Newport City Council approves 2.9% hike in Thompson Sanitary bills to customers – Council explores helping to promote solar energy – COLA increases for employees; more for some who have been underpaid based on survey.
Newport City Councilors Monday night raised Newport residents’ garbage pickup bills by no more than 2.9% starting in July. Part of the raise was tied to composting costs and the other to cost of living adjustments (COLA). The final rate will be determined after the COLA figures come in later this week. But whatever it is, the combined rate increase won’t exceed 2.9% according to City Manager Spencer Nebel.
City councilors expressed an interest in teaming up with Lincoln County Commissioners and other Lincoln County cities to promote green, renewable energy from the sun – solar panel installations on rooftops of businesses and homes throughout Lincoln County. Yes, solar panels generate electricity even on cloudy days.
A group called Environment Oregon/Solarize Lincoln County presented the council with a compelling argument to team up with county commissioners to coordinate community workshops throughout the county so that residents who may not know much about solar energy and solar panels can get that information through bonafide experts. The goal is to allow Lincoln County to generate up to 1.5 megawatts of power from private solar panels by 2022 and enjoy the huge savings solar panels offer in the long run. An Environment Oregon spokesman said solar power is not new anymore. It’s the fastest source of green energy in the country yet many business and home owners still don’t know much about it.
The idea is for local government agencies to team up with local and regional solar installation contractors to offer a three month window to have their properties analyzed for solar power capabilities and be offered major discounts and attractive financing, if required, to where an average solar installation will look something like this:
The first step in the cities/county partnership would be to sponsor workshops for the public to come and learn about solar – from sunbeam, to roof top, to wall plug. They say coastal solar systems work even on very cloudy days. In fact Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda told the council that his family ordered solar panels for his home and his electric bill fell to around $30 a month as opposed to their previous average of $100 a month.
The workshops would inform attendees of all the in’s and out’s of solar power and help them to figure out financing and how long it would take for their solar installation to pay for itself. They say it’s around eight years, on average. But from there-on, the savings continue.
Environment Oregon also stated that solar panels will be a godsend if the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake strikes the coast in our lifetime. While the regular power grid would be down likely for months on end, the sun will go on shining, generating power for those with solar panels.
The “Educate the Public About Solar Power” workshops would be made possible by the county and each city contributing $5,000 each toward a three month intensive education process touring the county. The money would pay for just materials and demonstrations. Nobody gets paid since the county already has a “Sustainable Communities” advocate in the form of Newport City Councilor Mark Saelens who is employed by the county. He said the approach to quickly educate the public about solar power has been going on nationwide at a rapid clip. He said Clackamas County, Eugene, Happy Valley, Hood River, Pendleton, Portland, West Linn, Lake Oswego and Milwaukee have already launched their own workshop programs to get solar panel power up-and-running in their areas.
Councilor Ralph Busby raised an objection that it all looks to him like the cities and counties would be subsidizing the solar panel industry. Councilor David Allen jumped in to remind everyone that the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on promoting tourism. He said promoting green energy and saving Newport residents money on their power bills is a legitimate policy decision which is properly within the discretion of the council. Allen also pointed out that among the most heavily subsidized industries in the country is the fossil fuel industry which still fulfills the vast majority of America’s power needs.
The vote to have City Manager Spencer Nebel send a “letter of interest” to the county commission for the solar panel workshops was nearly unanimous – Councilor Busby providing the only “no” vote.
City Employees Get a Pay Raise – around 2%
Newport municipal workers, both union and non-union are in for at least a 2% pay increase retro-active to last July. But it might be higher for some workers based on a city-wide job description analysis as the study is finding that some workers have been underpaid compared to other similar-sized cities around Oregon. Those with the greatest disparities might have their pay raises phased in over a number of years.