Corvallis City Club hears discussion after first year of effort

The Collaboration Corvallis project has passed its one-year anniversary and there definitely was a “taking stock” tone to Monday’s Corvallis City Club discussion of the effort.

The first Steering Committee meeting of the collaboration, which seeks to resolve issues that have arisen from enrollment growth at Oregon State University, was held Feb. 6, 2012.

“The temperature at the beginning was really hot,” said Corvallis City Manager Jim Patterson, a panelist at the City Club luncheon and a member of the collaboration’s neighborhood livability workgroup.

“I had no idea that there were that many deep-seated issues. I’m sure that there were people when we started the collaboration project that were thinking ‘we’ve done this before and nothing happened.’

“People are listening better, using less inflammatory language. We have to see this through.”

A big challenge for the project is finding the right balance between contributions the city makes and those of OSU.

Ward 5 Corvallis councilor Mike Beilstein, noting the $1.5 million in fire protection that the university receives from the city without reimbursement, questioned OSU’s commitment.

“We have stresses on housing and development and need to look at the real costs on the city of affording the university,” Beilstein said.

“We’re watching the university sitting by and not doing their share.”

Steve Clark, vice president for university relations and marketing, disagreed with Beilstein’s interpretation.

“We’re not sitting by,” said Clark, who also is chairman of the collaboration’s parking and traffic workgroup.

“Mike’s right, fire protection costs are an expense (incurred by the city). Yet we do pay a lot of fees. And students contribute to the economy at a rate of $10,000 per year.”

Clark noted that an OSU student renting a $500 room for 10 months injects $5,000 into the Corvallis economy.

“And then there is gas, food and, yes, beer if they are 21. And not all of our 23,000 students live in Corvallis. But we are working hard to be a good partner. We are doing our best and people shouldn’t be pointing fingers at the university.”

Patterson agreed.

“The collaboration effort has opened doors and we are going to see meaningful change,” he said. “This is not easy work, even in the best of times. We’ve been pointing fingers long enough. It’s time to lock arms and move forward.”

Moderator Nick Houtman, the City Club president, injected a note of perspective by citing his experience at the University of Maine.

The city of Orono, started a similar collaboration effort with the university “and now they are 10 years into it,” said Houtman.

“It’s a long-term process.”

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day

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