Report says it would take $400K to bring homeless shelter up to code

Continuing to use Pioneer Hall as a homeless shelter will cost the city $400,000 in renovations to bring it up to code, according to a city staff report due to be delivered at Monday night’s City Council study session. The hall is currently used a homeless shelter four nights a week, on Sunday, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Shelter is offered at churches on Mondays and Wednesdays. There’s no scheduled Ashland shelter on Saturday nights.

Public Works Director Paula Brown will present the council with three options regarding Pioneer Hall with a cost comparison.

The facility has been served as one of three locations for winter shelter and emergency shelter the last five years. Last year, the city found the facility vulnerable under ice storm and heavy snow, which could be dangerous to occupy. The council authorized a $40,000 study in November to find a solution.

The city staff report lays out three options: divest the property, renovate for emergency shelter use only at the price of $325,000, or renovate with the installation of fire sprinklers to meet state code for transient lodging occupancy for $404,000.

The hall was built in 1921, with additions and alterations in subsequent years. To bring it up to code for recreational and emergency use, it needs removal of the chimney due to seismic concerns, strengthening of the roof joists and floor, and electrical and plumbing upgrades, among other items. That would cost about $325,000 and would allow use as an emergency shelter. An “emergency,” according to the city staff report, is something that does not regularly occur, so the 12-inch snow event in January 2017 would have qualified, but freezing temperatures in winter months would not.

To bring it up to residential standards and allow use as a regularly scheduled shelter as it currently is used would require installation of a fire sprinkler system to meet state code requirements for transient lodging occupancy. That would bring the cost to about $400,000.

The staff report suggests the council review background information and consider at its meeting on May 1 how to proceed.
The council study session starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 16, at the Council Chamber, 1175 E. Main St.

The council also meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, for its regular business meeting, also in the Council Chamber. Agenda items include:

• Finalists to replace Traci Darrow: The council will narrow down the pool of four applicants at its Tuesday meeting. Tonya Graham, George Kramer, Josie Sarah Baker and Theodore White applied to replace Councilor Darrow, who resigned in March. Graham and Kramer was selected as finalists during the previous appointment process to replace Councilor Greg Lemhouse.

• Permanent funding of two police officers: Staff recommended the council to raise the city’s transient occupancy tax to 10 percent and increase the Public Safety Support Fee by $1 in utility bills to fund two officers. Ashland police amended its request for additional officers on its force last year from five officers to four. The council has voted to raise property taxes to fund the first officer. The second officer was funded through marijuana tax and a 50 cents public safety fee imposed on electric meters. Each officer costs roughly $110,000 a year. A live Entertainment ticket tax was also considered at previous meetings. The tax — at 1 percent — would impact Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Cabaret Theatre, Historica Ashland Armory and Southern Oregon University Performing Arts. Both OSF and OCT expressed opposition to the tax in letters to the council. OSF would pay and estimated $190,000 under the new tax; Cabaret would pay $10,000.

• Community Development Block Grant Award and Affordable Housing Trust Fund Awards: Staff is recommending the council authorize distribution of $525,796 to six local nonprofits to provide services to low-income and homeless people.
The grants, totaling $666,000, are recommended to be awarded to Columbia Care, Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity, Ashland Housing Opportunities, Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland, Maslow Project and St. Vincent De Paul.

• Clay Street property sold to Housing Authority of Jackson County: The council is expected to vote to authorize the $268,238 sale of a property on Clay Street to Housing Authority of Jackson County. The parcel is designated to low-income and workforce housing. The property was declared surplus last month. Revenue of the sale is recommended by staff to go to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
— Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.

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