Old city hall building in sorry state

Vancouver schools crew to perform cleanup Friday

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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Until about a year ago, Vancouver's former City Hall was a place where powerful people brokered big deals. Recently, it's become a place where hobos relieve themselves.

Weeds have grown up to head-height, garbage cans overflow and a former fountain now sports a sheen of algae accented with floating plastic bags. In the lower level of the parking garage, used toilet paper fills one corner.

The site, at 210 E. 13th St., was formerly leased by the city from the Vancouver School District. Now that the city's out, it's part of the school district's purview — and it has fallen by the wayside.

"I was disgusted and horrified," said Vancouver City Councilor Jeanne Stewart, who stopped to check out her former stomping grounds when she saw the overgrown weeds as she drove by. "We're trying to encourage people to be downtown, and we don't get there with having what looks basically like an abandoned building."

The school district knows the former City Hall is in bad shape — so much so that they're sending in a cleanup crew first thing Friday morning, said Todd Horenstein, assistant superintendent of facility support services.

The fountain will be drained, weeds and shrubs cut back and litter removed. If necessary, a fence will be put in the lower parking garage area to prevent its use as a toilet.

"We keep an eye on it mostly for security purposes, but have not done significant maintenance work for it," Horenstein said. "Obviously, it's plugged into our weekly maintenance schedule now."

The district is planning to sell the land and building; the school board held a public hearing on declaring the property as surplus this week, Horenstein said. It's not yet known how much VSD will put the building on the market for.

Horenstein said old City Hall fell through the cracks this summer, as crews turned toward school building maintenance rather than groundskeeping during the month of July.

"My guess is that's the time period when those weeds and shrubs started to get away from the norm," he said. "(Crews) will be doing all the cleanup necessary to make it presentable."

Still, Stewart said that the derelict status there is "inexcusable."

"I'm sure it's just off their radar screen," she said. "But surely they know it's on a bus route with people and transients coming in and out and that it needs to be cleaned."

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://www.twitter.com/col_cityhall;andrea.damewood@columbian.com.