Editorial: Engineering report needed

It's understandable that some City Council members are reluctant to spend $41,400 on an engineering assessment for Pioneer Hall. For that matter, it's worth asking, as some councilors have, whether the city needs to own the building at all.

But before any decision gets made, the city should know what work the building needs to make it safe for public use. If the city should decide to sell it, needed repairs would affect its market value.

The issue first arose in connection with the building's use as an emergency shelter for the homeless during the winter months. An assessment presented to the council in September said the building would not withstand a heavy snow or ice load, but did not assess the cost of making it structurally sound.

The winter shelter will open Sunday. The building also is available for rent to community groups and private events such as weddings and other gatherings. That's an important community resource, but the Community Center next door is also available.

Whether Pioneer Hall continues to be used as a winter shelter is a decision the council should make on its merits, independent of any repair work that might be needed. If the structure is vulnerable to collapse, it wouldn't matter who was inside at the time.

But no decision on the building's future should be made without knowing exactly what work is needed and how much it might cost. An engineering report, which is beyond city staff capability, will provide that information.

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