June 18, 2024

Contract approved for Pioneer Hall and Community Center rehabilitation

The Ashland Community Center in January 2024. photo by Bob Palermini
June 5, 2024

$1.7M in work expected to begin by August and be complete early next year

By Morgan Rothborne,

A $1.7 million contract to revitalize and improve both Pioneer Hall and the city’s Community Center was approved on a 4-1 vote at Tuesday evening’s council meeting. 

Public Works Director Scott Fleury explained the contract before council included both buildings and was designed to be a “menu” of options. Councilors could choose a baseline bid of $1 million addressing only structural issues and minimum Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements, or add on an additional roughly $450,000 of upgrades. 

The upgrades included a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, expanded ADA accessibility, upgrades to Pioneer Hall’s kitchen and cosmetic “fit and finishes.” The package also included a $250,000 allowance for any issues that may come up during construction.

Councilor Gina DuQuenne voted in opposition while councilors Jeff Dahle, Paula Hyatt, Bob Kaplan and Eric Hansen voted in favor. Councilor Dylan Bloom was absent from the meeting. 

“My hope is that this Community Center and Pioneer Hall, once the doors open, it’s there for everyone in the community and not a select few. … The doors could have been open three years ago, I’m going to abstain myself from this vote,” DuQuenne said. 

Mayor Tonya Graham asked City Attorney Doug McGeary if a councilor can abstain from a vote without a conflict of interest. McGeary stated she could but her fellow councilors would have to take a vote to approve the abstention, at which point DuQuenne chose to vote no for simplicity’s sake. 

Pioneer Hall in January 2024. photo by Bob Palermini

DuQuenne asked why the project cost so much more than the $350,000 anticipated in 2021 and why the final construction plans did not align with the masterplan created by an ad hoc committee focused on the historic buildings. 

Fleury answered that engineers take liability for the structural integrity of the buildings they work on, and when the project was sent out for bid as designed by the committee no bids were submitted. ZCS Engineering responded to a second bid but would only take the project if they could amend the plans. Outlier Construction submitted the contract for construction up for a vote Tuesday. 

Increases in construction costs, labor costs, the city’s need for contractors and engineers to assume more liability and the nature of building restoration are all cost drivers, he said. 

“A renovation of an existing facility is more costly than building a new facility,” he said. 

Construction is expected to begin by July or August, depending on when contracts are finalized. The work is expected to be complete by early 2025, Fleury said. 

Ashland Street shelter goals set

In other council business Tuesday, councilors approved a set of goals for a new ad hoc committee concerning the future of the 2200 Ashland Street property. Councilor DuQuenne asked for “beautification” of the nearby area to be included and councilor Bob Kaplan requested immediate shelter be explicitly added. The amended goals were unanimously approved. 

Council also approved two resolutions concerning the levying of property taxes and establishing eligibility to receive state revenue. 

Taxes are currently levied at $4.2865 per $1,000 of assessed value of real and personal property. The approval of tax levies must be conducted annually but remains within the confines of the biennium budget established by the budget committee, according to the agenda item. 

The vote was initially 4-1 with councilors Dahle, Hyatt, Kaplan and Hansen voting in favor andDuQuenne voting in opposition. 

As the meeting prepared to close, DuQuenne asked to amend her vote on the resolutions. 

“I’m sorry but I wasn’t paying attention right then, because I was being distracted, I voted incorrectly,” she said. 

Graham asked McGeary to guide the council through the process to do this. McGeary informed them councilors would need to vote to approve reconsideration for both resolutions. The secondary votes were unanimous in favor. 

The first reading of ordinances to allow the city to give up, or vacate, right of ways at Fern Street and Meadows Drive were unanimously approved, as was accepting $159,293 in revenue for timber sales related to the city’s helicopter logging project. Finance Director Marianne Berry said the check was the first of several and the total revenue is expected to reach Wildfire Division Chief Chris Chambers initial estimates of over $600,000. 

Email reporter Morgan Rothborne at

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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