WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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New Newport “Commons” sign? No smoking in city parks, long term vision for Newport and a kiss on the forehead to the Coast Guard for homeporting two new cutters in Newport

Newport City Hall

Newport City Hall

Big new electronic sign proposed for Harney and Highway 20

Part of the new exuberance for a “revitalized” Lincoln County Fair is to erect a new sign at Harney and Highway 20 to indicate, with a readerboard, that one must “turn here” to drive to the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. Newport “Idea Man” Frank Geltner is heading up a group that works with those trying to revitalize the fairgrounds and come up with ways to improve the use of the fairgrounds, or “Lincoln County Commons,” which was a term he used during the council meeting.

When it’s not recycling messages about the fair or other local events coming up, it was suggested that local groups, both non-profit and for-profit might be given access to the sign, for a fee of course. The council told Geltner to return with a little clearer picture of what the art of the possible might be with such a sign. It was indicated that having something ready for the council to look at during the council’s next meeting might be a good thing.

No smoking in Newport City Parks and Sports Fields

After reviewing a long list of well traveled-over comments about why non-smokers shouldn’t further restrict the rights of smokers, the council voted unanimously to ban all smoking, including the use of nicotine vapor devices, in all city parks. Smoking is already banned at major city recreation facilities like the Recreation Center, the Municipal Swimming Pool, City Hall, etc.

The no smoking ban dictates that if somebody wants to take a smoke with their family while at a city park, they’ll have to walk to a sidewalk outside the park itself to do it. Park parking lots are also areas where it’s okay to smoke. But again, not in the park activity areas. Signage will also be erected at all city parks. Enforcement is expected to be mainly from peer pressure – as when somebody lights up, someone points to a sign that declares “no smoking” in the park. The city council said they hope that peer pressure will do a good job of keeping Newport parks, smoke free. It was also pointed out that there is no inherent “right to smoke” – but that they do have a right to take their smoking somewhere else. It was also mentioned that in areas where young children gather, those children figure that any and all activities in a park are legal, right and proper – so when someone shows up with a cigarette, they automatically assume that it’s acceptable behavior. It sends a wrong message to our children.

The council voted unanimously to instruct city staff to develop the exact language of a smoking ban in all city parks and return to the next council meeting for a possible first reading of the new “no smoking in city parks” ordinance. So by May sometime the no smoking ban will likely take effect.

Stiffening and strengthening Newport's main fire station.

Stiffening and strengthening Newport’s main fire station.

Putting some muscle in Newport’s main fire station on 10th.

The council got some great news that the state has granted nearly $1.5 million to fortify, strengthen and stiffen Newport’s main fire station. The station was built many years ago atop a mountain of fill dirt that brought the edge of a canyon up to ground level with the top of a hill.

The strengthening of the building will ensure that in the event of a major earthquake the fire crews won’t have to first take hours to dig out their fire and rescue rigs from the rubble of their own headquarters before they can begin responding to calls for help. The grant requires no local match money from the city, so the council was happy to hear that part of it, especially. Construction is expected to get underway later this year or early next year, with completion by the end of 2016.

Every town needs a long-term vision and Newport City Councilors aim to get one put together in the near future!

Newport City Councilors decided Monday night that the town needs a future vision of itself – one that that provides a set of filters and assumptions about what Newport’s future ought to look like. Pumping up and diversifying Newport’s economy is a part of it, but so is liveability. There are many, many components. Community visioning, said City Manager Spencer Nebel, is catching on nationwide.

The council decided to put together a “first impressions” team to begin the conversation about a vision for Newport – that it shall be made up of one city councilor, a member from the Chamber of Commerce, one from the Port of Newport, one from the Newport Planning Commission and two at-large citizens. Their job is to tackle the beginnings of the process which will be presented to the city council by mid-July with the findings behind their recommendation about a visioning process. Once the city adopts the recommendation then the hard work begins. Outreach to the community so the vision is widely shared and supported. But even when completed, the visioning template will be more of a living document – filled with good ideas and policies but also be ready for major shifts in direction if intelligent alternatives come along or emerge out of the blue.

Local Nye Beach Writer Carla Perry admonished the council to not make the visioning process too “top down.” She said it’s vital that younger people who will be living this “envisioned future” get their two-cents in as well as from those who have been around a while.

FAST Response Coast Guard patrol cutters.  Two up for grabs on the Oregon Coast.

FAST Response Coast Guard patrol cutters. Two up for grabs on the Oregon Coast.

Making the Coast Guard feel welcomed to place their latest patrol cutters in Newport

Port of Newport General Manager Kevin Greenwood stopped by to pick up a letter of endorsement from the city council – endorsement of the Coast Guard homeporting two of its new $73 million dollar Fast Fast Response Cutters. The Coast Guard is currently using cutters that are 110 feet long. The new ones that might homeport in Newport run around 150 feet and are much more heavily armed.

It’s been said that the Port of Newport may not have the room to accommodate such large craft based on the user plans that spawned port expansions in the first place. The Coast Guard will pick either Newport or Astoria to homeport the craft. They come with a crew of 24 each. So two crews at 24, plus a little extra for administration they’re talking nearly 70 full time jobs.

However, the stickler is that Newport’s housing shortage may enter the picture. Also whether NOAA, as the primary tenant at the Port of Newport, would be able to find room for two large ships and still continue on with their own scientific expeditions if all the berth space gets used up. There has been talk of the port having to add a couple of piers to accommodate the Coast Guard, but those piers aren’t cheap. The Coast Guard is already saying they’re not bringing with them any housing assistance for their crews so that may be a looming storm cloud on the horizon as well.

It was also brought up that Newport’s commercial fishing fleet is not too happy about the proposal. They reason that the Coast Guard has become more aggressive at boarding fishing boats, asking for papers while they inspects vessels, all of which takes up a lot of time – time away from fishing – and time away from fishing costs a lot of money. Another thing they’re complaining about is the security “clear zone” around each of these new large scale fast response cutters. As the cutters move about their patrol areas and come across fishermen, the fishermen have to drop what they’re doing, pull up their nets and get out of the way lest they be arrested or fined for winding up too close to these large new cutters. Fishermen just aren’t comfortable with them.

Still, City Manager Spencer Nebel strongly urged the council to allow him to draft a final letter of support for the two ships to homeport in Newport. Port Manager Kevin Greenwood has also been gathering letters of support. Greenwood also remarked that if Newport does acquire the shiny new craft it would bode well for the Coast Guard to maintain their helo rescue base at the Newport Airport. Greenwood suggested that with the further concentration of Coast Guard assets in Newport, it would seem only natural that they would keep the helicopter rescue nearby – a point made repeatedly by fishermen and their families about wanting the helo base to stay put right where it is.

The decision as to which port the two cutters will be assigned to, Newport or Astoria, will likely come later this year. But they wouldn’t actually be homeported until 2020. So there’s plenty of time to flesh it out.

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