In a desperate move to hold onto the Safeco property at all cost, McPeak and other council members are suggesting the 'option' of moving city hall, police, and the 911 Call Center into the building ('Buying Safeco was right to do'). But the notion of using the Safeco property for such a purpose is conspicuously absent from all three council resolutions (05-86, 06-15 and 06-11) relating to the condemnation, the financing and the property purchase.
Council resolution 05-86 (12/13/05) declared the acquisition of the Safeco site a public necessity, and represented that the purpose of the property was a community center. No mention was made of the 'option' to use the property for city hall and essential functions (EF, which are the police and 911 Call Center).
Council resolution 06-15 (4/18/06) authorized the purchase of this property and designated its purpose 'to construct, operate and maintain a community center ...' Again no mention was made of the possibility of moving city hall and EF.
Council resolution 06-11 (6/6/06) authorized interim financing and again no mention was made of the 'option' we're now hearing about.
In fact, deviating from the original purpose of the loan would violate the provisions of City Charter Section 51 (Designated Funds Created by Vote) which holds:
'Any fund voted by the people or the council for a specific purpose may be used only for that purpose and shall not be transferred or used for any other purpose, except investment while not in use. Any income received from the investment of a fund voted by the people or the council may be used only for the purpose of the original fund.'
In one year Lake Oswegans have made $1,060,000 in interest payments. Funds were taken from a 5.2 percent interest bearing general fund account to pay on a now 4.94 percent, $20 million loan for Safeco. And we have 17 more months to wait - and pay - before we can vote on the community center.
In September 2006, Andersen Construction estimated a new 16,000 square foot seismically sound building for the police and 911 Call Center would cost $2.32.million. We already own land at Jean Road and the Southshore fire station. Did it not occur to city officials that instead of wasting away millions in interest payments over two and a half years we could have built and have free and clear, for about the equivalent in money, a new dedicated space for essential functions?
Only 18 months ago, the councilor was resolved to sell the property if the community center plan did not meet with voter approval. The minutes of council special meeting, Dec. 13, 2006, report: 'Councilor McPeak said she would also support the resolution (05-86). She said the public needed the opportunity to weigh in on what the land would be used for.' If it turned out that they did not want it, the council would resell the property.'
That is precisely what Ask Lake Oswegans is asking for. Concerned citizens would like an opportunity to vote on the property acquisition, an opportunity they were denied but they could claim retroactively if the charter amendment measure passes in November 2007. Safeco must be listed for sale if the voters don't approve the property purchase. Any other outcome would be in defiance of the public will and a betrayal of council representations.
There is great concern in the community regarding the way that the council went about acquiring the Safeco property without voter approval, suspending its own policy using surplus funds earmarked for other uses and, finally, through a line of credit borrowing. All done without voter approval. Spending preceded voting. Council has spent close to $22 million on developing a project without determining whether it has voter approval. Voting should precede spending and there should be no more spending on the Safeco property before it is voted on by Lake Oswegans. They want to be 'asked first.'
John Surrett, Lake Oswego, is the co-chief petitioner and spokesperson for Ask Lake Oswegans.