Whats in the West End Buildings future?
- Sam Bennett
- Lake Oswego Review - News
The West End Building faces an uncertain future.
Two weeks after Lake Oswego voters approved retaining the building, city officials say they don't have any immediate plans for the 89,000-square-foot facility on Kruse Way, formerly known as the Safeco building.
'I don't know what the city council is going to want to do,' said Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad. 'When we do, we'll talk about the process leading us into making decisions on the building, based on community response.'
City officials said they're unsure about increasing the number of city workers in the building. Already, the Parks and Recreation staff is using the facility and sponsoring public classes there. But only a fraction of the spacious building is being used.
'Nothing is set in stone,' said Councilor Kristin Johnson, who proposed the Nov. 6 vote on whether to keep or sell the building.
In that vote, about 54 percent wanted to keep the building, which the city bought in July 2006.
'The biggest criticism of 3-273 (the Nov. 6 measure to keep or sell the West End Building) is that we didn't specify uses for the building,' said Johnson. 'To be honest, I wanted to have a plan to take to voters.'
Although the Nov. 6 vote gave the city permission to keep the building, it didn't include a funding mechanism to purchase it.
To buy the building in 2006, the city received a three-year line of credit and is paying off an interest-only loan. The city makes semi-annual payments of $500,000 for the interest. The next loan payment will be Dec. 1.
At the end of the three-year period, the city could extend the line of credit for another several years, according to Finance Director Richard Seals.
Another option is to hold an election and ask voters if they will approve a bond to pay off the building.
But Johnson said it makes more sense to come to voters with a package that includes a funding proposal for improvements to the building.
'If we're going to be retaining Safeco it makes sense to give a good, hard look at the facilities we have, particularly city hall,' she said. 'Maybe we should move city hall and sell that property.'
Indeed, there are many options for the West End Building, including moving police and the 9-1-1 dispatch center, opening a satellite library or a public/private partnership to redevelop the property and use part of it as a community center.
'We need to make a decision about how to best serve the needs of the city,' said Johnson.
In the aftermath of the Nov. 6 vote, Hammerstad and proponents of keeping the building said they hoped to mend the divisions between those who wanted to keep and those who wanted to sell the West End Building.
But opponents of selling the building, including the group Ask Lake Oswegans, haven't taken a conciliatory stance.
'They might want us to go away, but that might be wishful thinking on their part,' said Ask Lake Oswegans spokesperson John Surrett. 'We're waiting to hear what they say.'
The city could bring a funding proposal to voters in March, but that election will have other funding measures on it and will be a super-majority election.
Further complicating things is the fact that the city council has a packed agenda in the next few months, according to Johnson.
The council must select a new city manager, consider new annexations, make decisions regarding the $100 million sewer interceptor project as well as a potential deal with the city of Tigard for upgrades to the water treatment plant.
'I think the biggest challenge in the next few months is going to be at what point do we take a plan that is complete to the voters,' she said. 'That's the hard part.'