WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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Saving South Beach, a Ban-the-Bag election, the future of the Newport Library, getting Walgreens built, a new park for Newport and finishing up pay raises for city workers.

Moving ahead on a more welcoming Safe Haven Hill

Newport City Councilors Monday night decided to spend no more than $20,000 making Safe Haven Hill more capable of holding lots of tsunami refugees should the big one hit Newport in the near future. Workers at Rogue Brewery, NOAA, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon Coast Aquarium and many South Beach businesses and residents are relying on the big hill, just off the south end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge, to be their life saver in the event of a big earthquake.

The city has applied for a half million dollar FEMA grant to clear the hilltop and to stockpile emergency food supplies for those at South Beach who manage to get up Safe Haven Hill before a Cascadia Earthquake sends a thirty to fifty foot wall of water onto Oregon beaches and up the bays. City councilors gave the green light to city staff to begin further clearing, grading and improving a large pathway running up the south side of the hill so folks can move more quickly to safety. Community Development Director Derrick Tokos said they are still waiting to hear back from FEMA on whether the city got the grant that will enable Newport to get the whole project done.

Asking Newport voters on whether to ban plastic bags

The Newport City Council decided to launch a May ballot issue asking Newport voters if they would like to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. City Manager Jim Voetberg said if they want to get it on the May ballot they’ll have to adopt a resolution by their February 19th city council meeting and then send the ballot proposal to the city attorney in Eugene for formal approval on the wording, ballot statement and other information. The ballot issue mirrors a bag ban adopted in Corvallis where the council there outlawed plastic bags except for meats, produce and other raw foods. The Corvallis City Council also slapped a five cent fee on paper bags – all in an effort to drive the public to use reusable cloth bags.

Planning for a bigger and better Newport Library

Newport Public Library Board Chair Carol Ruggeri asked for the City Council’s support in helping the library apply for grants to figure out how the library is doing at serving the community and how it might do a better job in the future. She said the library wants to take a fearless look at itself from the standpoint of how the community views the library, whether it’s offering sufficient technological services like internet other high-tech services, and whether the facility as a whole is meeting the needs of the community. Ruggeri said a comprehensive assessment of the library’s strengths and weaknesses can be done in a very comprehensive way for about $70,000, most of which they hope will be covered by grants. However, in order to win the grants Ruggeri said the city would have to show its support by pledging money of its own – like $30,000. “And the sooner we get the money pledged, the better,” she said.

Mayor Mark McConnell and the rest of the council expressed support for the idea but reminded Ruggeri that the city has a formal budget planning process that doesn’t get into full swing until January and February and that the budget isn’t formally adopted until spring. Ruggeri said she and her board fully appreciates the situation but asked that the council go on record as wanting the city’s budget committee, of which city councilors are members, to commit to considering the proposal. Ruggeri got a unanimous vote of approval for her request that they talk about it in committe – a manuver that was widely interpreted as “somehow we’ll get you the money.”

Walgreens finally moving forward?

The city council, getting a little anxious about just when Walgreens intends to build their new drug store at Highway 101 at 20, agreed to help them move things along a little faster. Walgreens ran into some state Department of Environmental Quality issues centered around soils that were under what used to be a gas station there on the corner. Lately, Walgreens’ financing source made a last minute demand that the city abandon a block of NE 1st in order to accomodate the construction of the new store. The council last night did just. But the council also granted another request that if the store was not built, the city would take that block of NE 1st back. So, the net effect is that Walgreens can now expeditiously move ahead on building their new facility that has been hanging fire for the better part of a year at a very prominent spot in town. Some residents have speculated that Walgreens hit a fatal snag and won’t be built it. But city officials continue to say “not to worry, they’re moving ahead on construction as everyone one will soon see.”

Click on photos to enlarge

Planning for those logging trucks coming down Moore Drive

A joint Newport-Port of Newport task force, charged with making safety improvements to accommodate fully-loaded logging trucks bound for the soon-to-open International Terminal on Bay Boulevard, gave a detailed report on how they’re accomplishing that. They said they’re recommending changes on Highway 20, SE Moore Drive and on Bay Boulevard.

Task force members said they are recommending to ODOT that traffic is slowed down on westbound Highway 20 at the top of the hill just east of Newport from 55 mph to 45 mph. And then quickly after that, slow traffic down further to 30 mph so trucks loaded with logs can actually decelerate fast enough to comfortably make their southerly turn onto SE Moore Drive.

They also reported that the left turn lane off of Highway 20 to SE Moore needs to be longer, so more trucks can fit in the que to turn left and to widen the turning radius so trucks can make the southerly turn more safely.

