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Lake Oswego councilors agree to play nice

As the Lake Oswego City Council returns from a summer break and embarks on a busy fall schedule, it does so with a new set of 'performance agreements.'

The agreements formalize expectations for how council members will interact with each other during meetings. The council reviewed them Sept. 6, and city manager Alex McIntyre plans to laminate the list and put it at the front of each councilor's binder so they will have it available at the dais.

The new standards, calling 'for courtesy, respect and decorum,' include:

* Give full attention to people who are speaking and 'listen with attention'

* Speak respectfully

* Agree to disagree

* Avoid personalized issues

* Use titles when addressing each other, members of the public and staff

* Support the collective decision-making of the council

Some councilors questioned the limits of that last item, which states that councilors 'will exercise our convictions without personalizing the issue or eroding the collective reputation' of the group.

Ultimately, the Lake Oswego council moved to eliminate a portion of the statement that read: 'Once a decision is made, we will generally support that decision.'

'The idea was to improve, as a group, your working relationships,' McIntyre said. 'One idea was … if you have a different opinion, you can offer that opinion without denigrating the majority.'

'But these are your performance agreements,' he added. 'If you want to amend them, please do so.'

Lake Oswego isn't the only council with a working agreement like this. West Linn city leaders adopted a similar set of principals at the start of 2011, calling for civility, focus, accountability and transparency. McMin-nville's city council also has these sorts of guidelines in place, after taking as long as a decade to finalize them, McIntyre said.

Still, some of Lake Oswego's new standards might take time to get used to.

'I always call Alex 'Alex,'' councilor Mary Olson said of the city manager. 'They're hard habits to break.'

Councilor Jeff Gudman noted the issue of titles was his suggestion.

'The idea was to keep it a bit more formal so we can stay focused on the issue rather than the person,' he said.

In other business Sept. 6, the council:

* Approved a $477,751 contract with Dirt and Aggregate Interchange Inc. to pay for stabilization and mitigation work at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center following a landslide last winter.

* Approved a new overlay for part of the city's Industrial Park zone that allows more office, service and retail uses in an area near Boones Ferry Road.

* Approved three contracts to Black and Veatch Corporation for design engineering of three Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership projects, including $1.6 million for a river intake pump station, $654,634 for a second Waluga reservoir and $911,131 for the Bonita pump station in Tigard. These represent the last of the major water project design contracts requiring city council approval to award, said David Prock, deputy project director for the water partnership.

* Authorized the refinancing of the city's 2001 general obligation bond funding parks, fields and open space to take advantage of current interest rates. The opportunity emerged as finance employees worked on a different financing effort involving the city's urban renewal agency.

'At that time, we also became aware of an opportunity to refinance a smaller issue of a 2001 bond that we could piggyback, if you will, on the other two issues and save our selves some bond purchase issuing costs,' Lake Oswego Finance Director Ursula Euler told council members.

Although the bond issues remain separate, the city was able to combine staff work on economic research, legal reviews, financial analysis and rating agency presentations.

The parks bonds' maturity dates and terms won't change but they will be adjusted for today's lower interest rates.

'It's a modest savings,' Euler said. 'Collectively it's about $400,000. … There's another $60,000 savings in one-time issuance costs also over the term of the bond (over the next 10 years).'

Although the savings is relatively small, councilor Bill Tierney said, 'At the budget committee level we can spend an awful lot of time trying to find this amount of dollars.'

The money will save taxpayers about 2 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value, according to a memo distributed to the council.

UPDATE: Just before the Review went to press, the city announced savings from the refinancing were even better than anticipated. According to Euler, the finance director, the city earned better interest rates than expected, leading to a new estimated savings of $560,000 over the next 10 years, plus the additional $60,000 in one-time savings in issuance costs.

Credit rating agencies raise eyebrows at schools support

There's no cause for alarm yet, but credit rating agencies recently showed particular interest in the city of Lake Oswego's move to give the local school district money.

Lake Oswego Finance Director Ursula Euler told the city council this month that staff members spoke with Standard and Poor's and Moody's in preparation for various financing initiatives.

Although they have affirmed the city's previous high credit ratings, Euler said personnel from both agencies wanted to confirm that the city council's decision to funnel $2 million to the Lake Oswego School District was a one-time commitment this year.

'When we are in conversations with the rating agencies, they receive key points about the city's economic basis, about revenue sources, challenges and opportunities … and it's very telling what questions they ask,' Euler said. 'Sometimes they ask none; sometimes they ask two or three. This time they asked very few questions,' which she took as a good sign.

However, they did ask about the school money, which council members approved in hopes of offsetting more drastic cuts to local education programs and teaching staffs.

'Based on their questions, we can tell that is a little bit of concern for them,' Euler said. But she felt the agencies were satisfied when they heard the assistance would not become an ongoing city expense.

es raise eyebrows at schools support