Musician Jeffrey Reynolds took out his violin and played a lively tune for the Astoria City Council Monday night to show his appreciation for a letter of apology presented to him by Mayor Willis Van Dusen and signed by all members of the council.
Reynolds had appeared before the council May 16 to protest being asked to leave the Sunday Market by Joyce Compere, a member of the council who is also the manager of the market.
Saying he had been deprived of his civil right to express himself, Reynolds called street music a hallowed artistic activity, and asked the council to apologize to him and to amend the city code to accommodate live performances.
In response, the council crafted the three-paragraph letter, which acknowledges that "music is a wonderful method of expression and is clearly protected by the guarantee of free speech. We are sorry that Jeffrey Reynolds was asked to move from city of Astoria public property while he was playing his violin. This was a mistake, and we want to sincerely apologize to Jeffrey."
Calling Reynolds "a very fine musician," Van Dusen said it was the first time in his 20 years on the council that the it had issued an apology.
With demolition of the old Safeway nearing completion, the Sunday Market could occupy a larger part of that block as soon as July 3. "The demolition's really moving along pretty nicely," said Todd Scott, Astoria's community development director.
He said the rest of the demolition debris should be removed this week. After that, some cleanup work will be done, holes in the concrete slab where the store stood will be patched up, and the city will take care of some safety issues, such as an opening into the old store's basement, he said.
The Market will "re-orient" the way the vendors are laid out, said Scott. They will be placed in an east-west direction, rather than a north-south direction coming off 12th Street, with many of the vendors to be located on the slab. However, there will still be booths on 12th Street from Exchange to Marine Drive. He said the new arrangement will free up some parking spaces.
Meanwhile, the City Council voted Monday to create a contract to present to the Sunday Market to formalize its use of city property and its relationship with the city.
The council is in the process of updating its noise code, which harks back to a much earlier time, when keeping a nosy bird or attaching a bell to an animal were prohibited, along with using a "whistle, rattle, bell, gong, clapper, horn, hammer, drum, musical instrument or other device" to attract business. Crying, calling and shouting was prohibited, except that "newsboys may sell newspapers and magazines by public outcry."
The council held a public hearing on changes to the noise code, and kept the hearing open until the next meeting at the request of Reynolds. He and two other musicians testified that they would like more time to propose changes that would make the noise code friendlier to musicians and other forms of outdoor entertainment.
In other business, Public Works Director Mitch Mitchum reported on the Skyline Water Project Pump Station, whose location and design had raised objections from neighboring homeowners. He said the pump house will be located north of the new water tank rather than next to the street. It will be slightly smaller, and there will be additional landscaping. The cost of the changes has not yet been determined.
The council approved a $100,000 contract with the Portland design firm Moore Iacafano and Goltsman to develop the Youngs Bay Landing Master Plan. The cost will be paid by an EPA Brownfield Assessment grant.
Scott said Pacific Power has contracted with a company that's doing some environmental mitigation for the in-water portion of the site, which was formerly a steam plant. They have constructed a small road to the tar body and are preparing to remove portions of it that have broken loose. Over the rest of this summer, they will be putting a giant concrete quilt over it, and then a habit layer that resembles a mudflat for plant and animal species. He said daylight low tides make this a good time for the work to be performed.
In other action, the council adopted the city's $24.7 million budget for fiscal year 2005-2006.
It was Dan Bartlett's last meeting as a salaried city manager for the city of Astoria. Citing PERS issues, Bartlett resigned effective June 30, saying it no longer made financial sense for him to continue. Starting at the July 5 council meeting, Bartlett will be a contract employee, paid by the hour, while the city looks for a new manager. During the four-day interval, Todd Scott, the city's community development director, will serve as interim city manager.
"Dan, you've done an excellent job for us," Mayor Willis Van Dusen said, as he announced Bartlett's retirement.
Bartlett said the council will save money during the maximum 1,039 hours, or approximately six months per calendar year, that he can continue in the transitional position under the Public Employee Retirement System rules for retired employees, explaining that he will no longer be eligible for paid sick leave and vacation days, and the city won't have to pay into PERS on his behalf.
Van Dusen suggested waiting until the vacant Ward 2 seat on the City Council is filled in the Sept. 20 election before hiring a permanent replacement for Bartlett. However, the council decided to begin the search process immediately, with help from the League of Oregon Cities.