Bye Bye Lincoln City Employment Office, Hmmmm on a way forward at cleaning up Devils Lake, safety minimums for VRD’s, and rates going up for North Lincoln Sanitary customers
It’s not that they employ a ton of people or add a lot to the city’s local money circulation themselves – it’s how they help others get jobs and put money back into circulation in a town that’s been hit as hard as any by the recession here on the Oregon Coast.
We’re talking about the local Lincoln City State Employment Office that rents space from the city. The city council was quite upset that the office has announced they’re leaving town, and that they are reconsolidating their services in Newport at the end of the month.
City Councilors acknowledged that the state is strapped for money as all states are, but that residents of Lincoln City, already cash poor, will have to buy high priced gas to drive nearly 60 miles round trip just to go to the employment office. Councilors said they couldn’t understand why the office staff is being sent back to Newport when there is such a great need for their services in Lincoln City. Councilors said it can’t be operating costs because the city gives the employment office space, rent free. They say it just doesn’t make any sense.
They suspect politics. They have enlisted the support of coast state Representative David Gomberg who has pledged his support at getting to the bottom of what’s happening.
The council said jointly that although it doesn’t look good at trying to change the state’s mind, they’re going to fight the decision all the way to the end of the month.
City councilors Monday night approved moving ahead with the city’s portion of rebuilding and widening Highway 101 from 23rd Street south to 35th. The entire stretch will be given a center turn lane, hiking and biking paths and major improvements to the 101@35th intersection, complete with a traffic light. More parking will be created just north and west of the intersection as well.
The multi-million dollar project requires some city “skin in the game” which looks to be upwards of $700,000 to pay for relocating the city’s sewer and water lines that parallel and cross several stretches of highway. The $700K figure is preliminary because the bids on the project have not yet gone out. That will happen in February. At that time the city will know exactly what their portion of the cost will be.
ODOT figures that the entire project can be constructed and ready for a new experience driving through Nelscott sometime in late 2015 or early 2016.
The city council Monday night made their first attempt at determining safety requirements for all Vacation Rental Dwellings (VRDs). On the list of proposed required safety amenities were smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, sufficiently large windows to escape through in the event of a fire, electrical panels plainly marked and visible, no exposed wiring, ground fault interrupters, proper upper floor guard rail spacing, comply with all building codes in effect at the time of construction, proof of liability insurance and have clearly marked house numbers easily visible from the street.
Discussion quickly centered on the idea that the house should comply with building standards that were in effect when the home was built. “What do you do when the house has been substantially upgraded or just plain changed since its original construction,” asked several councilors. The city attorney admitted that it’s a hard call and maybe should be discussed further before adding it to the VRD rule book. The councilors said they’ll be talking about these safety upgrades at least one or two more times before they’re adopted. City Manager David Hawker said “It wasn’t meant to be a thorough list of safety requirements – just the ‘easy-to-do’ basics. Any more and it could get expensive for property owners.”
The council agreed to continue discussing the issue at an upcoming city council meeting.
Water quality in Devils Lake was a hot topic at Monday night’s council meeting. There appeared to be growing frustration among some council members about the best way forward to help rid the lake of septic tank seepage coming from homes that surround the lake and which causes E coli contamination of the lake’s shallow waters. Devil’s Lake Manager Paul Robertson implored the council to do a truly thorough inspection of high priority septic systems around the the lake, those located closest to the water and connected to homes that use a lot of water. City Manager David Hawker reminded the council that at least a third of septic systems around the lake have no schematic or building plans associated with them so homeowners don’t even know where they are located on their property. Nor have they been properly maintained as a result. Robertson said an effective inspection program, none the less, would clearly show which systems are among the worst that are contributing to E coli and other contaminants leaching into the lake. Councilor Gary Ellingson asked for a go slow approach so that the true condition of the septic tanks around the lake (of which there are over 600 in the watershed) could be accurately assessed.
At that point Mayor Dick Anderson jumped into the discussion with both feet. He quickly reframed the issue by saying “I’m ready to roll on a city sewer system. It wouldn’t be fair to discover a homeowner’s septic system has failed, make them put in a new one for $30,000, then a few years later make them hook up to city sewer for another $30,000. Septic systems simply don’t belong around Devils Lake,” He added.
Having said all that, the discussion gravitated toward ideas about how to fund such a system. City Manager David Hawker and former City Councilor Alex Ward both talked about a preliminary estimate from a pump manufacturer that the whole thing could be done for a lot less than the projected thirty-five million dollars. Perhaps more like $5 million. If it is $5 million, it would be a lot easier on property owners around Devils Lake. The lower cost, we’re told, is the fact the system is not gravity fed. All effluent is pumped to the water treatment plant which requires much smaller pipes and therefore costs less to build.
Hawker said he hopes to have firm estimates from the company that provided the preliminary figures. If it does come in at five or even ten million, city officials say it would be much easier to finance either through a local improvement district, a sewer bill surcharge for customers or via a number of other funding scenarios. This subject too was set over for further discussion at a later city council meeting.
And finally the council granted approval for North Lincoln Sanitary Service to request a rate hike even though city code says they can’t ask for one in odd numbered years. North Lincoln passed up a chance last year but now they claim that the market has changed – they need a rate hike. In response,the council amended city code to allow for such sudden needs to be considered and invited North Lincoln to make their presentation in 30 days when the new amendment to the city code takes effect. City officials say the rate hike will be minor for most customers, rising only 2 to 3 percent. Maximum rate increase at any one time under city code is 6%.