Steel braces inside Rogue Community College’s Building G in downtown Medford give the old building extra support, but it is still rated among the structures most likely to suffer earthquake damage in a study prepared by the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. - Bob Pennell

Buildings in county on shaky ground

Fifteen structures in Jackson County are among the 10.4 percent of schools, community college buildings and emergency service centers in Oregon that are most likely to collapse in an earthquake, according to a report prepared by the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

The list of highest-risk buildings includes the Southern Oregon Regional Communications Center, which dispatches emergency calls; two Rogue Community College buildings; two fire stations and portions of 10 schools in the county. All were scored as having the highest probability of damage likely to cause life-threatening injuries.

About 45 other schools and emergency buildings rated "high" for risk of seismic failure based on a Federal Emergency Management Agency scoring system.

The assessment brings the state one step closer to a statewide need-based grant program in which schools and emergency agencies can apply for funding for seismic improvements.

Scores of "low" to "very high" were calculated on the basis of each building's design, age and condition as well as the likelihood of falling hazards. When information about seismic upgrades was available, DOGAMI factored those into each building's score.

DOGAMI evaluated 3,346 schools, community colleges, fire and police buildings and hospitals across the state to determine each one's seismic vulnerability, as mandated by state laws passed in 2001 and 2005.

The laws were passed amid growing concern that earthquakes in the region are inevitable, and recognition that many schools were built before the earthquake standards of modern building codes were introduced.

DOGAMI assessed about 90 percent of schools in the state. The 10 percent that were excluded were the tiniest schools in each county.

The Legislature has required a seismic upgrade grant program for schools and emergency buildings. A funding source has not yet been determined, but it would likely be state bonds.

State Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, filed Senate Bill 1 Tuesday that would provide $616,000 to establish a committee to develop procedures for applying for grants and criteria for awarding them.

It's unclear when grant money will be available.

Buildings B and G at Rogue Community College Riverside campus in downtown Medford are among the structures identified as most at risk of structural failure in an earthquake.

Building G, facing Central Avenue, was brought up to city building codes when it was remodeled a few years ago.

"Given the age, we have done what can be done at Building G," said Bart Van Syoc, RCC facilities director.

Some of the most noticeable upgrades include black steel reinforcements in the shape of large Xs inside the building's windows facing Central Avenue.

Building B, facing Ninth and Bartlett streets, is slated for a seismic upgrade to its roof in the summer.

"Age and type of construction counts against you heavily," Van Syoc said. "DOGAMI factored in upgrades, but they had a small influence on the score. It can be a little misleading, but the bottom line is they're old buildings and shaped in such a way that they're going to score low."

In the Medford School District, Oak Grove Elementary, McLoughlin Middle School, Jackson Elementary, Lone Pine Elementary, South Medford High and Ruch Elementary were assessed as most at risk.

Seismic upgrades are planned at Oak Grove, Jackson, Lone Pine and Ruch as a part of bond construction projects in the next four years. South Medford High is being replaced with a new campus at Cunningham and Columbus avenues.

About $1 million is slated for renovations at McLoughlin, but the scope of that project has not been determined.

School district officials said they need more time to interpret each building's score to pinpoint specific seismic weaknesses because the report was not immediately clear. They said seismic upgrades could also be included in other school bond projects.

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Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or

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