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Depoe Bay: They were rockin’ City Hall over what some called an unjustifiable ‘gifting’ of public money

Depoe Bay City Council Tuesday night

Depoe Bay City Council
Tuesday night

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The evening started out with a clash between those who want to put new electricity meters on the docks in the harbor so the city can know which boat is using the most electricity versus those who opposed meters outright. The city learned that the new meters were about to be placed within housings scheduled to be installed on the docks very soon. And they had to make up their minds, pronto.

But Mayor AJ Mattila complained that the old system, of not having meters, but just spreading the cost out evenly across harbor customers, is the best way to go. But councilors also learned that nearly $10,000 of the annual bill from the power company winds up being paid by the city due to turnover of moorage customers.

Public Works Director Terry Owings said the meters were about to be attached to the dock electric pedestals and the manufacturer needed to know quickly. Owings said that if every slip had an electric meter, the city would get an accurate reading of which mooring customer was using the most power as well as the least. But Mayor Mattila said the system has worked in the past and he’d like to keep the status quo and do without the meters.

But councilors Leff, Goddard, Hoitink and Gambino saw it differently. They said, in effect, that it’s only right that everyone be billed by the amount of power they consume on their boats or light industry within the harbor even though it would cost the city $14,000 more to get the harbor back to full operation which includes the meters. They added that the city would get its meter investment back within a few years by charging each moorage customer what he or she actually consumed.

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The “spirited” debate ruffled a few feathers here and there and in the end the vote was 4 to 3 to install the meters which had been already budgeted by an earlier council. Mayor Mattila, and councilor’s Zeke Olsen and Brent Berry voted against the meters.

The temperature gets turned up higher…

The next topic was whether the city council should buy red, white and blue carnations that residents could drop off the Depoe Bay Bridge in conjunction with the upcoming Fleet of Flowers celebration. Mayor Mattila told the pcouncil that he wanted the them to approve spending over $200 so the flowers could be ordered from a Portland flower vendor. Councilor Dorinda Goddard piped up that the Fleet of Flowers committee has plenty of money and that if anyone bought the carnations it should be them – that it shouldn’t involve a needless expenditure of public funds. Mattila disagreed saying it would be a good gesture of city involvement with the Fleet of Flowers to buy the carnations for them.

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The vote was 4 to 3 to not spend the money, adding that the Portland vendor was quoting a price far above what the Fleet of Flowers Committee pays for flowers. Voting to spend the money was Mayor Mattila and councilors Robert Gambino and Brent Berry. Voting against it were councilors Barbara Leff, Skip Hoitink, Zeke Olsen and Dorinda Goddard.

Then the room temperature really soared with the next item. Mayor Mattila told the council he had had a conversation with Sheriff Dennis Dotson and that the conversation migrated into deputy sheriff training and how much it costs to get a deputy up to speed.

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Depoe Bay contracts with the Sheriff’s Office to provide basic police services within the city limits of Depoe Bay.

Mattila said that as a gesture of goodwill to the Sheriff, he would try to convince his city council to make a $600 donation to the Sheriff’s deputy training fund. Mattila told the council Tuesday night that he thought it would be a show of good will toward the Sheriff’s Office to do that. Councilor Barbara Leff said that she was very uncomfortable with offers to spend Depoe Bay taxpayer money without first clearing it with the other six members of the council. Councilor Dorinda Goddard chimed in saying that the mayor seemed comfortable with offering the money when it appeared the Sheriff didn’t even ask for it. Goddard said she would like to know if any other entity in Lincoln County has offered similar money to the Sheriff’s Office.

No one had an answer.

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Councilor Brent Berry remarked that “Depoe Bay seems to have money for electric meters that aren’t needed at the harbor, so why not give the Sheriff the money?” That’s when councilor Skip Hoitink had had enough. Hoitink said “I’m angry that anyone would go around promising Depoe Bay taxpayer money when they don’t have that authority and not clear it first with the council.” Mayor Mattila denied promising the Sheriff the $600 – only promising to see if he could get it cleared with the council. Several councilors said that when a person says he wants to give the money it just about obligates that person to deliver. “So why don’t you (Mayor Mattila) get out your checkbook and make good on it?” said Hoitink. When Mattila replied, “Well….” and paused, ” Hoitink shot back, “Training for those deputies are already in the Sheriff’s budget. Our money won’t do anything to better prepare those deputies. You put us in a bind, and I don’t like it.”You should have kept your God **** mouth shut.”

Councilor Goddard reminded the council that Depoe Bay has a very limited budget and that there are many needs of the community that go unmet because the city does not have a property tax.

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The vote on the $600 ‘gift’ to the Sheriff’s Office was 4 to 3 with councilors Hoitink, Goddard and Leff voting no and councilors Gambino, Olsen, Berry and Mayor Mattila voting yes.

Councilor Barbara Leff commented that she had heard of another instance that a member of the council had made reference to “getting money from the city. I hope that won’t happen anymore,” she said.

Discussions about other issues went a tad more smoothly, the council deciding to move ahead on determining a protocol in how announcements are made over the town’s new tsunami siren alert system. The council tabled discussions about whether to move ahead on forming a municipal utility district dealing with lightning fast fiber optics for internet customers in Depoe Bay. They’ll take it up later. They also put off discussions dealing with franchise agreements with CoastCom and Wave Broadband, citing continued high level discussions still in the works.

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