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Financing our future, part 3

The Lake Oswego City Council can potentially fund the Police/911/LOCOM (Lake Oswego Communications) facility and operations/maintenance center within existing resources. Let’s discuss the police facility. Our police department provides 911 dispatch services for our police, fire and public works departments as well as for several other cities and districts. There is nuance and trade-offs, but there is a way forward.

The police facility inside city hall needs replacement for the following reasons:Gudman

1) Seismically unsafe and undersized — The existing facility is seismically unsafe and undersized. The need for structural stability for the police facility in the event of an earthquake is critical. Police, along with fire department and operations/maintenance people, are first responders in emergencies. If they can’t respond and coordinate their response, our citizens will be subject to unnecessary risk. Undersized — one small example. When the gun storage locker is a converted broom closet, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

2) Inefficient layout — The functional flow of work is inefficient for today’s police force. The existing space is not open and/or inviting to the community. What may have worked 25 years ago does not work today.

3) Work environment — The work environment for the police is important. It needs to be workable. Not talking luxurious, but workable.

4) Technological change — The current building design does not provide space to make the best use of technology in policing — from servers to automated reporting to records management, the current space prevents the department from being the best resource for our community.

The project must be value engineered. Exactly what level of earthquake resistance is needed? Every means of reducing the cost of building and subsequent operating costs must be vigorously pursued.

If need has been identified, how to pay?

We can rebuild the police facility using Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency (LORA) funds with no increase in taxes. The LORA plan lists emergency dispatch capabilities, police and court functions as approved fundable projects.

Spending LORA dollars for the facility brings the city closer to meeting an original East End district promise of 1987/1988 (of) closing the East End district and returning incremental property tax dollars to the general fund. By utilizing East End LORA district dollars, citizens are able to share in financial benefits of the East End urban renewal district sooner. After 27 years and wonderful work within the East End district, it is time to develop the path for closing the district down.

It does not make sense to ask for a voter-approved general obligation bond measure to raise our property taxes for a “shared sacrifice” project when we already have “shared sacrifice” in existing property taxes, utility fees, franchise fees, etc.

The council must focus on public buildings and facilities needed to provide basic services of the city. As the city, we provide institutions, rules and infrastructure, and our citizens in their efforts provide the rest for a great community. The projects can be done within existing resources. Demonstrating we can do these projects without asking for a tax increase is a powerful message to our citizens that we are good stewards of our limited dollars.

This vision for financing our future is not powerful because it is set forth in this column. It is powerful because it is, for all its benefits, limitations and faults, the best way forward.

Jeff Gudman is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council, and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the city council.

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