They also want all parking removed from SE Moore from not only near 20 but clear down to the driveway entrances to the Elks Club. They also want youth sports parents to park their vehicles on Yaquina View School property, not on Moore Drive.

Further down the hill, they want a left turn lane created so traffic headed for Oregon Coast Bank can make a safe turn into the bank. And another left turn off of Bay Boulevard into the bank.

At the bottom of the hill where Moore intersects with Bay Boulevard, logging trucks headed down Moore would make a free left turn onto Bay Boulevard and Pacific Fish Company trucks would make a free right turn onto Bay Boulevard heading for the Bayfront. Regular traffic headed east on Bay Boulevard would be stopping at Moore Road, but at an angle fro which they can see uphill toward oncoming traffic. Their stop sign would be brightly lit with LED’s with a sign underneath that says “Downhill traffic does not stop.” Traffic headed west on Bay Boulevard would stop at the intersection but traffic headed west on Bay headed heading north would turn uphill onto Moore without stopping.

Task force members cautioned that ODOT has to approve of some of these suggested changes but that they are optimistic that ODOT will accommodate their requests. They said that fully-loaded logging trucks are expected to start rolling down
Moore Road sometime this late spring or summer. Some time after the first of the year the task force will begin working on their goial of trying to establish a more direct route to the International Terminal that doesn’t use SE Moore Drive. They say that’s going to take a few years.

City creates new park north of the pool

Newport City Councilors formally established Newport’s newest addition to its list of city parks – “Forest Park” that runs north from the city swimming pool to near Big Creek Road and east to the city water tanks. It’s nearly 100 acres of fairly mature coastal woods with a wide variety of coastal plants and animals – even occasional spawning salmon. Forest Park was first envisioned by former City Manager Don Davis who made it possible by setting it aside from development.

Mark Saelens and Chuck Willer from the Oregon Coast Community Forest Association praised the city’s move to create such a magnificent addition to Newport’s park portfolio. Saelens said that although the area already has a few trails winding through it, the park is so large that other trails would be a welcomed addition. He suggested a shelter be built for those times when hikers or families get caught in a coastal downpour. Interpretive signs could be installed revealing the complexities of Oregon’s coastal rainforest ecology. Saelens said his organization looks forward to working with the city to make Forest Park a truly enjoyable addition to Newport’s parks and recreation system. Other conservation organizations are expected to join in as well to enumerate the park’s assets and to establish uses that promote and celebrates Forest Park’s ecological and recreation values to the community and to its visitors.

City employee labor contracts ratified

And the city council finally wrapped up all it’s employee labor contracts for the next two to three years. Raises for public works, police and fire fighters will come only in the form of cost of living increases, or COLA’s as their called. The council gave firefighters a six percent cola raise through January of 2014. Public Works workers got an eight percent cola raise through the end of 2014. And police officers received a seven percent cola raise through July of 2014.

However, some councilors expressed disappointment that the police officers turned down a plan agreed to by all other city workers for higher health insurance deductibles in return for city-provided health savings accounts that the city pays in to. The officers reportedly would have nothing of it. City Councilor David Allen expressed his disappointment that everyone but the police department has joined the effort to help reduce health care costs for the city. He asked City Manager Jim Voetberg to try to convince the officers next year after they’ve seen how the new arrangement works for the rest of the city work force.

Non-union workers received roughly the same pay and benefit enhancements as union members.

The old warehouse at Newport’s new International Terminal came crashing down

Earlier this month, construction crews became destruction crews at the Port of Newport’s emerging International Terminal. They had already removed on old concrete warship from the west end, and entombed another concrete warship on the east end. And finally they got around to taking down the old warehouse that had withstood Oregon’s wind and rain for decades.

On October 4th, after they had cleared out every and anything of value from the building, they kicked out the building’s north side supports and then pulled on a cable tied to the building. And down it came with a loud crash, much to the inconvenience of some seagulls that were just moments earlier enjoying it as a warm perch.

With the warehouse now down and the debris cleared out, construction crews will now finish the easterly end of the terminal. Crews say the rebuilt Newport International Terminal will be ready next Spring for it’s main operating company, Teevin Brothers out of Rainier. They are expected to start shipping logs to Asian ports by late Summer or early Fall.

