We have been so impressed with the thoughtful and well-written letters from Lake Oswegans expressing their concern about the Safeco/
Commun-ity Center project. Just last week, we heard from Perry Packard, Mary Olson, Doug and Janice Parker, R A Fontes and Jacqueline Heydrenrych, all of whom highlighted some very interesting and valid points as to why this is not a good project. We think it is reasonable to assume that these and the many other letters represent a fairly large sample of citizen opinion.
We agree with these concerned citizens on the following points:
n The city purchased Safeco with no citizen agreement: The purchase was in spite of the feedback from several past surveys that clearly showed little support for such a venture, and the estimated costs at that time were even far less than the current estimate of $65 million. In order to see the total costs, we must add to this the $20 million purchase price, the annual $1.2 million in interest on the loan to buy the Safeco building, the loss of property taxes the city would receive from private ownership of the property, and finally the quarter of a million dollars the city spend to move Parks and Recreation into the Safeco building. (The motive for this move by the way is transparent: The City is invoking squatter's rights and trying to make the idea of selling Safeco now seem expensive and unworkable).
n The city's complete inability to understand and follow through on its priorities: In February's Hello LO, we are informed that city councilors attended a Goal Setting Retreat and concluded that their first priority is maintaining our infrastructure (i.e. the lake interceptor sewer project at $65 to $100 million and the newly discovered $73 million problem with our water supply). On this priority we actually agree! And yet they forge ahead with the 'Safeco Legacy Recreation Center Project.'
n No accurate cost information: While the city obligates more and more of taxpayer funds without our consent, we seem to be given fewer and fewer facts on what these many projects will cost. How can we or they move forward without accurate cost information? They say they need time to fully define the project, but we suspect that what they really want is for the dissenters to go away and let them proceed with their plans. Remember that for every $65 million spent by the city, your property taxes on a $300,000 home will increase approximately $350 each year for 30 years. So just to do the priority sewer and water plus the $20 million already spent on the Safeco building, our property taxes will already be up by $850 each year for the next 30 years. If you add the 'estimated' construction cost for a new community center at approximately $65 million, the impact on our annual property taxes will be prohibitive. Also, remember how public projects like our recent high school remodel/rebuild significantly overran initial cost estimates.
The city should sell the Safeco property now and concentrate on the water and sewer tasks that are the city's first priority.
Wally and Marilyn Helm are resident of Lake Oswego.