Vancouver’s former City Hall looked new and improved on Friday.
One day after The Columbian ran a story detailing its deteriorated state — including head-high weeds, human waste in the lower parking garage and overflowing trash — Vancouver Public Schools maintenance crews cleaned up the unoccupied building.
“It looks significantly different and better than yesterday,” said Todd Horenstein, assistant superintendent of facility support services with Vancouver Public Schools. “(Crews) have been working hard at it today.”
The school district owns the building, at 210 E. 13th St., and assumed maintenance responsibilities when city bureaucrats moved out about this time last year. Somehow, over the summer, its condition fell by the wayside.
The sight caught the attention and ire of Vancouver City Councilor Jeanne Stewart, who called the newspaper to say she was “disgusted and horrified” by what she found.
Horenstein said there was no excuse for what happened, but that old City Hall is now plugged into weekly maintenance plans. The district is also in the process of putting the building and land up for sale.
“I apologize to Ms. Stewart and the downtown community for the poor site conditions at the former city hall,” he wrote in an email. “It was certainly not our intent to allow the site to become an eyesore. We will continue to maintain the property in a presentable condition, and have increased our security coverage to prevent future problems.”
The district is also taking quotes on fencing most of the lower portion of the parking garage, which had been used as a toilet.
Stewart said she didn’t feel a personal apology was necessary, but she said the blight at the former City Hall does bring light to issues faced by all businesses downtown.
“Some of the problems down there are related to what all downtown businesses have to go through — the public toileting, public camping, littering, loitering,” Stewart said. “It makes it hard for businesses to stay in business.”
She said the city should work with C-Tran on issues with the public urination and defecation she’s heard goes on near major bus routes. Stewart also blamed the uncertainty about how the Columbia River Crossing may impact downtown on doldrums there.
“This isn’t Stewart’s problem with the school district,” she said. “We need to all care about this.”