On Tuesday evening, October 29, the Miners Hall was well-populated with residents viewing the explanatory displays and seeking more details from the City staff members present. The proposed development is for affordable housing on three stories above a ground-floor space which could, if things work out, house a new City Hall, with adequate office and storage spaces, and a vastly improved Council Chamber.
Some expressed dismay at the prospect of taxpayers potentially footing the bill for a new City Hall space – the amount currently allotted for that particular expense is $3 million, including various contingencies. But the City would have other funds to assist with that expense; some details are provided at the link below.
“Why can’t the old City Hall just be repaired?” some asked. But the old City Hall was inadequate in many ways: it had inadequate office spaces, inadequate and unsafe storage spaces, and a cramped Council chamber with room for only about a dozen members of the public to attend. Adding a second story might not be simple, or even possible. Engineers would have to decide whether or not the old building could support a second story to make enough space, and that would also add to the expense.
The old City Hall building is on the main street, which is convenient for many, but it also occupies what could be better used as prime commercial space. And the current rented premises are unsuitable as a City Hall for many reasons, including their lack of Council Chambers. Using the Miners Hall for Council meetings is uncomfortable, partly because the acoustics there are terrible for the public and the press, and inconvenient and time-consuming for the City staff and Council members, who have to set up folding tables and chairs and power cords and AV equipment for every meeting. It’s also often uncomfortable – too hot or too cold.
“Is this project a done deal?” others asked. No, at this stage it is just a proposal, not a done deal. If the likely costs rise, it could be cancelled.
Many of the questions asked by residents attending the meeting are answered in the material available on the City’s website, at this link:
One question asked at the meeting elicited an answer different from the one given on that webpage, and that’s the question of ownership of the building. At the meeting, the answer was that the City would continue to own the land, and would own the first floor of the building, but that the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society (LCAHS) would own the three upper stories – the housing units – and would manage them. The webpage (when last checked) indicated that the City might own the entire building, with LCAHS leasing, managing and maintaining the housing component of the building.
If the project comes to fruition, the ownership issue will be resolved. But first we have to see whether or not the project can proceed. There are still several steps to go through before we will know that.
Residents who missed the open house can view the display board materials and the information they contain at this link: