Manzanita’s Financial Priorities

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The City Hall Project Community Listening Session begins on August 29th. Let’s hope that this conversation includes the acknowledgment that the City faces approximately $25 – 28 Million dollars of critical infrastructure projects for water, storm drain, streets and parks/trails in addition to providing our community with a City Hall. What we can afford and what the priority of the aforementioned projects should be needs to be part of this comprehensive community discussion.
Citizens have already confirmed through the Manzanita Listens sessions that the cost of a new City Hall was by far the most important consideration. While the City has avoided any meaningful consideration of a remodel of the Underhill School, recent developments by the City Council in Cannon Beach to remodel their 5,000 sq. ft Elementary School and Quonset Hut has now forced that conversation here. The Underhill and CB Elementary School are essentially the same age, structural design, size and condition. It has been pointed out that the remodel of the CB Elementary School is not currently being planned for critical emergency services that need a class 3 or 4 seismic structural rating. That issue was addressed by the City’s architect in 2018 when asked about enhancing the building’s seismic strength for a City Hall. “the incremental increase to go from risk category 2 to 3 or 4 is an issue to be considered during design development but compared to the other major factors talking about cost it is a relatively minor consideration. “
The City Council’s response in 2021 to a citizen petition to be provided with a comparison of costs and features of a new build versus a remodel was denied with the explanation by the Council President that “when we compare apples to apples for new versus renovation, they are actually pretty close.”
City’s 2021 Project Engineer estimated cost adjusted for a 5,000 sq. ft new build. $3.9 Million CB Elementary School 2020 remodel estimate including tenant improvements. $1.2 Million
Any discussion about the Underhill project must ultimately get to total project cost. The above new build costs do not include funding for the Quonset Hut, parking/landscaping and financing costs. Total expenses to date to acquire the property and years of consultants and other professional services is now in excess of $2.1 Million.
No one disputes that City staff and our public officials need a functional and comfortable space to work and conduct public meetings. I would suggest that this matter is about finding the best solution for a City Hall in light of our community financial priorities and how much more money, debt and controversy do we want to put into coming up with that solution.
Despite the claims that City finances are in good shape, there is no ability to even begin to provide for the construction of needed upgrades to the water system, improve substandard streets for pedestrians and bikers, keep storm water runoff contained in certain neighborhoods and provide park and trail amenities. Unfortunately, the claims of some that have stated that the City can expect to get grant funds to pay for these infrastructure projects, is simply not going to happen. Residents/property owners will be paying for the majority of these project costs through higher water rates, new monthly utility fees and possible increased property taxes for construction bonds.
Please share your financial priorities with the City on August 29th.
Randy Kugler