By the time news of a tsunami warning led to the abrupt adjournment of their meeting Tuesday evening, the Warrenton City Commission had accomplished most of the business on its agenda, City Manager Ed Madere said Wednesday. The warning was downgraded a few minutes later, because the earthquake off the California coast did not generate a tsunami.
The item that took the most time, Madere said, was a public hearing on Denis Meunier's appeal of a Warrenton Planning Commission's decision not to give the Hammond resident planning clearance for a garage he wants to build on his residential property at 519 Pacific Drive. Meunier had wanted to build a large metal garage that the planning commission found incompatible with his house. The City Commission, with Mark Kujala acting as mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Gil Gramson, upheld the Planning Commission's decision. Commissioner Dick Hellberg also was absent.
In other business, the commission authorized staff to advertise for bids for the construction of the sewer outfall pipe for the city's wastewater treatment plant. Madere said he hopes to have the bids in by next month. The commission also approved an agreement with Pacific Seafood under which the company will be responsible for designing the service line from the processing plant to the outfall, and will be reimbursed $33,985 for its services. Once the outfall is pipe is complete, Pacific Seafood will use it to discharge wastewater from its processing operations into the Columbia River, a change required by the state Department of Environmental Quality. The wastewater now goes into the Skipanon River. The city's goal is for the outfall to be completed by February 2006.
Meanwhile, Pacific Seafood Group, which owns Pacific Seafood and Pacific Surimi, is appealing a ruling by a federal judge in Portland that would shut down surimi operations for the coming season. The ruling came this week in response to a lawsuit filed against the company by an environmental group under the federal Clean Water Act. Once the outfall pipe is in place, the wastewater problem will be solved. If the ruling is upheld, 50 to 60 seasonal jobs could be lost.
At Tuesday's meeting, the City Commission authorized City Attorney Hal Snow to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, to show Warrenton's support of Pacific Seafood, Madere said. Besides appealing the judge's ruling, Pacific Seafood has also asked for an emergency hearing to hold off the closing.
The commission also approved an amendment to its agreement with Rankin Engineering, the firm that's designing a water line extension to the Astoria Regional Airport. The city and the Port of Astoria are negotiating over the portion of the construction that each entity will pay for. By satisfying state fire suppression requirements, the improved water supply will allow business development at the airport to go forward, including the expansion of Lektro, Inc.
In other news, Patrick Wingard, Warrenton's Planning Director, has accepted a new position with Clatsop County's planning department, where he will be Community Development Supervisor, replacing Barbara Robinson. Wingard said his last day in Warrenton is June 30, and he starts his new job July 1.
Madere said Pamela Alegria, Warrenton's building and planning technician, can fill in while the city decides whether to hire a replacement for Wingard or hire outside consultants to handle big developments, such as the new Home Depot. The city would charge the consultants' fees to the developers, he said.
"We're in a holding position now," Madere said. "We're weighing our options."