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The Sweet Home City Council purchased the former Ranger District office at 3225 Highway 20 in July 2016 for $750,000 and learned Tuesday evening that renovating it as the new City Hall may cost up to $1.1 million. 

Alex Paul, Democrat-Herald

SWEET HOME — City Council members learned Tuesday evening that renovating the former Forest Service building into a new City Hall will likely cost upwards of $1 million, although City Manager Ray Towry cautioned that figure is based on prevailing costs in the Portland metro area.

The estimate was prepared by R & H Construction Co. and Scott Edwards Architecture.

The city purchased the building at 3225 Highway 20 in July 2016 for $750,000 cash, and has about $304,000 set aside, plus another $80,000 annual payment toward the project.

That still leaves about $600,000 to fund, although the city plans to dedicate the proceeds from the sale of the former water treatment plant at 1730 9th Ave. toward the project.

The property is on the market with an asking price of $349,000. So far, the city has received only one offer and Finance Director Pat Gray said it was low.

The 13,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1985 and housed the Sweet Home Ranger District until 2006. It has sat empty since then.

The building had been for sale for $1.5 million, although its assessed value at the Linn County Assessor’s Office was $757,000.

The interior of the building was gutted after water pipes burst during a winter freeze.

The fact that winter is approaching and there is no operable heating system in the building bothers councilman Dave Trask.

Trask would like for the city to at least install a modern heating and air conditioning system so heat could be kept in the building this winter to avoid further damage.

Towry said the project cost estimates presented Tuesday were high, which provides the city with some financial cushion.

“We will use this as the starting point for construction drawings and then go out for bids,” Towry said. “We will then know the exact costs and we can decide on a contractor. We can also decide if we want to proceed with the project in phases or all at once.”

The new property has room to develop ample parking space for staff, community members and tourists who may be traveling with large RVs.

The property also includes enough space for development of a community park, which is a long-term city council goal for that area of the city.

Development of the building will likely include an open office area in the center of the building, so staff can communicate freely, two large conference rooms and upgrading of technology so staff can access information from those rooms without having to go to their offices.

The goal is to design a building that creates ease of use for the public.

City Council chambers will be on the east side of the building and include partitions to allow the space to be divided into three separate areas.

There also will be plenty of space left undeveloped for future expansion.

The current City Hall was constructed in 1954 and has several maintenance issues, including rotting walls, floors that are settling, a leaky roof, peeling plaster, mold and a finicky elevator.

The basement area had been the city jail until the flood of 1996 filled it with several feet of water, creating unsafe working conditions. A modular building was set up behind City Hall and used until a new public safety building was constructed.

Since then, the modular has been used as the City Council chambers and until recently for municipal court, which has now moved into the public safety building.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.


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