named for Charles D. Cameron, county administrator from 1986 to 2006 — met existing seismic standards. But standards have been upgraded with greater awareness of the after-effects of a potential severe earthquake off the Oregon coast of magnitude 9.0 or greater. The most recent such earthquake was in 1700, but based on new research, the average frequency is now projected at 350 years, instead of 400 to 500 years.

Seismic upgrades also are planned for the Law Enforcement Center, at 215 SW Adams St., which houses the sheriff's office and jail, and opened in 1998. That work will be funded partly by $1.5 million from state bond funds available for seismic upgrades of police and fire stations, hospitals and other emergency services.

In addition to seismic upgrades, the work on the Public Services Building will include improvements to fire alarms, lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. It will provide a larger space for work sessions of the board of commissioners.

The project also will aim at fixing persistent leaking in the basement, which houses information technology services.

Commissioner Roy Rogers, the only board member remaining from the building's opening in 1990, said nothing has worked.

"We've had problems since Day 1," Rogers said. "I do not want to leave a mess" that future county boards will have to deal with.

"We think we can deal with the water issue," Bohm said, by adding waterproof coating inside and a water pump to lower the water table outside.

Commissioner Greg Malinowski said that when a time capsule from 1990 was retrieved on Sept. 20, one of the workers remarked that "it was like pulling it out of a bowl of oatmeal," even though it had not rained for weeks.

Rogers said that while it is not a primary goal of the project, he would like to see more done to transform the outside of what he termed an "institutional building." He said it compares unfavorably with the Hillsboro Civic Center, built more than a decade later at 150 E. Main St.

Starting Jan. 17 and lasting for a year, county board meetings will take place in the Shirley Huffman Auditorium of the civic center.

Commissioner Dick Schouten, referring to the project's goals of making the building "safe, dry and efficient," said, "We're not building a palace."

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