Oak Lodge resident: County should apologize for library comments
There has recently been some misconception created by the Board of County Commissioners and the North Clackamas Parks & Recreation leadership regarding the work of the Concord School Task Force since its inception three years ago, and the outcome of the Concord School Masterplan approved by the BCC in January of this year. I wanted to take this opportunity to provide my recollective history of the task force work on this project and correct some of the misunderstandings that have arisen about this project.
The Concord Property and Oak Lodge Library project was discussed Nov. 9, when NCPRD Director Michael Bork and Project Coordinator Cindy Becker gave the BCC an update on the status of the project and the projected cost overruns for the library, Community Center and park. Opinions were expressed that the task force was in part responsible for the current budget overrun because of the "ask" by the community and task force for elements of the project.
Commissioner Martha Schrader stated her perception: "The community planned something that for them is the platinum standard and maybe we can only give them gold. We gave folks free rein to reimagine what they really wanted to have there." Director Bork concurred with this analogy.
Chair Tootie Smith stated her frustration with the design that includes a new gymnasium, stating, "We have these wonderful community people ... it kind of reminds me of a 4-year old: I want my candy bar before dinner, I want it now, and I want it before dinner now and, no, Mommy, I'm not going to pay attention!"
These statements suggest that the task force was responsible for cost overruns due to demands to greatly increase the project scope and program over its original conception. The facts say otherwise. The task force was created by NCPRD for the express reason of assisting them in the design of a combined library, community center and park project. The idea for a combined project was not task force or community driven. Rather it was created after the NCPRD acquisition of the Concord property through a land swap with the North Clackamas School District and by action of the Board of County Commissioners acting as the NCPRD board in a policy session held on April 3, 2018, with the express intention "to allow for shared resources and greater efficiencies while exploring the use of the Concord property as the potential site for the Oak Lodge Library."
The task force did not create or approve the scope, nor were we at any time involved in establishing or managing the budget for the project. That was completely controlled by NCPRD. It is disingenuous, to say the least, to suggest that the task force is in any way responsible. I believe NCPRD and the BCC owe the community a public apology for the creation of this misconception.
One of the first questions the task force was asked to answer during the early days of our deliberations was to provide a recommendation to the BCC on whether the new library should be located on the Concord property or elsewhere. At that time the task force was concerned about the financial viability of the project and asked NCPRD leadership (Scott Archer and the NCPRD project manager) if they had adequate funds to fulfill their portion of what would become a co-dependent project. The task force was assured at that time that NCPRD had sufficient resources to cover their obligations and the task force should not be concerned about the NCPRD portion of the project budget. Details of financing for the NCPRD project budget were not shared or discussed in task force meetings. However, there was discussion regarding county funding for the library portion, the limitation of funds and options to fill a potential budget gap through a county general obligation bond that would not be dependent on voter approval. Upon this understanding and NCPRD reassurances, the motion to locate the Library on the Concord property was approved by the task force.
On Nov. 16, the Concord Property and Oak Lodge Library Task Force recommended three actions be taken now by NCPRD and the BCC. First, the county should slow down consideration of the NCPRD recommendation to separate the library and Community Center into separate projects with separate budgets and construction timelines. Second, further community input is needed to corroborate the priority of this important civic project and whether completing this project in phases will meet community needs; and third, the county should aggressively pursue state and federal grant opportunities to fully fund the project as established in the approved master plan. I believe these steps are crucial in ensuring that the project meets the needs of our community, and essential in restoring the community's confidence and trust in both NCPRD and BCC leadership.
Mark A. Elliott is a member of the Oak Grove Community Council and the Concord Property and Oak Lodge Library Task Force.
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