Safeco project is no Grand Coulee Dam


Lake Oswego City Councilor Donna Jordan believes that up to 15 years is a reasonable time for the city to decide on what to do with the Safeco property after it was acquired in 2006.

In my letter in the Feb. 29 Lake Oswego Review, I compared the 15 years of indecision in jest to the actual construction and completion of perhaps the largest construction project the U.S. has ever undertaken, the Grand Coulee Dam, which took 12,000 workers seven years from ground breaking to completion.

Councilor Jordan is serious when she compares the Safeco project favorably with the proposal, funding, design and construction of the Grand Coulee Dam project which she correctly points out started in 1917 and was not completed until 1941. She says, 'My point is that sound public works projects take time.' Councilor, you may not have noticed, but the Safeco project is no Grand Coulee Dam.

In 15 years, at an assumed interest rate of 4.5 percent, we, the taxpayers, will have paid $13.5 million in interest alone before the city makes a decision on what to do with the property! And we still would not have paid a cent on the $20 million property purchase! Looking at it another way, according to the city's figures, if the May 20 bond measure is approved, taxpayers will have paid $1,575 per $300,000 of assessed value over the 15 years, again, before the city will have decided on what to do with the property!

Of course, once the decision is made on what to do with the property, we have only begun the project. Then we will begin the process of the final design, development and construction of the new facility. We can only guess how long that will take and how much money it will cost the taxpayers 15 years hence. We know two things for sure if Councilor Jordan's forecast is true: 1) the future development cost will be multiples of the original cost of the property when we do build it and 2) including the interest we will have paid to that point and property taxes lost from Safeco, the future development costs will be multiples of the cost it would have been, had we had a viable plan for the property when we acquired it. All of future financial burden will fall on the taxpayers if we approve the May bond measure and bond measures sure to follow in the future.

Again, quoting Councilor Jordan, 'Let's give the West End Building a chance to reach its full potential, even if it takes a few years.' Her idea of 'a few years' and mine are not the same. Neither is her idea of a 'good investment decision.'

Gordon Umaki is a resident of Lake Oswego.