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Community needs to talk about affordability

This is my first and (hopefully) last letter concerning the Safeco issue.

Writer Sarah Chaplen ('Attend the ballot measure forum' Oct. 11) has a point that proponents of both measures of the Safeco issue should keep in mind as the debate continues to heat up. Chaplen talks about the importance of both sides 'listening for a core of mutually agreed on relevant facts' regarding this issue. I would like to take a stab at following up on her point.

For proponents of both sides I would suggest that it's hard to deny the following 'facts':

n Projected costs and bitter history aside, a community center for Lake Oswego has the potential for providing wonderful benefits for a wide cross-section of our community.

n In purchasing the property with little public input the mayor and council badly mishandled the decision-making process.

n The $2 million dollar cap posed by Ballot Measure 3-239 may be too low to be workable.

n The way in which the issue has been handled has prompted a level of mistrust by a substantial number of our citizens.

n Facilities for swimming, tennis, library and community activities are woefully inadequate.

n The $20 million price tag for this project is misleading by perhaps as much as $60 million depending upon how the facility gets altered for whatever use is ultimately chosen.

n There are seismic issues with the existing city office building that need to be addressed and relocation to another site is one possible alternative.

n User fees for a new community center are a foregone conclusion as is the potential for city subsidies for operational expenses. (Experience from other communities bears this out.) The mayor and council should be forthcoming with a set of scenarios that shed some light on these possible costs.

n The core issue is one of affordability. For families with incomes in excess of six figures this may not be an issue. For those with incomes below that range and for seniors on fixed incomes, affordability can be a significant issue, particularly when the sewer interceptor and water projects are added to the equation.

n With so many possible use-options projecting total costs (acquisition, construction, staffing and operating) are extremely difficult to estimate with any degree of accuracy.

If we can agree that affordability is a common issue, I would urge that a series of 'what-if' cost scenarios be laid out by the mayor and council that include potential costs for remodeling and/or adding to the Safeco property as well as possible user fees, operating/staffing costs and potential subsidies based on experiences gleaned from other similarly-sized communities. The mayor's (column) in the Oct. 11 issue of The Oregonian does little to shed light on these other important cost factors.

I'm a retired architect with considerable experience in large scale corporate projects. For virtually all of my clients I developed comprehensive long-term cost scenarios. Some in the construction industry call this 'life-cycle cost estimating' (distinguished from 'value engineering'). Sure, it's a bit of shooting in the dark but for many of the clients 'soft' information regarding these cost issues was better than none at all and usually turned out to be a critical factor in their 'go/no go' decision-making process.

Emotional arguments aside, I would hope that we can come together as a community to talk about affordability. We desperately need to have an honest discussion about this critical issue and I would hope that proponents on both sides would agree.

Rick Parfrey is a resident of Lake Oswego.