Maintenance totally matters
'Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance' - Kurt Vonnegut
In recent years the city has focused on 'the new' instead of how to pay to operate/maintain 'the new' after a project is completed. Maintaining/operating property may not be as exciting as cutting ribbons for 'the new' but it is far more important. Here are examples.
West End Building - The WEB was purchased without any identified permanent source for financing and no plan for paying ongoing operations/ maintenance. To add insult to injury, the purchase of the building reduced city property tax revenue by taking the WEB off the tax rolls.
Streetcar - Consultants estimate the streetcar will cost $3.78 million annually to operate. Tri-Met acknowledged, despite its desire to pay the streetcar operating costs, at this time it does not have the funds to do so. If Lake Oswego pays 20 percent of streetcar operating costs, the city will pay $0.75 million annually. Where will the money come from? The city's best answer so far is … we have always worked it out. That is not a good answer. The methods of the past are not sufficient for the challenges of today.
Foothills - Consultants have identified urban renewal property tax increment financing (TIF), local improvement districts (LID), system development charges (SDCs), and economic improvement districts (EID) as sources for financing Foothills/streetcar construction costs. This seems reasonable, but there is no plan for operating costs that come from adding new Foothills residents. Incremental property taxes will go for debt/construction. To maintain the same number of police per 1,000 citizens will increase the city's ongoing personnel operating costs. Will a new fire station and associated operating costs be needed? Similar analysis can be done for each city department.
Library - The replacement of the existing library with a larger one is an admirable goal. As the replacement library process goes forward, the design goal must be to keep the same level of current operating costs (personnel plus other operating costs). If that goal cannot be achieved, then where the extra money for operations will come from must be identified.
Open Space Purchases - Terrific open spaces/natural areas were purchased with the parks bond measure without significant regard to ongoing maintenance. Not to mention needed restoration required before we begin routine maintenance. The Cornell natural area and South Shore Overlook trees are choked with ivy. These are beautiful assets to the citizens that should be cared for over the long term.
Maintenance Facility - The maintenance facility is in need of replacement. The maintenance building was designed in 1979 and originally occupied by a metal building manufacturing company. The city's Public Work Operations staff and equipment moved into the site in 1980-81. The building is outdated, outmoded and does not meet city needs. While our Public Works department takes pride in keeping the building going with 'gum and duct tape,' it needs replacing in order to provide basic service the city needs. Letting the building deteriorate while focusing elsewhere does not make sense.
Good leaders inspire, but they also perspire over the painful, difficult specifics of policy visions (the unpopular choices and tradeoffs to achieve a particular vision). Maintenance is a specific that has been overlooked for too long.
Jeff Gudman is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council. He notes that his views are his alone and not those of the council.