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Voters will answer refinance question on West End Building

City council unanimously votes to put issue on May 20 ballot

The Lake Oswego City Council agreed Wednesday night to ask voters this spring if they want to refinance the West End Building on Kruse Way.

The council voted unanimously to put the bond measure on the May 20 ballot.

The ballot measure would ask if the city should refinance the West End Building with up to $20 million in general obligation bonds. The annual cost would be $105 per $300,000 assessed value.

The city purchased the property in July 2006, using a short-term line of credit. Using funds from its general reserve, the city is paying about $1 million annually in interest on that line of credit.

The $20 million property has 14 acres and an 88,000-square-foot building that was used by Safeco Insurance.

The city bought the building in the hopes of renovating it to accommodate a community center. But the cost of that renovation, up to $80 million, became prohibitive as other major capital projects, such as the $100 million sewer interceptor, emerged as higher priorities.

The building is used for Parks and Recreation Department offices and activities, and Mayor Judie Hammerstad has said she would like to see the police and the 9-1-1 call center moved there. The building could also house a library facility, Hammerstad said.

In November, citizens voted to keep the property, after a group called Ask Lake Oswegans challenged whether the property should stay in the city's inventory.

Before Wednesday night's vote, citizens asked the council whether the May ballot should mention what the city wants to use the building for.

Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Wheeler said the ballot measure should 'include a clear outline of how the building is to be used.'

'If we're going to refinance this, give us something we can wrap our arms around a little bit,' he said, referring to the need for describing in the ballot measure what the building will be used for.

'I look at this as a fiscal housekeeping issue, rather than a decision about (the building's) use,' said Councilor Ellie McPeak. 'The building can't handle all the wants and needs this city has to have and our pocketbooks can't stomach all the costs it would take to put everything in place.'

Lake Oswego resident Steve Dodds said he's in favor of the May vote.

'Now is the time to do this,' he said. 'Now is the time to resolve it.'

Councilors said the city may look into leasing some of the space out or entering a public/private partnership to share renovation costs.