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Not another city 'Taj Ma-hall'

Albert Einstein said, “only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

The Gladstone City Council does its best under the circumstances, with declining tax revenue and ongoing recession. This is not to say they don’t make mistakes in judgment.

During their April 9 meeting, the City Councilors seemed determined to make another one. They are considering another “city-Taj-Ma-hall.” They discussed several options, including plans to build a new City Hall, including police, fire and city administrative offices, and maybe new library space. The Portland Avenue street improvement plan might be resurrected too. The council agreed to publish an “options” report soon.

The cost? Councilor Mesereau said the last estimate he heard for the downtown street improvement plan was $12 to $15 million dollars. In January 2013, the city hired MacKenzie Group to do a city hall space needs analysis. The library was not included in this analysis. Mackenzie estimates construction costs for a new City Hall at $6-8 million, depending on a location on Webster Road or downtown. If you add say, 8,000 square feet of library space at $444 per square foot, that’s another $3,552,000. And $8 million plus $3,552,000 equals $11,552,000. Next, add $11,552,000 plus $15 million; and the total construction cost comes to an incredible $26,552,000!

What will it take to move our City Council to a reasonable and practical solution? Maybe remodeling City Hall and the current library should be at the top of the list? The city has a bid to repair City Hall for $2.9 million. They have an affordable cost estimate for the Happy Valley library expansion and remodel last year for $3 million at $165 per square foot. So, why not remodel both Gladstone City Hall and the existing library for say, $3 million? Even better, why not hire the contractor who remodeled Happy Valley?

Do library supporters have the common sense to realize that new construction means higher construction costs, higher operating costs, over $20-25 million in debt, and new higher taxes and levies — all completely irrational and quite beyond the city or the taxpayers ability to pay.

If the voters said no to a $10 million library, what makes you think they won’t reject it again? Wishful thinkers: are you confusing your wants with your needs? City Council: which part of no don’t you understand?

Rose Johnson is a resident of Gladstone.




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