Newport City Council: What to do about city recreation programs, taking down Mt. NOAA, and evaluating the city manager
Action Plan for Newport Recreation Programs
The Newport citizens task force, charged with how to lower the cost city recreation programs, appears to have come up with what Parks and Recreation Department Director Jim Protive predicted they would come up with early on. After contacting many city and non-profit organizations that run public recreation centers, the task force learned that they are all heavily subsidized. They simply don’t pay their own way; subsidized to the tune of around 50% on average which is right about where Newport recreation programs sit.
The Newport City Council, however, did receive some recommendation from the task force, namely, employ more hands-on management of the recreation center, the pool and the senior center so cost savings and program efficiencies could be handled by a quasi-independent manager in each facility. Each facility already has something like a manager, but not a fully fledged manager. The task force recommended the “managers” be given a chance to do the job. Parks and Recreation Department Director Jim Protiva told the council “I’m fine with that.”
Another recommendation by the task force was that the city should help to establish a 501-c3 non-profit group that can act as a fundraising arm for city recreation programs. Such non-profits play a major funding role in many communities around the country. The council said the city should get busy on that idea as soon as possible.
In the end, the council learned that its recreation programs are heads and shoulders above what like-sized communities have elsewhere in Oregon but that the challenge will be to keep subsidies as low as possible through tighter management and through funding help from a dynamic non-profit that powerfully represents the programs to the community and asks for more community support, both financially and by volunteering at the three facilities.
The Newport City Council Monday expressed “a deep interest” in taking a lot of what’s left of “Mount NOAA,” a big pile of sand that was dredged from Yaquina Bay to make way for the new NOAA docks and marine headquarters buildings. City Councilors said they have a use for the sand as fill at the northwest corner of the Newport Airport. That is where the city council would like to see the Erickson family build their new air museum. The museum is currently reviewing an offer from the Port of Tillamook to have it stay and expand there. The air museum earlier signed a letter of intent with the Port of Tillamook to stay, but the letter expires in March, we’re told.
City Councilors say they would like to commit to moving the sand to fill-in a low lying part of the airport, on the northwest corner. City councilors believe it would make a good spot for the museum – a museum that is a proven tourist attraction. Councilors say if they can find a way to lure the air museum south to Newport it would enjoy an entrance to the north of the main airport entrance so as to not conflict with normal airport vehicular traffic. The council also said it would demonstrate some verifiable proof that Newport sincerely wants to be the new home of the museum. But Councilors also contend that even if the museum decides to stay in Tillamook, it still makes sense to develop the airport property since most of it will develop eventually. And what is it about the word “free” that is confusing about the price for the sand.
Evaluating City Manager Jim Voetberg
And the council Monday began planning for another quarterly evaluation of City Manager Jim Voetberg. They say they’re looking at the long term, complete with Voetberg setting city goals in collaboration with the city council and then measuring progress on those goals.
Voetberg has been a controversial figure at city hall having written bonus checks to a number of recent city retirees in exchange for them not suing the city. Voetberg was also the target of a recent civil rights lawsuit against him and former City Attorney Penelope McCarthy for alleged discrimination. The city settled out of court for nearly $200,000. The city’s insurance carrier picked up the tab. Another lawsuit was recently filed against the city, brought by a former volunteer firefighter who claims she was sexually groped on the job by another firefighter, filed a complaint but was basically ignored by Voetberg. And a survey of Newport city employees, as well as among city councilors conducted last Summer, showed Voetberg the object of many complaints centered around trust and credibility among employees and his leadership skills by the city council.
Voetberg has stated to his city councilors in the past that the city can always do better in its management practices and blamed a major part of city employee unrest as human resource weaknesses among a few department heads, weaknesses which he claims can be rectified with “supervisor training.”