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East County cities look at consolidation

by: Contributed photo Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby

Imagine what might happen if Fairview, Troutdale and Wood Village decided to become one city in, say, 20 years.

The three cities - which now have a combined population of about 29,000, according to the 2010 U.S. Census - could share police and fire departments and consolidate other city services such as the building and parks departments, have unified taxes and fees, and be governed through one city council and mayor. The cities would even share one name.

The idea is nothing new and has been discussed many times by civic leaders over the years. Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby, however, said it might be worthwhile to revisit the issue - and get some facts.

Weatherby said he's interested in finding an independent third party to study all the possible benefits and drawbacks of consolidating the three cities into one city. He stressed that the purpose of the study would not be to argue in favor of or against consolidation, but to get all the information and see if it is even worth pursuing.

'I don't really know' if consolidation would be good or bad, Weatherby said, noting that nothing would happen unless all three cities supported going ahead with the idea. With a study, he said, 'At least we would have something to look at.'

Weatherby said he's spoken to other officials in Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village about the issue and has heard from both supporters and opponents; most of them have said it's worth checking out, he said.

Once the information becomes available, he said, it would help both civic leaders and East County residents make an informed decision.

Weatherby said he's approached Portland State University's School of Urban Studies and is waiting to hear from the board on whether the school can carry out the study.

Noting that the money is limited, Weatherby said any organizations that are interested should contact Fairview City Administrator Joe Gall by calling 503-674-6211. Weatherby also is available to answer non-technical questions about the idea. Call him at 503-665-7929.

'There's no rush to make a decision,' Weatherby added. 'All I want to do is take a look and see.'

County coordinating committee proposed

Weatherby also supports the creation of a Multnomah County Coordinating Committee, which would have the county's cities work together and speak with one voice at Metro Regional Government on transportation and land-use issues.

Its voting members would be made up of the Multnomah County mayors and a county commissioner, while non-voting members would represent the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet, the Port of Portland and other organizations.

Weatherby said Clackamas and Washington counties already have similar committees in place.

'Since it works in two other counties, there should be the interest to see if it works here,' he said.

Although the Fairview and Maywood Park city councils have supported the idea, the Gresham City Council unanimously rejected the idea during its Tuesday, Sept. 20, meeting, citing concerns about being outvoted by the smaller cities.

The Portland and Troutdale city councils have not voted on the proposal, Weatherby said. The Wood Village City Council voted in support of the proposal at its Tuesday, Sept. 27, meeting.

Even without Gresham's support, the committee could still come together, Weatherby said, adding that it doesn't cost money but time.

'I don't think it hurts to ask the question' about whether there should be a committee, he said. 'We'll have to see what happens.'