August 17th, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

City Hall: Staging Area For Natural Disaster Response Still Uncertain

Three months after Mayor Sam Adams called the proposal for a new westside staging area a top city priority, City Council appeared no closer today to agreeing where on Portland's west side to site that staging area to respond to possible natural disasters.

Until that siting decision happens, City Council won't begin to discuss how to pay for the staging area. The funding had been included in the Water Bureau's July 1 rate increase until, under pressure to reduce the rate hike, Commissioner Randy Leonard and the Water Bureau stripped the land purchase from its list of upcoming projects.

In a council work session today, Carmen Merlo, director of Portland's Office of Emergency Management, introduced a few new ideas for where the city could put the staging area, which (if it ever gets approved) would provide a permanent location for emergency vehicles and equipment. Almost all of that equipment is currently stored on Portland's east side. In the event of a catastrophic earthquake that took out the area's bridges, for example, the City of Portland would like to have an emergency staging area on the west side.

The two new locations under consideration are 10.5 acres owned by ESCO and 9.2 acres owned by Gould Electronics. City officials estimate each of the properties would cost the city between $2 million and $3.2 million, or $5 to $7 a square foot.

But city commissioners still appear hung up on property owned by The Oregonian, which the city was eyeing until the Water Bureau decided not to include money for the land's purchase in its water-rate increase. That move meant the city had no funding mechanism in place to buy the property. And representatives of The Oregonian, who had been negotiating with the city to sell the land to the public, put the property back on the market. As of June, The Oregonian wanted $20 a square foot for its land it had once intended for a printing press. The newspaper bought the land in 2000 for $12 a square foot.
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