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We also love Oregon City's library plan

Voters in Oregon City getting their ballots over the next few days can be excused for wondering, “Why are we even being asked to approve the expansion and renovation of our library?”

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - This model of Oregon City's Carnegie Library took 9-year-old twins an estimated 80 hours to complete as part of this month's 'I Love My Library' contest.It seems redundant to go to voters when all five city commissioners already last June supported the estimated $10 million project, which they plan to fund without any tax increase. Their approval was on the recommendation of the five citizens on the Oregon City Library Board, joined by two unincorporated Clackamas County members representing the thousands who use the library in Beavercreek and Redland.

However, Oregon City’s municipal charter was amended in 1996 to include a voter-approval requirement for any expenditure that takes more than a year to pay back. Oregon City might be unique in having this ballot-box hurdle for its public projects. That said, citizens had every right to demand this extra step for accountability for its elected officials, which has resulted in thoughtful and transparent process for getting the best city library for taxpayers’ dollars.

Oregon City is trying to get general obligation bonds, which have the lowest interest rates, just as new homeowners should attempt to get the lowest rates possible on their mortgage. In theory, voters would be giving the city the opportunity to raise taxes for the $6 million needed to complete the project, but that shouldn’t be necessary. Clackamas County library district funds are sufficient to cover paying back the bond.

A total of 15,000-square-feet isn’t a huge library to serve 54,000 people in the area, so the proposed expansion is modest. Library Director Maureen Cole says design work would start immediately after the passage of the measure, and construction could be completed by the end of 2015.

While citizens should vote for the bond, they should also remain engaged with the design process, which has been put on hold so as not to waste money in case of the measure’s failure.

If the library stayed in its current location during construction, the construction costs themselves would take longer and total more. But there’s an extra cost to moving to a temporary location too, and city leaders should carefully weigh that with the incalculable disadvantage of losing regular patrons at a leased facility.

With the fire station directly across the street from the library, disabled parking has been a challenge. Oregon City late last year for $230,000 purchased 19 parking spaces across the street and just up the hill. If there were a two-story building, which was the library design that really impressed everyone last year, there could be an entrance for disabled patrons away from the fire station.

At a public meeting at the library Wednesday, April 30, at 7 p.m., architects Sid Scott and Dennis Humphries will encourage Oregon City Public Library patrons to participate in planning the new library. Informational aspects of the event will begin with Scott and Humphries talking about what is currently going on with the new library project. In turn, library users are invited to share their thoughts and provide input about what they want in the expanded library, including a “mind-breaking exercise” where people stick Post-Its on boards with ideas.



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  • 30 Aug 2014

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  • 31 Aug 2014

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