Newport City Council gets an infusion of fresh perspectives with new councilors, an update on a “Central Coast Fire Authority,” and putting “Ban the Bag” on the May ballot.
After selecting Lincoln County Solid Waste District Program Manager Mark Saelens to serve out the remaining two year term of former city councilor, now mayor, Sandra Roumagoux, Newport has a lot of new blood flowing through the political veins down at city hall.
Although former mayor Bill Bain and former city councilor Jeff Bertuleit pitched heavily to take over Mayor Roumagoux’s former position on the council, it came down to a 4 to 2 vote to appoint newcomer Mark Saelens. Saelens impressed a majority of the council that his extensive scientific education and experience in the field with natural resources (fisheries) and his passion to find “middle ground” in controversial issues will benefit the city. Saelens also outlined a strong and cogent approach toward enhancing Newport’s way forward to accelerated economic development. Saelens said it’s not enough to just apply for grants; the city must have “shovel ready” projects on the shelf, ready to go, when appropriate economic grants come along. Saelens also urged the council to think more collaboratively with surrounding towns and the county to enjoy the “multiplier” effect that granting agencies so often seek. Saelens also recommended Newport solicit opportunities to challenge University of Oregon and Oregon State University students and faculty to come up with development ideas from “state of the art” examples they know about and can apply to Newport. “Yes, it’ll cost money,” Saelens said, “but you’ll get good insight from some of the brightest minds in the region. They can tell us what’s worked in other cities and what hasn’t.”
Councilors David Allen and Ralph Busby threw their support to Jeff Bertuleit who they said had lots of experience with the city and was the voters’ #2 choice for a job at city hall. Allen challenged Saelens as to why he didn’t file for election like the others. Saelens said he was concerned that going before the voters after having heavy involvement in the controversial “plastic single use bag” issue, might have make a run for office “cloudy.” He said he had long considered a run for a council seat but “it was all about timing.” When the vote came, councilors Busby and Allen voted for Bertuleit with Sawyer, Swanson, Beemer and Mayor Roumagoux voting for Saelens. Moments later Saelens was sworn in and took his seat on the dais.
Later in the evening, Newport Fire Chief Phil Paige informed the council that after many meetings with surrounding fire departments, it appears that there is consensus building toward forming a new Central Coast Fire Authority, aimed at combining resources and manpower to provide a higher level of fire services for Depoe Bay, Newport, Newport Rural and Central Coast (Waldport) Fire Departments. Paige said from equipment and supplies purchasing to recruiting volunteers, collaboration and expertise sharing is the way forward for all four departments. Paige said there would be room for other Lincoln County fire departments like North Lincoln, Toledo and Yachats if they too found affiliating to be in their best interest.
The council seemed impressed with the progress to date and said they await the final plan to be presented to not only them but to the Newport Rural Fire Protection, Depoe Bay and Central Coast District Boards later this month or in early February. Under the proposal, a Central Coast Fire Authority would be formed but with no tax increase for anyone. Paige said the goal is to slow down future cost increases by more efficiently sharing fire prevention and fire fighting services and enhancing standardized training across all departments. Fire Chiefs and Assistant Fire Chiefs among the participating departments would jointly provide administrative, operational and fire prevention management.
The affiliative services approach was recommended by a nationally ranked fire services consulting group based in suburban Portland.
After wrestling with whether to ban single use shopping bags in Newport, or avoid the issue altogether, a process that created more heat and controversy than solutions, the city council Monday night decided to do what many had recommended all along – punt the issue to the voters and let THEM decide. Former city councilor Terry Obteshka and another member of the public recommended the ban and that it be placed on the May ballot. The measure being considered is similar to one passed by the residents of Corvallis last year that outlawed plastic bags and placed a fee on paper bags to encourage the public to switch to reusable bags. There will be another public hearing on the issue, at the end of which the council is expected to prepare a final ordinance for the May ballot.