Update due on Atascadero Rotunda repair funding

The Atascadero City Council will hear an update today on where the community stands in securing money to restore the historic Rotunda building.

When the magnitude-6.5 San Simeon Earthquake struck Dec. 22, 2003, the four-story structure sustained damage on every floor and in almost every room.

It previously held the City Hall offices. It’s been standing broken and empty ever since.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to a list of repairs expected to cost about $28 million. Work has already begun to prepare the building, but the first noticeable fixes are expected to begin this summer.

The fix list includes several phases, with the earliest encompassing the first of several major repairs such as removing and salvaging the dome’s roofing tiles, brick and other materials; repairing cracks in the concrete floors and slabs; and bracing the dome with new steel supports.

FEMA has agreed to restore the building to the condition it was in before the earthquake, not to that of a new and modern building.

Still, of the federal government’s multi-million dollar pledge, about $17.2 million is for the earthquake repairs and $10.8 million is a grant to clear potential hazards.

The FEMA grant “is basically saying ‘We don’t think these things were damaged in the earthquake, but the city should upgrade them for the future use of the building,’” Atascadero administrative services director Rachelle Rickard said.

The city also received $2 million from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment Fund to help.

Anything additional to get the early 1900s-era building inhabitable again, she added, is the city’s responsibility.

“Because we moved out, our grandfathering is lost,” Rickard said of the building’s aging systems that were not up to code before the quake.

“We have to upgrade it before we move back in.”

The city will pay an additional $12.9 million for work outside FEMA’s pledge, which includes code upgrades to systems such as the fire sprinklers.

About half of the city’s share will come from city redevelopment funds. This money, independent of the city’s general fund, is used to improve blighted areas by using increased shares of property tax and secured bonds.