For a building nearing 100 years of age, Tenino City Hall looks from the outside to be holding its own as a centerpiece of the small community in south Thurston County.
Internally though, its age is showing. Water damage and rotting of the roof and supporting structures surrounding the sandstone edifice first built as the headquarters of the Hercules Sandstone Company in 1922.
Red Cap Construction of Tenino recently began repairs to the roof of City hall, only to find evidence of structural damage on the southwest corner of the building that is causing it to sag. At the request of city officials, Red Cap estimated the cost to repair the visible damage to be more than $17,000, with the understanding that damage not visible without removing a large section of the roof could run at least three times that amount.
Throw in much-needed repairs to the mortar between the sandstone blocks, outdated plumbing and electricity system and an unreliable communications infrastructure, and city officials estimate the cost for needed repairs could soar well above six figures. Thus, officials recently received permission from the city council to gather the information needed to price out the cost to renovate the entire building.
“With an old building that hasn’t really been well taken care of, when you start to tear things apart, you’re going to start to notice other things,” Mayor Wayne Fournier said. “If you’re going to dig into it, you may as well go big. Getting it back to its original state would be nice, as well as making room for some modern upgrades.”
Tenino contracts with Gibbs & Olson out of Longview to complete engineering tasks on behalf of the city. They have coordinated with city officials to begin creating an inventory of needed and desired projects within the scope of city hall.
Once Gibbs & Olson have completed a thorough inspection, Tenino officials and city council members will use the data compiled to further define what needs to be done and how to go about securing funding for those jobs. The report is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“I would say that step one is that right now, we don’t know what’s in the realm of possibility,” City Clerk and Treasurer John Millard said. “We’ll have to mix and match, but there are some structural items that must take precedence, and we don’t want to wear out our welcome with respect to the (state) capital budget. If we can’t keep things dry with a solid roof, which could cost $150,000 by itself, what’s the point?”
If Tenino chooses to seek funding sources other than the capital budget, it has other options at the state level.
The Community Economic Revitalization Board that operates out of the state Department of Commerce awards low-interest loans to cities looking to rehabilitate historic structures. More than $2.8 million in loans towards rural broadband infrastructure projects in six counties were approved by CERB in September.
Other potential sources of funds include grant programs administered by the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Because the building sits within the Tenino Downtown Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, the city could be in line for funding to help offset the added costs of renovating a historic structure.
“We want a comprehensive analysis of what it would cost and what we can do,” Fournier said. “I think you could put together a pretty good argument for it, but first we need to come up with the costs. It being historic doesn’t help the costs, but it’s worth something. There’s significance there worth saving, and that’s kind of what Tenino’s schtick is, our stones and buildings, and we want to make investments in them.”