Council, staff show grace under fire
I commend the city councilors who voted to continue the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership, and the staff members who did all the footwork, for their professional, respectful and dignified conduct through a contentious process.
Citizens are understandably upset at rising utility bills, and some new councilors campaigned on the promise that they would do all they could to reduce the costs of the water projects. The council has indeed examined the project as thoroughly as possible in the short time they have been in office. Some councilors insist that the projects should be delayed so they can spend more time looking for other alternatives, but others have faced the reality that delay at this point would carry unacceptably high financial and legal costs. That takes courage and the ability to move off a previous position in the face of credible facts. This is responsible leadership.
Staff has been caught in the political crossfire, with citizens who distrust anything the previous councils supported taking their frustration out on staff members by implying that they have pressured the council for some unknown reason and are not to be trusted. All evidence is to the contrary. Staff members have continued to supply detailed and well-vetted information to anyone who requests it, and they do so respectfully.
My experience over the past year is that anytime I have a question, I can pick up the phone and call the appropriate city department and receive a detailed, nonbiased answer. Most times it is not the answer I am expecting, and I end up changing what I had planned to write. The full story is always different than the short version we read in the newspaper. This proved true when I called for information on the water projects. I am deeply impressed with the depth of knowledge these folks have and the extent to which they have gone to answer every possible question.
These are the things I didnt know about the water projects:
There is a window of opportunity for in-water work this summer, which we would miss if we delayed any longer. That would delay the project for a year, putting us in breach of our contract with Tigard and causing unacceptable increases in costs.
Tigard has a huge underground aquifer capable of storing 400 million gallons of water, which is eight times the capacity of both cities reservoirs combined. That is of incalculable value to us in the event that our water supply should be disrupted.
Tigard is connected to the Bull Run and Trask River water supplies. Again, in the event of a disruption in supply, having ties to other sources provides another level of protection.
We are extremely fortunate to have these benefits from this partnership, an outstanding staff to do the work and city council members who are willing to work across the ideological divide for the health and safety of our citizens.
Jan Castle is a resident of Lake Oswego.
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