BEFORE BUILDING BEGINS RECONSIDER PROPOSALS

Lane County replaced this courthouse in 1956. Photo courtesy of Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

            Lane County and Eugene should reconsider plans for locating new facilities in downtown Eugene.

            The county announced plans this week to build a $252 million courthouse on Eugene’s former city hall site while the city relocates on a postage stamp “butterfly” lot owned by the county.

            Before that deal is completed, both public agencies should reconsider locating a new courthouse on the site of the former city hall and acquiring the former EWEB headquarters as a city hall.

            The result: The county moves a few hundred yards east of its present site, and the city anchors a developing downtown district fronting on the picturesque Willamette River.

            Argue if you wish, but the EWEB property is located in downtown Eugene and has space for city council meetings and places for visitors to park. And such a move reportedly would be less expensive than in building a new city hall.

            In case you haven’t heard, the county needs $158 million in local funding just to get the courthouse project off the ground. The city apparently is as undecided as ever about what a new hall would cost.

            Frankly, I was unhappy when the county upgraded its headquarters at Eighth and Oak Street in 1956 with the “futuristic beamed façade” structure that stands there today.

            While the county needed more courtroom space, I was upset when it destroyed the horseshoe pits, the horse hitching posts and the checker game tables in the courtyard, which eventually became the Saturday Market site.

            The city didn’t fare so well by building a city hall immediately east of the courthouse. That structure turned out to be an unsafe place to be in the event of an earthquake, which we’re told may occur sometime soon — if not later.

            So, the city tore down its flimsie hall and scattered departments all over town in rented quarters.  Now the city is swapping its site east of the courthouse for a county “butterfly” parking lot.

            Which means that residents soon will be invited to finance new homes for Eugene and Lane County. In case you’re new to Oregon, this would increase taxes on your property, the cost of your rental and/or the cost of doing business. Let’s keep in mind that these public agencies come knocking every 50 years or so for money to upgrade their homes.

            I’ll bet that Eugene Skinner never envisioned how complicated life would become in Lane County when he took out a land claim at the foot of Skinner Butte in 1846.  

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