Jump starting the International Terminal
Both Newport City Hall and the Port of Newport are trying to jump start the region’s economy. And it appears they both have found a way to make it happen faster – together.
Port Manager Kevin Greenwood has obviously been doing some rather creative thinking about the issue along with Newport Community Development Director Derrick Tokos.
Tokos and Greenwood presented the Newport City Council Monday night with an outline of how to put urban renewal to work in a partnership between the city and the port. The city wants to see more jobs developed and Greenwood and his Port Commission want to see their spankin’ new International Terminal get out the starting gate on serving regional, inter-state and international trade. The first step is building what’s called a “laydown” yard where goods and commodities can be temporarily positioned just prior to being loaded on barges and ships bound for far away places.
Urban renewal can help do that kind of heavy lifting. City urban renewal can extend its urban renewal boundary line eastward of the Bayfront to include the International Terminal where the laydown yard would be served by new sewer and water lines along with storm water handling systems. All very expensive of course, but urban renewal, which skims new property tax revenues off the top of rising assessed values, will pay off the cost of that new infrastructure. Once installed, the International Terminal can become the powerhouse for jobs and commerce everyone believes it can be.
The council told Tokos and Greenwood to keep exploring an urban renewal relationship between the two entities and to get back to them. The council seemed pretty “up” on the idea adding that throwing in a back up water line between the Bayfront and South Beach just might be brought into the mix as well.
Greenwood also said his office will be applying for state and federal grants to actually build the laydown yard along with heavy lifting machinery to load cargo aboard ships and barges. But getting those pipes and other infrastructure in the ground first makes the rest of it just fall in line.
Utility rates going up in Newport – seniors and low income feel betrayed
Another reminder bubbled up in front of the city council Monday night that although seniors and low income residents were under the impression that their sewer and water bills would not go up “too much” year to year, they got a rude awakening from their rate slumber. It was announced that Newport water rates are going up 5%, effective July 1st. Sewer is rising 4%. Stormwater Utility fees are going up 5% and Infrastructure fees are rising 5%. Add all those all together and many in the community are feeling desperate. Especially those on fixed incomes whose financial diets are pretty bleak as it is.
The council was reminded by Public Works Director Tim Gross that the city’s water and sewer lines are shot and are failing all over town. If they’re not replaced, water and sewer service would not be possible. The pipes in the ground have been there 50 to 75 years. Some even longer. But Councilor David Allen reminded the council that an infrastructure committee that evaluated the situation a couple of years ago told the community that the city would do everything it could to hold down rates. And that there would be no “pay as you go, cash-on-the-barrel” approach to the problem. But even at 5% the natives are not happy.
The council told City Manager Spencer Nebel that although he’s launching a rate study investigation to see where some additional cost shifting might be possible, he should also quickly examine the feasibility of carving out lower rates for lower income customers ASAP. Nebel said he’d get on it. After that, the council passed the higher rates mentioned above.
Thompson Sanitary trash pickup rates rising 3.9%
Thompson Sanitary got at 3.9% rate increase awarded to them by the city council Monday evening. Thompson said the initial rate was higher but after a lot of close examination, including no longer having to pay for further closing costs of the Agate Beach landfill the rate hike was substantially lower. Thompson reported that the city’s compostable participation rates are holding pretty steady and that an annual report will soon be delivered to the city council.
Bicycle Pump Track hits a pot hole
A number of negative letters were read and some Wilder Neighborhood residents showed up loaded for bear at the council meeting. They told the council that while everybody was learning about plans to install a small bicycle pump track near the entrance road to the college, the neighbors heard nothing of it. They said they bought homes in Wilder to enjoy the peace and quiet of Mother Nature at her best – not to have biker cars and their children sprawled all over near the intersection of 40th and Harborton. Sensing a substantial lack of communications the council told City Manager Spencer Nebel to hold a public meeting on the issue, with the Wilder neighbors cordially invited before any final decision is made on whether the Wilder development area is the best place for the track.
Those in favor say it’s been shunned in every other place in town and that the Wilder site seems optimal. It’s out of the way and would be located near the starting area of the annual Coast Hills Classic. They said they look forward to alleviating the neighbor’s fears about the track. City Parks and Recreation Director Jim Protiva reminded the council that a lot of sites were investigated and typically there are neighborhood problems. Protiva said even if the pump track goes in (using motorless bikes ONLY, by the way) the track is not likely to remain there for very long due to the eventual build- out of the Wilder Subdivision.
Still trying to expand Salmon fishing in Newport and Coos Bay
Salmon for Oregon, a non-profit group trying to create a Spring Chinook Salmon run for Newport and Coos Bay, was back before the Newport City Council Monday evening, still trying to move the project forward. They’ve been at it for three years. That’s because the $300,000 plus they’re trying to get from the legislature is oh-so-slow in coming. But they’re still trying.
Salmon for Oregon Director Jim Wright asked the council to stick with them by preserving a tentative award of $26,000 in seed money. Wright said the state legislature won’t adjourn probably until after July 4th so there is hope. The Oregon Coastal Caucus of legislators remain solidly behind the project as is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. But if the state grant doesn’t come this legislative session, they’ll keep at it. The economic benefits to the coast are too great to just walk away from.
The council asked Wright to return at their July city council meeting with a final report of the legislature’s handling of the funding request.
Now that it’s got a new runway, the airport now needs new management
The council Monday night said there’s been a lot of discussions about how to get the Newport Municipal Airport running as close as possible to being self-sufficient. It routinely runs several hundred thousand dollars in the red every year. Monday night the council decided to call for proposals from any and all who are interested in setting up what’s called a private airport management entity, or more specifically, a Fixed Base Operator or FBO. FBO’s handle fuel sales, run a pilots/passenger lounge at the airport, provide weather information and other guidance on where to fly if they’re tourists and how to get there – helping them with their flight plans – that sort of thing. Some FBO’s also run airplane repair and equipment upgrade shops, rent hangers as well as provide other services.
City Manager Spencer Nebel said current city employees at the airport do a good job of doing what they do, but if the airport is to become less of a burden on the taxpayers of Newport, it’s going to have to try something different. And that something different is to find a good fit for an aggressive FBO.