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Pare down, move ahead

At least four Ashland City Council members made it clear last December that they were not interested in considering the former Briscoe School building on North Main Street for a new City Hall. Some things have changed since then — the city now owns Briscoe, and the council has two new members — but the sentiment seems the same, judging by comments in Tuesday’s council meeting.

The subject of discussion was a $97,000 contract for architectural concepts and designs for three potential sites for a new, seismically safe City Hall: rebuilding in place on the Plaza, at the Civic Center on East Main Street or in a remodeled Briscoe.

The issue of where to put a new City Hall has been tossed around for a quarter of a century, but Public Works Director Paula Brown bluntly told councilors Tuesday that “we’re on borrowed time,” and city staff are risking their lives every time they enter the existing building, which would likely collapse in an earthquake. Brown also said that Briscoe is the most expensive option.

A continued downtown presence for City Hall has sentimental appeal for many Ashlanders, but it may not be practical. What’s important now is to stop wasting time and make a decision. Spending nearly $100,000 on plans for three sites when one is clearly out of the running makes little sense.

The public will be asked to weigh in on July 3. From that point, the focus should be on moving forward in the most cost-effective manner.

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