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Community Center plans leave some people asking why?

I attended, with some other First Addition Neighborhood friends, the Sept. 27 meeting of the Community Center Task Force. Of course, according to standard procedure, we 'non-task force members from the public at large' are not permitted to take part in these discussions which have been ongoing since the Safeco property was purchased. So, we just sat ever so silently and listened intently to what was said.

Results of the Sept. 23 task force vote were discussed on extremely important issues which Lake Oswego residents/taxpayers will face should such recommendations by this 'hand-picked' group of (people) of the mayor and city council prevail for further consideration. The idea during the meeting was to strategize on how the task force could convince attendees at a forthcoming 'Open House' workshop (yesterday) to close the very popular First Addition-located Adult Community Center and Library facilities and relocate them to a new $91 to $100 million community center.

In a Citizen's View article by Jacqueline Heydenrych in last week's (Sept. 28) Review, Ms. Heydenrych quotes Mayor Hammerstad's reply to her question regarding council assurances to provide venues (e.g. public forums, workshops) during the process for (all of the Lake Oswego) public to voice dissent against this totally unneeded and gargantuan costly (the cost estimates keep growing and growing!) mayor/council-sponsored (not public requested) project.

Well, fellow Lake Oswegans don't count on your dissent having much impact! Why? During the task force meeting various members voiced their regard for public input. Task force member George Bensen said forcefully 'The committee will listen but it won't change the committee's mind. The public can't come in and tell us what they want us to do!' I wrote down quotes from other members who disparaged public input by saying, 'People (e.g. The public) aren't like us!' So, my friends and I listened to these incredible remarks in utter disbelief and have talked about it and shared with others since. Not only is this elite group of people totally unrepresentative of the public but they also demean who we are and will have no regard for our opinions. What a sham!

This entire Safeco purchase/community center pipe dream has been tantamount to the perpetration of a fraud on the public from the very beginning. Dissenters to the project were prohibited from speaking against it at the first Lakeridge meeting (a Hammerstad 'public forum') last winter. Safeco was bought quickly by using a 'public necessity' tactic. And, even now, a task force spread sheet with 'Project Information and Cost Data' omits the $20 million already spent to buy Safeco leaving the impression that the 'Total Project Cost' is between $71 and $80 million, when in truth it is between $91 and $100 million. According to this latest estimate, the already intolerable property tax increase of $700 of a $600,000 house based on a $60 to $65 million project is history and we are rapidly approaching an increase of $1,400 (per year for 20 to 25 years!) according to the spending sheet figures. Sixty-seven percent of residents in this town are over 55 years and absolutely cannot tolerate such a tax burden for the rest of their lives. And let's not forget the sewer repair price tab of $65 million, which carries, of course, its own property tax and/or fees increase of $700 for a $600,000 house. According to my addition, we're now over $2,000 in additional taxes per year for a long, long time. This, I vow personally, cannot stand and cannot happen! Safeco needs to be resold immediately and Boora Architect consultants and project director Brant Williams' services terminated. We've got much more important needs for our money than paying them for this wasteful charade.

John Surrett is a resident of Lake Oswego .