Clackamas County officials mull phasing construction, scaling down plans for community center

RENDERING COURTESY: CLACKAMAS COUNTY - A new library wing is proposed to be constructed next to a renovation of the current 1936 building on NCPRD's Concord School property.Clackamas County officials are weighing options for redesigning construction of the Oak Lodge Library and an adjoining community facility after preliminary design drafts came in $7.2 million overbudget.

The new library, along with a community center and park, are planned for the old Concord School property purchased by North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District in 2019 near the intersection of Concord Road and McLoughlin Boulevard.

A new Gladstone Library is set to be developed at the old Gladstone City Hall site, 525 Portland Ave., yet project officials said during a policy session on Tuesday that initial designs for the building came in close to the available budget and poses less cause for concern.

Project concepts were largely driven by a community task force that's been holding virtual meetings regularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure they are mindful of each community's needs.

NCPRD Director Mike Bork updated commissioners on Tuesday that initial plans comprised nearly everything community members asked for, however, little regard was given to the actual funding available.

"The scope was put together and then the budget was put together after," Bork said. "There were assumptions right from the beginning that created an unsustainable budget for NCPRD."

According to a project memorandum dated Nov. 4, as currently designed, the library's estimated cost peaked at $29.7 million in July, with the NCPRD facility at one point projected to cost the county $45.8 million.

If both projects are engineered at the best economic value, the library is estimated to cost just over $16 million and the NCPRD facility a minimum of $13.7 million, projected by construction contractors hired to advise the county on realistic design cost estimates before construction begins.

Even with these reductions, per the memorandum, both estimates still far exceed what the county is currently ready to spend. Just $14.8 million in funding is available for county use through revenue bonds, with an estimated $7.7 million in additional accumulations.

As project officials explain in the memorandum, "without significant reductions or an infusion of several million dollars from the County General Fund," neither project is likely to be built anytime soon.

Bork told commissioners on Nov. 9 that there is frankly "no way" the county can afford to build the facilities as currently designed without going "significantly into unsustainable debt."

"We still intend on creating a community center; there's still the intent to create the library; we're just trying to work within the means that we actually have, not what we think we might be able to afford at some point," Bork said. "And that is a greatly reduced amount."

As a recourse, project officials have considered phasing construction out over an additional couple of years to allow enough time for coordinators and staff to come up with ways to locate additional funding.

"We would move forward with trying to get at least some of the elements that the community had said that they wanted it as far as community space, teen space, meeting space, party space, things like that — and develop that with that $7.7 (million) that we've gotten," Bork explained.

While that is taking place, he added, the idea is to develop a comprehensive plan to incorporate as many community design requests as possible in a second construction phase one or two years down the line, which staff is "confident" they will be able to accomplish. Both projects could still begin construction at roughly the same time as each other, just with a "smaller scale or scope" for what the community center would look like.

County officials have previously decided to separate larger efforts into smaller, more manageable pieces. Project coordinator Cindy Becker said that the project began with the libraries in Oak Lodge and Gladstone as well as the community facility considered as one big project.

While the phasing option may delay completion past 2022 as is tentatively scheduled, commissioners largely agreed with staff that a phased approach would be the best way to provide the community with facilities meeting their standards.

"What's happened is that the community kind of has planned something that maybe for them was, you know, really, it's the platinum standard — and maybe we can only give them gold," said Commissioner Martha Schrader.

"I do think that it's wise to separate out both of the projects right now," she added.RENDERING COURTESY: CLACKAMAS COUNTY - Architectural renderings for Gladstone's new library seen as 'institutional' will be softened as designs are refined.

Chair Tootie Smith suggested that community members be consulted for ways to identify funding sources for constructing the full scope of the project.

"I do like the phased in approach," Smith said. "Maybe the community members can help us get to where we need to be what the available funds, and we can identify funds for the future. But it's not going to happen tomorrow."

Commissioner Paul Savas, who serves as the board liaison to NCPRD, said continuing to scale down the library project may not be in the best interest of fairness. On Nov. 2, the Milwaukie City Council approved an intergovernmental agreement that commits NCPRD to an additional $5.6 million to construct the next phase of Milwaukie Bay Park, which has an estimated project cost of $9.6 million.

"Maybe we'll need (Oak Lodge Library) phasing, maybe we won't need phasing, but I don't think that the project should take a significant haircut unless we're to take a haircut to all projects," Savas said. "It doesn't seem fair."

Savas predicted the board will inevitably be criticized by the public for appearing to be underdelivering on what community members were promised.

"They have heard that we could get there from here, and now they're going to hear that we can't get there," Savas said. "So no matter what, at the end of the day, they're going to look at us."

Commissioner Sonya Fischer, who called the phasing suggestion "very reasonable," emphasized that transparency was a key priority of the board and community input will continue to be "critical" in making decisions that will impact the future of this project and beyond.

Project officials will present proposals for filling funding gaps at two upcoming policy sessions, including a presentation regarding the Gladstone Library on Nov. 23 and the Oak Lodge and NCPRD facility on Dec. 1.

To learn more about the projects, click here.

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