In the Feb. 28 issue of this newspaper, Gordon Umaki wrote that he is struggling with my comment that it may be 15 years before our community realizes the ultimate use of the West End Building and its surrounding site. He poses questions about why it might take so long to deliver on what is praised by many residents as a good investment decision. After all, he stated, Grand Coulee Dam took only seven years to build.
So I did a little research. Grand Coulee Dam was constructed between 1933 and 1941, however, the idea for damming the Columbia below the Grand Coulee was first proposed in 1917. Preliminary feasibility studies were carried out in the 1920s, but the final report favoring the construction of the dam was produced in late 1931. With funds committed by the state of Washington in 1933 and money promised by FDR under the Public Works Administration, construction on the project began.
My point is that sound public works projects take time. The former Safeco property holds the potential for serving a myriad of community needs for the residents of Lake Oswego. With continued public input, we can plan to realize the best uses of this property, determine the best financial methods for attaining those uses, and phase in the construction and improvements over time as budgets and community requirements mesh.
In the meantime, we can house important temporary public and private uses in the West End Building that do not require serious cash investment for successful operation. We currently offer several Parks and Recreation programs in the building, many local groups use the meeting rooms, and the site may provide a secure operations center for our regional 9-1-1 service network and public safety department.
Your city council has voted to put a bond measure for up to $20 million on the May, 2008 ballot to retire the line of credit used to finance the purchase of the Safeco building. That measure will secure this property for Lake Oswego today and into the future while potentially reducing the interest charges on the debt. A wise investment does not usually result in immediate gratification but rather a beneficial gain over time. Let's give the West End Building a chance to reach its full potential, even if it takes a few years.
Donna Jordan, Lake Oswego, is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council.