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Gladstone library hangs in the balance

Plans are being squeezed by budget issues, petitions
by: raymond rendleman Kevin Johnson, who is chief petitioner for ballot measures inspired by library plans, is joined by Kim Sieckmann (left) and Tammy Stempel before turning in more than 500 signatures on each petition.

There's been a striking change of tone on Gladstone City Council about the new library plans since elected officials appointed Tom Mersereau to a vacant seat last month.

Mersereau was among those voting against a funding transfer for the plans during last week's council meeting. It was the day after a group of citizens turned in two ballot measures that could halt library funding.

According to Assistant City Administrator Jolene Morishita, the Clackamas County Election Office verified that both the measures had more than the 414 signatures needed to make the ballot.

Judith Ervin, one of the City Council's strongest voices in favor of the library, resigned in September for health reasons, following an appeal of the city's approval of library plans to the state's Land Use Board of Appeals.

The Gladstone City Council voted 3 to 3 on Dec. 13 to halt transfer of $350,000 from the city's urban renewal fund to cover architectural, legal and other project management services related to the construction planning for the library.

City Administrator Pete Boyce said that Gladstone is still working under the council's unanimous Nov. 8 directive to move forward with the plans, so he'll have to use funding from Clackamas County for that purpose instead.

The library could face a hurdle if voters approve measures in the May election. The petitions ask voters whether they would like a vote on city buildings that cost more than $1 million or to use debt financing.

Councilor Len Nelson, who was the lone vote against the city's reversal of the Planning Commission's denial on Aug. 9, appreciated that more councilors were seeing the need to slow down and rethink.

'The whole thing was going toward the library, but the whole picture has changed because people are now looking at where the dollars are going,' Nelson said. 'We're learning more every time we get into this, and they keep asking for more money, so I'm thinking 'wait a minute.' '

Nelson lamented that the city didn't purchase a former Ford dealership at the corner of Glouchester and McLoughlin for the library. Nelson and Kevin Johnson, who is chief petitioner for the ballot measures, both wonder if other city projects such as a City Hall remodel should take precedence in the urban renewal funding strategy.

'There's something broken that needs to be fixed, and there are too many pet projects that are pushing aside our real needs,' Johnson said.

Among the petition's supporters are four Gladstone planning commissioners, including Neil Reisner, Kim Stieckmann, Tammy Stempel and Kirk Stempel. Mersereau was formerly on the Planning Commission.

Mayor Wade Byers, who points out that only one of the measures could affect library plans, has become the library's most powerful supporter on council and believes the community's wishes are behind him.

'I believe this library is an important thing for our community to do and we will ultimately get the library built,' Byers said.

Nelson argues, however, that the work put into to the petitions is really important to gauge that support accurately.

'The citizens need to know where that money's going, and they need to be part of that decision making,' he said. 'It's so important for every person who pays for taxes in Gladstone to have a voice on these important decisions.'