MABTON, Wash. -- Mabton city employees are working out of a portable building as cracks in City Hall have rendered the building unsafe.
“We have cracks all over the building,” Mayor Mario Martinez said, adding that at least one crack is wide enough to see daylight through.
As of Tuesday, about 80 percent of City Hall staff had moved to the temporary quarters at Feezell Park, about two blocks away, with the remainder set to join them soon, Martinez said.
It will be up to Martinez’s successor, Laura Vazquez, and the City Council to decide whether to try to save the old building or permanently relocate city offices to a new building, both of which are expensive options, Martinez said.
Mabton city government works out of a building that once served as a fire station and later a police station. The building was constructed in the early 1900s.
An inspection in May by the city’s engineering firm found significant cracks in the brick walls and signs that the cracks are spreading. Martinez said some of the cracks have grown since then.
The report, by Gray and Osborne, also found that some of the walls appeared to be separating from the main structure.
Metal braces were installed following an earthquake in the 1940s, but it appears they are shifting as the building deteriorates, Martinez said.
The building also shakes every time a train passes by, Martinez said.
Vazquez said she was not aware of the full extent of the structural problems with City Hall. She said she plans on spending the first couple of weeks as mayor evaluating the situation and looking at the options with the council.
Martinez estimated the cost of repairing the existing building at $3 million, while building a new building or converting the old high school into city offices could cost as much as $5 million.
Mabton, Vazquez said, will be able to meet the challenges.
“We’re a strong community. We have strong people who live here,” Vazquez said, adding that her focus will be on what’s right for the community.
In the short term, she said working in the tight quarters of the portable building will mean there won’t be as many walls separating her from staff members when she takes office next month.