Ashland’s leaders seem to have a love-hate relationship with the committees they appoint to advise them on major decisions.
On the one hand, the Citizens’ Budget Committee’s warnings about overspending have been regularly ignored in favor of expanding services beyond the city’s ability to pay. On the other, Mayor John Stromberg vetoed a 4-2 City Council vote because, in his view, councilors did not follow the recommendation of the Transportation Committee on ride-hailing services.
Then there is the two-decade-old problem of an antiquated City Hall that would collapse in an earthquake.
The council apparently instructed the City Hall Ad Hoc Committee not to discuss a seismic retrofit of the existing City Hall on the Plaza. Undeterred, the committee recommended it anyway.
Three options presented last week include rebuilding and greatly expanding the Plaza building, a more costly project than the recommended retrofit; converting Briscoe School; and expanding the Civic Center on East Main Street.
The Briscoe option involves moving the departments now housed at the Community Development building there, along with the council chambers and the Municipal Court, now housed at the Civic Center along with police headquarters.
Former Mayor Cathy Shaw, who also served on the ad hoc committee, urged the council to consider a retrofit of the existing building, saying the Briscoe site could be used for affordable housing.
We’re with Shaw: listen to the ad hoc committee and consider a retrofit to address the seismic risk, but put off major expansion until the city can better afford it.