The Newport City Council Monday had a brutal agenda to deal with. Right off the bat there was a skirmish between Newport Fire Chief Rob Murphy and a couple of members of the city’s citizens budget review committee who questioned whether the city ought to pursue the acquisition of a new fire boat – a craft that could better fight a waterfront fire than any trucks on the street, according to Fire Chief Rob Murphy.
But city budget committee member Janet Webster strongly questioned whether the purchase would be at the expense of other just as pressing, if not more pressing issue than adding an expensive fire fighting device. Webster said the city is at risk of not being able to move forward on street and utility issues among other challenges. But Chief Murphy said the fire boat would be bought with an outside grant leaving the city on hook for only maintaining the craft. The city council said all this will have to be sorted out during the city’s process of establishing a budget for the next fiscal year which begins July 1st.
The city council decided to lighten the load on the Newport Airport for training employees for a wide array of aviation issues that pertain to the airport being able to handle commercial jet turbo-jet airliners. Airport Director Lance Vanderbeck and Fire Chief Rob Murphy said the so-called Part 139 requirements that rule the airport from a Federal Aviation Administration perspective is not really needed at the Newport. It requires lots of training that takes up a lot of airport time and budget and frankly should be dropped, according to Vanderbeck and Chief Murphy. Vanderbeck pointed out that turbo-prop nine passenger commuter planes, like Seaport, can still serve Newport without the Part 139 agreement with the FAA.
But City Councilor Laura Swanson said she didn’t want the airport to back-slide on the Part 139 FAA provision which would, she claimed, send a message that would reduce the airport’s perceived receptiveness to commercial airline service. “Not so,” said pilot, former city councilor and lifetime career official for the Federal Aviation Administration, Ralph Busby. Busby said the airport’s future for scheduled airline service is sketchy at best, but if it came to pass, the city could get its Part 139 designation back very quickly. Busby says to let go of it ‘for now’ saves the city money and allows those working in connection with the airport to concentrate on more important matters related to the airport as it operates today. The council voted to let the Part 139 obligation expire.
The council also took on what appears to be a business rivalry between locally owned Yaquina Cab, owned by Michelle and Frank Geltner and local upstart Pacific Coast Cab that intends to compete with them. Michelle Geltner urged the council to ensure that Pacific Coast Cab also offers seven day a week service 24 hours a day. She said unless that requirement is put on them, they could cherry-pick the busy times, reducing Yaquina Cabs revenues and crippling their ability to keep their 24/7 service promise. There was a lot of back and forth among councilors but in the end the issue was tossed back to City Manager Spencer Nebel who said he and his staff would get together with Yaquina and Pacific Coast and see how things might work out. Michelle Geltner said they don’t begrudge the competition – she just wants to continue the high level of service the Newport area has become accustomed to enjoying. She said they’re committed to a high level of service which includes their drivers who get paid vacations. She said that would all be threatened if an outside company comes in and plucks out the easy money to the detriment to the overall performance of taxi cab service in the area. Nebel said the business license renewals on cab service will up for renewal at the end of June so staff will get busy on the issue.
Utility rates for water and sewer are apparently on the upswing. The city will be holding public meetings on the issue during April, May and June. Watch this space for dates and times or consult the city’s website. Final hearing and rate setting is scheduled for June 4th. There will be a lot of debate and a tough decision for the city council that day.
The council decided to put in new sidewalks on the backside of the new municipal pool as well as a retaining wall. It’ll help ease a parking shortage in the area when it’s done. The funds for the project are coming out of the unused remains of the fund that paid for the construction of the aquatic center.
And finally, the council seemed to agree that the old town clock that was mowed down by a errant driver some time back will be replaced by a new one, but likely at Herbert and 101. The city will notify local businesses and property owners when the blessed replacement is about to be made.