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Voters deserve choice on WEB

by: SUBMITTED MAP Map of Lake Oswego shows how far proposed B Avenue library site is from other geographic areas in town

Since the bank is terminating the city's $20 million temporary financing on the West End Building property, and because the market value of the property has dropped by 60 percent to $8 million, the taxpayers will still owe the bank $12 million immediately if we decide to part with this property in a temporarily depressed market. So far the city council has offered voters only the option to retain the WEB property merely for trivial uses, which surveys show would not justify voting 'yes' for a $20 million bonding measure.

A better idea would be to relocate the 27,100-square-foot Lake Oswego library to the magnificent 87,500 square-foot West End Building with its 280-car parking lot. The old library reached its capacity 23 years ago. The shelves are filled to the floor, so that elderly people have difficulty reading titles. Programs and art exhibits have been crowded into the aisles between the shelves. The 57-car parking lot often overflows onto neighboring streets which lack sidewalks.

The West End Building could be upgraded seismically to provide ample space, with almost no alteration, for many more book shelves, tables and computer desks, as well as multiple meeting rooms, an art gallery and an already outfitted coffee shop that has a large sunny deck. The unused portion of this large piece of land could provide space for other city needs, such as a new police headquarters. With a spacious library on the property and other city offices, the value of the original property would rise above the $20 million price that the city council originally paid.

Recently, the board of the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency proposed relocating our outdated library on one-and-a-half developed blocks, to be acquired by purchase or condemnation, near the city's eastern edge. (LORA members) contemplate building a 60,000-square foot building and parking garage at a cost of $52 million.

As the accompanying maps show, if the new library is located at LORA's proposed East End site, fewer than half the residences in Lake Oswego would be situated within a two mile radius. By locating the new library instead in the more centrally located West End Building (a misleading name), at least two-thirds of Lake Oswego's residences would be within two miles.

If the voters give up the West End Building, they will face an immediately collectible debt of $12 million with absolutely nothing to show for it. For an additional $8 million the city could own the large, modern building and extensive land, and with not much more expense, we could enjoy our award-winning library in elegant quarters. Payments would be spread over 30 years at a low interest rate while the property appreciates. Compare this with a smaller library downtown for $40 million, which added to a $12 million loss, brings the total cost for that library to $55 million.

The voters deserve a voice in this no brainer.

William Barbat is a resident of Lake Oswego.