West Linn citizens are once again arguing over our past without regard to our common future. This time it’s the controversial Lake Oswego-Tigard partnership’s water treatment plant. Yes, Yogi Berra had it right: “It’s déja  vu all over again.”

Despite the emotion shown at the public hearing by some Robinwood neighbors, the facts of the matter are not hard to see. It’s true, expansion of the water plant and the new pipeline is critical to our neighbors. But the proposed project is no less important to all of West Linn.

It’s no secret portions of our water system are falling apart. West Linn needs millions in new investment just to repair what we have. It will take more millions to make sure that our water system is safe and secure. Ratepayer dollars, yours and mine, will have to pay the freight in the form of higher water utility bills.

Our citizens’ utility advisory board has spent countless hours documenting the deficiencies of our water system. West Linn’s own engineering consulting firm and the city’s finance director have made it clear our rates will climb by 30 percent on top of an already expected 25 percent if we cannot take advantage the new water plant and pipeline.

There are three concepts from which I look at the issues and they are the same ones that I applied before making decisions during my service to the people of West Linn:

  • Does the proposal fulfill the responsibility to plan for the future of our community, just as those years ago, planned for us? Prior long-term planning has brought us many good things in West Linn including excellent parks and neighborhoods. It has also brought us a backup water supply that is now in need of upgrading. We should seize this opportunity as it may not come around again.
  • Does a proposal create attractive economies-of-scale to lower the cost of long-term capital assets for each ratepayer? Capital assets intended for decades-long service cost millions of dollars. Lower ratepayer costs come sharing the expense with as many ratepayers as possible. Investments in our emergency water supply, which is an important part of our water system will surely cost more in the future. We should seize this opportunity now.
  • Does a proposal meet the West Linn’s Comprehensive Plan and Development Code? Our code is designed to protect the city, allow the orderly development of private property and achieve our planning goals as a city. The city’s staff report indicates that the proposal meets all plan and code requirements. I think that it’s a matter of civic responsibility that we support it.

    I believe the LO-Tigard project meets all three of these concepts.

    It gives us a leg up on West Linn’s Water Master Plan. It costs us less than if we plowed ahead on our own. And, it’s a compatible use broadly recognized in our city’s code, comprehensive plan and even the most recent Robinwood Neighborhood Plan.

    Larry McIntyre is a resident and former mayor of West Linn.

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