Dunes City swears in new councilor

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Council meeting also covers water issues, law enforcement

Dec. 16, 2017 — Susan Snow was sworn in as a Dunes City councilor during Wednesday’s city council public meeting, filling a vacancy that had been created with the passing of former mayor Rebecca Ruede. In August, Councilor Robert Forsythe was appointed to the role of mayor, leaving an unoccupied seat on the council.

“I like to be involved with the city where I live,” Snow said.

She is not new to public service, having served on the board of directors of a homeowners association in her previous home, Alexandria, Va. She also volunteered with the Annandale Christian Coalition for Action, which helps provide early childhood care, education, food, rental assistance and other services to low-income families in the area.

Snow has familial roots in Dunes City, with her stepfather and two brothers living in the area.

She and her husband, who both worked for the Pentagon previously, moved to Dunes City in 2016. They were not new to the area, however, as they bought one home within city limits in 2008, and another in 2011.

“I hope to make this a place that people enjoy living in,” Snow said. “The residents are friendly and want to talk to you. I want to keep it a nice, friendly place that people are happy to live in, and that there’s no contention between residents or the cities around us.”

As far as issues facing Dunes City, Snow stated that she has listened to the concerns of the residents, but would like to “do my homework before I can comment on anything.”

Snow listed the outdoor activities that Dunes City provides as one of the key positives to the city.

“There are so many things in Dunes City. You can occupy yourself with the sand dunes and go sandboarding. There’s fishing, boating — you can do whatever you want and it’s all within a few minutes,” she said.

For her own enjoyment, Snow likes kayaking in the area and fishing the Siltcoos River, where she catches salmon and perch.

“I’ve caught a lot of perch,” Snow said. “We came here every year to catch perch and bring it home to Virginia.”

Forsythe said, “I look forward to hearing your input, and it was already very helpful today.”

“It seems like a great group of gentlemen here and I look forward to working with them,” Snow said.

In other news from the meeting, Forsythe reported on a meeting that he, Snow and Councilor Sheldon Meyer had with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office regarding law enforcement in Dunes City.

Currently, the city does not have its own police force and must rely on Lane County, but the sheriffs cannot always be relied upon to provide consistent and timely law enforcement to the area.

“You have a total of 25 sheriffs in Lane County, which is 55 miles wide and 100 miles long,” Forsythe said.

Because of that, options for robust law enforcement coverage in Dunes City is “fairly limited,” according to Forsythe.

“If we wanted to hire a sheriff ourselves like several cities have done, it costs $170,000 a year to maintain that person, which obviously our budget couldn’t handle,” Forsythe said.

While Forsythe stated he did not foresee any changes to the city’s law enforcement situation in the immediate future, he encouraged people to call Lane County Sheriff’s Office when issues arise.

“Those calls go on record, and start to build an awareness for them as to where things are happening,” Forsythe said. “If we all sit there and go, ‘Well, we know the sheriff isn’t going to come because it’s not a physical danger,’ and we don’t make that call and go on record for it, they will never come.

“When the federal government looks at crime rates for Lane County on the West Coast. They think it’s an excellent place to be because there’s no crime. And because we don’t make those calls and no one comes out, no record is ever given.”

Along with security, communication between the council and the public was also discussed in Wednesday’s meeting.

As of now, Dunes City Council’s meeting rules of order state that members of the public may give input during the public comment period of a city council meeting, but the councilors cannot engage in a conversation during that period. They can only quietly listen, responding to the comments after the comment period is over.

The oft-maligned rule prevents a give and take between the public and the city council during meetings.

“It really feels ridiculous to sit here and hear it, and not be able to respond to it,” Forsythe said. “It seems kind of weird.”

The mayor said that the council has been working on changing the meeting rules of order to allow back and forth conversation, and hopes to implement a change by February.

In an interview Forsythe gave the previous month, he also stated the council was also looking into other ways to gain community input, with town halls being a possibility.

Finally, the council decided to again postpone a vote on an agreement to issue South Coast Water District a permit to use water from Woahink Lake.

At issue is 85 homes in the city that currently receive water from Siltcoos Lake. While the water levels at Siltcoos are steady, the quality of water is poor, being described as “a big mud puddle” by South Coast Water District owner Randall Reitz.

The plan is to provide water to the residents from Woahink Lake instead.

But the plan is controversial, with some members of the public concerned that the addition of the 85 homes would put Woahink Lake’s water levels at risk.

The council wanted to hear from state experts, including the regional watermaster, about the impact of the decision on Woahink Lake, but the experts could not make the December meeting.

The council also wanted to receive guidance on the water rights they have to give.

Meyer, who had been speaking with state officials on the matter, said the state was confident Woahink Lake would be more than able to support all Dunes City citizens. However, Meyer also wanted to give experts the chance to address these concerns directly to the residents through a public forum.

“I think it would be best to wait until January to hear what the public’s concerns are on all sides of this issue,” he said.

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