April 13, 2019 — The Dunes City Council addressed a wide variety of issues in its monthly city council meeting on Wednesday, including passing an ordinance prohibiting feeding wildlife, discussing the purchase of upgraded water meters and debating the efficacy of social media.
The meeting began with the passage of an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of wild animals. The city had received multiple complaints over the past year regarding a burgeoning deer population, and evidence that citizens were worsening the situation by leaving food out specifically for the deer.
“No person shall knowingly place, deposit, distribute, store or scatter food, garbage or any other attractant so as to knowingly constitute a lure, attraction or enticement for deer, raccoon, bear, cougar, coyote, and/or wolf,” the ordinance read, which was passed unanimously by the council.
Next on the agenda was an offer to donate land to the city. The parcel, which is only .11 acres, is located near Camp Baker.
“I don’t want to accept it without knowing we have a use for it,” Mayor Robert Forsythe said, pointing out that the cost for upkeep of the property could cost the city more than it was worth.
“The only thing I can think of is a spot to offer for a cell tower,” Dunes City Administrator/Recorder Jamie Mills said. “There are not houses down there. The closest thing to it is the Boy Scout Camp. There is no road to get to this lot.”
Councilor Susan Snow was concerned that if a cell phone tower was installed, that it could hamper neighboring lots. Regulations require a setback distance for towers, typically one foot for every foot of height of the tower. While there is currently no built property directly surrounding the lot, a tower could hamper land owners’ ability to build structures.
However, cell phone service in the area is limited and could benefit from a tower.
“I think we had information from one of the last meetings that the Boy Scout Camp is in the dead zone for radios and phones,” Councilor Sheldon Meyer said. “Something that would enhance the ability for them to make contact if a kid were in trouble. Seems to me a really good use of that piece of property, if it can be used.”
Before accepting the donation, the council agreed to investigate if a cell phone tower could be built there and if it would negatively affect surrounding lots.
Next, the council discussed the possibility of the city creating a more complete social media presence. While the city does have a website, it does not communicate information through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The council originally thought that by utilizing such platforms, Dunes City could get more community involvement. However, social media accounts can be time consuming, particularly if staff has to monitor for appropriate public comments.
“My concern is the cost of man hours to try and keep up with social media today,” Forsythe said. “It’s not easy for a municipality to maintain and update. And quite honestly, the more you do, the more that is expected. I’m not big on it yet under our circumstances, with staffing and budgeting issues. I’m reluctant to head down that road.”
Because the city already has its own website, the council decided not to pursue the creation of social media accounts.
Finally, the council debated the purchase of $20,000 worth of new water meters in a discussion that dovetailed into the city’s upcoming fight for water rights.
At issue was the city’s plan to transition from traditional water meters in which residents have to read and report the readings to the city. Instead, the city has been looking into purchasing meters that transmit readings via radio, allowing city staff to obtain meter readings.
“What triggered this conversation is that we have older residents in their crawl spaces that can’t crawl down there to get their readings,” Mills said. “It was more convenient for our citizens, rather than the benefit of the city, though it makes the readings easier.”
However, the importance of reliable meter readings came to the forefront recently when the state threatened to rescind the water rights held by Dunes City.
“I think the water readings are going to be very important for our fight for water rights,” Forsythe said. “This way, we’re not reliant on the homeowner to be there, go down there, read the meter, get it to us. We’ll be able to do it ourselves, rapidly.”
Some council members had concerns with the contract for the new water meters, however. The contract, which would be done through Ferguson Meter and Automation Group, did not go out for bid.
“I did research on a company on the internet and found one that was $70 for the meter, and it was internet capable,” said Councilor Alan Montgomery, comparing that to the quoted price of $142 for the Ferguson Meters.
“I prefer using people who are close to us,” Forsythe said, stating that the City of Florence also used Ferguson’s services. “I like to use whoever Florence is using, not because of Florence, necessarily, but because of (City of Florence Public Works Director) Mike Miller and the people that have to deal with it. If we start to have problems with a particular vendor, they’re a wealth of information about that vendor, and that equipment. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Montgomery later countered with, “I’m reluctant to go into it because somebody else is using it. With the cloud, internet and Fed-Ex, nothing is more than two days away. I would do some more research, maybe look at a different company.”
Councilor Tom Mallen also had concerns with spending city funds replacing meters that may not need to be replaced.
“I bought my own water meter and it is installed in my crawl space,” he said. “I do read it, not every month, but I do read it at least quarterly. I do not feel that the city should pay for me to get a new water meter when I just bought one two and a half years ago.”
Councilor Robert Orr was sensitive to Mallen’s concerns, saying, “I think there will be individuals who recently did something, like Tom, but overall I like the idea of moving toward this standardization and electronic concept. I understand what Tom is saying, and certainly don’t want the city to pay for things that are extra. But I think we need to look at the broader scope.”
“Then maybe the broader scope would be, going forward, when you issue permits, that they are required to have these,” Mallen said. “That I understand and completely agree with. And those that are out of compliance, whether they’re not living here, that would comply. But it just doesn’t make sense to make everyone do it, even if they are in compliance.”
While the city has been looking at purchasing water meters for months now, they decided to table the issue for another month to address the councilor’s concerns.
However, the council did not want to wait too long on making a decision, considering the issues of water rights the city will be facing.
“About the water rights coming up, I want the residents of Dunes City to know that I believe the battle we’re going into with the state is going to be the biggest thing that we’ve ever done,” Councilor Duke Wells said. “It’s bigger than building inspectors, bigger than marijuana and bigger than the septic issue we had for years. It’s going to be a real battle. But I truly believe it’s one worth fighting. It’s a big overreach by the state, coming down on us after doing 50 years of business a certain away. It is completely out of balance, and I’m ready for the fight.”