The City of Ashland has, in my opinion, made a huge mistake by soliciting only one professional opinion before making a decision to raze a beloved National Register-listed historic property and replace it with new to the tune of $7 million that they haven’t identified. I don’t believe anyone, other than a government entity with the ability to ask you and I to pay for their dreams and poor planning, would proceed in this manner.

Let’s talk about an even more egregious situation, at the Winburn Way Community Center. After an electrician installed a light incorrectly and it fell, the city commissioned a $40K architectural study of the building to assess its safety (any normal, private, entity, would have made a sharp and pointed call to the electrician).

Apparently that report discovered that the north wall of the building was out of plane (i.e., leaning outward) and the city was so concerned that they declared the building a hazard and have since determined it will cost $400K+ to repair. It looks like they are going to use this as something of bait, to entice voters to support the City Hall bond request.

Now, let me tell you what would happen if Winburn Way was owned by anyone else, anyone who relied on the building for income, anyone who would have to use their own scarce funds to get it open again (this, of course, all after chewing out the electrician). 

Winburn Way is a wood framed building.. they are both very resilient and pretty easy to repair. What would happen if anyone but the City (and, in truth, anybody but the City of Ashland) owned it is that a contractor using a series of come-alongs, or threaded rods or, hell, a backhoe would pull or push the north wall back into plane and then tie it off at attic level with plywood plates/gussets and Simpson-type clamps. I’d venture we’re talking less than $50K. Maybe a little more if whoever does the repair is an animal and cracks some of the plaster during the repair.

But that low-tech, cost-effective, solution wouldn’t get you and I to pay for all the other deferred maintenance and upgrades and it wouldn’t give the city the chance to join this project to far less supportable City Hall replacement. It would just quickly re-open Winburn Way to serve the public.

Our city government is broken. It wasn’t always this way and, sadly, it’s time to start pointing fingers.

George Kramer on Facebook, PEEPS