Rodriguez is unanimous choice to replace him as Warrenton's city leaderWARRENTON - Mayor Jeff Hazen stepped down as mayor Wednesday night, citing personal concerns he'll be focusing on in the future.

He will, however, serve out his term as a member on the five-person commission. Paul Rodriquez was elected as the city's new mayor after an unanimous vote by the commission.

Commissioners appointed Hazen to the board in November 1999, and he replaced Barbara Balensifer as mayor in 2001.

Originally from Reedsport, Hazen moved to Clatsop County about a decade ago after the Costco store opened in Warrenton. He is the manager of the store.

At the meeting, Hazen said he has enjoyed is work on the commission and feels honored to have served. "I believe we have the city of Warrenton headed in the right direction," he said.

But he said some personal issues will force him to "focus on some other things in my life." Before the other commissioners voted to decide who would replace him, Hazen asked that they support Rodriquez.

Rodriquez won the vote 5-0 and after a handshake the two men switched chairs behind the commission's dais with Rodriquez taking the seat in the middle.

Hazen said the biggest disappointment for him as mayor came when the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce decided to move the Crab and Seafood Festival away from Warrenton to the Clatsop County Fairgrounds. He said he lobbied hard to bring the festival back to the city in 2004, but the chamber again decided to go with the fairgrounds.

The commission also voted 3-2 to elect Commissioner Dick Hellberg as the vice-chairman of the board; Hazen and Commissioner Gil Gramson received the other two votes.

Following the elections, the commission delved into the heart of its agenda, taking on the wetlands issue.

City Planner Patrick Wingard said he had been revising the ordinance commissioners tentatively approved at their last meeting and had been making some slight changes. Those changes focused on an issue raised by Hellberg about the banks of the upper reaches of the Skipanon River that he felt were already developed and shouldn't be subject to more environmental restraints.

Warrenton had to create an ordinance protecting wetlands to comply with statewide planning Goal 5. Wingard said after discussing the upper Skipanon with the staff from the state's Department of Land Conservation and Development he found that area is also subject to statewide planning Goal 17, which protects coastal shorelines.

"It may affect what city staff has put together," Wingard said.

However, Laren Woolley, LCDC regional representative for the North Coast, said that he believed the issues the state has in terms of Goal 17 could be rectified by the time the city's wetlands ordinance would go into effect.

That didn't seem to reassure Mark Kujala whose family owns land near the Skipanon and feels his property is being unfairly regulated.

But on the other hand, Jim Scheller of the Skipanon Water Council and Skipanon Water Control District, said the commission should do its utmost to limit development on the Skipanon's banks to protect a restored, albeit small, salmon run in the river.

Wingard said the ordinance would be one that likely wouldn't make anyone happy, and commissioners appeared to agree.

"I think at this point we've got the best product we can get," Gramson said.

Commissioners voted 4-1 - with Hellberg dissenting because he said he didn't want it to be unanimous - to have the first reading of the ordinance.

Despite being approved by the commission, the state Land Conservation and Development Commission still has to review and approve the ordinance before Warrenton can be done with the wetlands issue.

In other business, the commission:

• Accepted a $10,000 grant from an anonymous donor to the city's fire department. Fire Chief Ted Ames said the donors gave the money to the city for the specific purpose of purchasing a thermal imaging camera for firefighters.

The cameras use infrared technology to enable firefighters to see through thick smoke while fighting structure fires. The commission passed a resolution exempting the purchase from the competitive bidding process after holding a public hearing on the matter.

• Approved a bid proposal from Bergerson Construction for piling work at the city's marinas. City Manager Jim Hough said the bid came in at a little less than $25,000 for 18 pilings.

Harbormaster Keith Pinkstaff said with the current state of the city's marinas and their finances he would be lucky to get the 18 pilings. "I've stretched everything we can and it's going to be tight," he said.

And Gramson added the project is really just a stopgap measure, and in the next year the commission will have to make a serious effort to find the funding for the serious capital issues facing the marinas.

"Something has to be done in the next year," he said.

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