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Safeco would solve library woes

This is in response to articles in the Dec. 21 Review by John Surrett and Gordon Umaki concerning the Safeco building proposals.

Lake Oswego needs a new library! Not wants: Needs.

In 1992, when I joined the library board, that city council instructed the board to find a solution to the library problem. The farsighted council recognized the future problems that existed. When I left the board in 2001, the council was still discussing it.

Lake Oswego needs a new library for these reasons:

n The need is hidden to the public because of the outstanding efforts of the library staff.

n For lack of space, wanted books are removed from the shelves to make room for newer books.

n Library events for the public are severely limited because of lack of space.

n Staff space is totally inadequate.

n Parking is in short supply. First Addition neighbors (until the talk of moving the library) complain about the parking and traffic.

n There are no public meeting rooms.

In the mid-1990s the city council hired one of the two top library consultant firms in the country to help with the problem. After months of city surveys, meetings with focus groups, numerous meetings with the library board and the city council, the experts stated that Lake Oswego needs a new 43,000-square-foot library.

The consultants also recommended against a branch or two different libraries. They also suggested that the best, most central, location would be the Safeco site.

Now to Mr. Surrett and Mr. Umaki: They must have misunderstood the purposes of the Oct. 19 and Dec. 6 public meetings at the Safeco building. I was at both meetings, and while I can find fault with some of the city council's operation (if in fact they didn't keep adequate records), the facts presented by the two gentlemen were wrong.

The Oct. 19 meeting was an open meeting asking the public what it wanted. The young wanted a skate park; the swimmers want a pool; the tennis buffs wanted tennis courts; some wanted recreational facilities, etc. It was not a list of everything that was to be done. The council would be at fault if they did not ask for public input.

The total could have added up to $100 million. That was not proposed. Nor was it proposed that the present building be demolished. In fact, the safety engineer stated that the building was in excellent condition and was up to earthquake code and could be internally remodeled to serve the library and the community center.

The Oct. 19 meeting was also packed with First Addition residents who suggested that the new library be built but that the old library be retained so they could continue to walk to it. (First Addition residents historically have complained about the parking and traffic problems the library has created.) Two libraries would cost the city more than $1 million in additional operating costs a year.

I suggest that the city should create the new library and the community center at the Safeco site. Sell the present library and adult community sites to recover some of the costs involved. And hold off any other city improvements to the site.

Martin Jacobs is a resident of Lake Oswego.