The WEB: Its time for Plan S
'Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences.'
- Robert Louis Stevenson.
The 'plan' for holding the West End Building (WEB) is not working. The day of reckoning has come - the bank is unwilling to roll over the interest only loan and now the city must start paying interest and principal. It is time for Plan S - Sell!
The chickens are coming home to roost. I use this metaphor as no offense to poultry, but because it aptly conveys all the frantic 'clucking' around the future of the WEB. The proximate cause of the clucking is the remarkable discovery that the WEB costs money and means there is less money for, or a reduction in, existing programs.
Some brief history about how we got ourselves into this chicken coop. The WEB was purchased in July 2006. The original purchase was made without any citizen awareness of specific need for a facility. Although the council cited the need to move quickly on the purchase, the residents of the city were surprised with the purchase, without any identified use for the building, any study of traffic/neighborhood impacts, and without a means of paying for the purchase and operation of the building.
In November 2007 the citizens voted 54 percent to 46 percent in favor of keeping the WEB. In May 2008 the citizens voted 57 percent to 43 percent against issuing general obligation bonds to pay for the purchase of the WEB.
In February 2010 the citizens were told the work ahead was to determine the appropriate combination of uses of the WEB and the means to fund it, including the appropriate time for a public vote. In February 2011, based on the results of a council survey, the council voted 4-3 to postpone any citizen vote, because the survey said a vote would not pass. After multiple years by the council to persuade the citizens to fund it, the citizens remain very skeptical and have not been persuaded that keeping the building is worth the cost, especially given the havoc it will cause on funding existing programs.
The best thing about refusing a citizens' vote is it reveals that a majority of the council: (i) is either unwilling or unable to make a case for retention of the WEB; (ii) is unwilling to ask voters to pay for long-term financing of the building; and (iii) is unwilling to describe which programs must be reduced or cut to cover the cost of long-term financing.
I, for one, want to go to Plan S and sell it. But until a majority of the council feels the same way, the citizens are stuck with a building they were told would never go down in value, a building the city has not long term financed, a building costing the city hundreds of thousands dollars every year, and a building which is taking money away from other city services like the Lake Grove Village plan, parks, library services, pathways and road maintenance.
In my next column I will provide details of Plan S. By adopting Plan S the city gets consolidation of city services, a new emergency center, lower ongoing maintenance charges, an opportunity to repurchase the building, and a better than decent chance of recovering a significant portion of the $20 million spent to purchase the building.
Jeff Gudman is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council. He notes that his views are his alone and not of those council.