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Newport: Bright LED Downtown Message Sign Out – Mini Park Back In – Chamber Gets Rolling Scroller Sign to Replace Their Sign

Newport City Council Monday evening

Newport City Council
Monday evening


Spencer Nebel City Manager

Spencer Nebel
City Manager

A sign that traveled a long and winding road…

After several years of tossing the idea back and forth, and forth and back, it appears that a tall flashing LED “Welcome to Newport” and special events message sign at Hurbert and 101 is dead. Several citizens said it may have been an interesting idea several years ago but it isn’t a good idea today. One business owner in the downtown said it would look garish, be distractive in a very congested downtown area and would be an eyesore rather than contributing to the ambiance everyone says they want in the downtown. Another citizen testified that the sign would be too bright, especially for senior citizens driving through the downtown at night. She said that bright LED screen changes could momentarily blind an older person and cause an accident. Another business owner right on the corner said he was opposed to the sign, preferring a “Heritage Park” type improvement. Another citizen said such a sign might be placed somewhere else. But then it was acknowledged that the City Center Association was promised around $100,000 in some sort of downtown improvement and that they still want the sign.

But it was clear that through the years of “on again, off again” ideas of what to do with that money, things have gotten kind of mushy. Today’s council members are not the ones that came up with the initial idea and it was plain that they were not going to be bound to old promises, especially when public opinion appeared to go against it today.

One idea that surfaced was to place the sign outside City Hall. The council responded with near silence. So that slowed down the discussion until Councilor Dean Sawyer, with others chiming in, suggested splitting the money to where an attractive pocket park could be built at Hurbert and 101 while installing a scrolling type sign outside the Chamber of Commerce building at 101 and SW Fall. The idea immediately got traction among the council. It seemed to grow legs rather quickly. The councilors then kicked the issue back to City Manager Spencer Nebel who said he would investigate the matter further with an eye on whether a fairly large electronic readerboard would be legal outside the Chamber of Commerce building. Because the land the chamber sits on is owned by the city – and because city ordinances prohibit electronic signs on public property, that’s a problem. However, since the sign would likely be operated by the chamber, an ordinance change might be in the offing.

So, Nebel told the council that his staff will get busy looking at a pocket park for Hurbert and 101, and some kind of electronic scrolling board outside the chamber – but not before the city investigates changing the ordinance on “no electronic signs” on city owned property. He said he’ll report back to the council on October 16th on the progress they’ve made. At the minimum the issue would first be reviewed by the city planning commission and who would then render their recommendation to the council.

Then ironically, right after the greeting sign seemed properly boxed and shipped off to the planning commission, the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, who operate the Performing Arts Center, asked permission to erect an electronic sign (that they would pay for) to promote upcoming events at the PAC – the sign to be built at the corner of West Olive and NW Coast. Again, the PAC is owned by the city along with the property it sits on – so under current city code such signs are not allowed. In addition, the current Nye Beach Neighborhood Plan bars any bright electronic signs anywhere in Nye Beach proper. Nebel said the planning commission will take a look at that issue too which would be included in his report to the council in October.

So, it looks like the city could eventually get two new electronic signs, but very much tamed down from what might have been envisioned, especially for the one originally proposed for 101 and Hurbert.

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Doling out more tourism fund dollars to attract more tourists…

The Newport City Council went along with its tourism advisory committee, Destination Newport, to award a $5,000 grant to the Oregon Coast Aquarium (OCA) as it promotes its 2014 Oyster Cloyster Fundraiser coming up in November.

The OCA said it would use the money to promote the event in the Willamette Valley to get more out of town attendees who would enjoy the Saturday event and then spend the night in Newport at one of our local hotels. Then they’d be tempted to linger another day and take in the sights and other fun things to do in the Newport area. The council gave the idea an immediate thumbs up and the OCA now has their five grand.

Another tourism grant was awarded to the Newport Symphony Orchestra which wants to double up their concert offerings in Newport again this year. Through promotions inside, as well as outside Lincoln County, visitors to the coast will visit Newport by attending one of the symphony performances and then spend more time in the area sightseeing. Symphony officials said the tactic worked well last year and should give an encore performance of it’s own this year. The council again whipped out the tourism fund checkbook and awarded the $5,000 the symphony requested.

Too many false medical and fire alarms are burning up Newport fire trucks

The city council learned Monday evening that the Newport Fire Department is burning up fire trucks faster than they should be on what are false fire and medical distress calls. It was mentioned that there are a number of Newport residents that make far more than their share of 9-1-1 calls that aren’t really warranted. Like one “frequent flyer” (as they’re called) who has racked up 300 medical distress calls in a year because he has a habit of drinking too much, falling to the floor and then can’t get up. There are also repeated incidents in various facilities around town whose fire alarms go off with some regularity because somebody leaves popcorn in the microwave too long or does a lot of frying which triggers the fire alarm.

City Manager Spencer Nebel said he would look into what other cities are doing to cope with such repeated incidents – either through fines or bills for services rendered, or other tactics, to try to drive down the number of false calls for help. In addition to wasting emergency responders’ time, it makes them unavailable if a real fire or medical situation arises at the same time.

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Major sewer break at Schooner Landing of NW 66th…the aftermath.
…and the city council got a report from Public Works Director Tim Gross on what happened recently at Schooner Landing off NW 66th. Seems that a city sewer main ruptured at Schooner Landing causing big problems for sewer service in the north end of town. But not only that, the break was right under one of the Landing’s main tenant buildings. The city Public Works Department swung into action and arranged to have the sewer main that runs under the building rerouted to go around it. So the line is fixed and all is well with the sewer main.

However, when the sewer line failed, Gross said there was an issue of the ground caving in, due to saturation of sewage which could possibly undermine the building.

Gross said nobody should build anything on top of a water or sewer main because they are known to fail when they get old, often with damaging results. Gross said that his research shows that the original plans for the construction of Schooner Landing called for the sewer main to be re-routed away from the building footprint. But for some reason, that re-routing never happened, so the building was built right on top of the main.

City Manager Spencer Nebel said he would stay on top of the issue and figure out if there is any potential city liability in the matter…or whether the city would have any liability at all since the sewer line was not moved and the Schooner Landing contractor apparently built over the top of it anyway.

Obviously to be continued.

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A possible hiccup in the recruitment of a new City Attorney

Although the city council thought they had casted a pretty wide net in their search for a new city attorney, their net netted them only six candidates for the job. To which City Councilor David Allen pointed out they missed a series of “list serves” that are read copiously by hundreds of attorneys throughout Oregon. Allen named off a number of suchattorney eyeball magnets leading the council to agree that if they don’t get a good candidate out of the current six, they may take Councilor Allen up on his advice and try again with a bigger net.

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