The Astoria City Council approved emergency amendments Tuesday night that would bring city code in compliance with state law on firearms, increase fines on derelict properties and decrease requirements of those charged with public indecency, which is officially changed to “offensive public conduct.”

The code amendment, as proposed by City Attorney Blair Henningsgaard, would allow derelict building fines to exceed $1,000; they would prohibit loaded firearms in public places; and would no longer require skinny dippers or those caught urinating in public to register as sex offenders after convictions.

“The ordinance has been on our books for quite sometime,” Henningsgaard said of those caught defecating, urinating or bathing naked in front of a member of the opposite sex. But, he continued, changing the title — from public indecency to offensive public conduct — was because the former, “required that people who are convicted of it register with the state as sex offenders.

“And although we don’t cite very many skinny dippers, it didn’t seem very appropriate that we would require skinny dippers to register as sex offenders.

“We don’t have too many defecating in public cases, but we do have an unfortunate number of urinating in public cases, particularly males on weekends, and the city court was having problems prosecuting those cases because requiring those individuals who relieve themselves in public to register as sex offenders didn’t appear appropriate to those involved in the process.”

The firearm rule does not apply to a law enforcement officer or military member in the performance of an official duty; a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon; a person authorized to possess a loaded firearm while in a public building or court; or an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture acting within the scope of employment in the course of lawfully taking wildlife.

The derelict building code would no longer be held to the monetary limitations of the previous code. No limits were set.

Two readings and a public hearing were held before it was adopted. No members of the public spoke.

In other news:

• Astoria Public Safety was granted the purchase of three Cheverolet Tahoe vehicles, two for the Astoria Police Department and one to be used by the Astoria Fire Department as a command vehicle. The items were approved in the most recent budget, and will total approximately $89,000. The vehicles will also be outfitted with public safety equipment by Cascade Mobile, a company of Longview, Wash., without the competitive bid process. Cascade Mobile had been a low bidder in the past, and in an effort to keep consistency with the vehicles, and deal with a company closer (the next one is in Salem), the city authorized the police and fire department to deal with Cascade Mobile.

• Astoria Senior Center Director Larry Miller thanked the Astoria Police Department for putting on the first annual senior conference earlier this month. The conference informed seniors about scams, identity theft, Facebook and other important information. Miller said it was great, and well attended.

• In 2002, the city and the Department of Environmental Quality entered an agreement for the upgrading of the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The project began Oct. 1, 2012, but because the Environmental Protection Agency got word that the agreement had a 12-month stipulation – and because the project will not likely be completed until December of this year, according to Public Works Director Ken Cook – the city has asked for a six-month extension. The project is under way. And while Councilman Russ Warr was told the city and DEQ were blindsided by this, the Oregon attorney general has been involved and an amendment to extend the project six months was recommended. That extension was agreed on by the council Tuesday night.

• A new lease agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard was approved by the Astoria City Council for the 17th Street Dock. The Coast Guard has been a tenant of the city for the last 20 years, but that agreement was set to expire Monday. A new agreement will charge the Coast Guard more than $17,000 per month to lease the dock, including parking, storage and utilities. The annual amount will increase by 2 percent every year and can be renewed every year.

• A pay adjustment was approved for more than $69,000 for the city’s current combined sewer overflow project. The adjustment was largely because of the discovery of old trolley tracks near Eighth and Commercial streets earlier this year. The project, Support Engineer Cindy Moore said, is expected to be completed by November.


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