Newport City Council – Whither water after the “Big One” – a real step toward affordable housing – backing the county on fluoridation (?)- Bye bye Spring Chinook – Kickin’ on the high beams at the Newport Airport
When the “Big One” hits the Oregon Coast, there won’t be much left standing, according to just about every expert on the issue. And that includes the two dams on Big Creek in Northeast Newport. According to an engineering firm, both the upper and lower earthen dams that provide Newport’s drinking and firefighting water supply will turn to mush and fail, sending all their water downstream, through the Agate Beach parking lot and out to sea.
City Public Works Director Tim Gross and HDR Engineering have been studying the city’s options and have come up with a preferred version – a single replacement concrete dam just downstream from the current upper dam. Cost: $19 million. A minimum figure. A big state subsidy is presumed to be in the mix once the town gets around to building it.
City Councilor Ralph Busby said he just got the preliminary design information a few days ago and hasn’t had time to properly digest everything that’s in it. So he wants more time to look it over and get the public’s thoughts about it too.
The new concrete dam is expected to survive minor to moderate earthquakes, but the big Cascadia Subduction Zone shaker would definitely damage it. Whether it would totally bring it down is not known but the spokeswoman for HDR Engineer strongly hinted that enough of it might remain intact so it could be repaired and once again provide the area with drinking water and fire protection.
City Public Works Director Tim Gross said he would bring back a more clear report on why the concrete dam versus an earthen dam replacement is the best way to go. Once a clearer design way forward is agreed to, then the city can go shopping for state and federal grant funding to pay for most of it. Gross said he’ll report back to the council and to the public during the council’s second meeting in August and that the public will be given ample time to weigh in on the issue.
On a 4 to 3 vote, affordable housing will be built near the downtown and next to City Hall
After a spirited debate among councilors, and heart-felt pleadings from Habitat for Humanity clients the council barely approved donating three city-owned downtown area parcels to Habitat for Humanity to build more affordable housing. Two families told the council that they went from run down apartments to owning their own homes, crafted and constructed by themselves and volunteers who helped build them. It forever changed their lives, they said, adding their children are going to college partially as a result of their boot-strapping their own homes with the help of Habitat for Humanity.
But City Councilor Ralph Busby said “Rather than donate the tax-foreclosed land for affordable housing, we could build a street. A street would benefit the town more than a duplex on a lot near city hall.” City Councilor Wendy Engler chimed in pointing out that although she fully supports Habitat’s efforts, she disagrees that the three lots on 10th, Pine and Hatfield should go for housing – it should go for more parking that city hall will surely need over the next five to ten years. “But there could be other uses as well,” she added.
City Public Works Director reminded the council that creating a parking lot for city hall involving the three disconnected lots is not feasible based on topography and other homes around them.
Habitat Director Sally Bovett laid it on the line. “People talk endlessly about the community’s need for more affordable housing. Here’s a perfect example of a way forward to do just that and people are not supporting it.” Bovett reminded the council that when the homes are built, the city will be collecting “first ever” property taxes on them. They will have paid system development charges and for sewer and water service. Bovett said “That’s a far more valuable investment in the city than merely paving a street.” Bovett went on to point out that there’s something community-enriching when others help a family build their own house – establishing a sense of community closeness and inter-dependence.
The vote to donate the properties to Habitat Humanity was 4 to 3, with Mayor Roumagoux, and Councilors Swanson, Sawyer and Saelens voting yes – Councilors Busby, Engler and Allen voting no.
Those who buy Habitat for Humanity homes have to keep them affordable for 20 years and not just flip them, so the low income program has staying power in the housing marketplace.
As a footnote, Oregon is only one of two states that still hasn’t given itself the authority to require housing developers to provide up to 30% of their projects to include affordable housing. Only Oregon and Texas share that distinction. In the last session of the Oregon Legislature, Multnomah County Representative Jennifer Williamson introduced HB 2564 which would have required affordable housing where deemed necessary by offering incentives to developers to build that affordable housing. Those incentives included fast-track building plan and permitting processes, cancelling system development charges, property tax abatement for a number of years, density bonuses (more units per lot), so the developer still makes a healthy profit. Yet the bill was stuffed into the Senate Rules Committee where it languished through the end of the session. In the meantime, House representatives have selected Williamson as the House Majority Leader for the next session. We’ll see if anything changes on the affordable housing front next session.
