Newport City Council: A Whopper of a meeting – Earthquake/Airport/Fluoridation of Water/Affordable Housing and more!
Surviving “The Big One”
No sooner does the New Yorker Magazine run a big story on the Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake than the Newport City Council is poised to apply for a $1.5 million grant from NOAA for emergency supplies for all the survivors – should it hit in our lifetime.
Actually, Lincoln County Emergency Management Coordinator Jenny DeMaris and Lincoln County School District Safety Officer Sue Graves have been, for a long time, trying to expand an emergency supplies program they’ve been providing to local schools so if the earthquake strikes during school hours, survival supplies will be available on campus.
Inside the seagoing shipping containers initially is water, water purification devices, and shelter tents. It appears that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has been working in parallel with a lot of agencies, like Lincoln County, to provide scattered disaster caches so no matter where people are before or after the quake/tsunami, they’ll be near one.
NOAA is offering grants of up to $1.5 million to acquire these caches, with an emphasis on water, which would be placed at earthquake/tsunami assembly areas up and down the coast. All Lincoln County cities, Lincoln County itself, special districts like fire departments, water and sewer districts and the school district are expected to chip in $500,000 between them, toward the final cost of $2 million. The grant program and accumulation of all the survival caches, up to 100 of them, is expected to take three years – maybe longer.
DeMaris and Graves are putting the grant application together and have been pitching all Lincoln County local governments to jump on board. The applications are due pretty soon. DeMaris says the county will learn this fall whether it will be getting one of the grants.
As an alternative, if we don’t get the grant, some rough arithmetic suggests a ONE TIME 20-cent property tax override (roughly $50/household) would fund largely the same number and quality of survival caches placed in assembly areas from Otis to Cape Perpetua. And we might get it done faster.
The future of the Newport Airport
The City Council is still trying to make the Newport Airport financially self-sufficient. Right now the city’s general fund is bleeding around $350,000 a year just to keep the airport open. It is anything but self-sufficient.
To make the Newport Airport pay its own way, the council is commissioning a comprehensive analysis of what changes would have to be made for the airport to become more aggressive at attracting more airplane activities including signing up a very pro-active fixed base operator to handle incoming private aircraft – even private jets – providing hospitality services, fueling, aircraft maintenance, tourism referrals, places to stay and to point out other areas of interest along the coast. More comprehensive aircraft maintenance could also be on the list so that airport services would become 100% self-supporting and thereby eliminate the city’s annual subsidy which could be easily spent on other vital city services.
The city council is expected to hire a consulting firm to look into all these things, including whether the airport could accommodate light industry – a common occurrence at other airports – large and small. The cost of the analysis will be 90% paid by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Self-help affordable housing non-profit ‘Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County’ is expected to be awarded three good sized tax foreclosed-on land parcels near City Hall. The parcels are prime sites for sweat-equity home construction led by the group which says they can build two duplexes and a single family home between the three parcels.
The city council has been talking about this transaction for quite a while and appears poised to turn over the land, free-and-clear, to the group. As in the past, the council was reminded that an affordable housing crisis grips Oregon as well as most states and anything that can be done to put more affordable housing on the market is healthy for the community. The council expected to ink the deal Monday night at City Hall.
Fluoridating Newport’s Drinking Water Again
The long and winding road toward re-fluoridating Newport’s drinking water is back before the council Monday night. There are those who contend that fluoridated water is a hazard to public health while others, including the medical community and the Centers for Disease Control says fluoridated water is a big health plus, especially for young children who otherwise will get lots more cavities growing up. The council has set aside $300,000 to re-introduce fluoridated water which was interrupted due to a budget shortfall during the recent construction of the town’s new water treatment plant. Up for discussion again Monday night.
Salmon for Oregon
And the council is expected to finally turn down funding for Salmon for Oregon in their bid to restore a long lost Spring run of Chinook Salmon in Yaquina Bay. The council has been waiting for the state to chip in some tall dollars which it has not, despite Salmon for Oregon’s pleading that it would dramatically enhance tourism and recreation fishing in both Newport as well as from another restoration run in Coos Bay.
The city council gets down to business at 6pm Monday evening at City Hall.