Big Thank You’s, Buttoning Up Agate Beach Wayside Project, Improvements to Newport PAC, Expanding Parking South of City Hall and Cleaning Up Aquatic Center “Acrylic Cloud”
The Newport City Council was a busy bunch Monday night on an array of issues – the first right off the top was commending, with plaques and documents of appreciation, two police officers and two citizens who helped to roust and save guests during the big fire at the City Center Motel early in the morning of August 5th. Four motel guests lost their lives that morning.
Newport Police Officers Rick Auborn and Brad Purdom were first on scene and quickly saw that the flames were sky high and people were still trapped inside. They, with the help of citizens Eugene Sanders and Chase Smith who happened to be driving by at 5:30 in the morning, jumped out of their cars and started pounding on motel room doors, along with police, and helped motel guests get out to safety. It was frantic moving from area to area – getting people out and away from the building to a holding area where they could be tended to while Newport Firefighters and an army of firefighters from throughout the region battled the blaze.
Police Detective Mitch France was given a Distinguished Service Award for what was described as a monumental effort to effectively manage the investigation and follow up work on the horrific event of December 3rd, 2014 when a deranged mother threw her 6 year old autistic son to his death off the Yaquina Bay Bridge. They boy’s body was later recovered and the mother, who was diagnosed with depression and other mental problems, was later sentenced to life in prison. Newport Police said Detective France’s professional handling of a highly complex case across many state and local agencies was exemplary.
And eight year Newport Police Officer Keith Garrett was sworn into the rank of Sergeant before the city council. Now Sergeant Garrett is known for his versatility in handling a wide range of law enforcement duties and is much admired by his fellow officers.
The city council finished up parceling out the funds for the city’s share of the costs for the long-awaited Agate Beach Wayside project that ODOT and the city are building. When completed next spring, it’ll sport showers and rest rooms, more parking, additional access to Highway 101, a very substantial stairway down to the beach and an extension of Gilbert Street to aid in overall traffic circulation in the area.
Although the community refers to the area as the Agate Beach Wayside, the label will change with the completion of the upgrades. The new name for the wayside will be the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside, commemorating and honoring world renown music composer Ernest Bloch who lived in the Agate Beach area with his family for many years and for which there is today a local group of Ernest Bloch admirers who continue to celebrate Mr. Bloch’s musical talents.
The council turned their attention next to the Newport Performing Arts Center for more upgrades and improvements. The council approved a bid to dramatically expand the women’s restrooms at the west end of the PAC’s lobby. The project will also expand and upgrade the lobby area itself. There will be other expansions and upgrades to the PAC over the next few years. Exact details to be announced – the work funded through grants from the city as well as funds generated by what sometimes seems like an endless stream of public fundraisers conducted by the relentless and tireless promotion efforts of Oregon Coast Council for the Arts Executive Director Katherine Rickbone and her equally motivated staff.
The City Council decided to move ahead with the city acquiring a big vacant lot south across Angle Street from City Hall – former home of the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Newport. City Manager Spencer Nebel said the City Hall campus will be growing eventually and that with the opening of the new Aquatic Center and the need for special event space, including the Newport Farmer’s Market, now seems the time to buy the property for parking since there is currently a willing seller.
The price is $1.1 million. The city will float a three year loan to buy the property, then pay off the loan by selling surplus properties the city owns in various parts of town. Nebel says there are a number of short and long term uses for the property that will help ensure that Newport’s civic center will continue to meet the needs of residents, tourists and city workers. He said that ten to fifteen years down the road the uses of the land might change, but that those changes would be up to the directive of city councilors at that time. Nebel said the timing is right and the funds can be made available. He recommended the city council (which has been meeting behind closed doors for weeks about this) agree to moved forward with the offer to the property owner and get the deal done.
And the City Council learned that city staff is working with neighbors in the Pine Street neighborhood toward the East to clean up a mess caused by escaping chemical sealant sprays that leaked from the currently under-construction Aquatic Center right behind City Hall.
Neighbors told the council that in early August, while construction workers were spraying a ceiling sealant inside the enclosed center, some of the spray leaked out through unfinished cracks or opening in the roof assembly. The escaping spray was blown by the wind eastward toward the Pine Street neighborhood where it coated and then solidified on house windows, cars, vegetables growing in gardens, a solarium, as well as exterior home siding wood panels. Neighbors told the council that they were having trouble getting through to the contractor’s liability insurance carrier. So Public Works Director Tim Gross said he would work with the neighbors and get them in touch with the project’s general contractor and the subcontractor who did the actual spraying and get the neighborhood cleaned up. Gross said the contractor doing the spraying was working indoors and probably didn’t know any interior spraying was getting to the outside air.