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Depoe Bay: A bridge to a trail beyond, a bill that will electrify, the pipes are calling and dredging up old dirt

Depoe Bay City Council Tuesday evening

Depoe Bay City Council
Tuesday evening

Depoe Bay Mayor AJ Matilla ran another quick meeting Tuesday night, getting the council finished and out the door in just over an hour. Of course two big items fell off the agenda; both due to three city councilors being absent. The mayor wanted a full house to discuss them – changing a boat slip ordinance that he, Matilla was the center of, and a complicated high tech internet service that could involve the city.

However, the other items, albeit less spectacular, were tackled adroitly by the remaining five councilors.

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The first issue – how to bill Depoe Bay Harbor boat slip renters for electricity. Some don’t want to have to keep track of individual meters for each slip. They want everybody’s electrical bill averaged together. The council reasons that it’s too much trouble to track down all the renters coming and going and collecting the bills. That’s why the council has traditionally added up all the power bills for the year, averaged them together, and then billed each slip owner for the power consumed over the previous year. City Councilor Barbara Leff brought up the point that the annual power bill between boat slip renters could rise quite high – perhaps so high that the council may be exposing the city to a liability it hadn’t bargained on. The council agreed to take up the matter again after asking for guidance from the Harbor Commission. The commission will analyze the issue at their April 24th meeting, reach a recommendation and kick it back upstairs to the council. The council will presumably decide a way forward on the matter at its May 3rd meeting.

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The council also learned that the city is about ready to put the City Park replacement bridge out to bid. The estimate ranges from $80,000 for a short and low bridge to just over $90,000 for a longer and higher bridge. Both versions, the council was told, would handle emergency vehicles in the event that a storm or earthquake knocked out the city’s Highway 101 bridge. The council asked City Engineer/Public Works Director Terry Owings to sharpen his pencil and have the project put out to bid. Depending on the time it takes to sharpen the pencil and stay out of the way of the 4th of July celebration, the bridge could be open for pedestrian traffic later this year. The bridge is also expected to be strong enough for more than pedestrian traffic – such as fire trucks responding along the alternate route around the harbor, if anything happens to the town’s main span.

Related to the bridge replacement, the council asked for a six month extension of time to finish the completion of the “back way” around-the-harbor trail that uses the City Park Bridge. The trail is being funded by several agencies. City Clerk Recorder Pery Murray said the “back way” trail should be done by the end of the year instead of mid-summer.

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Owings and his utilities department broached the subject of how to more effectively read the town’s residential and business water meters. Right now they have to walk up to the meter, write down the numbers, take the numbers back to city hall and figure out each water bill. With two new systems, the reading and computation is much quicker and more accurate. The “touch system” requires a meter reader to stand next to a water meter, use a touch wand to contact/probe the the meter which then sends a signal of gallons used to the wand. The numbers are then downloaded to a computer which sends out the water bills. The “radio remote” system allows the water meter reader to sit in his or her truck at the street, dial in a house or business water meter remotely, receive the data on gallons used, and then go to the next water meter. It’s faster and may not require as much labor as the “touch-wand” system.

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Both systems are expensive – about a third of a million dollars each. City councilors took a deep breath and decided to take the advice of staff and have representatives from each technology address the council in the near future to explain exactly how the different systems work and whether one might better serve the city than the other.

However, City Councilor Skip Hoitink said a third of a million dollars is a lot of money for a small town like Depoe Bay. He asked staff whether city resources wouldn’t be better served if they were concentrated on replacing the town’s aging distribution system – the pipes in the ground. Staff said that Councilor Hoitink’s question is very valid and obviously a subject for discussion after the water meter sales reps do their presentations before the council.

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And finally, the issue of keeping Depoe Bay, the world’s smallest harbor, from silting up. Mayor Matilla told the council that the Army Corps of Engineers appears ready to schedule dredging for Depoe Bay sometime in 2014. Matilla and other fishermen have reported that the silt that comes down South Creek and flows into the Harbor is making the bay more and more shallow and dredging is the only thing that will fix it. Matilla said it might also be a good idea for the dredging to include a clam bucket to dig out the silt that has stacked up behind the South Creek Dam near where the creek flows into the bay.

And with that Mayor Matilla declared the meeting adjourned and everyone got to go home “early.”

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