City would use the Clatsop Plains Aquifer as its water sourceGEARHART - The Gearhart City Council took another step toward securing a city water system Wednesday.

The council authorized an access agreement which will allow engineering firms Kennedy/Jenks Consultants of Portland and HLB and Associates of Seaside to proceed with the development of a test and monitoring well.

The test well will be located to the north of the city and will be used to determine if there is sufficient water of the appropriate quality to serve as a raw water source for Gearhart. That information would then be used to begin a conceptual design and estimated construction cost for the well field, treatment, transmission and storage of water. If all goes as planned, the well drilling could start in the next several weeks.

Gearhart would use the Clatsop Plains Aquifer as its water source, City Administrator Dennis McNally said. The aquifer, which covers approximately 25,000 acres, is one of the largest in Oregon.

Currently, the city uses Warrenton water, an agreement that will expire in July. An extension, which would continue the agreement until September, is in the works, McNally said

"We really want to get this moving along," he said. "What we pay Warrenton for water is quite high."

Currently, the city pays Warrenton $5.39 per thousand gallons of water. According to the terms of the agreement, the cost is scheduled to increase in July. McNally estimates the city may then pay up to $6.86 per thousand gallons of water. That could mean an approximate 30 percent customer rate increase.

"However, it may not be necessary to raise rates by that amount if Warrenton rolls back the amount of cost to the city," he said.

Councilors were unanimous in their eagerness to get the test well drilled.

"It might be cheaper to drink gasoline," Councilor John Pincetich joked.

In other action, council members:

• Set a tentative 5 p.m. May 26 work session with representatives of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to talk about the proposed plan to protect the Western snowy plover. At the March meeting, council members directed McNally to write a letter to the ODPR, stating that the city does support the protection of the plover in a manner that will pose the least burden on public use, but has questions about the plan and it's administration. The letter invited an ODPR representative to come talk to the council.

The ODPR has received more than 3,000 comments about the controversial plan to shut down about 25 percent of Oregon's beaches, including Gearhart's Necanicum spit area. The issue took a new turn recently when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would reconsider the bird's status as a federally threatened species. The action is a result of a California lawsuit and will delay any resolution of the issue by at least a year.

"If it's taken off the endangered species list, the air will go out of the balloon and this goes away," Councilor Chuck Schluter said. "But we have to treat it like it's going forward."

• Received a report from Carole Richardson, Oregon Department of Transportation northwest area manager. ODOT submitted requests to the statewide Oregon Transportation Investment Act Steering Group (OSG) and the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) to cancel OTIA funding for the Gearhart portion of the U.S. Highway 101 Pacific Way-Dooley Bridge project. Cancellation was recommended by the OSG and will be considered for final action by OTC this month. ODOT is proceeding with the Seaside portion of the project.

"We're hoping that this provides peace of mind for you," Richardson said. "In the future, council may come to the point when you think Gearhart is ready to move forward with a highway project. My door is open, please do not hesitate to come talk to us."

• Adopted a budget calendar. The first budget committee meeting will be at 7 p.m. April 22 at City Hall. Further budget meetings will be held as necessary, with a final adoption by council set for June 2.

• Authorized McNally to call for bids on three paving projects, expected to start in late May or early June. The projects are N. Cottage Avenue between Fourth and 10th streets, North Marion Avenue near 13th St. and the intersection of G Street and Woodland Avenue.

• Directed city staff to prepare ordinances for adoption of proposed text amendments to the Gearhart zoning ordinance at the May 5 meeting. These include changing the definition of soda fountain to read "A business that is operated out of a fixed building and limited to the preparation and/or sale of ice cream products, food and non-alcoholic beverages on a carry-out basis only" and listing soda fountain as a conditional use in the in the neighborhood commercial zone. The text amendments also would delete the definition of condominiums and delete condominiums as an outright use permitted in the high-density residential zone and as a conditional use permitted in the residential commercial planned development zone. Rather than being a defined use in a defined zone, condominiums will be a style of dwelling ownership, City Planner Sabrina Norberg said.

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