The Ocean Shores City Council had a lively discussion Feb. 11 about whether to continue the annual city-sponsored spring cleanup that was canceled last year because of budget concerns.
At the same time, the council took some heated questions from the public about spending priorities and whether it would restore funding for the now-discontinued Surf Rescue team.
“I’ve got to ask: What are the priorities of this council over the next two or three months?” resident Lillian Broadbent asked, seeing there was no mention of the Surf Rescue situation on the night’s agenda. “We have a big issue out there right now, and it’s Surf Rescue. It needs to be talked about.”
A move by Councilman Dan Overton for a town hall meeting to address such questions was turned down, but the council will discuss whether to have the spring cleanup at the next council meeting and likely the one after that.
The cost for the cleanup was about $15,000 in the past, and there were several suggestions about how to lower the potential costs, possibly cut down the number of days to just one, and also the likelihood of using the now-closed county transfer station south of Hogan’s Corner.
“Nobody is going to die if we don’t do spring cleanup this year,” Broadbent told the council. “We have far more important health and safety issues and I would like to see the council address those.”
Former Chamber director Holly Plackett, a vocal supporter of Surf Rescue, said she also felt having a spring cleanup was important, but she, too, questioned where the city’s priorities were in not addressing the deactivation of the Surf Rescue team.
“I think the spring cleanup is a little like landscaping your yard when your roof is leaking,” she said. “As nice and as good as it is, you have a much higher priority in reinstating the Surf Rescue service to our city. And I do think it’s worth a town hall meeting.”
Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Crystal Dingler reported that beach warning signs had been placed at all the main beach entrances around the city as a precaution under legal advisement before fully de-activating the Surf Rescue team manned by city police and firefighters who have had specialized training and represent the only such team in the county.
Dingler said she and Police Chief Mike Styner before the first of the year informed everyone affected by that budget cut – $52,500 for Surf Rescue – and then consulted the city’s insurance carrier, which told the city to “put up lots of signs and put them in all the appropriate places.”
Saturday, Feb. 16, was the first full day without Surf Rescue.
Last week, the mayor issued a statement that in part said: “In the meantime, residents and visitors are urged to be especially careful in the water and to dial 911 immediately in case of a water emergency.”
Councilwoman Ginny Hill began the discussion by noting that last year’s annual spring cleanup was canceled “without any input from our citizens” and wasn’t included in the current budget.
“I would like to hear from the citizens about whether this is something they want,” Hill said, also questioning if there were alternatives ways it could be funded.
Dingler said one local church group recently inquired about doing a civic project in the summer, and she suggested that as a possibility.
Bob Crumpacker, the former councilman, noted the Grays Harbor County transfer station at Hogan’s Corner was closed by the county as of Feb.1.
“We’re already seeing people who might otherwise use the spring cleanup or might have used the transfer station now using the roadside and some of the county roads and logging roads,” he said of the increased illegal garbage dumping in the area.
“This is one of the few things that the city and the City Council can actually do that benefits the average citizen where they can actually see they are getting a benefit for the actions you take,” Crumpacker added.
Councilman John Lynn suggested continuing to lobby the county to reopen the transfer station, and also using a council contingency fund to provide for the cleanup. Hill said she wanted to see what the cost of a one-day event would be compared to previous years, in which the cleanup was held over multiple days.
Councilman Randy Scott suggested negotiating with the county and garbage contractors “to give us a really good rate” for a spring cleanup, because counties are required, he said, to maintain waste facilities.
The city added nine more surplus properties to the backlog of lots and homes under foreclosure for unpaid taxes. The properties had delinquent LID (local improvement district) balances and were subject to foreclosure by the city. By acquiring them directly from the county, the city avoided paying penalties and interest on the taxes still owed, and acquired the properties through redemption rights, Finance Director Steve Ensley told the Council.
That meant the city purchased the properties from the county for $18,000, after Ensley in December estimated it could otherwise have cost $54,000 to take over the properties.
Ensley said he planned to compile a complete list of all the foreclosed properties the city owns, notify local real estate sellers and brokers, along with placing newspaper ads to try to sell them.
“We’re trying to get the word out that these properties are available, and the best thought at this point is to direct people to the Realtors to let them screen and bring offers to the city,” Ensley said.
Dingler noted that as short-staffed as the city already is, it made no sense to also be in the real estate business.
“We hope it would be good for the local Realtors as well,” Dingler said.
The Council also adopted two six-month exclusive sale and listing agreements with Jeff Daniel of John L. Scott Ocean Shores to sell the city’s surplus Permit Center building at 710 Point Brown Ave. NE and the city’s old Fire Station at 676 Point Brown. The Permit Center is listed at $250,000, and the Fire Station at $175,000