The Newport City Council learned Monday night that when you plan and design a new aquatic center during the tail-end of a nasty recession but begin building it when the economy suddenly begins to recover, the price goes up. In this case by a half-million dollars. Contractors that would build the pool for one price suddenly are now so busy that labor and the cost of materials have risen. That’s why all bids for construction came in a half to three quarters of a million dollars higher than what was earlier estimated.
But the council was also told by city Public Works Director Tim Gross and Parks and Recreation Director Jim Protiva that the pool will be built – it will be the pool that was promised to the voters and that its construction will begin this fall.
Gross said that they are evaluating every aspect of the aquatic center’s materials – from the roof to exterior walls, and that some last minute “add-ons” are being evaluated too – like spectator access to the building and a “river channel” feature among others. Gross said there are many ways to fine tune the cost of the project without substantially affecting the overall performance of the pool. City Manager Spencer Nebel chimed in that there are ways to make other city funds available to supplement the project budget which can be spent up front then paid back a little later. There are also ways of raising money from the private sector with naming rights, memorial bricks, and outright donations. Nebel said the pool will be built and promises kept. Gross added that since the design of the pool was completed and cost estimates determined, construction costs have “risen wildly.” But he also said he’s confident the new aquatic center can be built to high standards that will last many decades.
Gross says his team will dive back into the list of materials and make substitutions where appropriate and then bring back a full report to the council September 8th to get the council’s blessing on it. And then they will tell the winning contractor to get busy. The project will take the better part of a year to construct. There are parking elements to the project as well.
The council also approved the erection of a nearly 200 foot tower off NE Avery, north of NE 73rd, which will be adorned with wind measuring devices. The project, in cooperation with Lincoln County, will ascertain whether there is enough wind in this part of Lincoln County to erect wind turbines. Data will be collected at the tower, analyzed and then used to determine whether future wind projects are feasible along this part of the Central Coast.
And the council approved a number of street projects in South beach on Abalone, Brant, 27th, Ferry Slip, Ash and 32nd Street. All are part of the city’s long running urban renewal program to re-vitalize blighted areas in South Beach.
And the long talked-about-and planned-for creation of Safe Haven Hill was approved as well, supplementing FEMA funds to build an access road to the top of the hill on the south, along with stairs, and a walkway to the top on the north. The council also noted that former city councilor Dick Beemer was the visionary for the project and bird-dogged it in the early going. And now it’s coming true – likely to be finished by the fall of next year. Safe Haven Hill will be an assembly area following a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake which scientists say could strike any time. Safe Haven Hill will accommodate hundreds of people as they seek higher ground to survive the tsunami expected to arrive on the coast within fifteen minutes.
There is still an interest in exploring a second evacuation route to higher ground up the hill behind the PUD power facility off Ferry Slip Road. That location, south of 40th, can accommodate far more than what will fit on top of Safe Haven Hill.
And the council reminded the public that the Coast Guard, the Newport City Council and the United States Postal Service will gather with the public at city hall Tuesday afternoon from 4pm through 5:30pm to commemorate the Coast Guard’s 225th birthday. A Coast Guard color guard will make a brief presentation of the flag – speeches praising the Coast Guard and the city for many years of cooperation and of course the countless life-saving rescues near shore and well offshore, performed by the Coast Guard. The post office will also offer the commemorative Coast Guard 225th Anniversary stamp and cancellation for those requesting one – an heirloom piece if there ever was one.