CANNON BEACH — The Cannon Beach City Council won't send a resolution to the Seaside School Board recommending that the Cannon Beach Elementary School be closed.

But the issue isn't over yet. In fact, it developed a few more twists during a City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The council gave support to an "informal" task force to pursue a potential site for a new school and to find a way to pay for it. Composed mostly of parents, the task force also will include Councilors Sam Steidel and Wendy Higgins, with City Manager Rich Mays acting as technical assistant.

The council suggested that school district representatives sit on the task force.

However, even if the task force returns to the council with a proposal for a bond measure to finance a school building, the city may not legally be able to issue general obligation bonds to pay for it, Mays said.

Bonding experts told Mays that, because the school is the school district's responsibility, the city might not have the authority to issue the bonds. A legal opinion would be required before city taxpayers could consider a bond measure, Mays said.

"No doubt this opens up a question that needs to be answered," he added.

Before the council voted to withdraw its draft resolution recommending that the Seaside School Board close the school because of safety concerns, councilors said the proposal had accomplished what the council had set out to do. It made the community and the school district more aware of the school's potential to collapse in an earthquake, and school district Superintendent Doug Dougherty has promised to make structural improvements.

Councilor Nancy Giasson, who read a statement during the meeting, said the community has some "hard choices" to make.

"To save the most lives, your tax dollars may have to pay for a tsunami-safe school campus for our middle school and high school children, a city-built elementary school in Cannon Beach and a new or refurbished bridge over Ecola Creek," she said.

She urged the task force to be "creative" about any short-term solution "to get children to high ground."

"If the task force can find land for a school in Cannon Beach, then move to put portables on that land right away," Giasson said. "Don't wait."

Councilor Melissa Cadwallader, who voted against the motion to withdraw the resolution, suggested that it be tabled so it could be reconsidered if necessary.

She noted that Dougherty had promised to make structural improvements at the school during a school board work session.

"The school board has made no formal decision," she said. "I must admit I have a concern. I would like to see the resolution tabled until the school board makes a decision. It's not an ax over anybody's head. I just want to see follow-through on a formal decision, an official commitment, so the children will have a chance to evacuate."

Cadwallader voted against the formation of a task force to work on behalf of the city. Such a task force, she said, should be appointed by the school board.

"The council does not have the siting of schools as its mission," she said. "I think that the complexity of siting a school is something that should be done under the supervision of an elected school board."

But Steidel said the task force could spend the time that city and school officials don't have to obtain more information about the feasibility of establishing a school in town.

"That's why it's not a city thing; it's a citizen thing," Steidel said.

Mayor Mike Morgan said the "exercise" of considering the resolution was "useful and productive."

"Despite all the invective and rumbling, I'm glad we did it," he said.

Although he warned that having a school in Cannon Beach might not be feasible because voters would have to pass a bond measure and the city may not be able to issue the bonds, he gave his blessing to the task force.

"Declare victory, go home, go out into the community and do good work," Morgan said.

Phil Simmons, a parent who has led the fight to keep the school open, said he appreciated the council's action to withdraw the resolution. But, he added, if the city does not take action to build a school in town "there won't be a school in 10 years." Voters in Gearhart and Seaside won't pay for a school in Cannon Beach if it is up to the Seaside School District to submit a bond measure, he said.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a $1.4 million grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. The grant will enable the city to reduce the $3.7 million in general obligation bonds that paid for the 800-acre Ecola Creek Forest Reserve to $2.3 million.

In a separate motion, the council also approved a reduction in the bond levy by 8 cents per $1,000. On properties assessed at $350,000, the savings would amount to $28. The pay-off date would also be shorter, with completion in 2027, rather than 2031.

• Approved a conservation easement on the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. The easement ensures that the city will conserve the forest and wetlands property.

A city advisory committee is developing a management plan for the forest reserve and will conduct a public open house to present its current findings at 7 p.m. March 7 in City Hall.

• Approved a local improvement district for paving West Tanana Street from Hemlock Street to the western end of Tanana.

• Discussed meetings being planned on the North Coast to gather public comment on the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan and potential sites for wave energy installations. The meetings will held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Camp Rilea and from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Hallmark Resort in Cannon Beach.

Cannon Beach is one of the few non-port cities on the coast where public meetings will be held. Of concern may be the viewshed where the installations will be placed.

 

 

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