In the last few months, the projected costs of the two options to build a new sewer interceptor have increased significantly - to over $100 million. The Lake Oswego City Council will decide in August whether to build an in-the-lake floating sewer line or pump the sewage around the lake with six pumping stations. The size of the project is substantial and either option will cause the lake to be drawn down 12 feet for 8 to 12 months. This project is going to be a major disruption in our community for a good year or so.
The other big project in the planning phase is the development of a community center on the former Safeco grounds. The proposed community center is also an expensive undertaking depending on whether the center is built in its entirety or phased in over a number of years.
For the average citizen voting for the costs of both projects at the same time is a real concern. We want our sewer system to work in the event of an earthquake and yet we also recognize the need that this community has for adequate library services, and multi-generational recreation and aquatic facilities.
How do we reconcile these two important needs in our community? I suggest that it is important to have both an historical and long-term perspective on these projects.
Our city fathers (and mothers) had the foresight to purchase land for parks such as George Rogers Park and Waluga Park. More recently the city sparked downtown redevelopment that we now enjoy with public investments in Millennium Plaza Park, the Lake View parking garage and Foothills Park. Luscher Farms was purchased as a working farm that also preserves open space on the south end of town from future development.
I believe that the 14-acre Safeco site is a valuable investment in the future of our community. The existing building can be used for recreation programs, for classes, for library services, outdoor paths, community meetings, receptions and for other needs, Whether we develop the site into a full recreational and aquatic center now or wait a few years for this to happen, this opportunity will not come our way again.
I believe that the city has made a good investment in the acquisition of the Safeco site.
The city council should find a way to permanently finance the purchase of the existing building and the site for present and future public use.
To sell the property to a commercial developer, as some advocate, because of the need to build a new sewer interceptor, would be a tremendous loss for this community and for future generations of Lake Oswegans.
Rob Le Chevallier is a resident of Lake Oswego.