Depoe Bay: Making amends with the Chamber, helping Santa get his wish list straight, and taking a closer look at what may be a dangerously close-to-failing sewer force main through town
There were times when there was quite a taffy-pull back and forth from one side the the dais to the other, but at the end of the meeting everybody felt pretty good that the decisions made Tuesday evening by the Depoe Bay City Council were pretty good.
Probably the more telling moments surrounded the city council beginning to see the Chamber of Commerce in a better light and the Chamber of Commerce seeing the council in a better light as well. When the Chamber initially cancelled last Summer’s Salmon Bake, the anger went deep, and it was all around town. The Salmon Bake is event near and dear to the hearts of most of Depoe Bay’s more “mature” residents. It might also be described as a small town seasonal homecoming. The chamber said there weren’t enough volunteers that had come forth to make it happen and so when they couldn’t get the labor they cancelled it. That just about tree’d the town. Volunteers poured out of the word work and the Chamber both directly and indirectly got a tongue lashing from a number of the town “notables.”
Enter: the request last month for the Chamber to have their advertising contract renewed by the city council. It was slow goin’. With a slight perceptible sound of teeth gnashing among some city councilors the request was made that the chamber develop a report card on itself and a tally of what it has accomplished over the last year and with a rationale as to why the city ought to turn over $5,000 to them for promoting Depoe Bay…which the chamber did in spades Tuesday night.
Chamber Board members who were in the audience reported that there are a number of new board members recently appointed, who bring more of a “can do – get it done” attitude. They said further that the chamber continues to do fundraisers to benefit its members but also the city of Depoe Bay as a whole: Two nicer parking lots, the park gazebo, nature trail, various memorials, chairs and tables for the community center, donations to the Kids Zone, to the Coast Guard and to the Fleet of Flowers, amounting to many thousands of dollars a year.
Other civic and business leaders and long-time icons in the community came forward to testify that they believe the chamber has done an admirable job of wisely spending the city’s $5,000 annual advertising budget and that it has produced provable results.
City Councilor Zeke Olsen held out the first olive branch. “I think the chamber has done a good job with the city’s promotion fund. And I applaud their progress in re-invigorating their organization.” Mayor AJ Mattila spoke along the same lines. Councilor Barbara Leff joined the chorus. Councilor Dorinda Goddard mostly smiled approvingly, she the new Vice Chair of the Chamber Board of Directors.
The motion was made to award the advertising contract to the Chamber – the motion was quickly seconded and a unanimous vote (with Goddard abstaining) ratified the contract with the chamber.
Next on the agenda was what might have been expected to be a perfunctory approval of a winning request for a donation from the city, covering some of the cost of “Childrens Pictures with Santa” at the Neighbors for Kids facility just up the street in December.
Committee representative Noelie Achen said Neighbors for Kids was volunteering their facility for the two day event but that the committee needed $700 for the Holiday decorations, the cookies and hot chocolate along with the photography. At that point city councilor Dorinda Goddard interjected with the question, “What does Santa Claus pictures have to do with economic development? Economic development isn’t about events, it’s more tangible than that.”
After a somewhat extended pause, the next council tug of war began with Councilor Goddard and some early sympathizers on one side versus the other. Councilors Goddard and Leff pointed out that the time for attracting families to Depoe Bay is not in the middle of a tourist dead zone – mid-December. But advocates of the idea reminded the council that Santa pictures are great fundraisers. Even the Oregon Coast Aquarium does it – but some families who go there have to wait in line for 3 hours for their 15 seconds with Santa and their photograph. “At our event here in Depoe Bay, they can get in and get out and then go shopping or have a family night out in a restaurant. When they find out there are no long waits in line, they’ll choose Depoe Bay for their kids’ Santa pictures.”
When the remark was made again that economic development is not about funding events, councilor Zeke Olsen and others piped up that Depoe Bay is a tourist town, and in tourist towns events are economic drivers for restaurants, gift stores and watering holes. It is, therefore, economic development and, therefore, is a proper activity to be supported. The vote was taken and passed. Although Councilor Goddard was the lone ‘no’ vote, she remarked plaintively, “I’m just going to let sleeping dogs lie.”
Now that the event is fully funded, the Economic Development Committee’s Santa Photo Shoot is scheduled for Friday, December 13th, at Neighbors for Kids from 6:30pm to 8:30pm and on Saturday, December 14th, from 10am to 5pm.
Having gotten that out of the way the council was once again talking with the Economic Development Committee about their public opinion survey. The survey challenges Depoe Bay townspeople and business owners to determine what is needed to move the community economically forward. Topics in the survey include school programs, youth sports, alcohol and drug prevention, whether law enforcement is adequate in Depoe Bay, how to better serve senior citizens, how to fix Depoe Bay’s parking challenges, what to do with the harbor’s old fish plant and make the harbor more economically productive. Other questions center around whether land use and business regulations are development friendly, or unfriendly.
Other survey questions deal with street improvements, storm drains, library, senior citizen complex, pedestrian and bike paths, city building improvements, sidewalks, erosion control, public restrooms and on and on.
The survey goes on to ask what kinds of businesses should move into some of the town’s vacant store fronts. How about an ‘open air’ market, business hours in the downtown, a special event like “The Taste of Depoe Bay” or some other special event(s). And here’s the doozie, should Depoe Bay bring back it’s 3rd of July Fireworks?
The decision was made to make the city council the guinea pig on the survey. Councilors will take the survey themselves then talk it around town a little and then give the Economic Development Committee an opportunity to fine tune the questions. Once that’s done, the survey will be distributed widely throughout the community. From the results the committee will develop an action plan of community priorities and develop action plans to achieve them.
And finally, the room got real quiet again when Councilor Barbara Leff said aloud, “I don’t want that to happen – it’ll be all over the Portland TV stations.” She was referring to a behind-the-chair conversation with city Public Works Supervisor Brady Weidner who was reminding her that the town must focus some very serious attention on a critical problem looming over the city. Weidner says the town’s force sewer main that delivers all the sewer from north Depoe Bay, Gleneden Beach and Salishan to the sewer plant is in pretty shaky condition. Maybe even in danger of failing.
Brady said it has been in the ground a long time and is said to be in bad need of replacing. The pipe that worries Weidner and others, stretches from behind the Pirate’s Gallery, goes under Highway 101, then south from the 76 station toward the bridge. Weidner says it’s a section that’s about two football fields long. Cost – at least a half a million dollars. Weidner said he’s going to bring back a full report to the council on the severity of the problem and to begin searching for grant money to help pay for new pipe.