Letters to the editor

The conversion of the Pine Grove School into a new City Hall and Police Station is a viable proposal and is worthy of further consideration.  This idea is supported wholly or in part by an engineer, an architect, an appraiser, a retired building inspector, a retired city manager of Manzanita and a retired Manzanita custom home builder (myself).   Also, for a while according to a newspaper article in the North Coast Citizen, by the current mayor and the former city manager of Manzanita.  At  the conclusion of the purchase of the Pine Grove property their endorsement  disappeared.  Remodeling the Pine Grove School into a new city hall is a good idea for the following reasons:

1) First and foremost it would be less expensive, by millions of dollars, to convert the school into a city hall than to build a new one.  This is confirmed by the WRK Engineering report and supported by two members of the mayor appointed Citizens Advisory Committee who produced two options for its use. I spent many hours examining the WRK report and find it, for the most part, to be thorough and accurate.  It identifies problems with the school building, proposes fixes for those problems and assigns costs to those fixes.  I have found, however, two places where major cost savings could be achieved.  Through former subcontractors, I found the MEP (Heating, Electrical and Plumbing) portion of the WRK estimate to be overstated by as much as 80%.  Also, the profit, overhead and contingency portion of the report at 80% appears to be overstated.  Those corrections, alone, would reduce WRK’s final figures by hundreds of thousands of dollars and is something worth further investigation.  Even with additional costs needed to convert the school into a functioning city hall the total cost would be less than half of the new building proposed by the city council.

2)  The school, because of its large open spaces and simple construction, could easily be converted into a city hall.  A potential arrangement almost suggests itself.  Of the four existing classrooms, the southern most one with some enlargement could become the Police Station; the two northern classrooms could become the City Administrative offices and the hallway and office between the two sections could become the reception area for both the police and the city administration.  The eastern classroom (Howell’s) could become the Council Chambers.  The bathrooms would remain where they are and the covered walkways could be enclosed with glass walls and act as a hallway/foyer for the three areas. The area south of Howell’s could become a sunny plaza protected on three sides from the wind for people to gather. These suggestions are just that, suggestions, and are only given to show the ease in which the school could be converted.

3)  The Pine Grove School building is well designed and is more interesting than the new build design proposed by the city council.  Instead of a single box with a shed roof in the new build design,  there are three rectangular forms with shed roofs with a lower roof that flows between them and connects them together in the school building.  The interior spaces are open, light and airy with high ceilings, a window wall on one side and clerestory windows on the opposite side.  The rooms are similar in nature to the Columbia Bank building and could be finished  similarly.  The quonset hut could be re-sheathed in colored corrugated metal and its curvilinear form acts as a counterpoint to the rectangular nature of the rest of the building.  

4)  The Pine Grove School building was designed by the first woman architect (by examination) in the State of Oregon,  Ebba Wicks Brown.  She and her father were well known and respected architects throughout the state and particularly in the Astoria area.  She and her firm designed many buildings in the Astoria area, the most prominent of which is the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  She is so well thought of in Astoria that a day in 2017 was set aside in her honor.  There is also a walking tour pamphlet for several of the homes she designed in Astoria.  

 5)  The building is part of the local and architectural history of Manzanita.  Many local residents attended school there.  The building is a good example of the period known as “Mid-Century Modern” or “Modern”.  Buildings in this style are still being designed and built today.

6)  The building is well situated and accessible.  It is in the same position on the lot as the proposed new building.  The school building, however, is more attuned to the wind, sun and topography.

7)  The framing materials used in the school are far superior to anything that is available today.  Even at seventy years old, they will outlast any of the materials used today.   

8)  It would be environmentally and financially  irresponsible  to demolish the old school building.  It would occupy a considerable amount of landfill area with old growth lumber and concrete.  The cost to demolish the building is estimated by WRK to be $388,000.  Imagine how many millions of tin cans and glass bottles would need to be recycled to equal that amount.

9)  Because the building is already existing, the remodeling could be done in stages, if necessary, as funds permitted, without the need for an expensive bond measure.

10)  Because the remodeling could be done in stages with smaller contracts, the work could be done by local contractors who have smaller overhead costs which could lead to substantial cost savings as well as keeping the money in the local economy.  

11)  The design of the school is such that it is easy to add onto for future needs.

12)  Remodeling the school eliminates the estimated tear down costs of $388,000 which would go a long way to justify the cost that the council paid for the property.

13)  The remodel option leaves open double the amount of space that could be used as a public park for the people of the area to enjoy.

14)  More money would be left in the community for other worthwhile projects like a new swimming pool or a reconstituted Cart-M.  More money could be left in the pockets of citizens who are on a limited fixed income.

15)  Remodeling the school would be a fun and interesting project that the citizens of Manzanita could take pride in.  It would be both cost effective and environmentally responsible.

16)  The remodeling cost would be much less than building a new building. That was covered under #1 but is worth repeating. That is the real driver here.  All the rest with varying degrees of importance is “icing on the cake”.  I think remodeling the school is a solution that would make all involved parties happy, but particularly the citizens of Manzanita, the ones paying the bill.  It just takes a desire to do so and a little imagination.

The mayor has said that the remodel option lost in the debate. There was no debate. The council has done everything in their considerable power to keep the citizens from seeing a remodel option.  They have ignored any advice, suggestions or reports that counter what they want to do, whether from citizens or professionals, paid for or not.  They have attempted to control debate by limiting it or not having it at all.  They have attempted to marginalize the opinions of their fellow citizens that are different from their own.  They respond to hard questions with their own opinions rather than hard facts.  They went as far as to commission a second engineering report in an attempt to discredit the very thorough 165 page WRK Engineers report to give themselves cover to disqualify the remodel option.  Very disappointing!

THE QUESTION:  Can we trust the people that wasted half a million dollars by not doing their “do diligence” in purchasing the school property with another seven million dollars to build a new city hall?

Respectfully,

Terry Staehnke    

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