Meanwhile, a special task force is working with the Newport City Council and neighbors along Moore Road and Bay Boulevard to re-align the intersection at the bottom of the hill. Logging trucks will drop down Moore Road from Highway 20. At the bottom of Moore, they’ll have a no-stop left turn onto Bay Boulevard and then a straight shot east to the International Terminal. Fish Industry trucks will be able to come down Moore Road as well with a free no-stop turn to the right and then west onto Bay Boulevard. Traffic heading east from the Bayfront, which includes large fish trucks, will have to stop at Moore and Bay Boulevard. Then they’ll turn left up Moore Road and connect with Highway 20. Traffic headed west on Bay Boulevard will have a free right turn onto Moore. Other traffic continuing west on Bay Boulevard will have a stop sign at the intersection.

One complicating factor will be city work crews rebuilding the storm drain system that comes down Moore Road and ties into the Bayfront at the Embarcadero. Crews will have the road torn up for a time requiring flaggers to keep traffic moving through the area.

It’s going to be a very busy summer of 2013 at that end of town.

More preparations for logging trucks coming down SE Moore to Bay Boulevard.

SE Moore Task Force, City Hall
Diagram of re-designed SE Moore @ Bay Blvd
Click on photos to enlarge

Trying to stay ahead of the arrival next Spring of many logging trucks a day coming down SE Moore Road turning onto the Bay Road to the International Terminal, a citizens task force has prioritized ways to soften the impact on the area.

With all those logging trucks coming into Newport from the east, the task force said ODOT should move “lower speed limit ahead” warning signs farther east than where they are now, to given inbound traffic more time to slow down. The task force also wants ODOT to double the length of the Highway 20 @ SE Moore Road left turn lane. More trucks means greater need for storing more vehicles waiting to turn left. And the task force would like ODOT to do a speed study to ascertain whether speed limits coming into Newport ought to be lower.

The task force also supports the redesign of the intersection of SE Moore and Bay Boulevard which removes a lot of ground in front of the bank on the corner to make for better traffic flow up and down SE Moore. There is also a designated right turn lane southbound on SE Moore onto Bay Boulevard. The task force also wants bright LED lights accompanying stop and warning signs to alert motorists that the southbound SE Moore and northbound SE Moore traffic doesn’t stop. The task force also wants a left turn lane designated for southbound SE Moore into the bank. They also want parking removed on SE Moore Monday through Friday as well as on Bay Boulevard west of SE Moore for a ways so it doesn’t clutter up southbound SE Moore turns for truckers turning west on Bay. The task force would also like to have rumble strips on southbound SE Moore near the intersection with Bay. And they want log export operator Teevin Brothers to work closely with log truck drivers to ensure they know how to properly navigate the SE Moore @ Bay Boulevard intersection.

The task force will also be asking the county public works director to re-examine speeds on the Bay Road from about Vista to the east and to clear brush from along public rights of way in the area to enhance visibility.

These and perhaps some additional points will be presented to the Port of Newport Commission as well as the Newport City Council within a few weeks. Funding for the SE Moore @ Bay Boulevard intersection modification has yet to be worked out, but task force members agreed it will likely involve an investment by Newport, the Port of Newport and log exporter Teevin Brothers.

Log export operations are expected to commence in a May-June timeframe. Neighbors and city officials say they hope that a long term alternate route to the International Terminal can eventually be worked out. But that will likely take some breakthroughs on selecting a new route and funding to build it.

Sea Lions will remain a tourist draw on Newport’s Bayfront


Sea Lions to stay on Bayfront
Click photos to enlarge

The barking, snarling and occasional spats between sea lions at Port Dock One will continue for the foreseeable future now that the Newport Port Commission has agreed to allow the transformation of a part of the dock to a tourist viewing area on the sea lions below.

But the port has been clear that Port Dock One is a working dock. If a vessel pulls up to the outside bay portion of the dock, sea lion watching may be affected or interrupted for a short time as the vessel loads or unloads cargo.

The port commission Tuesday evening authorized General Manager Don Mann to negotiate with a non-profit group of Bayfront businesses that wants to refurbish the dilapidated planks that have been “homesteaded” by the sea lions.

The water-level dock was originally installed as a transit dock where small boats could tie up to give visitors, who motor over from the South Beach Marina or other points, more convenient access to the Bayfront. The walkway idea never caught on and eventually the sea lions took over, much to the delight of tourists.

Mann said two forty foot sections of water-level refurbished docks could be installed at the expense of the non-profit group and would be maintained solely by the group at no cost to the port. Mann cautioned that even new wood would not provide a durable, long term perch for the sea lions since wood won’t hold up under the weight, frequent spats among the critters, winter waves and tidal surges. Something more sturdy like a concrete dock would likely be required, the design and configuration of which would be subject to negotiation between the port and the non-profit group. But for now, replacing what’s left of the old dock seems like a workable interim solution. The commissioners reminded Mann that the pilings the docks are anchored to are port property and will remain so.

