video Brad Taylor
Oregon Coast productions.
A packed meeting room full of Newport Chamber of Commerce members and their guests greeted the two candidates for Mayor Friday at the Newport Recreation Center; City Councilor Jeff Bertuleit and City Councilor Sandra Roumagoux.
Use of Citizen Task Forces to tackle strategic challenges for the city
Bertuleit said the task forces are important to study major issues facing the city since the city council itself serves only part time. He said task force members work hard and offer great service to the community.
Roumagoux observed that task forces sometimes are messy but they get the job done. She said task force recommendations often drive city policy on critical areas of doing the public’s business. She said the city should do more to recruit valuable candidates for future task forces, and give them more recognition.
Does the city need a new convention center/expo?
Taking questions from the audience, Roumagoux said that the idea of Newport having a convention center or exposition center has been debated for years but that the community has been re-thinking the need for it. She said the city council has seriously considered other ways of attracting events and more tourists to the area. They have been dividing up the city’s ‘exposition fund” among other tourism driven facilities, to expand and enhance their draw; Oregon Coast Aquarium, Marine Heritage Museum among others.
Bertuleit pointed out that there is plenty of meeting space among Newport’s major hotels and they’re underused as it is without adding more space, hinting that an exposition center could hurt the businesses that are already well established in the community. He told the crowd that rather than Newport leading the charge on the subject of meeting space and convention activities, Lincoln County Commissioners are reviewing the feasibility of some sort of multi-use facility at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. He said most such facilities don’t make money; they rely on public subsidies.
As for the role of environmental protection in the way Newport is run, Bertuleit said it’s important since it has a great impact on everyone’s quality of life.
Roumagoux cited the city’s recent tightening restrictions on the use of herbicides and pesticides on city property, including parks, childrens’ play areas and roadway landscaping.
Role of the Mayor
Bertuleit said the mayor’s role is to set the tone and sometimes the direction of issue discussions before the council. He said the mayor also helps to articulate a vision for improving the city.
Roumagoux said she agreed with Bertuleit on the mayor’s role but added that the mayor also communicates often with the city manager, expressing the council’s opinions and policy preferences to the city manager as to how best to run the city. The mayor, she says, is suppost to be the town’s pro-active upbeat promoter. She said Mayor McConnell has done a good job of that and she wants to continue it.
Role of Oregon Coast Community College
Bertuleit said it is very important that the city and the college have a close working relationship. The college has an important role to play to make higher education and vocational training conveniently and affordably available to the community.
Roumagoux said the college is “the love of my life,” and a vibrant part of our community. She said the college should always be exploring ways to provide the education and training to enlarge and improve the skill levels of working families. She said she’s been approached by Newport Fire Chief Phil Paige to help explore fire science offerings at the college to improve the recruitment and performance of volunteer firefighters, on whom the city relies quite heavily.
Roumagoux said when Fred Meyer came in “I almost had a melt-down. Now we’ve got Walmart, too.” She said she doesn’t believe Newport will get much more big box store action because it’s a small town. She said good planning by the city should include a healthy balance of locally owned and family operated businesses.
Bertuleit said he felt the same. He said he fears for small family-run stories that can always be counted on to support local causes and youth sports. “Please buy local,” he said.
The role of science and oceanographic research
Bertuleit said Newport can be a conduit for a lot of economic energy that is emerging since the arrival of NOAA’s oceanographic fleet. He said the promotional role of the Chamber of Commerce is important as well as making sure that suitable land is available to accomodate the economic growth that is coming our way. He said NOAA is the seed and we need to help it grow.
Roumagoux said it’s important that the mayor work closely with the Port of Newport, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon Coast Community College and the Lincoln County School District to help Newport become even more of a marine science center than exists today. She said the excitement of NOAA’s arrival is still with us and we need to keep it going. She added that a recently completed economic survey of Newport indicated a need for an economic development coordinator that would follow up on the plan – to actively engage those who can bring more economic development to Newport, and to employ the talent at the city and at the Chamber of Commerce.
Role of Art and the Humanities in Newport
Roumagoux reminded the crowd that she is a life-long artist and a former director at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Roumagoux said Newport residents have always appreciated art and cultural events. She reminisced about the time that former city manager Don Davis pushed for sewer system upgrades rather than build the Newport Performing Arts Center. She said the community rose up and told Davis that it wanted the PAC. Later, Davis said the addition of the PAC to the Newport area was the right thing to do and clearly demonstrated the depth of commitment to the arts by the voters of Newport.
Bertuleit also reminded the crowd that he too is an artist and a long-time member of the Yaqina Artists Association. He said he supports the Performing Arts Center and the Visual Arts Center in bringing the community a cultural richness it would not have otherwise. He said he also supports art walks which have caught on up and down the coast.
Does Newport need another pool or a full blown Aquatic Center?
Bertuleit said the current Newport pool is very old and needs replacing. But he added instead of just replacing a traditional pool, offering only a limited numbers of activities going on at the same time, the city should get behind a long-held dream held by a number of local residents to build a full-blown aquatic park, as is seen at McMinnville’s Evergreen Air Museum which attracts many users from miles around. He said the Newport aquatic park boosters organization, with which he has been very active, is seeking grants as well as other private funding sources. Other aquatic park boosters in the past have also said that when visitors come to the Central Coast to visit Newport and the Oregon Coast Aquarium, an aquatic park would help round out their visit, especially if it’s rainy – to leave a good memory in the minds of visitors are they head back home with their windshield wipers slapping.
Roumagoux said a recent citizens task force determined that Newport should keep the scale of aquatic facilities small – that we keep what we’ve got and improve it where possible. She said the task force also recommended the formation of a private non-profit foundation to act as a fundraising arm of the city’s parks and recreation department to handle more of the load for maintaining the old pool. Roumagoux stated emphatically that Newport can’t afford a huge aquatic center, claiming that a city subsidy would be required to keep it open.
Bertuleit countered that the old pool is on its last legs and that if it breaks, the city doesn’t have the money to replace it. It would be the end of water sports in Newport, at least for a while until something is figured out. If the city would be willing to pay toward the aquatic center what it is paying to run the current pool, outside funding could keep the aquatic center open. Bertuleit suggested a vote of the people on the project.
Roumagoux said funding the project would be costly. She said in Sun River, residents there put themselves on the hook for $4,500 for the life of the bonds to pay for the pool they built. She said, “This is not the best thing for Newport Taxpayers to fund.”
Bertuleit said he supports wave energy research. Commenting on a contest between Reedsport and Newport over where to place a wave energy testing device off their shores, Bertuleit said “Put it off Newport. They’ve got to put it somewhere.”
Roumagoux replied that she supports the new testing station, but with reservations. She said we’ve got a long way to go to understand how wave energy generating facilities affect the viewshed, commercial fishing, fishery habitats and other marine life.