Historic City Hall in Jeoprady
West Linn Council Fails to Renew Letter of Commitment
A tremendous amount of misinformation is being circulated regarding Willamette Falls & Landings Heritage Area Coalition (WFLHAC) and the signed Letter of Commitment (LOC) with the City of West Linn. WFLHAC is committed to preserving our reputation and clarifying the facts of the situation. It is so disappointing to us, that West Linn had a project that would truly help our community shine, with a committed partner that has already put tremendous time, money, and talent into the project. There is a great deal of reference to the original LOC signed by the City and WFLHAC. We agree with Councilor Sakelik that it is a clearly written document. We read it thoroughly. The WFLHAC did not craft that LOC it was a document presented to us by the City. We did offer some suggestions and those were again reviewed by the City and their legal counsel.
Here are key facts from that LOC: The City and Coalition both support a partnership to develop an arts and heritage Cultural Center in the historic City Hall that recognizes its pivotal location adjacent to the Arch Bridge, the iconic Willamette Falls Navigational Canal &Locks, and great falls of the Willamette River; and serves as a gateway to West Linn, the Willamette Falls Sate Heritage Area, and the proposed National Heritage Area.
Fundraising: There was no agreement that WFLHAC would raise $900K through grants. Rather, we presented an attachment with a list of both potential and possible funders we would approach for support. We did approach each of those funders and a few made grants to us. The others informed us that the City of West Linn did not have enough of a financial commitment to the project. And, until the City demonstrated more financial support they could not fund our proposal. Each of those organizations, however, were kind enough to tell us if we could get the renovation up and going to revisit them for another grant review, preferably programming in the area of multi-cultural outreach, heritage, programming, and art. I will leave you to surmise why funders were uneasy about putting dollars into the City owned building at that point in time.
Building operation/management and payment for utilities and parking: The LOC states the Cultural Center is a collaboration between the City and nonprofit organizations to the benefit of the public. Each of these partner organizations has a public mission and vision that supports both a local and regional cultural space as well as reestablishing the identity of West Linn’s “historic heart.” The LOC also states the Cultural Center will serve to enhance the value of West Linn’s historic City Hall by serving as a resource for the community and visitors alike.
Parking: The LOC states: The City and Coalition agree to collectively approach contiguous property owners with the intent of negotiating and finalizing a parking agreement to the benefit of the Cultural Center and its resident nonprofit organizations.
WFLHAC worked with the Willamette Falls Paper Co., to get their commitment for 30 parking spaces, rented to us for $60 per month. Members of the City Council then asked us to go back and negotiate with the property owner for a parking lease agreement in the event the paper company no longer renews their lease. We did so and got the parent company’s commitment for a 15-year parking lease.
Funding for Parking: WFLHAC recommended different approaches to taking the cost of parking away from the city including a parking permit program on the street and covering the parking spaces, and/or leasing some of the parking to the Clackamas Co. Courthouse as they need parking for court personnel, jurors etc. This would recoup the parking lot rental cost.
Rental Agreement: Mr. Sakelik states: “ The Coalition also wanted to pay only $1 per year to occupy the building even though they would be receiving income from various programming like Willamette Falls Tours, Paper Mill tours and potential gift shop and/or possible coffee shop profits.”
The actual lease agreement terms are as follows: “All insurance, custodial and landscape maintenance, monthly data charges, and other costs that Tenant is required to pay by this Agreement, and any other sums that Tenant is required to pay to City, or third parties shall be considered rent. Cultural Center operating costs shall also be considered rent.” The city also has the opportunity to adjust the rent established once every ten years. And, as tenants our coalition would be responsible for paying insurance premiums, maintenance (interior custodial services, exterior landscape, and signage maintenance. Interior paint and ordinary repair of surfaces, finishes, and all tenant-owned fixtures and equipment. We would have been responsible for monthly data service, and custodial, janitorial, and interior cleaning services not to mention real property taxes.
Tours of the Falls: Tours cannot be conducted until the Locks are open and operating again. We cannot do paper mill tours until PGE is willing to give access through their property.
Coffee shop/gift shop: The idea was one introduced by the Councilor early on. We agreed to provide some small refreshment stand (coffee, tea, water) in the multi-cultural center for visitors. But in no way would we want to be competition for our local, hardworking merchants who operate coffee shops and cafes.
Management of the Cultural Center: The LOC required that “ the Coalition will manage Cultural Center operations, access to public meeting space, and nonprofit tenancy.” “The City and Coalition both support a partnership to develop an arts and heritage Cultural Center in the Historic City Hall that recognizes its pivotal location adjacent to the Arch Bridge, the iconic Willamette Falls navigational Canal & Locks, and Great falls of the Willamette River, and serves as a gateway to West Linn, the Willamette Falls State Heritage Area, and the proposed National Heritage Area.”
Breach of Agreement: The assertion that the WFLHAC breached the agreement made in the LOC is deeply troubling and misleading. WFLHAC accomplished major undertakings as the city acknowledges in the LOC: “Appropriate architectural, engineering, capital project funding, capital project phasing, and Cultural Center and nonprofit building occupancy operations’ due diligence work efforts have been completed by the Coalition. “
This was a heavy lift for our small non-profit, but we did it: From grants and our own funds WFLHAC has spent $120,000 in Due Diligence, Project Management and Project Design work on the Historic City Hall. That is a far greater contribution than an organization that is simply a “major tenant”.
It is important to recognize that the City of West Linn has not spent anything to date on Historic City Hall. Over the last two years our staff has put over 867 hours into this project. Our volunteers have put an additional 398 ours into the project. That is 1265 hours of professional staff time the City has not had to pay for. And, we raised $145,000 in grants toward the project Funding that may have to be returned if the historic city hall is not going to be the multi-cultural center with community meeting space we originally described.
Where do we go from here? Willamette Falls & Landings Heritage Area Coalition is still willing to partner with the City. Establishing a new committee to determine the future of Historic City Hall (led by Councilor Sakelik with two at community members appointed by three of the Councilors) is not wise. A committee is not a good place to negotiate a new LOC. WFLHAC will be observers of the process but not participants. We will gladly consider an alternate West Linn proposal if and when their committee comes up with one and the Council submits it to us for consideration. Along with that, we are considering other proposals from potential partners as well.
GO Bond funding exists for this project. It is funding that the city is obligated to spend within three years. Funding this project will pay it forward for the City and the Community for generations to come. As our Tribal partners say, it is our responsibility to look Seven Generations forward, not just to today.
We thank Mayor Russ Axelrod for his support and for his sensitivity to the need for a multi-cultural center with a significant Tribal Presence. We thank Councilor Jules Walters for the same, and for the humble respect Ms. Walters and Mayor Axelrod showed an elected leader of the Tribe at the most recent City Council meeting. Council Voicemail: 503-657-0331 Opt #2 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org