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Voters to see library, water issues

Oregon City tentatively set its election schedule last week to give voters one issue per ballot over the next couple years.

At the Oct. 9 meeting, Library Director Maureen Cole said she plans to ask the City Commission to set a May 2014 ballot measure that would fund renovation and expansion of the Carnegie Library. Taxpayers wouldn’t see increases, officials noted, but voters would still have to approve the city taking out a loan. The estimated $9.8 million project would require the city to take out a $6 million loan with about $559,000 in annual debt service out of the general fund.

Meanwhile, city commissioners again considered whether to ask voters for a second measure to allow water-rate increases larger than 3 percent. In May, voters amended the Oregon City Charter so water rates didn’t roll back to 1994 levels. Rate-increase caps and a rollback were both parts of a 1996 measure passed by Oregon City voters.

Public Works Director John Lewis expected it would be too politically messy for the water-rate measure to compete with the library or the City Commission election in November 2014. He reminded the City Commission of the status of Oregon City’s estimated pipeline-replacement needs and the inadequate current funding levels for capital improvements.

Mayor Doug Neeley also said he wouldn’t like to see two money measures in one year. He was pleased to hear that Lewis thought he found a way to keep water-system quality up until a May 2015 vote.

“I appreciate your forestalling that for another year,” Neeley told Lewis.

Even in an emergency, Oregon City would have to get voter approval for a water-rate increase larger than 3 percent.