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Statement from Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer

Newport City Hall

Newport citizen Carla Perry stated in a letter to the editor that as of June 2020, Rogue Brewery had racked up $390,000 in fines for wastewater treatment violations (violations prior to 2019 were ignored). Fines at a $1000 per day being ignored. The facts are that Rogue has always been paying higher rates for wastewater to address industrial discharges. In addition, beginning in March 1, 2018, Rouge paid fines of $50,000 for exceedances of BOD and PH. The City did enter into a consent agreement with Rogue Brewing giving them the opportunity to redirect unpaid fines into building wastewater pre-treatment facilities to address these overages.

This is a similar program that the state has used with the City when we have non-compliance issues with wastewater regulations. Rogue has invested more than a million dollars in their pre-treatment program through this first agreement and will be investing much more to bring their facility in full compliance with industrial discharge limits through a subsequent agreement. . These steps will help extend the City’s capacity for treating wastewater at the City’s wastewater treatment plant by increasing Rogue’s ability to more fully treat wastewater coming from their brewing operations.

As part of the current agreement, Rogue is and will continue to pay amounts in excess of wastewater rates to offset additional treatment costs based on their discharge limits.  This agreement will address the wastewater concerns that will extend the capacity of our current wastewater treatment plant and allow Rogue to make very significant investments in their pre-treatment program. In addition, the agreement provides that Rouge will pay to cover the additional treatment costs that the City will incur for treating their sewage until their new plant is online and keep one of Newport’s major employers hiring local people to produce great quality beer and spirits right here in Newport.                   

Ms. Perry also indicated that the city chooses voluntary compliance to address various code violations and that we should focus on fining folks as a way to gain revenue for the city. As a former police officer, I find this approach to be very disheartening. People make mistakes from time to time and this City works to get people into compliance. Voluntary compliance will often lead to a much better long-term outcome than focusing on fines that some people pay for the services that we all enjoy. I really don’t think that most people in Newport would support rigid fining and lack of compassion in dealing with our own residents and property owners when mistakes are made, then corrected.

Ms. Perry also indicates that the city should opt for legislation to free up flexibility in how room taxes can be spent. I am in agreement with this statement. The League of Oregon Cities has placed this as a priority for many legislative sessions and the City will pursue this option with our legislators in the next full legislative session. Redirecting these funds to other purposes faces a big uphill battle with well-financed lobbyists for the hotel and restaurant industries successfully fighting these changes in each legislative session. The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association has consistently fought any changes on the percentages at the state legislature. This is not a source that I believe we can depend on for financing roads, but we will continue advocating for these legislative changes.

While the concept of fining people to close the City’s budget gap may be appealing to some, I do not believe that this would come anywhere near meeting the unmet financial needs of the City for the future. The two tax proposals on the upcoming ballot will share these financial burdens with both our visitors and residents to pay for services that are used by all who enjoy this great community. 

I would urge all Newport voters to vote YES on both issues for a better quality of life for all in Newport.

Mayor Dean Sawyer, Newport

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