WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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Newport City Councilors and County Commissioners talk housing, composting, homeless warming center, airport, ambulance service, roads and property exchanges.

Joint County Commission and Newport City Council session.

Joint County Commission and Newport City Council session.

In what can only be described as a fast moving lightning round of a number of shared interests and strategies, County Commission Chairman Terry Thompson wielded an active gavel as his commission sat down for its annual joint meeting with the Newport City Council. Thompson made it clear that they had a long way to go and a short time to get there.

Here’s how things turned out.

Initiating universal curbside composting materials program:
The Newport Council asked the commission about their timeline to integrate, or not, Thompson Sanitary’s new composting materials pick-up service that could add as much as $6.75 a month to a typical residential trash pick up bill. The new style can would contain food and wood waste primarily which would be transformed into compost in the valley which would then be sold. The benefit would be not filling up the region’s landfill nearly so fast thereby avoiding much higher monthly charges to establish another one. Commissioners responded that with less than 10% of Thompson Sanitary customers residing in the county, they haven’t established any time line to review the proposal. They’re looking to Newport for leadership on the issue. That’s where most of the customers are. Newport city councilors are expected to review a Thompson Sanitary residential customer survey aimed at gathering citizen opinion on the plan. The council expects to give it a thumbs up or down by mid-March.

Enhanced Newport involvement ($$) in the Lincoln County Land Trust/Affordable Homes program:
The commission asked Newport and will be asking Lincoln City as well, to provide some funding to help with a county wide affordable housing proposal for cash strapped middle class families. They’re focusing on the Lincoln County Land Trust to vanguard the program. Commissioners asked Newport to consider helping the county create a full time Land Trust position to help coordinate county-wide support and resources to build homes on trust lands. The position would coordinate land acquisition, inter-local jurisdiction collaboration, private/public partnerships and other strategies. Commissioners say Newport and Lincoln City already pay membership fees to the land trust and are in a better position to help than the other small cities in the county, although they want them at the table as well. No decision was made on the issue.

Setting up a homeless warming center at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds:
County commissioners said the county is stepping up to the challenge og establishing a permanent homeless warming shelter strictly for those especially hard rainy days or nights, or cold spells that spread snow and ice on the ground. It would not be a regularly scheduled warming shelter – just when absolutely needed. County Counsel Wayne Belmont said a small group of private organizers are handing the project adding they’re working through their plans and protocols for handling large numbers of homeless persons who need to come in out of a storm driven rain or bone chilling temperatures.

Expanding Newport’s land area to take in upper and lower Big Creek Reservoirs – the city’s drinking water source:
Newport councilors told county commissioners that the city intends to expand growing room in and around the town’s Big Creek Reservoirs, as well as Big Creek Road that connects the two areas to the city water treatment plant off Big Creek Road and NE Harney. The county commission has already received a favorable recommendation from its planning commission. The commission is likely to approve it, according to Belmont. But there may be a little fly in the ointment. The city will eventually annex the reservoir areas which include private homes lying outside the annexed areas, served by Big Creek Road. City officials suggested that the city and the county share some of the cost of maintaining Big Creek Road since it serves not only the reservoir area but residents who live outside the city’s area of influence and which likely will remain under county jurisdiction for the foreseeable future. Belomont said there is some room to talk but he didn’t seem very interested in the county paying for part of the road’s maintenance once the annexation and the road is turned over to the city. Both sides agreed to talk about it in the near future.

Newport Municipal Airport: Looking to unload some of the costs of running the Newport Municipal Airport, Newport City Council Ralph Busby suggested the county take a role in running the airport, especially in the event of a natural disaster. Busby said the airport will have a county-wide role to play – a big one. Commissioners and County Counsel Wayne Belmont said future discussions are certainly warranted but those talks should also include the Port of Newport, which has far better access to state and federal grants to help shoulder some of the costs of airport maintenance. Belmont pointed out that ports are commonly associated with airport operations and management. Commission Chair Terry Thompson said the county will be at the table to discuss the future of the airport.

Emergency planning and preparedness:

Lincoln County Emergency Manager Jenny Demaris told the Newport City Council that city and county department heads are responsible for keeping up with FEMA and other federal disaster training and certification programs to ensure that Lincoln County can respond effectively to a major disaster. She cautioned that federal disaster re-imbursement funds could be withheld by FEMA if local training requirements are not actively pursued and maintained.

Ambulance Service:
County Commissioners and Newport City Councilors briefly reviewed the current configuration and funding for regional ambulance services. Both sides heard about some service level differences that need to be clearly understood as it relates to any changes in service provided by Pacific West Ambulance, which serves most of the county.

Fire Department integration of certain services:
An element that recently got put back on the back burner, fire department cooperation and coordination, was again acknowledged and it’s benefits of blending various fire department operations and training, equipment purchases and volunteer recruitment were. Such a move was stymied recently by the Newport City Council because it was opposed by Newport Firefighters. However, commissioners said the idea is not going away because of the obvious cost savings such plans offer.

Roads and government owned properties:
Commissioners and councilors acknowledged that there are numerous parcels of land and structures that lie within each other’s jurisdictional boundaries. The two agencies agreed to carefully inventory their own properties, wherever they’re located and to examine them to ensure that they’re producing the highest benefit for the taxpayer. Belmont said there is probably 20 or fewer pieces of property big enough or valuable enough to warrant such attention.

At 43 minutes into the hour, Commission Chairman Terry Thompson asked for any further input on anything. Hearing nothing, down went the gavel and the meeting was over.

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