Oregon lawmakers review earthquake retrofitting bill

Oregon House Bill 2208 establishes Oregon Business Development Department program to issue grants for improving seismic safety, stability and resiliency of qualifying unreinforced masonry and unreinforced concrete buildings. (KTVL)

Oregon lawmakers are reviewing a bill in preparation for possible future earthquakes. House Bill 2208 would set up a grant program to assist businesses and nonprofits with seismic retrofits across the state.

The House Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a meeting last week to discuss the matter.

The legislation is supported by the Nonprofit Association of Oregon and the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization.

The bill would help local businesses and nonprofits prepare for disasters, such as Medford's own Randall Theatre.

Related | The Show Will Go On: Randall Theatre reaches financial goal

While the Randall Theatre raised enough money to stay open, the theatre company will still need to update the building to stay up to code. Founder and Executive Director Robin Downward said they are looking at about $100,000 in construction costs after moving to a new building last year.

As it stand right now, Downward said the building itself is completely safe. However since it was built back in 1919, he said it is overdue for earthquake retrofitting.

After completing a seismic study, the results showed which specific parts of the building needed work done. Downward said it all started with a change in occupancy.

"Things that just started coming in from the standpoint of a change of occupancy, that also triggered a seismic study, which then leads to inevitably in an old historic building earthquake retrofitting, none of this we had anticipated," Downward said.

Related | Randall Theatre needs to raise $20k or will close

The Randall Theatre said they have been working with Medford Urban Renewal to create a seven-year phasing plan, where they will have to make a certain amount of updates each year.

As a nonprofit theatre company, Downward said the plan and possible funding from HB 2208 would make the process much more financially feasible for smaller companies.

“The Randall Theatre Company is a full volunteer-based theatre company,” Downward said. “Everybody here does this job because they love it and it's been that way from the beginning.”

He also said the bill would help revitalize the area, bringing more diversity and business to downtown Medford.

The Randall Theatre said they plan to start updating the building next year.

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