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City council will focus on three key goals

Lake Oswego's elected leaders made 2007 a year to tackle key public projects when they emerged from a brainstorming session Jan. 5 and 6 with a slim list of civic goals.

The lean agenda breaks with the brisk and visionary pace that characterized city hall in 2006.

In the next 12 months, while many of the city's ongoing projects will continue rolling forward, several float to the top as key concerns needing close attention by elected officials.

The group - which includes three newly elected city councilors - is due to weigh projects ranging from a new community center to sewer pipeline in 2007.

They held an annual goal-setting session in January to fine-tune civic priorities and set three at the top of their task list.

The big three are infrastructure repairs, a final decision on the Lake Grove Village Center Plan and work on a community center proposal and interim uses of the city's West End Building (formerly Safeco).

'These are huge,' said Mayor Judie Hammerstad. 'I think our focus is going to be more on the large, compelling projects in front of us.'

Projects begun in previous years - such as downtown redevelopment, sustainability goals, infill and Foothills - 'won't go away,' Hammerstad said, 'but I think that the council needs to really work on being able to complete these larger projects.'

The Big Three

At the top of the list are infrastructure concerns, chief among them replacement of the sewer interceptor - a 20,000-foot-long pipeline in Oswego Lake that serves as the backbone of the city's sewer system.

Struggling with capacity problems and facing catastrophic failure in the event of an earthquake, the interceptor is on track for replacement in 2011.

City leaders have set a clear priority to keep the project moving forward. They plan to choose a design for a new system and determine financing in the next year.

Negotiations with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are likely to place Lake Oswego on a strict timeline to meet those goals. The sewer system has overflowed to Oswego Lake and Tryon Creek numerous times in the last few years, which is a violation of the Federal Clean Water Act.

The city council directed key public employees to work a deal with DEQ at the end of 2006. The specifics of that deal have yet to be announced but in any agreement, Lake Oswego will be required to follow a strict program on sewer replacement to avoid hefty fines for the overflows.

'As we go through the timeline for it, it will be very, very prescriptive,' Hammerstad said.

She said she expects the city council to hear reports on the project 12 to 15 times in 2007.

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Also included in infrastructure needs is a study of the city's long-term water needs and a financial strategy for funding upgrades.

Lake Oswego may partner with the city of Tigard for a shared water utility. On the table is a proposal that could see the cities merge resources to expand Lake Oswego's water service, with Tigard signing on as part owner or as a wholesale customer.

Lake Oswego is already looking at improvements to its water utility. Water needs are projected to exceed the carrying capacity of the system in three years and early costs are projected to number in the tens of millions of dollars.

Right now, Lake Oswego's water system lacks the capacity to serve Tigard, but engineers charged with exploring a joint water system suggested many of the upgrades will be needed whether Tigard joins the system or not.

Lake Oswego could see financial benefits by opening a partnership but would lose some control in the exchange. Other benefits include expanded use of the city's water rights on the Clackamas River, since a new law will soon require cities to use or lose such rights.

'We want to be sure we can protect the water rights we have on the Clackamas River for future needs,' said Hammerstad.

Lake Oswego is already processing all the water it can from the Clackamas, but a partnership could build on that process, expanding the future supply and water rights.

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Public buildings will also get a look, especially a plan to move 9-1-1 services out of a seismically unsound city hall.

That building also suffers from mold problems and from overcrowding. In other facility needs, upgrades are also proposed for a city maintenance facility and a new fire station for the Stafford area is also on deck.

The new city council could choose to use the new West End Building (formerly Safeco) to house some city services while a vote on a community center there is pending.

The group is expected to study the issue in the coming months and could opt to keep the West End Building for public use whether a community center for the site is approved by voters or not.

Talk about facility needs is likely to be tied to the community center issue.

Lake Oswego City Councilors plan to decide whether to use the Kruse Way property while charting the course of a vote on a community center in 2008.

Uses for the property may become clearer as the group makes a final decision on the Lake Grove Village Center Plan this year.

Looking back

Looking back, the Lake Oswego City Council hit much of its ambitious agenda in 2006, beginning work on the community center proposal, planning for neighborhoods, senior issues, sustainable practices and housing issues - all top issues last year.

Work on bringing the Portland Streetcar to Lake Oswego was also completed at the local level.

Reviews of infill and tree code issues began and are pending. Downtown redevelopment continues, as well as inquiry into development potential in Foothills.

All of those items remain on the city hall punch-list again this year, but not as top priorities.

The projects are primarily in the hands of public employees. They will need occasional council direction in 2007 but none are expected to distract from the group's top priorities.

'The ongoing goals are things that are mainly in the works now,' Hammerstad said.

She said she felt optimistic about progress made in 2006 and about the year ahead.

Two added projects, both planned to occur under staff supervision, include a survey and study of future library needs and an the creation of an urban forestry program, designed to work in tandem with the city's tree code.

City councilors have also said they will play a role in expediting small building projects to increase the city's stock of affordable housing.

The group is seeking a report on quality of life indicators from staff as well as a means of gauging public support for its efforts.