Two-district model could work in Gladstone
It was just a year ago that I submitted an article for this newspaper supporting an effort by the city of Milwaukie to expand its library ("Let's embrace all of our county's libraries," April 27, 2016).
In May of last year, Milwaukie voters approved a funding measure for constructing major improvements to the Ledding Library. Congratulations to the city of Milwaukie! They successfully engaged their citizens in designing their library improvements at a cost that the voters agreed upon.
Recently during a mediation between the city of Gladstone and Clackamas County there was one particular proposal the county put forth that is worth serious consideration. We call it the "two-district model," which is very similar to a model that was used to fund and construct the Estacada Library.
The city of Estacada also engaged their community and designed a library that appealed to their voters. The county assisted Estacada and formed a County Service District for the sole purpose of funding the construction of a new library. After the library was constructed and the bond was paid, the district was dissolved.
The very same method can be applied to Gladstone, if city officials and residents are interested.
Following two particular measures since 2013, the county heard the message loud and clear from voters in Gladstone who did not want a nearly 20,000-square-foot library on Webster Road, but rather a smaller library along Portland Avenue. Consequently the arrangement to build one large library to serve both Gladstone and the Oak Lodge area residents was no longer viable.
The city of Gladstone could engage their citizens and focus on a library of their choice and within their reach, and without the burden of serving a large unincorporated population. The two-district model would allow the formation of a district for the capital funding and construction of a library of their choosing.
Consequently the residents in the greater Oak Lodge area will be on their own to find a new home for their library. They too can focus on a library of their choice and within their reach. Another, but separate, district can also be formed for the purposes of capital funding and construction of a library to serve the greater Oak Lodge area residents.
It is important that we solve the library issues for both communities. The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners recognizes the needs of all residents in Clackamas County, whether or not they live in a city. The two-district model offers both communities an opportunity to design a library that meets their needs, and ideally at a cost the voters in each community are willing to support.
Let us remember that adults are not the only users of libraries. Libraries are also learning centers for children and youth. Libraries are the interface to the imagination; a connection to a vast bank of knowledge; serving those seeking to explore, those seeking success, and those seeking answers, regardless of age. Knowledge is the key to success.
Paul Savas is a Clackamas County commissioner.