By editorial board • 

Big plans need time to gel; Priority is correct, not quick

Nothing lasts forever.

That’s why McMinnville is looking to replace a public library dating back to 1912 (renovated and extended in 1982), a armory turned community center dating back to 1924 and an aquatic center built in the 1950s (renovated and extended in 1986) to replace a pool facility dating back to the turn of the previous century. That’s why the McMinnville School District evaluated replacing a ‘50s vintage high school before opting to invest another $43 million in what will almost inevitably become its final renovation.

The library, community center and aquatic center discussion started on July 5, 2016, when Parks & Recreation Directior Jay Pearson, since retired, announced commencement of work on a new 20-year parks master plan.

He told the News-Register it would likely call for construction of a new facility combining the functions of the city’s community and aquatic centers. He said the $9.5 million parks bond voters approved in 2000 would be paid off in 2021, and the city was considering the submission of a new bond for the rec center project around that point.

Almost five years later, it might seem as though the time for discussion has passed and the time for action has arrived.

However, units of local government have enjoyed tremendous success with civic improvement bond issues over the years, and a close reading of News-Register archives suggests one common thread — years of deep immersion of the residents in gradual refinement of plans, to the point where a working electoral consensus was achieved. By that measure, we’re guessing the city is at least two years away from the point of taking this one to the voters.

Here are some of the fruits born in McMinnville so far this century, based on careful consensus-building:

n The 21-acre Discovery Meadows Park, a $3.3 million gem funded through a $9.5 million parks bond. The bond passed handily on the first try in 2000, thanks to listening to citizens and delivering what they wanted at a price they were willing to pay. 

n Construction of Sue Buel Elementary School, and renovation work at Newby, Memorial, Wascher and the high school, out of a $62 million bond passed in November 2006. The district came back with that proposal after narrowly falling short on a $96 million May bond designed to fund the start of a second high school off Hill Road — something the district will no doubt revisi eventually.

n A handsome new police station across the street from the library and equally attractive new civic center on the old police station site. They were funded out of a $13.1 million bond that shared the May 2006 ballot with the original school proposal.

n A new three-story, 52,000-square-foot Chemeketa Community College McMinnville campus, replacing a remote and woefully inadequate facility on Hill Road. It took two attempts for the four-county college district, which lost narrowly with an $89 million bond in 2006 and won narrowly with a $92 million bond two years later.

n Extensive upgrades to Hill Road, Old Sheridan Road, Alpine Avenue, Fifth Street and Second Street, on the strength of an ambitious $24 million city transportation bond approved in 2014.

n The $43 million Mac High renovation and extensive work at other district schools, through an $89.4 bond issue easing to passage in 2016.

In every case here, the improvement to the local infrastructure was breathtakingly evident. The Alpine Avenue project is perhaps the only one of a score funded through local 21st century bond issues that is drawing any doubts, and we join local civic leaders in viewing it as a farsighted investment that will eventually pay off.

It’s hard to imagine McMinnville sans Discovery Meadows, Sue Buel, the police station and civic center, the gleaming new Chemeketa campus, the array of high-visibility, high-utility traffic grid upgrades, and the new-look high school.

With the right mix of vision, patience, involvement and discussion, we’re confident we’ll be able to say the same one day about three more jewels in a sparkling city crown — a new library, community center and aquatic center.


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