When City Councilor Laura Swanson reported to the council last week that relations between the Coast Guard and the city of Newport were strained to the point the city was in danger of losing it’s “Coast Guard City” designation, you could have heard a pin drop around the table. Surprise and borderline shock set it with councilors wondering “how could this happen?”
Swanson said that the Coast Guard thought they had free admission to the city’s recreation center for physical fitness maintenance since the Yaquina Bay Station doesn’t have big enough facilities. She said for some guardsmen they got in, for others no. And it was confusing.
Deciding to get to the bottom of the issue, interim City Manager Ted Smith contacted Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay Commander Robert Ornelas and quickly ascertained a misunderstanding was in full bloom. In the past the Coast Guard bought city recreation passes for their guardsmen. But with recent budget cuts those funds were no longer available. But out of habit some clerks at the rec center honored military service ID cards while some did not. But despite that Commander Ornelas denied that the city’s designation as a Coast Guard City was in danger of being revoked.
In the meantime the Coast Guard Yaquina Bay Station volunteered to participate in a program to raise the bar in a pilot program to enhance physical fitness among personnel. And for that they need the city recreation center.
After talking with Commander Ornelas, Smith decided that for the next six months, all active duty Coast Guard personnel will be given free admission to the center. During those six months the city will work with local city groups, businesses and agencies in an attempt raise the $20,000 a year loss to the city in terms of membership revenue. Smith said that the Newport American Legion has already swung into action to become part of the solution. Smith said that all other active military in Newport are also welcome to enjoy the same benefits at the rec center, including the National Guard. However, he said he doubts that many National Guardsmen will take the city up on the offer because the Guard has a gym and work out area of their own in town.
Smith said the city’s respect, admiration and commitment to the Coast Guard has never been stronger for the work they do, the lives they save and the property they protect along the Oregon Coast. He said “We’re going to fix this by enlisting full community involvement in working this thing out.” Smith added that he’s talking to community civic group leaders and to the Chamber of Commerce to see if there is an interest in ramping up the city’s relationship to the Coast Guard, since Newport is a Coast Guard City.