Councilor, citizen question wisdom of property deals

Beaverton’s City Hall is moving to The Round at Beaverton Central.

After nearly a year of public discussions, open houses, studies, consultant reports and rumors regarding city space needs, the City Council on Tuesday night decided to move the city’s municipal government offices to the five-story South/Metro Office Building it owns at The Round at Beaverton Central.

The council cleared the path toward Tuesday’s 4-1 decision as it reduced potential sites for a proposed new public safety and municipal courts facility down to the current City Hall property at 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive.

Numerous details — including whether to retrofit or replace the existing City Hall building to efficiently accommodate police and courts — remain to be worked out. It’s unclear whether a bond measure ballot for the public safety building could be readied in time for the May election. Tuesday’s vote, however, marks a pivotal point in moving city government offices to The Round while clearing space for courts and public safety facilities to stretch out at Griffith Drive.

“The simple truth we’ve all known for 26 years, is that the city has outgrown its City Hall,” said city Program Manager Holly Thompson, noting the former bank was considered a temporary solution that stretched to three decades. “The results are overcrowding and inefficiencies.”

With the exception of dissenting commentary from Councilor Betty Bode, who cast the lone vote against the proposal, the council made the decision quickly, with relatively little comment.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” said new Councilor Mark Fagin, who was sworn in at last week’s meeting to former Councilor Cathy Stanton’s position. “Obviously we have an issue, and we need a solution. We need to take care of our officers. We have safety issues we need to address.”

Fiscal responsibility

The council agreed to purchase the 108,000-square-foot South/Metro Office Building at 12725 S.W. Millikan Way for $8.65 million in April 2012. Bode argued the purchase, using general fund dollars along with a $6 million bank-issued line of credit, left the city in a potentially precarious debt situation.

“One of the financial considerations to keeping the city fiscally sound is to keep a certain percentage in the general fund,” she said Tuesday night. “That brings us down below the level we wanted to have.”

When she voted to buy the building, Bode understood the primary purpose was to avoid the city’s annual $400,000 lease to its ground-floor Central Plant, which supplies heating and cooling to The Round buildings. With City Hall to occupy three of the building’s five floors, the city removes valuable office space from the market, she maintained. And no property tax would be collected from the publicly owned building.

“I don’t know that municipal employees need class A office space to do their work,” she noted. “We don’t have the money to do this right now. I’m really pro business. I want people who rent space to continue doing their thing.”

Different reasons

When the building was purchased last spring, several councilors and staff indicated the structure could be used in a number of ways, including as a potential future site for City Hall. Its primary selling point was as a below market-value property investment that relieved the city of its Central Plant lease burden.

“The reason we’re buying the building is to get out from under the $400,000 annual lease,” said city Finance Director Patrick O’Claire at the March 20, 2012, council meeting.

On Tuesday night, however, Councilor Cate Arnold said she saw City Hall moving to the South Office Building from the get-go.

“My vote had nothing to do with the heating and cooling arrangement,” she said of the Central Plant lease. “I voted for it at the beginning with the idea of moving (City Hall) to The Round ... And I thought it was the most fiscally responsible thing to do.”

On the right track?

After the meeting, Arnold said she felt the process that led to Tuesday’s decision considered a range of solutions and included plenty of supportive public comment.

“We’ve talked and talked about it, in meeting after meeting,” she noted.

Beaverton resident Gary Kniss, however, questioned the council’s transparency, and still wonders what moving City Hall will ultimately cost the public.

“It’s been talked about and bantered about, but I’ve never seen the facts,” he said. “I’ve never seen the approximate figures of what this will cost taxpayers. I don’t feel it was a transparent meeting. Once again, they’ve got the train leaving the station, but they don’t know the destination.”

Given the meeting’s outcome, Councilor Ian King admitted the yearlong process — in a well-intentioned effort to explore various options and requests — was more convoluted than it needed to be.

“We should have been here much sooner,” he admitted. “It was not the council’s finest hour.”

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine