Alternatives need to be considered

On May 18th, Monmouth voters will decide whether to approve a $3 million bond for a new City Hall (Ballot Measure 27-133). If a majority of voters approve, the City of Monmouth will be authorized to sell $3 million in bonds to investors. The bonds will be paid off through increased property taxes over 30 years.

Every penny spent on this new building will come from those who live and pay taxes in Monmouth. We are recommending a “NO VOTE” on this measure, and here’s why.

The Cost

• Last year, the architects estimated the construction at $9 million. If the measure passes, city officials will use $3 million additional funds from the Monmouth Urban Renewal District and $3 million from city department reserves for the difference.

• Investors who buy the bonds earn interest on them. A 5% interest rate would earn them almost $3 million, courtesy of Monmouth taxpayers.

• If hazardous materials are found in the 80-year-old building, there will be serious overruns not included in the estimate. Prices of building materials are skyrocketing. Both could add millions to the cost.

• Even without cost overruns or inflation on materials, the final cost with a $3 million interest-bearing bond could be more than a whopping $13 million.

Times are hard

• Families and businesses are struggling. Those who don’t pay property taxes could see rents go up as landlords pass along the increase. Asking people to pay more now is heartless and out of touch.

• Residents are already paying increased water/power rates enacted last year, a “stormwater utility” fee established this year and will be paying principal and interest for the police station on our property taxes for years to come.

Needs

• A photo in the Itemizer-Observer (12/23/20) showed boxes of Monmouth city records stored in a damp basement. But do we need a $13M building for storage?

• City officials cite The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to support the $13 million structure. Volunteer Hall on Warren Street could be made into a larger and more cost-effective center at a fraction of the cost of a new building. Used for years for our court and council chambers, it’s already ADA compliant, still in good shape, centrally located and has plenty of parking.

Scope

• A Portland firm was paid almost $1 million to design the building. Monmouth is a small town and doesn’t need an opulent building to deliver services.

Alternatives not explored

• Public discussions would have yielded cost-efficient alternatives. Little public input was considered before deciding on a multi-million dollar solution.

• Between Volunteer Hall, the public library, senior center and our police station, we have sufficient meeting rooms for larger events.

The solution must be more practical about the tax burden many will suffer for decades. Providing the “best service” to the community would be to lessen the community’s tax burden — not increase it.

Nan Willis, Past Chair, Monmouth Budget Committee, 2018-2020

Laurel Sharmer, Former Monmouth City Councilor, 2017-2020

Monmouth City Hall needs replacement

I am pleased to hear so many residents of Monmouth agree we need to replace the current City Hall and Volunteer Hall with a building that is safe, welcoming, efficient and accessible. Too much taxpayer money has been spent trying to repair and maintain a facility far beyond its useful life. Planning has been extensive, including a lot of public input. Replacement estimates of $9 million include a healthy contingency for rising costs, if we build NOW.

Much of the money is in hand – the kind of fiscal prudence Monmouth is known for. There is never a good time to ask for a tax increase – even a modest one, such as this. But the $3 million dollars in this general obligation bond request is also prudent. With historic low interest rates, this is the best time to borrow to create a building that will last another 92 years. The public investment will complement the private development that is revitalizing downtown Monmouth and will create a point of civic pride for generations. Please do the prudent thing – Vote YES on Measure 27-133 for Monmouth City Hall.

Cecelia ‘Cec’ Koontz

Monmouth mayor

Other options exist for city hall

Our mayor and city councilors have been busy campaigning for a new city hall building, urging Monmouth Voters to vote yes on Measure 27-133. I am urging you to Vote NO.

When you read the city’s flier, they want citizens to believe city hall is a crumbling old building that’s extremely dangerous. In response to these claims, I’ve listed the following counterpoints and other options for you to consider.

1. Claim: The building will collapse during an earthquake. Many earthquakes have occurred over the past 92 years, and our historic buildings still stand. When the “big one” hits, nothing will be standing. No one will be safe — not even in a new building.

2. Claim: The building is expensive to maintain. Office’s flood. Vital records are stored in a wet basement. No heat, etc.

Why did we replace the roof twice in only 15 years? Why would a city that demands all private construction be “built-to-code” fail to keep our city hall maintained? Why would they store vital records in harm’s way? If our leaders can’t manage what we have, they surely won’t be able to manage a building that will require 10 times the amount of regular maintenance.

3. Claim: Repairing the building will cost more than building a new building.

Not true. I’ve restored many commercial buildings over the last 15 years. City hall could be renovated for under $1 million. I built the large two-story brick building on the corner of Main Street & Monmouth for under $1 million.

4. Claim: Three sources will be used to pay for the project.

URBAN RENEWAL: Our Urban Renewal money is for helping stimulate “private” economic development. They are robbing the private sector of our urban renewal funds.

SAVINGS & RESERVES: These funds are for emergencies and unexpected costs, like infrastructure.

DEBT: Debt creates interest expense. Therefore, the real cost will be much higher than $9 Million. If the deal they strike is like Independence’s City Hall loan, citizens will be paying an interest only loan. We never pay down the loan. Not good.

5. Claim: A new city hall will make downtown attractive.

False. A new city hall at this location is a waste of precious land. We do not want an economic dead-zone. If built, this prime corner will be dark and empty during evenings and on weekends. Government use does not create the retail foot traffic our small businesses need to thrive. This site should be sold and converted to a higher-and-better use. Development that will produce the buzz of more activity, and generate more tax revenue for our community.

Do we really have no other options to consider before risking $9 million? I can think of two other options; No. 1 — Remodel and move into the city library or No. 2 — Build on police department land. These options should be explored further before approving their $9 million plan.

Citizens of Monmouth, please think carefully about the ramifications and ill-timing of Measure 27-133. We can do better.

Bodie C. Bemrose

B.C. Bemrose & Co.

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