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OC's two-story library expansion approved

Oregon City’s image for a two-story expansion of the Carnegie Library that originally resonated with the City Commission remained the top choice last Wednesday, despite the recommendations of city staff and a typically influential citizen group.

Photo Credit: RENDERING COURTESY: CITY OF OC - Architectural drawings for Oregon City's expansion and renovation of Carnegie Library show that a handicapped-accessible entrance can be built along John Adams Street.Library Board and Building Committee members recommended a one-story option based on more flexibility for its use, less space lost to stairs and its ability to support books with the least expense.

But a 4-1 vote by the City Commission instead took the two-story view recommended by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, which was concerned about the loss of twice the amount of space in Carnegie Park. Oregon City officials now are looking forward to a two-story expanded/renovated Carnegie Library that will only take up 7,500 square feet of Carnegie Park, save more trees from immediate removal, and preserve the swing set and slide in its current location.

Library Director Maureen Cole warned against Commissioner Kathy Roth’s plea to continue searching for other options. Although initially advocating for a one-story option, Cole preferred moving forward with the two-story option over Roth’s idea to research an underground option further.

“We just need a new, above-ground library,” Cole said. “The longer we take, the more money we spend, and the less goes toward the building.”

Roth and other city commissioners pointed out that many voters approved Oregon City taking out a $6 million bond for the library on the assumption that the widely circulated rendering of a two-story option would come to fruition. It was by far the top choice in polling at the library and online.

“We worked hard to make sure we were able to do that,” agreed Commissioner Carol Pauli, echoing the concern about making the current Carnegie Building stand out.

“When we put City Hall into this neighborhood it was over a $6 million blunder, and we don’t need to make another mistake like that,” Roth said.

Roth’s opponent in the November election, Brian Shaw, said that the stairs involved in the underground or two-story options would be an impediment to people using the facility. Roth countered that people are accustomed to using elevators, which shouldn’t be an impediment to anyone.

While agreeing with Roth on City Hall, Commissioner Rocky Smith said he still didn’t “feel confident” that the underground option would work. His primary concern with the two-story option was its increased difficulty for staffing and access. After lengthly debate among commissioners, Smith embraced the two-story option.

After Commissioner Betty Mumm also expressed her preference for a two-story option, Mayor Doug Neeley found out that less excavation and fill would be required for the two-story Option 1.

“The symmetry, I think, is important, and the fact is that Option 1 has a symmetry that is reasonably compatible,” Neeley said.

In response to a final protest from Roth about moving the library’s entrance off John Adams Street, Neeley said that another entrance to the library could be looked at rather than the Sixth Street entrance proposed in Option 1.

About $140,000 is budgeted for ongoing architectural and project-management work to refine the two-story design. Approximately 14 months is needed for the construction scheduled to begin in April 2015.

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