The Newport City Council took on a wide variety of issues Monday including launching studies of the city’s major civic buildings – all 48 of them. It was learned that the city’s general fund needs added financial support to improve some of the city’s buildings. One source of funding is hotel-motel room taxes. It was proposed that the current 9.5% room tax be raised to an even 12%.
The city is also interested in restoring some or all 22 city employees who were laid off as the Covid-19 pandemic kicked into high gear. Raising the room tax to 12% is anticipated to take effect sometime in July.
The council then turned their attention to helping the Performing Arts Center do some upgrades. Exact financial arrangements not yet agreed upon. But they’re moving on it.
The council then turned their attention to the town’s twin dams – where the city’s water comes from. The dams are pretty old and investigations have been underway to carefully examine the upper dam which holds back most of the water. Investigators seem to think the dam will hold for a while longer while the city seeks large federal grants to replace it. It appeared that the replacement was a high priority until the Covid-19 pandemic infected the whole country. But replacing the Big Creek Dam remains high on the list according to Oregon’s congressional delegation. But a dry summer may be thrown into the mix – at least for the short term. The Siletz River is forecasted to be quite low throughout the summer and fall. Water conservation will likely be strictly enforced until winter rains show up along the coast.
And finally, speaking of dry weather, Newport Fire Chief Rob Murphy foresees another high fire danger this summer. He told the City Council that their single wildland fire vehicle needs some back-up when the fires inevitably breakout this summer. Chief Murphy scanned the west coast in search of another used wildland fire truck – and he found one in California – in good shape. And he got it for just under $60,000. The rural fire district pitched in $20,000 so they could use it too. And they’re probably going to be putting that second engine through its paces early and often this summer. Pray for rain.