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Woodburn residents favor a new community center, but that favorability wavers when they talk taxes

COURTESY OF CONSUMER OPINION SERVICES - Surveys conducted in May, 2019, indicate favorability toward a new community center in Woodburn. But it loses some proponents when paying for it involves a bond measure.Generally speaking, Woodburn residents would support building a new community center.

But when the idea of floating a bond to pay for that center is entered into the equation, support weakens significantly.

That's what Woodburn City Council learned on June 10 when Greg Carter with Consumer Opinion Services apprised the council of his firm's findings via a May survey. The survey was conducted by telephone and polled 250 Woodburn residents who were registered to vote and likely to vote in the next general election.COURTESY OF CONSUMER OPINION SERVICES - Surveys conducted in May, 2019, indicate favorability toward a new community center in Woodburn. But it loses some proponents when paying for it involves a bond measure.

The city engaged Consumer Opinion Services to conduct the survey to get a reading on the community's amenability to not just a community center, but a bond measure to pay for it.

"We addressed awareness of the project, support of the project, acceptance for the proposed bond-measure funding, and then specific items such as pool improvements, weight room, kitchen, meals on wheels, stuff like that," Carter told the council.

One question posed: Would you support or oppose the city of Woodburn's plans to construct a community center? The largest breakdown, 41%, said they would strongly support it, and another 19% said they somewhat support it. Twenty-eight percent were neutral or undecided. Only 6% strongly opposed the idea, and another 6% somewhat opposed it.

Support came from all ages, Hispanics, people with some college, renters and those earning between $35k and $75k annually. Residents earning under $35k and those with bachelor's degrees tended to oppose it.

"When you told them how it's going to be paid for, there was quite a shift," Carter said.

A follow-up question: Would you support a funding measure in the November 2020 general election that would cause a property tax increase of $240/year (or about $20/month) for homeowners in the city of Woodburn?

That changed the tables: the 60% number who favored it, either strongly or somewhat, decreased to 44%, while the 12% opposing the project swelled to 34%.

Among those new opponents, Carter noted that 6% were undecided on the first question, but 16% were respondents who were favorable to the first question.

"Of those who answered 'no,' we asked them 'what would you be willing to pay,'" Carter continued. "Most indicted they would not be willing to pay anything at all to support the measure; that's 74 percent of that wedge, which amounts to about a quarter of the people (surveyed) overall."

Many respondents said they would prefer the city seek alternative means for funding the project. A number indicated the bond overshot their tax-tolerance threshold, while a number of seniors noted their living facilities already have access to amenities a community center would provide.PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Connie Lum, the director of Woodburn Senior Center, said a community center must serve the needs of everyone, not just the youth. She also feels that, in time, that will be the case.

"The community center needs to serve everybody, not just the youth," said Woodburn Senior Center Director Connie Lum. "It's going to take time to build it, and for it to become an asset for everyone in the community. But I'm sure it will; they are putting a lot of thought into it."

Lum plans to attend the June 24 city council meeting and update the council with a presentation on behalf of area seniors.

The city's community center feasibility study dates back to around 2006 when a couple of concepts for centers were formulated for consideration, Assistant City Administrator Jim Row said. But the recession hit and waylaid those plans.

"Those plans were shelved until about two years ago when we brought the consultant back to reevaluate the community's need for a community center," Row said. "What we tasked them with is to come up with a plan for one community center that fully addressed the city's needs."

Reports of those plans were shown to the city council in March, and city planners subsequently engaged the research firm to survey voters and get a pulse on whether or not it is feasible to pursue a bond measure.

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See related story, "Something for everyone – at a price" online at: https://bit.ly/31oQfjM

What's next

What: Woodburn City Council meeting

When: 7 p.m. Monday, June 24

Where: Woodburn Police Department meeting room, 1060 Mount Hood Ave.

Agenda includes a presentation for the Woodburn Senior Center


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