Port of Siuslaw holds third public meeting

Sanitation, security, public art and port manager position discussed

Feb. 10, 2018 — On Feb. 7, the Port of Siuslaw held its third public input meeting where members of the public could address their concerns to the Port Commission about security issues and sanitation, along with showing support for public art on port property.

After the public meeting, an executive session was held on the new port management position, where public action was taken afterward.

The input meeting began with a letter of complaint from a liveaboard port moorage customer, listing a litany of problems they felt plagued the docks.

The first section of the letter was devoted to security on the docks.

“Currently, there is a total lack of enforcement of the 100 existing Port of Siuslaw ordinances, primarily because of the absence of a routine (port) presence on the docks, resulting in an all-day, all-night long unawareness of events, complaint follow up or enforcement action,” the letter writer said.

The letter stated that the writer  had witnessed fist fights, drug users and “transients/drunks” who have urinated and defecated outside their window, night crabbers, overnight campers in sleeping bags, skinny dippers and out of season fireworks, among other things.

The letter went on to state that the port’s actionable response solution was to report violations to the Florence police. But the writers claimed they had contacted the police and were told “off the record” that this is a port problem, not a police problem, and not to bother 911 with these incidents.

Florence Police Commander John Pitcher was contacted for a response to the complaint.

“That’s just not true,” he said. “I’ve talked to port personnel and they were aware of complaints. We pulled calls and we pulled reports. We went down there every time we were called, and there was nothing there.”

As to the port policing issues on its own, Interim Port Manager Dina McClure stated that the port does try to address complaints, but office staff is limited in its hours. Many of the complaints come in during the weekend, when the port office is closed.

However, the port does have new security cameras, and more will be installed soon.

“We go back and look at the videos if there’s a problem,” McClure said. “If somebody says there’s a concern, we go back and check it out.”

McClure encouraged customers to contact police dispatch if any incidents do occur.

Port Commissioner Bill Meyer, who lives in an apartment building adjacent to the docks, said he was sure that all of these things had occurred at one point.

“As a neighborhood we had issues with certain miscreants, primarily youth, who were giving our neighbors a hard time,” he said.

He invited the moorage customers to join the neighborhood watch program that was active in Historic Old Town.

“We worked in cooperation with the police department, and as far as I know in the last two years we haven’t had a problem,” he said.

The commission said they realized that the port needed more proactive measures to prevent incidents from happening in the first place. McClure suggested looking into grant funding for a security gate at the docks.

“I would also like to move up on that project,” McClure said. “The moorage customers would have access between dusk and dawn. They would have the ability to go in and out of the gates, they would just be closed to the public. The gates would only be unlocked during daylight hours.”

Beyond security, the letter also stated that there were problems with dock sanitation, citing “unsightly and offensive beer/wine bottles, cardboard and lunch containers, paper cups, diapers, seabird droppings, dog messes, discarded immature crab and small fish carcasses and fish guts.”

Commissioner Mike Buckwald took umbrage with the characterization.

“I’m reading this and it makes me think we don’t do anything. I’m trying to understand the legitimacy of the complaint. Sure, I’ve seen trash after events and things laying around. But I have not observed this kind of mess.”

Port Harbormaster Tracey David stated that the kind of sanitation issues the letter characterized were “freak occurrences.”

“During the summer you get your paper plates,” he said. “Fish carcasses from people crabbing. A chicken leg here or there. All the chicken bones that come up are from the seagulls vomiting on the docks. Yes, you get the occasional dog walker who lets their dog defecate on the dock, and they keep walking, but the way this makes it sound, the docks are covered in crap. And I’m sorry, but this is completely out of line.”

While McClure agreed that trash can accumulate, particularly during the summer months, she stated that the staff does wash and clean the docks frequently throughout the day.

However, the commissioners did say that there were issues with seagull droppings, an issue they have been trying to work on for some time. At a meeting last month, commissioners discussed multiple ways of scaring off the birds in a responsible manner, including loud noises and drones. They are continuing to work on a solution.

After the letter was discussed, Eugene artist Bayne Gardner addressed the commission about doing a mural on the blue building on port property, which houses Vintage Blue Warehouse Estate Sales.

“I’m an artist from Eugene and I specialize in murals. Last week I did a mural in Junction City of sockeye salmon (as a donation), and after completing that, I had an idea to do a chinook salmon. I thought Florence would be another great place,” he said.

Gardner was willing to do the mural for free, but found that he had to go through the Florence Public Art committee first, which does not allow artists to paint murals for free, nor create a mural without committee approval.

Public Art Committee Chairman Harlen Springer, who regularly attends port meetings, explained the reasoning behind the decision.

“If artists can come into town, go up to an owner, and say, ‘I want to put a mural on the side of your building today,’ then you can sort of imagine what that can lead to,” Springer said. “Another thing is a fairness issue. If we let Bayne put up a free piece of public art here, then the other artists around town will call me and say, ‘What’s up with that? I thought we had a process here that we all got a chance? How is it fair that you let one artist put up art here and we didn’t even know about it?’”

Port Commissioner Nancy Rickard asked if the committee looks for a specific theme when choosing a project.

“We specifically don’t want a theme,” Springer answered. “Some people would like us to have a theme all over town, but we decided as a committee we don’t want to do that. We want artists to express themselves. That gives you a different look all around town.”

“But you’re still going to exert control over the art,” Meyer said.

“To the point that it’s not some obscene swastika,” Springer said. “I’m always concerned about the word ‘control.’ And somebody needs to do that. We just want to make it fair, so art doesn’t become a free for all and go crazy.”

To allow artists local artists like Gardner to do murals for free, Springer suggested an alternative approach.

“What we talked about today was maybe we pick 10 or 12 spots around town and put that out to local artists and say, ‘We will waive the fee for you, and we’ll let each of you paint one of these buildings,’” Springer said. “That way it’s fair, and everybody has the opportunity in getting art around town. We are trying to get art in the community.”

Springer stated that he had reviewed Gardner’s work and was impressed.

“He’s on the same wavelength as we are about our desire to do public art,” he said. “We support his thinking.”

Gardner also agreed with the public art committee, saying he fully agreed with the rules.

“My point in coming here is to make you aware of the potential of that as well,” Gardner said. “It would work well with my ideas for painting it. People don’t really come down to the dock, but with public art, it can really pull people down this way. It gets more people out and makes a landmark.”

After the meeting, the commissioners held an executive session, returning afterwards with an announcement on the port manager position.

Originally, the open position was to be closed at the end of January and the applicants reviewed. However, the commission opted to extend the time period for the recruitment of the port manager “until filled.”

The job description and application form can be found at portofisuslaw.com under the Port News section.

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