More discussions about how to cowboy-up on the “Big One.”
The council also went along with another program to help more coastal residents survive a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. County Emergency Management Coordinator Jenny DiMaris and Schools Safety Officer Sue Graves were given a vote of confidence when the council pledged $20,000 toward a matching grant from NOAA which is prepared to put up $1.5 million to buy sea-going type shipping container caches and fill them with water and water extraction devices that would be used over the days and weeks following the earthquake and tsunami. DeMaris said the county should hear back within the next month or two on whether Lincoln County got the $1.5 million. DeMaris emphasized to NewsLincolnCounty.com that the initial content of the caches will be more focused on water and purification systems but that the caches could hold food and other vital commodities required when a population is cut off from the outside world for up to a month or longer.
It’s 2015 and we’re still chewing on the Fluoride thing…
Although 75% of Americans drink fluoridated water straight from the tap, Oregon is one of those states where a fair proportion of the population does not. Newport included. Lincoln City and Toledo too.
When it recently came time to add city council approved fluoridated water to the town’s new water treatment plant, the council ran into a money problem. It didn’t have the $300,000 to install the fluoride-adding equipment. So, no fluoride.
But county health officials have been urging the council to find the money and restore fluoride to Newport’s water system. Once that happens they figure Toledo and Lincoln City will fall in line – thereby helping to lower youth tooth decay in Lincoln County. Youth tooth decay rate is above the state average, which is high among the rest of the states which provide more fluoride than Oregon.
County health officials strongly urged the council to proceed with restoring fluoride to Newport’s water system. They say the Centers for Disease Control strongly endorse the use of fluoride to head off childhood, as well as adulthood, tooth decay.
But opponents in the audience spoke just as passionately. Dr. Susan Andersen, a naturopathic doctor, skilled in acupuncture, said although it may be true that children need fluoride supplements early in life, there’s little evidence that adults need the same supplement. She suggested that children get doses of fluoride throughout their childhood but then taper it off later in their youth. Others contend that fluouride causes a myriad of bad health effects throughout life.
In the end the council agreed to hold a public hearing on the issue, and scheduled it for Tuesday, September 8th at which time the council may or may not be able to make up its mind on a way forward with fluoride.
What’s ahead for the Newport Airport
The city council Monday night took a big step forward in figuring out how to grow, if not make profitable, the Newport Airport. The city decided Monday night to hire a consultant that has taken many airports into a future worth growing in to. The Federal Aviation Administration provides 90% of the money – the city comes up with 10%. Industrial facilities, air charters, flight lessons, heightened tourist traffic, flight schools, chopper pilot lessons – you name it, they may want it. It’s costing city hall over $300,000 a year to keep the airport operational. They’d like to kick the airport into a profit zone so it can become truly self-supporting.
Salmon for Oregon Must Wait
Salmon for Oregon came up with a lump of coal in their summer solstice stocking this week as a lack of progress in the group’s establishment of a Spring Chinook run in Yaquina Bay.
While it sounds like a shoulder tourism season event, and possibly a good one, the state legislature and the Newport City Council were looking for a strong start and a sustained push before they opened up the city and state checkbooks. But it didn’t happen in Salem this legislative session and so Newport, following the state’s lead, also dropped it’s earlier award of $25,000 to the effort which involves raising Chinook Spring in net pens so they come back to Yaquina Bay when they spawn. The council will now re-contact the other tourism related groups that applied for the money and ask them if they’d like a little more from the pot? The good folks building a permanent sea lion dock and observation platform down on the Bayfront will likely be right at the head of that line because they don’t have the money quite yet for spectator overlook dock in their original plan.