Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Cloudy

56°F

Portland

Cloudy

Humidity: 87%

Wind: 9 mph

  • 20 Oct 2014

    Showers 63°F 52°F

  • 21 Oct 2014

    Mostly Cloudy 63°F 55°F


Mayor lines up goals for term's final nine months

Don’t call it Oregon City Mayor Doug Neeley’s last State of the City Address, said mistress of ceremonies and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amber Holveck on Friday.

Although the mayor would have to take at least two years off from public office due to term limits, Neeley had several big initiatives he hopes to wrap up before his term expires at the end of this year, including a new police station, a renovated/expanded library, and development in the downtown urban-renewal area.

Neeley began remarks with a moment of silence for fallen OCPD Reserve Officer Rob Libke, who was shot by a suicidal arsonist in November. A round of applause followed for Libke’s wife, who just gave birth to their son last month.

Only two other cities in the state have Oregon City’s recently obtained AA credit rating, and Neeley celebrated the effort to reduce the amount of interest paid through public funding. Using that better credit rating, a ballot measure will appear on the May ballot to authorize Oregon City to sell the bonds to expand and renovate its Carnegie Library, built to serve 5,000 people and now serving a population of 54,000.

“Tremendous work has been done in terms of our fiscal management,” Neeley said.

He obliquely referenced the city’s (now resolved) dispute with Clackamas County over franchise fees that Neeley said had caused some controversy but were necessary to pass for the city’s credit rating. All entities, whether they are public or private, are now “paying their fair share” to obtain right of way for construction in the city, Neeley said.

More work still needs to be done, Neeley argued. Although voters prevented the water-rate rollback last year, the public-works department has identified “critical facility” needs that will threaten the quality of drinking water if voters don’t allow more than 3 percent per-year rate increases. City commissioners also have made it a goal to address more than $1 million in deferred maintenance for parks. By 2022, Oregon City is required to build a seismically sound police station and is in negotiations with the school district to identify a central location. (See below for more info.)

Efforts are underway to increase the city’s population, tax base and number of opportunities for economic development. Earlier this month, the City Commission voted 3-2 to approve the South End Concept Plan to guide growth in the area, but a second vote on the controversial plan is necessary this Wednesday before it becomes the law of the land. On the other end of the city, the approximately $40 million Clackamette Cove project soon will begin construction of garden apartments after years of languishing in the declining condo market.

PGE officials said the city has displayed “great leadership” in creating new potential jobs and a thriving economic potential in the former Blue Heron paper mill next to Willamette Falls. A developer still needs to be identified, but the effort has designated a section of the 23-acre site for buildings, while the area inside the floodplain is reserved for public access.

Neeley saved his “political” comments for the question-and-answer period: “We had a period of time where voter-approved annexations weren’t passing,” but that was just during the recession. After the recent passage of smaller annexations, Neeley is looking forward to more annexations passing to allow the development of the Beavercreek plan. Neeley also argued that the 2010 City Commission election eventually derailed the Rivers shopping-mall project for the Rossman Landfill.

“That gave us, Oregon City, a black eye,” Neeley said, suggesting that his potential successor’s support for development would be a major consideration for him in making his endorsement. He said that he doesn’t know who plans to run in November, but he sees a “need to hold the candidates’ feet to the fire” on the issue.

City's elegant solution?

The city of Oregon City and the Oregon City School District have reached a tentative agreement for the reuse of school district property that would eventually allow the city to construct a new police station and other administrative city facilities at the former Mt. Pleasant Elementary School property.

Both the City Commission and the School Board must ratify the proposed deal. Specific terms for the transaction have not yet been released to the public.

Pursuant to the agreement, the city would purchase the former Mt. Pleasant Elementary School property from the district. Leaders say the proposed purchase challenges for both organizations. The city is in dire need of a new police station and OCSD needs capital improvement funds and a clear title to another property — the former Barclay Elementary School. Barclay was closed in 1985 and subsequently used by Oregon City Community Education and partially leased to Marylhurst School.

In 1875, the city of Oregon City donated to OCSD part of the land upon which Barclay Elementary School was constructed. Research recently revealed a reversionary clause in the deed to return the property to the city, should the district no longer operate a “free and public school” at that location. As part of the proposed transaction to purchase Mt. Pleasant from OCSD, the city of Oregon City will release all claims to the Barclay property.

OCSD closed Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in 2012 as part of a greater restructuring that was in response to declining enrollment and budget shortfalls.

“This is really an elegant solution to what could have been a messy problem,” said Oregon City School District Superintendent Larry Didway. “The proposed deal is an example of how organizations can collaborate and find solutions that are mutually beneficial for a shared community.”

The city plans to renovate the Mt. Pleasant site, but retain historic features of the building in its redesign.

“The law requires that the Oregon City Police Department be relocated to a seismically approved public facility no later than 2022,” said City Manager David Frasher. “Thanks to the thoughtful collaboration between the city and the district, we have a common-sense solution that benefits both organizations and the people they serve.”

Both the city and school district intend to present the proposed land sale to their respective governing bodies for approval in a public meeting at the earliest opportunity.