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Heres an idea: Split police, 9-1-1 away from city hall

We have lived in Lake Oswego for almost 40 years. We love our city. We love the parks, the walking paths and the schools our children were fortunate to attend - and -we are very much opposed to the Community Center project and the Safeco building. They're not wanted, they're not needed and they are far too expensive at a time when our city faces other more vital and costly infrastructure demands.

The city decided unilaterally to purchase the Safeco building with the intent to build a Community Center. But an unexpected thing happened. Citizens insisted on a voice and by signing the Ask Lake Oswegans petition, thousands have said no to the Community Center and no to the Safeco purchase. So for now, the Community Center project appears to be on hold. But the council is strongly behind finding some reason to keep the Safeco building. Safeco is now being considered for a wide range of city functions. But, what most citizens probably do not know is that today, we taxpayers are paying about $100,000 per month on the Safeco Building. $80,000 a month is the interest payment on the loan to purchase Safeco and about $25,000 a month is being spent to operate and maintain the building, which houses 50 or so city Parks and Rec. employees.

To bolster their plan to keep the Safeco building, the city council is saying that our 21-year-old city hall building is inadequate and should be replaced at the cost of $13 million, and/or that city employees could be moved en masse to the Safeco building.

We would like to offer an alternative to this approach. According to the May 22, 2007, city council meeting minutes, a report by Sera Architects concluded that our city hall building has no insurmountable problems. At present, the electrical could be upgraded, future parking may be stretched and, like many of our own homes, it needs a new roof. The biggest concern is meeting the seismic standards for the police and 9-1-1 functions now housed in city hall.

But what if the police and 9-1-1 were to be relocated to a separate facility? Anderson Construction estimates that a new, seismically correct, 16,000-square-foot building for these essential functions would cost approximately $2.3 million. Housed separately, it would be much easier to keep the seismic code requirements up to date for these essential functions, rather than updating a much larger city hall or Safeco building to these highest code standards.

If police and 9-1-1 were out of city hall, nearly all concerns about the building's adequacy would go away and therefore, there would be no need to replace city hall or to keep the Safeco building.

This November citizens will finally have the opportunity to vote on these issues and judging from the tremendous support for the Ask Lake Oswegans petition, our conclusion is that the whole Safeco/Community Center plan was an unfortunate decision by the council and that the Community Center plan should be dropped and the Safeco building should be sold.

(Note: This information was given as testimony at the July 24, 2007, city council meeting on the next steps to consider for the community center proposal and the disposition of the Safeco Building.)

Wally and Marilyn Helm are residents of Lake Oswego.