New City Hall exercise room prepares staff for heavy lifting

March 27, 2011 

When Olympia Mayor Doug Mah invited me to the new City Hall for a pre-opening tour, my first thought was, where would I park?

Critics have pointed out that the multi-million facility on Fourth Avenue lacks enough parking for city staff, let alone the public. But City Manager Steve Hall would argue that city employees have already and enthusiastically bought into his encouragement to walk, ride bicycles and take public transit to their new workspace.

Anyway, parking turned out to be the least of my problems.

I found a space right in front and the solar meter even gave me a correct sticker. Thank goodness I didn’t have to add to my personal collection of yellow envelopes that have piled up in the back seat.

The real problems began when Mayor Mah and Hall led me on a live-audio tour through a maze of accounting, IT and other department cubicles, and ultimately down into the labyrinth of hallways they call a police department.

They were trying to find the state-of-the-art Police Evidence Room, but it took about a minute for me to realize they were hopelessly lost (and, as typical guys, were unwilling to admit it), so we kept ending up back in the main lobby.

Had I known there was a danger of having to spend a cold night lost in City Hall, I would have taken extra food and something to start a fire – hmmmm, maybe those yellow envelopes?

We eventually stumbled across a pair of police officers who rescued our little group and, with the aid of a compass, topographical map and sundial, directed us to the Evidence Room. (Note to readers: I am only making part of this up.)

I’m not sure why it was so important to find this room because the three of us stood there looking at a locked door that neither of them could open. It does have a nice “Evidence Room” sign on it.

Eventually, a kindly officer told us we didn’t want to go in the room anyway because if we did, according to the rules of evidence, we’d have to testify that we didn’t touch anything at every trial for the next 10 years.

During our walkabout, however, I learned something possibly significant: Manager Hall has no idea where he put the restrooms. It appears that other city staff may know where they hid them, but Hall is clueless.

Despite all the previous brouhaha about the proposed $180,000 bronze “thought bubble” artwork, the four pieces of original work by local artists that made it through the public scrutiny look terrific. That goes for the old bricks embedded in the entry plaza. City staff salvaged them from an alley 10 years ago.

Beams and other wood from the old Safeway building have been incorporated as tasteful accents into what is mostly a modern, quasi-industrial-style design.

But what I liked the most is the exercise room for the 200-plus city staff. It’s a fully equipped gym, featuring some free weights that go over 100 pounds apiece.

Now, who at City Hall can lift 200 pounds with just their arms? I conducted a quick check of Mayor Mah and verified that Olympia does not operate on a “strong mayor” system.

But maybe before his term ends, we can at least claim a “buff mayor.”

George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357 0206 or

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