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Depoe Bay City Council: Waggin’ a finger at their Chamber of Commerce, the mayor waggin’ a finger at the council, Terry Owings retiring, leasing the old fish plant, water meters in the harbor, and toying with internet fame

Depoe Bay City Council May 21

Depoe Bay City Council
May 21

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A.J. Matilla Mayor, Depoe Bay

A.J. Matilla
Mayor, Depoe Bay

Old Depoe Bay Fish Plant Going to the highest bidder if the council leases it

Old Depoe Bay Fish Plant
Going to the highest bidder if the council leases it

City funding for tourism promotion

Depoe Bay City Councilors Tuesday night put the town’s Chamber of Commerce on notice that unless they see what was described as “some innovative thinking” by the chamber, the city may withhold next year’s $5,000 contribution check for tourism promotion.

The council by and large endorsed the chamber’s proper role in the community but also observed that, in their opinion, the chamber has lost its way and is in need of some creative re-focusing on their main task – bringing more tourists to Depoe Bay.

The chamber wrote the city that they’ve been attracting tourists to Depoe Bay through various local print advertising but that they want to branch out into social media on the internet to better target young singles and marrieds.

The council agreed that marketing improvements are overdue at the chamber but still voted to send the rest of the city’s fiscal year 2013 check to support the chamber because the chamber has a contract with the city. But they added, unless the chamber shows some creativity, and more effective organization, there may not be anymore checks past this Summer.

The council also agreed that they would like to meet with chamber staff and volunteers to jointly explore marketing ideas and programs that would make the city’s advertising dollars go farther and be more effective.

Despite some the critical characterizations of the chamber, some on the council felt that they may be going a little hard on the organization, and/or, that it’s not the city’s job to guide the chamber’s future. So when the vote came it was 4-3 to issue the warning that the city’s $5,000 check, requested by the chamber, may be the last until “chamber improvements” are made.

Mayor Matilla demands proper meeting decorum

That was not the only finger wagging going on at the council meeting Tuesday night. Mayor AJ Matilla wagged his finger at the whole city council. He said the incident two weeks ago, that involved one of the councilors shouting a rather strident statement at the mayor, was nothing he’ll put up with in the future. In a memo to the city council and to the news media, he said that while some may not respect him, he demands that civility reign in the council chambers. He said “Profanity, whether used descriptively or as an expletive in the heat of the moment, has no place at city council meetings and will not be tolerated in the future.”

Matilla went on to say that “from here on, every councilor wanting to speak shall gain the attention of the presiding officer and shall confine their remarks to the subject at hand.”

Matilla admonished the council by saying “Our council meetings have been more like a furniture auction – touching an ear, rubbing a nose, winking an eye – that shall cease.”

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Mayor Matilla ended by saying that he will accept nothing less that civility and proper decorum during city council meetings. For the rest of the evening, each councilor raised their hand to be acknowledged by the mayor and took turns talking.

The incident that triggered Mayor Matilla’s demands came after a council discovery that Mayor Matilla had offered the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department $600 of city funds to help with the department’s deputy sheriff training costs, pending city approval. Councilors were not happy that such an offer was made, including, it was claimed, another offer of city funds to another entity, without first clearing it with the council. The statement was made that the city’s budget is tight enough without obligating the city for unforeseen gifts of funds. Matilla said although the city contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement in Depoe Bay, he thought the city ought to help with ensuring they get all the training they need. Councilor Skip Hoitink shot back that the town already pays for that through the Sheriff’s contract. He then then launched a rather harsh remark at the mayor heard ’round “The World’s Smallest Harbor.”

In the end, the council agreed to the $600 gift and promptly received a thank you letter from Sheriff Dotson.

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New waterfront jobs for Depoe Bay?

The council decided to explore what the old city-owned Depoe Bay fish processing plant ought to be leased for. Depoe Bay businessmen Jerome Grant and Geoffrey Molfino outlined their vision of restoring the fish processing activities upstairs, installing a new ice machine, seafood steamer and packaging line, upgrading existing refrigeration units, and new live tank system. They said their fledgling “Living Pacific LLC” fish processing corporation is growing and that bringing the old fish plant back on line would enable them to package and sell more crab and other fish products thereby creating new jobs in Depoe Bay. They added they also have a plan to use everything from the fish they process so nothing goes to waste or winds up in the harbor.

Grant and Molfino said they would like to inspect 2011 tsunami damage under the plant to ascertain what needs fixing. Damaged pipes and so on.

City Clerk Recorder Pury Murray said under city law, any use of surplus city property must first go through a process of proper assessment of the condition of the property, determine what repairs must be made (its been closed a long time), and who will do them, determine an estimated lease rate based on regional market value, and then put the property out to bid. The council decided that all that shall be done, including creating a bid package ready for circulation in a month or two.

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Lightning fast internet for entertainment and perhaps new jobs in Depoe Bay

City Councilor Zeke Olsen remarked that with the possibility of Depoe Bay’s access to quicker-than-lightning fiber optic data lines, there are endless possibilities for enhanced entertainment cable programming for residents and tourists along with communications capabilities to attract high tech businesses, thereby creating new jobs in the community. Olsen called for a possible series of Depoe Bay “Town Hall” meetings with residents and business leaders si that they may come to a deeper understanding of the benefits that fiber optic offers. The council gave Councilor Olsen a unanimous thumbs up on the town hall idea.

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Electric Meters in the harbor – “income generators” for the city general fund?

The council considered whether to levy a multi-year surcharge on brand new dockside electricity meters even though grants to the city covered their full cost. The motivation for the arrangement was that the city is tight for funds so the surcharge would come in handy to build up the harbor fund. Several harbor dock moorage leasers strongly objected in that they’d be paying for something already bought and paid for. The idea, originally launched by Councilor Zeke Olsen was withdrawn pending “further research.” Councilor Dorinda Goddard, whose family owns a charter boat service and holds a moorage in the harbor, insisted that the evening’s discussion be part of that research. She had earlier declared a potential conflict of interest prior to the discussions.

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City Public Works Superintendent Terry Owings announces his retirement

After 27 years with the City of Depoe Bay, the town’s much admired and respected Public Works Superintendent Terry Ownings is hanging up his front loader. His retirement date is tentatively set for January 1st. There seems to be little doubt among city councilors who will replace him, namely Owings’ right hand man Brady Weidner. Weidner has worked for the city for 18 years and who is both the city field crews supervisor and water treatment plant operator. The council said Owings, who is currently on vacation and no doubt pondering his life options, is expected to clarify his actual retirement date in a letter of notice to the council. The council expressed its hope that he will agree to work part-time for the city after his retirement so that his quarter-century experience and detailed knowledge of the city’s public works infrastructure will be still available for a while.

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Televising Depoe Bay City Council meetings

Depoe Bay City Councilor Brent Berry suggested to the council, that sometime in the near future council meetings be video recorded and played back on local Depoe Bay cable channel 4. He said it would be good for residents and the business community to watch council meetings to get a better view of the city and its functions. The council said they would be willing to discuss the matter further but first wanted to clear it with the city attorney to ensure no unforeseen legal repercussions from it.

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