Oak Lodge resident: Public input is sorely needed for library
As a member of the Concord School Library and Community Center Task Force and a Board member of the Oak Grove Community Council, I feel it is my duty to provide update information to the Community on recent activities regarding the status of the Oak Lodge Library, Community Center and park to be located at the Concord School site.
The Task Force, in an effort to provide clear recommendations to the County Board of Commissioners (BCC) on the design of the project and how to bring the project within budget, met on Tuesday March 15th to consider two design options. The first design option was to recommend on whether the library should be attached to the Community Center (similar to the originally approved plan) or separate the library as a standalone building allowing its construction to be independent of the Community Center renovation, which is severely over budget. The Task Force by consensus agreed that the library building should be a standalone building. This recommendation follows similar recommendations by the Library Board, the NCPRD District Advisory Board and the general membership of the Oak Grove Community Council. This recommendation was presented to the County Board of Commissioners sitting as the Board of Directors for the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District during a NCPRD Board meeting on Wednesday March 30th.
The second design option concerned the location of the library building on the site and whether the building should be designed as a single-story or two-story facility. Two location options were discussed, one directly adjacent to the school building and the other located next to the westerly property line. After much discussion a majority of Task Force members present requested NCPRD to direct Opsis the Architect of Record, to prepare additional illustrations comparing and contrasting these two design elements. Members in favor voiced that more information was needed to make an informed decision.
Considerable frustration was felt by all meeting attendees that consensus has been elusive and that more work, more time and more money was needed to make a majority recommendation. For perspective, the original masterplan for the project was unanimously approved by the Task Force in 2020 after two years of work and then adopted by the Board of County Commissioners in early 2021. In November 2021 the County Staff determined that the funding plan previously provided to the Task Force was unworkable.
After the March 15th meeting, NCPRD staff consulted the BCC Chair for direction on spending additional dollars on design fees required to develop options requested by the Task Force. The Chair was reportedly unsupportive, Opsis has not been directed to perform the additional work and the status of future Task Force deliberations is uncertain.
The Task Force has been pressured by NCPRD since November to make decisions on a re-design of the originally approved masterplan within a matter of weeks, not following the same process that brought unanimous approval the first time, and attempting it through shortcuts in public meetings and community engagement. This pressure is divisive and contentious, and contrary to the way in which the Task Force has functioned since its inception in 2018.
The Concord School project was discussed during the NCPRD Board of Directors meeting on March 30th but only in the context of the NCPRD portion of the project, namely the Community Center and park. Chair Smith advised that the Library would not be discussed and no public comment would be allowed regarding the Library portion of the project since this was a Parks meeting. I would submit that since the Library portion is managed, directed and executed by NCPRD, the building program of spaces was set by them, the size and cost of the Library is being determined by them and the Architect operates under their direction, discussion of the Library is quite applicable during NCPRD meetings. Director Michael Bork advised that further recommendations on the Library would be forthcoming to the County Board of Commissioners in future BCC sessions. However, at this time there are no future Task Force or public community meetings scheduled.
Public input is sorely needed for Task Force members and the BCC to make decisions that reflect community needs and aspirations on this once-in-a-generation project. Additional public Task Force meetings and additional community engagement should be scheduled as soon as possible to ensure our community is heard.
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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