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City Manager asks council to consider how much of park bond they want to reserve for pool

FILE PHOTO - 2019-2020 Lake Oswego City Council

In a joint meeting of the Lake Oswego City Council and Lake Oswego School Board, the two parties outlined the steps it will take to create a partnership with the goal of building a new pool for use by both LO School District students and members of the community.

"There are a couple of things we do know, and one is that the community does want this pool," said Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff.

LOSD Executive Director of Project Management Tony Vandenberg told the council that the school district currently has $7 million for a pool, and hopes to begin construction in early 2021.

"To get there, we would need to land on a location by November of this year, and we would need to land on funding, or at least have an agreement on proposed funding, in March of 2020, so time is ticking," Vandenberg said.

Locking down a location has been difficult for LOSD and the City, which are both hoping to mitigate the effects of a pool building's footprint cutting into already dwindling and precious athletic field space.

LO Parks & Rec Management Analyst Charity Taylor presented research she compiled on athletic field use which shows that despite participation numbers going down in all sports but soccer between 2011 and 2018, demand for fields has increased. (Read more about Taylor's report on page A1)

The council and school board both expressed it is paramount that field space is either preserved or rebuilt in other locations to ease current struggles of adult and youth sports leagues in reserving field time.

The next step in the process is for City and school district staff to sit down and figure out the minimum and maximum impact of the various pool options on athletic fields at Lakeridge Middle School, as well as how it could fit at the LO Public Golf Course. Accordingly, Councilor John Wendland proposed to Vandenberg that the school district request their design firm, Opsis Architecture, to render conceptual drawings that include a recreation center attached to the pool. Vandenberg agreed, and said he would have that route explored via conceptual design. A recreation center paired with a pool could be too big for the Lakeridge Middle School site, meaning the two groups would have to take a hard look at the golf course.

"Lakeridge sounds like a mess, the golf course is pretty tight, and when I read through the materials again, (Parks & Recreation Director) Ivan (Anderholm) said we could make the rec center and aquatic center work (there)," Kohlhoff said. "Some people will be very unhappy about the golf course going down to a 9-hole course, but it's a serious proposition."

In her first meeting as the new Lake Oswego city manager, Martha Bennett ushered the conversation along by laying out exactly what direction she and LOSD Superintendent Dr. Lora De La Cruz will need from the council and school board in order to move forward. Not mincing words, Bennett told the council that, in a perfect world, this decision process around how to build this facility and what each party will bring to the table would be about six months ahead of where it currently is.

"What we have is an enormous opportunity, and a bit of a timing problem," Bennett said. "I think Lora and I are going to work together as well as we can with Ivan and other staff to try to bring you choices, but you're going to talk about the park bond at your next meeting, and as you contemplate the direction you want to give us about the roll out of these parks projects, I think we'd like some direction on how you want us to deal with what I perceive to be a timing problem ... I think the hesitation at the table right now is because we're not quite ready to have the conversation that needs to happen, but we don't have time to wait much longer."

Bennett said that the elephant in the room is how much of the $30 million parks bond passed by voters earlier this year the City wants to reserve for a pool, and to answer that question, the council will need to first answer questions about funding for other park improvement projects.

In July, the Parks & Natural Resources Advisory Board gave its recommendation to the council of contributing just $2 million to the project. Combined with the school district's $7 million, that leaves the project well short of the estimated $15-25 million it could cost to build the various pool options.

Bennett told the council that while she doesn't feel they're ready to make a decision, staff on both the city and school district side should look to the new Chehalem Aquatic and Fitness Center in Newberg as an example for a potential financial threshold of what could be accomplished with a new facility in Lake Oswego.

"I don't sense that you guys are aligned or in agreement, ready to make that commitment. Some of it depends on what kind of facility we're talking about designing, some of it depends on what we think the community portion of the programming needs to (be)," Bennett said. "We're going to have to get super smart on the Newberg numbers; I think that's a great model and we should try to emulate that ourselves, but when we have a conversation around the parks bond, I need you thinking of how much of the bond you want to commit towards the pool at some point in the future."

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