Lincoln County Commissioner had an “all over the map” meeting on Wednesday as representatives from various groups and organizations appealed to the commissioners for support to help fight Climate Change, promote tourism on the Central Coast, create an “exchange zone” next to the courthouse and a call for boosting ocean research off the coast.
The commissioners were invited to bring county government in to the fight against Climate Change. Citizens Climate Lobby representative Mark Desmond said Climate Change is real and is rapidly accelerating with all kinds of weather changes causing long hot summers, more destructive wildfire and impacts to fisheries which would be a huge blow to the coast’s fishing industry. In fact, some say the increase in Domoic Acid off the coast is a prime indicator that things are going sideways for the northeast Pacific Ocean. Desmond and local progressive advocate Cyndi Karp said a number of Climate Change groups are beginning to come together, including chambers of commerce and the Siletz Tribe. Karp announced a regional meeting of various groups across Lincoln County set for December 7th to pursue public/private partnerships to coordinate Lincoln County’s contributions to solving what’s been referred to as a life and death issue for many living things on the planet – including humans. The commissioners agreed to join in the discussions and formulate whatever local strategies are available to help slow down or reverse climate change.
Investing local hotel/motel room taxes to promote tourism
Next up was the County Commissioners trying to decide which local group or associations should awarded $150,000 to more effectively promote tourism on the Central Coast. The money is available for smart tourism promotions and three local chambers of commerce submitted bids for this round of funding. Commissioners said they will bring the issue back at their next meeting with a goal to award a $150,000 tourism promotion gift to one of the local chambers.
Where to buy, sell and trade – right next to the courthouse
Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers got the green light from the commissioners Wednesday to set up something akin to an “economic transaction zone” behind the county courthouse. Sheriff Landers told the commissioners that many citizens have lots of stuff to sell. But too often the buyers turn out to be crooks and quickly the seller is out some money. Landers says selling a cache of goodies can be very dangerous. You never know what may unfold. So Sheriff Landers has marked off blue striped parking spaces between the courthouse and the jail building where transactions can take place. And yes, they will light up that part of the courthouse at night and there will be real time video cameras focused on the blue striped parking area. And…OH!…those who show up to make a financial transaction will have to get their dickering done and things sold within 15 minutes of arrival in the “blue zone.”
The county commissioners also tackled a long running question of how to make the Central Coast more hospitable to research centers like Hatfield Marine Science Center and numerous other environmental research groups. Rick Williams, a local oceanographic enthusiast said that using roving underwater devices, to assist scuba research divers would be very efficient and far less costly that using old and outdated devices. Williams says OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center wants to expand its research into large and small research vessels. But right now, it all seems to be in the conceptual stage.
Another showdown on the Lincoln County Fairgrounds/Commons
The group “Common Sense for Lincoln County” has put the Lincoln County Commission on notice that if they don’t stop their nearly $10 Million dollar upgrade to the Lincoln County Fairgrounds/Commons, their group will put the project on the May 2019 ballot.
Common Sense for Lincoln County’s Cheryl Connell said although there was an affirmative public vote on the idea, that vote occurred many years ago and that the situation has changed. Common Sense Lincoln County has reminded the commissioners in the past that the new facility would be a very large money-loser and that if the commissioners were to resurrect the county fair, it might be better to re-locate it to Toledo, where the weather is usually sunnier and warmer for fair patrons.
Connell and others have reminded the commissioners that the county, like many others across the country, face tighter budgets yet greater needs for their citizens – certainly affordable housing among others. Rather than resurrecting the old fairgrounds and constructing what would certainly be only a modest mini-convention center, the commission, she says, needs to slow down and think about what they’re doing. Connell’s Common Sense group is on record as declaring the project a white elephant and a potential serious financial drag on the county and its taxpayers. Commissioners in the past have said they believe that a Fairgrounds/Commons upgrade, despite being perpetually in the red, financially, would bring more visitors to the coast which means more hotel-motel room taxes, busier restaurants and other tourist related amenities.
Connell asked the commissioners to reconsider their decision to proceed with the project. County Commission Chair Doug Hunt said “We’ll take it under advisement.” Connell replied that she and her group would like an answer by the next Lincoln County Commission meeting, November 28th. Connell said if the commission doesn’t respond by then, or re-states their intent to move forward with the Commons project, her group will place a citizens initiative on the May 2019 ballot and let the voters decide, based on a broader view of county needs, whether they want the project to move forward.