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State of the City given

Hammerstad delivers her 8th - and final - assessment
by: Sam Bennett, 
Mayor Judie Hammerstad said the city has important financial decisions to make in 2008.

Reflecting on what she called a 'tumultuous' 2007, Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad Wednesday said the city and its citizens must now turn their focus to funding the largest construction projects in city history.

The controversy over the city's purchase of the West End Building - which culminated in a public vote last November to keep the building rather than selling it - overshadowed pressing issues such as funding the city's $103 million sewer interceptor project, Hammerstad said.

Hammerstad gave her State of the City speech at the Oswego Lake Country Club Wednesday afternoon.

The city, she said, is 'strong and stable and we have every reason to be proud of our quality of life.'

Funding issues related to infrastructure improvements will likely dominate the council's major decisions this year.

In addition, voters will have a chance to change the make-up of Lake Oswego's elected officials, as the mayor's position and three councilor seats will be up for grabs in November.

Hammerstad said in 2008 the city council will decide how to pay for the interceptor - through voter approved general obligation bonds or through revenue bonds, which don't require voter approval.

Already, the council has approved $12 million in revenue bonds to get the project started. The interceptor will run under the entire length of the lake. The council decided last year on a gravity-fed buoyant line that will provide protection during an earthquake.

Hammerstad expects a formal signing 'very soon' of an agreement with Lake Corporation for the approximately six-month winter drawdown of the lake in the fall of 2009. The project should be complete by June 2010.

The council will also likely come to voters with a funding proposal for the $20 million West End Building. The cost per $300,000 assessed value would be $105 annually for 20 years.

Speaking about the West End Building, Hammerstad said she strongly supports the idea of moving police and the 9-1-1 call center out of city hall on A Avenue to the West End Building on Kruse Way.

'This is especially attractive, because they must be moved, and the reserves that we have built in our public safety account would allow us to make that move and decrease the bond necessary to retire our debt,' said Hammerstad.

She also favors 'a library presence' at the West End Building, though she does not want to move the main library in First Addition. Instead, Hammerstad said the building could accommodate a children's library, space for library programs and storage.

Plans to turn the building into a recreation center with swimming pools have been indefinitely shelved.

'The components of a community sports facility can be addressed in the future, but we do need to keep this property in public ownership and look for partners to help us do that,' she said.

In addition to funding the West End Building and sewer interceptor, the city will need to address an upgrade to its nearly 40-year-old water treatment plant in West Linn. The city has signed an agreement with Tigard to pursue a potential water supply partnership.

'By partnering with Tigard and having them share in the cost, we are able to reduce our future costs, modernize our treatment plant, secure our unused water rights and provide for the future needs of both communities,' she said. 'We feel (the plan) could provide significant benefits to both communities.'

Hammerstad said Doug Schmitz's announcement in July that he would leave the city manager post for the same position in Los Altos, Calif., caused the council's goal-setting process to be delayed until early next month.

The council has narrowed the list of city manager candidates to two - both of whom have city or county manager experience. An announcement of the city's choice should come next week.

Hammerstad, an advocate of extending the streetcar from the South Waterfront area to Lake Oswego, said the streetcar will reduce carbon emissions and traffic.

'I view this as being a transportation necessity with significant energy reduction as well as a decrease in carbon emissions,' she said.

Hammerstad said the streetcar will spur development in the Foothills area.

Metro recently decided to move forward with the draft environmental impact statement process and will have a scoping meeting in Lake Oswego in March.

On other topics, Hammerstad said the city has retained its AAA bond ratings from Moody's and Standard and Poor's and the public safety departments 'have continued to perform at a very high level.'

Wednesday's speech was Hammerstad's eighth and last.

'These eight years have been filled with accomplishment and activity, and despite the various challenges we faced during the past year, the city has been extremely healthy and stable,' she said.

Asked by an audience member why city hall, built in 1986, was not constructed better to handle today's earthquake standards, Hammerstad said the city had a limited budget and the code requirements were not as strict as they are today.

'The cheapest option is to rebuild,' she said.

Lastly, Hammerstad said she hopes the council passes the long-awaited Lake Grove Village Center Plan.

The plan was passed unanimously by the planning commission this week and is headed to the council for final approval later this month.