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Update from Newport City Manager Spencer Nebel

From Newport City Manager Spencer Nebel

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the 2021 summer solstice is on June 20, 2021, at 11:32 PM. This marks the kickoff of our summer season. Newport has experienced a busy winter and spring with tourist traffic showing a significant rebound from 2020. It is anticipated that the summer of 2021 will bring many people to the coast. This is good news for our small business community that has suffered much through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Brown has established a 70% vaccination rate threshold before lifting the orders for mask-wearing, physical distancing, and capacity restrictions for facilities. Oregon OSHA has also announced they will relax restrictions on mask-wearing and social distancing in conjunction with the new threshold established by the Governor. For the City, this will mean less restrictions on access to city facilities, and the ability to hold in-person committee and Council meetings without limitations on spacing. This will relax restrictions at the Library, Recreation, Aquatic, and Visual Arts Centers, and allow for reopening of both the Performing Arts and 60+ Centers. The City is developing its plans for once the state hits the 70% threshold. The City will be announcing the specifics of how this will affect these operations on Monday. It is not clear what other COVID-19 restrictions will remain. Due to budgeting and staffing issues, the hours of operation for the Library and Recreation Center will be modified from pre-pandemic hours. This will also be announced on Monday evening. Overall, the city has maintained access to its facilities through most of the pandemic on a restricted basis. I appreciate the diligence of staff for working through some very challenging times, and appreciate the understanding and patience from the public, as we have had to conduct business in different ways in the past 15 months. We are all looking forward to operating on a “new normal” basis as we approach the end of the COVID-19 emergency.

Another challenge for the City during the pandemic has been to find staffing to fill open positions. The City has 20 budgeted positions vacant, with a number of these positions being advertised multiple times without finding a candidate to fill these positions. This impacts service in areas where vacancies have existed for an extended period of time. We are looking at restructuring certain positions to increase the pool of available candidates to fill these positions. We have had success in filling several key positions. The Public Works Director position was filled by David Powell; the Aquatics Supervisor position was filled by Keeley Naughton; and the Sport Programs Coordinator position was filled by Billie Bechtel. They will help us as we move forward in a post-pandemic world. Job openings are listed on the city’s website. If you know of anyone considering working for the City of Newport, please direct them to our website or click here.

While Newport enjoyed recent rains, all indications are that Lincoln County is experiencing drought conditions. Prior to this weekend rain, the Siletz River was at a near all-time low for this time of year. The City will be considering water conservation measures to provide relief to the Siletz River which is the source of a significant amount of drinking water during the summer months. We will keep you informed as to this developing situation.

Finally, the City will be celebrating Independence Day on July 4 with a fireworks display at dusk on the evening of the 4th. The City Council has appropriated additional funding to make this year’s display a true celebration after a very challenging year dominated by COVID-19, and impacted by the Lincoln County wildfires occurring last fall. With the projected dry conditions for July 4, we ask people to restrict their use of unofficial fireworks, particularly those that could ignite fires with the dry conditions anticipated. After last year’s wildfires, we all need to be cognizant that the coast is not immune from these types of disasters. Enjoy the public fireworks offered in Newport and other locations, but please do not use fireworks that have the potential to ignite fires in unsafe conditions. 

I hope everyone has a fun and safe summer! 

Spencer Nebel

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