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Consider combining city and school facilities

What a wonderful time of year, crisp mornings, pleasant days and activities to interest all of us. Footballs are flying, soccer matches being played, walkers and bicyclists are out enjoying the beauty of Lake Oswego. The beginning of a new school year promises continued achievement and accomplishment for our hard-working students, parents and teachers.

As we begin the new school year, we must remember that strong, stable schools are a key reason families move here. Our community has shown great support for LOSD, dedicated untold hours, provided materials and services, and donated millions of dollars. Continued support is made ever more important as state funding for K-12 remains unstable. Last year, the city gave a one-time donation of $2 million to LOSD, funded in part by an increase in franchise fees charged utilities providing service to Lake Oswego residents. Utilities in turn passed the increase on to their customers by what was termed a “privilege tax.” Our city council made it clear to citizens this would be a one-time event, and the future use of franchise funds for LOSD is not assured. This leaves us to consider what future funding options are available to assist our schools. To promote stable school funding, I realize that we must look for creative ideas that benefit LOSD but do not impose undue burden on taxpayers or ratepayers.

Our city has a real need for an improved maintenance facility. A recent tour of the facility made it clear to me that this critical element of core city services is seriously deficient. The current facility needs to be upgraded or replaced in order for optimal service and efficiency. Remember, our maintenance workers are first responders in the event of a crisis, and a high-functioning facility further strengthens our strong police, fire and EMS operations. Coincidentally, the school district operations facility located in the middle of a residential area in Lake Grove could also benefit from an upgrade.

I propose we investigate upgrading our city maintenance facility, with enough capacity to also allow for the school district operations facility. This would allow the school district to sell the valuable property on Douglas Way, generating substantial cash for LOSD. The removal of the LOSD operations facility would allow the opportunity for the construction of houses within easy walking distance to Lake Grove Elementary School. Another benefit for area residents and schoolchildren would be relocation of the school bus parking yard. Currently, buses are frequently backed up against the chain link fence separating the elementary school yard from the district operations facility yard. Every time a bus is started up, exhaust fumes spew onto the schoolyard and anyone who happens to be in the area.

Under a facilities sharing agreement, the city could lease space to the school district. Lease terms could be written to ensure the long-term benefit of both the city and the school district. As with any new proposal, there needs to be cost/benefit analysis that supports a shared facility agreement. If elected to city council, I will investigate the shared facility agreement I have proposed. Our entire community benefits from our strong schools. Clearly, stable schools have been, and will remain, a critical component of what makes life in Lake Oswego so enriching.

Dan Williams, of Lake Oswego, is a candidate for a Lake Oswego City Council.