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Public Safety Building: The time is now

The City Council can potentially fund the vitally needed Police/911/Lake Oswego Communications (LOCOM) facility within existing resources. The following vision for building and financing the facility addresses why it needs to be built, and how it can be paid for within existing resources.

Why

The existing facility is:

Seismically unsafe. The need for structural stability for the police facility in the event of an earthquake is critical. Police, along with fire department and operations/maintenance people, are first responders in emergencies. If they can’t respond and coordinate their responses, citizens will be subject to unnecessary risk.

Undersized. One small example: When the gun storage locker is a converted broom closet, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Inefficiently laid out. The police work environment is important. It needs to be workable and utilitarian. The current functional work flow is inefficient for today’s police force. The existing space is not open and/or inviting to the community. The second-floor police department does not provide for much, if any, street presence, a vital aspect of our community-based policing motto of “no call too small.”

Technologically outdated. The current building design does not provide space to make best use of technology in policing — from servers to automated reporting to records management, the current space prevents the Department from being the best resource for our community.

How to Pay

We can rebuild the Police/911/LOCOM facility using Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency (LORA) funds within existing resources. The project is an approved project for which LORA funds can be used. The LORA plan lists emergency dispatch capabilities, police and court functions as approved fundable projects. The precedent for utilizing LORA dollars for improving and constructing public facilities was established when Lake Oswego rebuilt the downtown fire station utilizing LORA funds; $3.5 million was set aside in the 2014/15 LORA budget.

Spending LORA dollars for the Police/911/LOCOM building brings the city closer to the day of meeting an original East End District promise from 1987-1988: closing the East End District and returning incremental property tax dollars to the general fund. By utilizing East End LORA dollars for Police/911/LOCOM, citizens are able to share in the financial benefits of the East End urban renewal district sooner. After 27 years and wonderful work within the East End District, it is time to develop the path for closing the district down.

Going forward

It does not make sense to ask for a voter-approved general obligation bond measure to raise our property taxes for a “shared sacrifice” project when we already have “shared sacrifice” in existing property taxes, utility fees, franchise fees, etc. The project must be value-engineered. We need to make certain the building meets seismic standards for public safety facilities. We need to ensure every cost saving measure is employed to construct and operate the building.

Council must focus on public buildings and facilities needed to provide basic services to the city. As the city, we provide institutions, rules and infrastructure, and our citizens in their efforts provide the rest for a great community.

The projects can be done within existing resources. Demonstrating we can do this project without asking for a tax increase is a powerful message that we are good stewards of our limited dollars.

Jeff Gudman is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council.



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