A Drop in the Bucket for Bricks on Your Heads

Do we turn up our noses at paltry sums offered?

by Eric Holdeman / February 25, 2019

Both the states of Washington and Oregon have seismic safety issues with Unreinforced Masonry (URM) buildings. See this KUOW NPR story from earlier today, Bricks could rain down on your head during the next major quake. These proposals want to fix that.

What was it that Nero was doing while Rome burned? He reportedly fiddled. I suppose we as emergency managers should be happy with baby steps that move us in the direction of actually doing something. However, I for one am tired of waiting for action. Time is not necessarily on our side!

Here is a quote from the linked story, "No one in this debate takes the threat of an earthquake lightly," said [Portland, Ore.] Commissioner Nick Fish during council debate on Wednesday. "However, our current mandate risks leading to significant demolitions of historic buildings and significant inequity, changing the very character of our city."

Let me arrange the priorities as stated above for you — after saying we don't discount the threat of an earthquake (in words): 

Priority No. 1: Historical preservation of buildings

Priority No. 2: Significant inequity — (removing low-rent buildings from the inventory)

Priority No. 3: Not changing the character of our downtown that has a classic old, brick building feel

Priority No. 4: Unstated, but it would appear that seismic safety, people lives and their well-being are a distant 4th. 

Oregon is considerably ahead of Washington state in allocating resources for seismic retrofit of schools and other critical buildings. A summary of their legislation is below:

Here's the link and text:
https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/455.400 

Note: Section 3, chapter 797, Oregon Laws 2001, provides:

Sec. 3. Subject to available funding, if a building evaluated under section 2 (4), chapter 797, Oregon Laws 2001, is found by a board to pose an undue risk to life safety during a seismic event, the governing board of a public university listed in ORS 352.002 (Public universities), local school district board, community college board or education service district board, as appropriate, shall develop a plan for seismic rehabilitation of the building or for other actions to reduce the risk. For a board that is subject to ORS 291.224 (Inclusion of capital construction program in budget report), the board’s plan to rehabilitate or take other action to reduce the seismic risk of a building must be included in the capital construction program of the board. A board that is subject to ORS 291.224 (Inclusion of capital construction program in budget report) shall rank the relative benefit of projects to reduce seismic risk in comparison with other life safety and code requirement projects. Subject to availability of funding, all seismic rehabilitations or other actions to reduce seismic risk must be completed before January 1, 2032. If the building is listed on a national or state register of historic places or properties or is designated as a landmark by local ordinance, the plan for seismic rehabilitation or other action shall be developed in a manner that gives consideration to preserving the character of the building. [2001 c.797 §3; 2013 c.768 §162; 2015 c.767 §177]

Note: Section 3, chapter 798, Oregon Laws 2001, provides:

Sec. 3. Subject to available funding, if a building evaluated under section 2 (4) of this 2001 Act is found to pose an undue risk to life safety during a seismic event, the acute inpatient care facility, fire department, fire district or law enforcement agency using the building shall develop a plan for seismic rehabilitation of the building or for other actions to reduce the risk. Subject to available funding, all seismic rehabilitations or other actions to reduce the risk must be completed before January 1, 2022. If the building is listed on a national or state register of historic places or properties or is designated as a landmark by local ordinance, the plan for seismic rehabilitation or other actions shall be developed in a manner that gives consideration to preserving the character of the building. [2001 c.798 §3]

The Funding — State Seismic Rehabilitation Grant:

There is no "match" so to speak. Currently the max amount anyone can get for a building is set at $2.5M. We have two programs as mentioned above and both are supported with general obligation bonding. Since 2009, we started with $30M, then jumped it up to $200M based on the Oregon Resilience Plan. This current biennium we have $120M and Gov. Brown has an investment request for another $120M for the 19-21 BI. Usually the funds go about 80 percent for schools and 20% for the emergency service facilities. Voters approved these programs and they are in our state constitution under Article XI-M (schools) and Article XI-N (EM Fac). The link below will take you to the program that oversees the statewide programs.

https://www.orinfrastructure.org/Infrastructure-Programs/Seismic-Rehab/ 

 

Here in Washington state, we just say, "Well, Fiddledeedee!"

 

 

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