Editorial: First things first

It's no secret that Ashland needs a new City Hall. But the City Council is right to move cautiously on deciding how and where to fill that need. In the meantime, an Emergency Operations Center that could function after a major earthquake is more pressing.

The existing City Hall is housed in a 125-year-old building overlooking the Plaza that would not survive a major earthquake.

On Tuesday, an ad hoc committee created to explore options presented its report in a City Council study session. The 11-member panel was split, although eight favored rebuilding and expanding the existing City Hall. Two favored a new City Hall at the Civic Center on East Main Street and one supported using the Briscoe School building.

Meanwhile, the city also needs a new Emergency Operations Center, which was approved in 2011 but has not been started. A $1 million bond would cover the cost.

City Hall eventually must be made safe for the public and those who work there. But the EOC is a higher priority. If a major Cascadia subduction zone earthquake hits, first responders must be able to protect lives and property throughout the community.

Councilor Mike Morris asked the cost of just a seismic retrofit of City Hall. The answer: $1.8 million, versus up to $11.5 million for a full remodel and expansion. Morris rightly noted the retrofit would have to be done in any case.

Councilors should put the EOC bond on next year's ballot, and take their time on City Hall.

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