Tualatin staff will scatter to other city offices

A Jan. 31 deadline forced an ambivalent Tualatin City Council to decide on a proposed extension of Seneca Street and give up its current building, which will be torn down to make way for the road.

The project was included in the city’s updated Transportation System Plan as a move to relieve congestion.

Developer CenterCal Properties will take care of the demolition, as well as road construction, funded by Transportation Development Tax funds.

The decision was hardly a unanimous one. Councilors Frank Bubenik and Wade Brooksby, as well as Mayor Lou Ogden, casted dissenting votes.

Ogden objected to the project’s cost and questioned its utility.

“I’d submit this is not a congestion solution,” Ogden said. “It’s not wholly a pedestrian solution, because we can solve that in other ways.”

He also expressed concerns that once the building was demolished, new city council facilities would never be built elsewhere.

“Why not spend the time and do a public facility study, get a plan where you determine the site, long-term needs — have it done in a way you can phase it, and have the public say, ‘I want to pay for that?’ Otherwise, we are not going to build it,” he said.

Booksby agreed.

“I was always taught as a child if you need an answer right now, the answer should be no,” he said. He objected to what he saw as the open-ended nature of the plan, as well as several logistical uncertainties about replacement city facilities.

Ogden did not believe the city could afford the extension.

“I would encourage the council to defer building Seneca Street until we’ve done the due diligence, got the community support, got the public involvement,” he said, and was greeted with applause from members of the community in attendance to register their opposition to the project.

Representatives from Tualatin’s citizen involvement organizations for the Riverpark and Ibach neighborhoods, as well as the Midwest CIO and CIO No. 6, launched a campaign detailed at Among their complaints: The extension is not necessary, that it will split the library parking lot and inconvenience patrons, and that the associated costs would be better spent elsewhere.

If the city declined to pursue an extension, CenterCal agreed to an in-lieu fee of about $360,000, City Manager Sherilyn Lombos explained. That money could only be spent on a Seneca-related project, however.

The cost of a new City Council and city office building was estimated to be about $4 million. Of that, the city said $2 million would be financed, and partially offset by the $50,000 the city currently pays to rent office space for its administrative staff.

With Monday’s vote, a move became eminent for many employees. Finance department staff will relocate to the city’s emergency operations center on Herman Road, and municipal court and utility staff will join planning staff in city offices housed in the Tualatin Public Library building and make use of the planning counter. Administrative staff will stay put in off-site offices, which the city leases at a cost of about $50,000 a year.

Meanwhile, City Council meetings and municipal court proceedings would be moved to the Tualatin Police Department’s training room.

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