It's easy to criticize studies and contracts with consultants as a waste of precious taxpayer dollars, but it's not necessarily fair or accurate. That's certainly the case with the Ashland City Council's deliberations over a new City Hall.

The existing City Hall overlooking the Plaza is seismically unsafe and inadequate to serve the needs of the 27 city officials who work there and members of the public who do business there. Options include rebuilding the existing structure in place, building a new City Hall at the Civic Center where the police station and municipal court are situated, or remodeling the Briscoe School building.

In a study session Monday night, several councilors indicated they don't favor the Briscoe School option. Some favor the downtown location, but are unsure about a partial rebuild or a complete renovation. Others said the Civic Center option offered a more practical solution.

In the end, the council agreed to spend $40,000 on a conceptual study of all three locations, after Public Works Director Paula Brown assured them there would be no significant cost savings by focusing on one or two sites. Actual design work will come later, after the council chooses a single site.

This decision is a major one for the city, and councilors would do themselves no favors by limiting the information they need. Three conceptual designs listing pros and cons for $40,000 is not an unreasonable amount to spend to help the council determine the seat of city government for the foreseeable future.