Aberdeen City Council meetings shift to Rotary Log Pavilion

One of Aberdeen’s oldest civil servants has quit. But it’s not a person, it’s the elevator at Aberdeen City Hall.

The elevator, which has been out of service since some time on Wednesday, will remain out of service for the next several months while the city tries to get it replaced.

According to Ruth Clemens, Aberdeen’s city administrator, the cost to replace an elevator is an expensive one. Clemens’ ballpark estimate to replace the elevator with the new one?

“Hundreds of thousands (of dollars),” Clemens said.

Note: Aberdeen City Council meetings happen on the third floor. Those meetings will now and for the foreseeable future take place inside Rotary Log Pavilion — 1401 Sargent Blvd. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Clemens spoke about what happened to the elevator, what the city will do in the meantime about the lack of an elevator and the city’s next steps.

“The elevator broke,” Clemens said Monday. “We have one of the oldest elevators of its type. We had put money aside to repair it. As we were getting bids now, it just completely died. Now, instead of a repair, we’re looking at a replacement.”

Clemens, who said the elevator stopped moving when someone called for it, described the elevator as “really, really old-school.”

“There really aren’t that many elevators (of this type) on the West Coast, period,” Clemens said. “Ours is the most pristine of its type. It uses a hydraulic system to lift it up and down, where most modern elevators use a pulley system. It’s not so much the hydraulics. The hydraulic system is in pristine condition. It’s the circuits. The circuits are super old.”

What may have been a much smaller issue will cost a lot more. Clemens explained why the city can’t just replace the circuit board.

“We were just going to repair and replace the circuit board, but it’s obsolete now,” Clemens said. “We have the best elevator contractor and they had tried their best to kind of help it limp along and keep it running. But the parts for it are obsolete and they were having to order (more parts) off of Ebay, and things like that. They were getting really creative for like how they could the elevator limping along … they did their best to keep it alive as long as they could but we’re just now at a point where it needs to be replaced.”

The work to keep the elevator “alive” has been happening for “over 10, maybe 15 years.”

“So it has been well-past its prime. Well, well past its prime,” Clemens said. “I would say probably even longer than that. The city had been advised to replace the elevator for quite a while.”

Business with residents in need of ADA access

“The workaround is if someone has business on the second or third floor and can’t use the stairs, our staff goes down to them and will meet with them in the lobby,” Clemens said. “(They’ll) conduct business that way. We’re also trying to push people to use as much online resources as they can.”

There will soon be an alternate space for city councilors to meet with people as well.

“This year, one of the things the council asked me to do was to create a council space downstairs,” Clemens said. “So there is a small office that I created and it’s just finishing up. We recently got it painted and there are a couple pieces of furniture I need to put in there. But I think we might have to talk with the council about also using that as a space for (staff) to work with customers as needed. Again, this literally just happened, so we’re kind of scrambling to kind of figure out what the next steps will be. I think we have a pretty good plan moving forward but we need to really kind of figure out things logistically for the council meetings over at the log pavilion and then here, for the time being.”

One employee on the first floor said since Wednesday how only a couple people have had to wait for a staffer to walk downstairs and help them.

Next steps for new elevator

Clemens said the city has received bids and it will put it out for bid.

“We are going to put it out for bid,” Clemens said. “We had a company already kind of give us a bid … but we will officially put it out for a bid.”

But, this issue, being without an elevator, might force the city to accelerate its process.

“We might even have to declare an emergency,” Clemens said. “That’s something I’ll be working on with the mayor (Doug Orr) and the public works director (Rick Sangder), who oversees the facilities, to bypass the bid process.”

Such an emergency would require a “declaration and approval by the (city) council to bypass the bid process.”

“It’s something that has to be done at the council meeting in order to allow us to just get it repaired immediately, as opposed to going through a sealed bid process,” Clemens said.

Is the issue on the city council agenda this week?

“Yeah, that’s one of the things we kind of have to amend the agenda, to include it,” Clemens said. “I think. Again, we’re still working on the details of trying to get it all lined up to get it done. This is gonna be a long-term project. The elevator’s gonna be out for a while. So we’re gonna be hosting meetings out at the Log Pavilion for an extended period of time. The elevator is not a simple thing, we have to get the whole thing replaced.”

Clemens said she doesn’t know what type of elevator will be proposed to replace the broken one.

“But my assumption is they’re going to modernize it,” Clemens said.

More detail on the cost

“It’s hundreds of (thousands of dollars),” Clemens said. “And sometimes it goes into the millions. It’s (at least) hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s a pretty big deal. That’s why we’re kind of freaking out about it because it’s a very big deal. It’s just another thing that as the new city administrator that I inherited, and another thing I had to tackle.”

Why not address it years ago?

“I think that all cities have a history of under-investment in their infrastructure and facilities, it’s not an issue that’s really unique to Aberdeen,” Clemens said. “Elevators are very expensive to maintain. Their parts go obsolete fairly quickly. That’s just across the nation. Elevators are just very expensive pieces of equipment to maintain but they’re required, especially when you have multi-level buildings like we do. So, I think all of these things are not unique to Aberdeen. But we’re addressing it now. That’s what we want to focus on. We’re addressing it now, we’re taking care of it and hope to get it back online.”


Clemens said the replacement timeline depends on various factors.

“I don’t know, I know it’s gonna be several months,” Clemens said. “It depends on which model we go with, how quickly we can get it installed, the availability of parts, the availability of labor, that sort of thing. It’s a multi-month process.”

The job will also have to be contracted out.

“Elevator maintenance is a very unique profession, so we need those subject matter experts working on it,” Clemens said. “I don’t know of anybody who has those kinds of people on their staff.”

For people who want to contact the city, they can log-on to the city’s website: aberdeenwa.gov, they can call the general number: 360-533-4100, or they can visit in-person. Clemens said if they call the number, follow the electronic prompt. If they can’t get to who they need to talk to right away, leave a voicemail and someone from the city will get back to them.

Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at matthew.wells@thedailyworld.com.