Task force seeks to make John Moore Road as safe as possible when logging trucks arrive next year

Task Force, top two photos, John Moore Road/Bay Road, bottom two photos

When logging trucks begin hauling their loads to Newport’s new International Terminal next year, they’ll be resuming what was once a thriving log export operation that ended in the mid-1990s. However, in those intervening nearly 20 years, families with young children and the elderly have bought homes along John Moore Road between Highway 20 and the Bay Road which leads to the terminal. The neighborhood seems to understand the point but many said they never dreamed that log exports would re-emerge in Newport and put 15 ton log hauling beheamouths streaming by their homes, by the hundreds.

A special task force to examine logging truck access to the International Terminal, chaired by local resident and businessman Doug Wills, launched a discussion to target specific safety enhancements intended to minimize the risk to bicyclists, pedestrians and children at play along John Moore Road as well as east on Bay Road to the terminal.

The task force agreed that safety enhancements must also be added to Highway 20 itself, coming in to Newport. It was agreed that ODOT should give trucks more time to slow down in order to make their southerly turn onto John Moore. The task force suggested that ODOT lower the speed limit coming into Newport so that truck drivers would have more time to safely get into what should become a longer left turn lane as they make their turn south off the highway and onto John Moore Road.

The task force also indicated that it would be much safer for truckers if parking was eliminated during the week along John Moore to allow trucks to more safely head downhill and turn east onto the Bay Road.

They say that the northwest corner of Bay and John Moore should be cut back to allow truckers to see any traffic coming from the west on Bay Road. They also strongly urged Newport to use bright LED lights to warn motorists on Bay Road to alert drivers to watch for downhill traffic on John Moore which does not stop. Task force members said it is extremely important, especially for motorists headed east on Bay, to be aware that downhill traffic on John Moore keeps going through the intersection and can turn right or left onto Bay. Again, very brightly lit LED signs are a must, according to the task force. They said tourists are not aware of the unusual traffic pattern at John Moore and Bay and many blow right through the stop sign on Bay heading east. Even if they do stop, they pull out right away thinking that John Moore traffic has a stop sign too, which they don’t.

Discussions also touched on truck noise and the use of jack brakes. Jack brakes are illegal in Newport and most cities in Oregon. Possible brake failure was also raised on behalf of those who work at the Embarcadero at the bottom of the hill. One of the veteran truck drivers serving on the task force said that truck brakes are extremely robust and that failure is extremely rare. He said despite the grade of John Moore, it’s nothing that would, on its own, cause brakes to fail.

Reducing speed limits coming into Newport, making minor adjustments to the intersection at Highway 20 and John Moore Road, eliminating weekday parking along John Moore Road, enhanced visibility and better signage at Bay and John Moore and a few other minor points are expected to be discussed further at the task force’s next meeting at 6pm, October 10th at Newport City Hall.

Whatever safety enhancements are eventually implemented will likely be deemed as adequate, that is, until ODOT, the city and the port arrange for a different access route from Highway 20 to the International Terminal. Determining how, when or who is going to pay for it is a ways off into the future. No one on the task force speculated how long a new access road to the terminal might take to complete.

Community meeting on log truck safety on John Moore Road set for September 19th (not 12th)

John Moore/Bay Road logging trucks
Newport Port Commissioners ran a rather short meeting in August but they definitely had their high beams on while doing it. For starters they picked a date for the first John Moore Road/Bay Road Citizens Task Force (partnered with the city of Newport) that will examine the return of logging trucks to those two major throughways. Many neighbors decry the return of those trucks loaded with wood going down “their streets.” Hundreds of trucks will be bringing logs to the soon-to-be completed Port of Newport’s International Terminal. In an earlier meeting neighbors demonstrated their concern for their childrens’ safety as they walk to their bus stops or on sidewalks that are mere feet away from among the biggest vehicles on Oregon Roads.

Port officials have stated clearly and consistently that the port is an industrial operation with a long history in the area and that log exports have been historically an economic mainstay for the Central Coast. True, log exports abated in the 1990’s, but now they’re back and they’ll be once again a major part of the local economy.

Port officials stated recently that they sympathize with the neighbors and have indicated that an alternate route to the International Terminal must be investigated. The first scheduled meeting of the task force is now officially set for 6pm, September 19th at Newport City Hall.

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