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Cost estimates need to come sooner

An open letter to the mayor and members of the city council:

I found Mayor Hammerstad's response to a recent letter of concern about looming project costs to be almost laughably uninformative. I have been in business long enough to know that project discussions must involve fairly reliable cost estimates from an early point in time. That is the information Mr. Kevin Poling was requesting, Mrs. Mayor.

Although it was stated that these projects are not yet approved, that is clearly not the sense that I have gotten while participating in recent meetings. In the month of October alone, I have attended an open house and two planning commission hearings for the proposed Lake Grove Town Center Plan and a workshop for the proposed Community Center. I have publicly voiced my concerns, along with many other citizens, but my overall sense is that these are clearly 'done deals' as far as city officials are concerned.

It is even more troubling to read in the Mayor's response on the projects that 'At least one or two would need to be approved by the voters at the appropriate time.' We are talking about hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. On which one or two projects will we citizens be allowed to vote?

And who determines the appropriate time? Apparently, we are to be kept in the dark until that time arrives.

According to Chapter IX, Section 40 of our City Charter, a public vote is required for major road expenditures. The stated purpose is 'to give the voters of Lake Oswego control over the expenditures for, and the construction of, roads which may have a major impact upon character and livability of the city and its neighborhoods.' Meanwhile, our city officials have already applied to Metro (in June, 2006) for funding of a road demonstration project on Boones Ferry - essentially, the implementation of the Town Center Plan that has not yet been formally approved by our planning commission or this council. (Kinda tough to do without knowing the costs yet, isn't it?)

I really must insist on a meaningful response from this mayor and members of the city council about the issue of costs and a public vote, and I am sure other Lake Oswego Review readers would like to understand as well. This is not a rhetorical request.

Yvonne R. Campbell is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Editor's note: Jane Heisler, director of public affairs for the city of Lake Oswego, responds:

'The author refers to the city charter section relating to Major Road Expenditures. Its purpose is to give voters control over expenditures for roads, which may have a major impact on character and livability of the city and its neighborhoods. The process requires the city to provide a notice of the opportunity for an election to owners of properties abutting a proposed major road expansion or construction of a new road with a proposed pavement width of more than 32 feet, as well as notice to city-recognized neighborhood associations and posting in the newspaper. The charter section does not prevent the planning, design or search for potential funding sources for future construction. In fact, the required notice must contain a plan of the proposed road or road expansion showing route, width, length and design. If there is no funding available for the construction, it could not occur even with an affirmative vote. The city is proactive in seeking out and using all potential funding sources to implement projects in order to help defray direct costs to local residents, business and property owners and taxpayers.'