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Get involved in community center plans

A 20-member citizen's steering committee has been meeting since June to study prospects for a new community center at the 14-acre Safeco site on Kruse Way. We've had an opportunity to learn about the needs of the community for library, recreation, and aquatics programs as well as community gathering spaces. Having toured other communities' facilities, we have come to see the wonderful benefits that a multi-generational community center could bring to our city.

In late September, committee members agreed on a 'preliminary program' for the community center, and we held a public workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 4 to hear citizens' feedback on the committee's concept, which is designed to meet many of our community needs through the year 2030.

Approximately 180 Lake Oswego residents gathered, representing every age group and all parts of our city. Workshop participants added their voices to those of many other citizens who have already joined the community center design process. Earlier, the city convened three public forums, and more than 1,200 residents returned a survey to offer their creative suggestions on the community center.

Two-thirds of the October workshop attendees told us they endorsed the community center concept. Most of these citizens asked for some changes in the committee's current proposal, including some requested additions.

Broad support was shown for the multi-generational uses proposed for the community center, appealing to families with children, teens, adults, as well as Lake Oswego's older residents. Many participants said the community center proposal was long overdue. Some noted that Lake Oswego's existing library and recreation facilities are too small and inadequate to meet even today's needs.

Workshop participants also raised questions and concerns about the impact of the proposed community center on some treasured local institutions - the downtown Lake Oswego library and adult community center. The committee's preliminary concept calls for closing the existing library and building a 65,000-square-foot main library at the Safeco site. This was preferred over the option of maintaining two full-service libraries, which was estimated to add $1 million in annual operating costs to our city budget. Many workshop attendees urged us to reconsider our recommendation, and to find some way to keep library services in the downtown area. In response, we have asked our consultants to re-examine options that might fit within the library's operating budget constraints.

Although the committee is aware that additional indoor tennis facilities are needed in our community, we had not included them in the program for the Safeco site due to cost and site considerations. Our committee is recommending that the city develop options for providing new indoor courts in the community.

Many workshop participants asked for more information on costs of the proposed community center. The committee has been using capital and operating cost projections that will be firmed up after refining the program (partly in light of citizen input). The committee members are equally concerned about the tax impact of the proposed center. We are working hard to meet our charge of recommending to city council a concept for the Lake Oswego Community Center that citizens can be proud of, that we can be excited to use, and that we as voters will be able to support when the time comes.

Meanwhile, it's not too late to get involved in the community center planning. To learn more about the committee's preliminary program and the opportunities for participation, please visit www.lakeoswegocommunitycenter.org.

Dennis Elliott, chair of the Lake Oswego Community Center Steering Committee, and Sandy Leybold, vice chair, are both residents of Lake Oswego.