Newport: Major water improvements, new water meters, evaluating the city manager and appointing a new city attorney.
Town water system improvements –
Newport City Councilors Monday night decided to float revenue bonds to fund much needed water system improvements, not the least of which is the new Agate Beach water tank and all the plumbing, water lines and pump stations that goes with it – all aimed at better water flow for fire protection for that end of town. The revenue bond decision is not to exceed $18 million in expenditures for these and other water projects down the road. The projects would be launched gradually over time to drag out the expenditures so as to stretch out the financial hit to water customers. Recently, annual water bill increases have been mentioned in the 4% a year range.
City Finance Director “Emeritus” Bob Gazewood said that by agreeing on the bonding option, the voters of Newport have the legal right to collect sufficient signatures to put the issue on the ballot for an up or down vote. They’ll have 30 days starting around Friday or Saturday after a public notice is published in a local newspaper. If no voter initiative surfaces, the plan moves forward. There are a lot of aging and leaky water lines around Newport – some many decades old. City Public Works Director Tim Gross has said often in the past that Newport needs to spend upwards of $3 million a year each for water and sewer to get the city caught up and to stay caught up on maintaining it’s sewer and water system.
Upgrading water meter reading –
The city council also approved spending nearly $300,000 to automate the rest of the town’s water meters. Under the new system, water meters can be read by simply driving by a home or business without having to stop. The system involves a radio transmitter built within each water meter that can be read remotely. The switch out of old meters for the new ones will take a number of months to accomplish. The new system will, of course, reduce the number of workers associated with meter reading. But instead of laying anyone off, Public Works Director Tim Gross said he’s got some holes in his department work force that are critical to water system operations that will absorb those soon-to-be former meter readers.
A reference to Central Lincoln People’s Utility District assisting the city in establishing the radio controlled meter reading procedures was premature. Although the city is hopeful that the two entities might collaborate on the issue, there have been no definitive contacts or plans aimed in that direction. NLC.com regrets the confusion.
Evaluating Newport’s still rather new City Manager –
And the council Monday night agreed on an evaluation procedure for City Manager Spencer Nebel’s first year at the helm. Councilors will get their individual evaluation form tomorrow, the 16th, fill it out and turn the forms in by the 23rd of the month. An executive session of the council will be held on September 29th to discuss the evaluations given by individual councilors – what Nebel is doing right and where there might be room for improvement, if that is in fact the case. Then a final report will be produced during a public city council meeting on October 6th. They’ll also announce whether Nebel merits a bump up in pay.
Generally speaking, the council, as a whole, seems extremely pleased with Nebel’s first year performance – the way he has brought order and organizational efficiencies to the city so officials and workers can become more effective in getting their work done and in Nebel providing competent and consistent leadership for all city departments as well as the city council.
In short, the long leadership drought has been officially declared over.
Cat’s out of the bag for Newport’s new city attorney –
City Councilors David Allen and Dick Beemer politely threw caution to the wind Monday evening and publicly announced who they, as a subcommittee of two, will recommend to be the city’s new city attorney. Allen indicated the city council had already indicated they preferred him as well. He’s the current County Counsel of Josephine County, Steven Rich. Mr. Rich will likely be formally offered the position of Newport City Attorney at the council’s regular meeting on October 6th. The city has been without a strong consistent in-house legal resource to help guide the council through what are often complicated legal issues. It is still contemplated that when highly specialized legal services are required that may involve human resource matters or Oregon’s notoriously complicated state land use statutes, supplemental outside legal advice may be appropriate.