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Seeking permanence: Tualatin explores the need for a city hall

Community input is needed to know what kind of options Tualatin should research for a new city hall


SUBMITTED PHOTO - This map indicates seven of the buildings occupied by city staff. Not included is the building that houses operations/public works staff, as they werent part of the City Facilites Study because they dont have to be consolidated. If you’ve ever attended a Tualatin City Council meeting, applied for a permit or requested public records, you probably noticed that none of these things happen in the same location. That’s been the case for years in Tualatin, with city staff scattered throughout eight different buildings. Now, the city is trying to figure out if it has to stay that way forever.

For months, the city has been working on a City facilities study with the help of consultants from Yost Grube Hall Architecture to address the needs of the city and staff, and find out what the options are for a city hall within the downtown area. Through April, the city is reaching out for public input to discover what its citizens want and need.

“I want to set the conversation up right about what the need is and making sure that whatever concerns people have out there, that we’re addressing them and understand,” said City Manager Sherilyn Lombos. “I’m hoping to get from the community what their needs are, and maybe even horror stories, or stories of what it takes to get something from the city. Also, do you support having consolidated city offices, and are you supportive enough that you would pay for that?”

When Tualatin’s city hall was torn down last spring to make room for Seneca Street, there were doubts about whether the city would ever get a new common space. But even when the old city hall was in use, it wasn’t large enough for all staff, regularly housing just 14 employees, including staff associated with the municipal court, passport services, the city receptionist, and the finance department. The building also served as the permanent council chambers.

So the challenge of not having a shared space for city employees isn’t a new one, it’s simply one that’s grown worse in the past year, said Lombos. Not only is it inefficient for Tualatin residents to have to drive to multiple locations to accomplish tasks that should be simple, the city lacks efficiency, as well. Lombos said that the necessary staff time to set up the municipal court at the police station and council chambers at the Juanita Pohl Center totals $15,000 a year alone. On top of that, the city employs four receptionists, when only one would be necessary if staff was housed in one building.

“We can’t be temporary forever,” she said. “Furthermore, we’re preventing programs and services to the community that could otherwise be (happening).”

A Zumba class and big band practice used to be held at the Juanita Pohl center before the city council took over their time slots, and YMCA and city youth programs ran out of the Lafky House in Tualatin Community Park before the finance department moved into the space.

“We’re missing a lot of opportunities,” said Lombos. “It isn’t ideal.”SUBMITTED PHOTO - Workspace at the Tualatin Public Library is inadequate, according to City Manager Sherilyn Lombos. As it is, the library has no room to grow.

The study’s findings

So far with the facilities study, several options are being evaluated. After talking with the different departments and looking at the city’s potential for growth based on things such as the Basalt Creek and Southwest Concept Plans, staff is anticipated to need more than 25,000 usable square feet by 2025, excluding the library, police department, and public works. In total, 57,695 usable square feet are presumed necessary for the future of Tualatin city staff.

According to the study, city offices currently encompass 23,000 square feet of usable space (excluding the library and police), and building options ranging from around 30,000 to 40,000 square feet in size are being evaluated in anticipation of growth over 20 years and the potential for a community gathering space. The findings also account for a council chambers and municipal court.

“The report looked into growth in the future, and we are really stymied on space,” said Lombos. “We don’t have room to put needed staff should we grow.”

One option, presumed to be the most expensive, is to construct a new building on land owned by the city adjacent to the police department. If that option is chosen, the parking lot would be reconfigured so that police and city offices would share one lot. Another option is to purchase the Aspen Place building on Boones Ferry Road, which is for sale. Tenant renovations would be made to accommodate the city’s needs, and the city already owns parking lots on either side of the building. A final option would be to lease an empty building across from the WES Station on Boones Ferry.

With all of these options, the cost of expanding the library by tearing down the wall that currently separates it from city offices is also being examined. At the moment, said Lombos, library staff are almost working on top of each other because space is so cramped behind the scenes, and the existing book collection doesn’t have the room to grow. So if Tualatin adds a new city hall, the option for a library expansion has to be viable as well.

“What we expect is a report back in April (or early May) that looks at all the options and perhaps a rough cost estimate ... if we were to move forward with something like that,” said Lombos. “How much would it cost in rough figures to build a 40,000-square-foot building over at the police department? What would it cost to buy and do improvements to make this into a city hall? And a rough estimate of what it would cost to expand the library.”

After the report comes back, the city council will meet in May to discuss options and provide staff with direction on how to move forward. Regardless of its next steps, if Tualatin is to have a centralized city hall, Lombos anticipates it will have to go to the city for a bond in 2016. To create a plan the community will support, staff and council need as much feedback from residents as possible.

“I think that we’re always trying to be more responsive to our community and what they want, and being able to provide more efficient services ... If we understand their issues, then we’re better able to respond to those,” Lombos said. “Understanding what people’s issues, desires and concerns are is really important if it’s going to cost them.”

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