City council gets ready to put bond measure on the ballot again in May

Two months after a proposed Cornelius library expansion and senior housing project was defeated in the November election by 76 votes, a citizens’ group has asked the city councilors to put it back on the ballot in May.

“It’s going to take a lot of people to get the word out if we’re going to be successful,” said Melody Johnson, speaking on behalf of the 100-member Friends of the Cornelius Library. “And we need to put to rest any concerns residents might have.”

Roughly 50 supporters attended an hour-long town hall meeting on the topic at the Cornelius City Council chambers Monday night.

When Johnson asked all those in favor of re-submitting the bond issue to stand up, almost all stood.

No one spoke in opposition to the project, although many residents had expressed concerns on a Facebook page moderated by former Cornelius Mayor Neal Knight. Knight has voiced strong objections to the cost of running and maintaining the new facility.

If approved, the project would cost a total of $12.8 million. The city’s share would be $4.8 million, with taxpayers directly responsible for $2.4 million — the amount of the bond measure.

Bienestar, a nonprofit company, would cover the $8 million cost of the 41-unit senior housing portion.

At Monday night’s meeting, resident Jose Rivera urged the council to put the project on the ballot and praised Bienestar as having an excellent reputation.

“This is a great opportunity to bring a new library to our community. The time is right,” he said.

Vailey Oehike, director of the Multnomah County Library, said she was “a big fan of the Cornelius Library, and its director, Karen Hill.” Oehike also emphasized the city’s need for an expanded tech center, as the current library has only 11 computers.

“A growing number of residents need to use the Internet to research job opportunities,” she explained, “and students need computers to help do their homework. Libraries are key in preparing our children in language use.”

“It’s critical that kids read at grade level,” added Marianne Vandervelden. “Libraries are essential in developing a student’s English and Spanish proficiency. A new and expanded tech center will help our children learn how to function in our modern world.”

Others from the audience pointed out that a new library with its community center would be a safe haven for children, and would probably become “the heart of our community.”

Brad Coffey, chair of the Yes for Cornelius Library Political Action Committee, did not see the loss in November’s election as insurmountable.

“We could have done a better job of telling the public just how worthwhile this project is, and what a positive effect it would have on the community,” he said. “If the bond measure doesn’t pass this time, we will only be hurting those who need it the most. Give us another chance. We can do it.”

During the regular city council session Monday, Mayor Jef Dalin asked for — and received — a consensus agreement from the city councilors to proceed.

The city has until the end of February to officially place the bond measure on the May ballot.

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