Knowing it’s time: A property’s future and a hero’s new career

September 2018 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

Dixon CMYK 2016There is an element wanting to raise Eugene Field School from its soon to be rubble, since the building is scheduled to be demolished soon. Waxing nostalgic is not going to remove the asbestos. Saying “We haven’t had any input” is intellectually dishonest and not going to remove the mold. Advocating for a “Don’t tear it down until you know what is going in next and how you are going to pay for it” plan makes neither intuitive or logical sense. The two are not connected. 

Floating new “buyers” is, in my opinion, a gimmick. There was plenty of time for potential buyers to make an offer while the property was listed on the open market. The lead-based paint is almost everywhere, and no one wants to touch the mitigation of that hazard. The building has been broken into and vandalized. The City must replace the police department within a certain period – not by choice but by mandate because of earthquake retrofitting requirements – make it safe or shut it down. The council has been saving for eight years to purchase new property. They do not intend to push a bond in front of voters and have other options for future police department and civic construction. The cost of retrofitting is prohibitive.

It appears to the casual observer that breathing new life into Eugene Field seems viable – “Why destroy our heritage?” But for those newly arrived or recently arrived citizens who have not been through the battles, a brief history lesson. The same group of people tried the same thing when Silver Falls School District owned the property. They lost. Most people didn’t agree with them. The school board voted to close it down and sell the property because it was no longer safe for students and staff. No one stepped forward to buy it.

So, the city council, knowing it had a mandate to replace the archaic and sardine-can space our police department inhabits, decided to purchase the Eugene Field property.

In total transparency, I was not and am not a big fan of that prime space for municipal operations. I saw a cute Pearl District-type village with living upstairs, office and retail down, a small community gathering space and park and gazebo with bands playing during the summer. A guy can dream, can’t he? But there are few other land/building choices and being in the downtown area is important for a “community policing” philosophy. 

If you moved here last Tuesday and think tearing down an old school is indefensible, do some homework first. If you spoke your mind in the many public hearings, were heard, and didn’t turn the masses around in your favor as you had hoped, please respect the “DNR” order. Whipping a dead horse has little chance of success at the track. 

On a decidedly more positive note, Pat Casey is an incredible human being. The legendary baseball coach of the Oregon State Beavers has decided to leave the bench and will become a senior assistant athletic director. So many are crushed to see him go but wish him well. My perspective is a little biased. He has been and remains so kind to my nine year-old nephew, Drew, a die-hard Beaver fan if ever there was one.

After one of the College World Series games, a Beaver win, the players came down a tunnel to the locker room. There sat Drew in his wheelchair. The kid has medical maladies that would challenge the strongest adult. Every player passing through the tunnel gave Drew “knuckles” in celebration. He is their friend, fan, and inspiration.

One of the last people down the tunnel was Pat Casey. Drew congratulated the iconic coach on the big win. Casey gave him a knuckle bump and kissed him on the head. That is when Coach Casey joined rarified air and will be revered by our extended family for years to come.

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