Brookings goes through growing pains

July 31, 2001 11:00 pm
Soroptimists Suzie James and Carol Lockman show flag that was the idea of one of the club  members and designed by Chuck Fenner for $250 in 1976. ().
Soroptimists Suzie James and Carol Lockman show flag that was the idea of one of the club members and designed by Chuck Fenner for $250 in 1976. ().

The Brookings City Council quickly tabled a suggestion by Buddy E. Smith, the city's auditor, that the city should start collecting fees for the erection of television antennas.

City Building Inspector Lee Fountain admitted an ordinance calling for the collection of such fees had been "on the books" since 1953. "It's unpopular to enforce," Fountain added, "...I'd use up more mileage trying to chase antenna installers down than it will be worth."

The city ordinance provided that a $2 fee should be collected from each householder who erected an antenna and that a $5 charge be assessed against a professional installer.

Councilmen first decided to rescind the ordinance but then reneged at Fountain's suggestion. 'It's like the stray dog and tall grass ordinances" the building inspector remarked, "We seldom enforce them but they're a good thing to have on the books." The Pilot, Oct. 19, 1967

The city was growing and its municipal problems becoming more complex, more time-consuming, for the mayor and council members. Thus in November 1969 they hired Al Henderson, 28, to "handle the city's business affairs and make recommendations to the City Council who will act on, or reject, his suggestions,." But his powers were strictly limited. He did not stay long.

In 1970 finances got tight. On July 1, the Councilmen ordered 73 of the city's street lights turned off in an economy move. Darkening the streets would save the city $3,800, it was estimated. Other cuts made at the same time were $2,700 from the street department, elimi-nation of the Azalea Fund of $500, a $3,200 cut in the library fund, and $200 for Christmas tree lighting. Following a great deal of public protest, most of these cuts were rescinded.

In 1975, the City Council established the position of City Manager, and set forth responsibilities. On Jan. 1, 1976, Albert R. Hooten was hired as Brookings' first city manager. The mayor and councilmen at that time were Robert L. Kerr, mayor and Darrell Allsup, Ellis Dowden, William Guthrie, and Jack Ross as councilmen.

Brookings got its first traffic stop light, in 1971, on Chetco Avenue at Oak Street. Local pride swelled a bit: "We have the only stop light in Curry County!" The second and third lights were installed in 1978.

Consolidation yes/no

Brookings had been incorporated in 1951. Harbor, just across the river and a growing part of the total community area, was not. In 1972 a proposal appeared on the ballot to consolidate all the area from the Dawson Tract on the north of Brookings to the Oregon-California border on the south. The proposal was the result of five months of research and study by a committee of citizens from the Dawson Tract area, Brookings and Harbor. The 18-man fact-finding committee was composed of businessmen from both sides of the river, headed by retired businessman Floyd Somers.

The committee reported that a consolidation of the Brookings-Harbor area would mean a city of 6,500, the fourth largest on the Oregon Coast. They pointed out that such a move would give the area "more political potency," would better enable residents to deal with county, state and federal agencies. Such a move would also provide a stronger credit rating, better police protection, and would give the new city all the advantages of combined public service facilities while maintaining the lowest tax rate of any city in Curry County.

The area, which would be renamed Brookings-Harbor, would be governed by a five-man council, elected at large. Representatives of Brookings, Harbor and the Dawson Tract drafted a proposed charter. Roy Weideman chaired the drafting group, with Aileen Lecair as secretary.

The committee, however, failed to reach agreement on a tax base for the new city and declined to include the figure in the charter document. Cameron Thom, legal counsel of the committee, reported they had "insufficient information to con-scientiously submit a tax base figure to the electorate." In other words, if residents approved the proposal they would have to rely upon a later budget committee to determine the financial needs and resources of the new city.

The balloting result was clear:

The issue lost in Brookings by one vote: No 507, Yes 506

Area north of Chetco River: 68 Yes, 228 No

Area south of Chetco River: 133 Yes, 832 No

Total: 707 Yes, 1567 No

Woman Elected Mayor

Over Write-In Try

Brookings voters elected their first woman mayor in 1972 when Mrs. Wilma Kemp out-distanced her write-in opponent, Larry Short, 602 votes to 101. The Pilot, Nov. 9, 1972

The Bicentennial Year of the United States in 1976 also marked the silver anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Brookings. It seemed especially fitting that the city was designated as an official Bicentennial City.

The 25th anniversary of the City of Brookings was celebrated July 13 in a ceremony held in a new municipal area in front of the city hall complex. Two flag poles were dedicated and a new American flag and the new city flag were hoisted for the first time. In addition, a veterans' memorial which had previously been located in the city hall courtyard, was moved to the memorial area and rededicated. Six of the city's eight mayors were present for the silver anniversary rite. During a day-long open house in the city hall, refreshments were served and historical mementos and pictures were displayed in the fire hall. July 15, 1976

Mayors of Brookings

1952-54 Robert O. Dimmick

1955-56 B.L. Roy Brimm

1957-62 C. Fell Campbell

1963-64 Robert. O. Dimmick

1964-65 B.L. Roy Brimm

1965-68 Bruce Manley

1968-70 Harold Young

1971-72 Lester R. Williams

1973-74 Wilma Kemp

1975-78 Robert L. Kerr

1979-80 Elmer Hitchcock

1981-88 Robert L. Kerr

1989-92 Fred Hummel

1993-96 Tom Davis

1997-99 Nancy Brendlinger

1999- Robert Hagbom

Only two cities in the entire United States are named "Brookings." One is "ours" in Brookings, Oregon. The other is in South Dakota. In 1964, when Brookings, South Dakota, opened a direct distance dialing system through its municipal telephone plant, Oregon's Brookings' Mayor Roy Brimm exchanged telephone greetings with the mayor of that city. Four years after that conversation, the South Dakota mayor came here to visit. Bruce Manley was Brookings' mayor at that time. The Pilot newspaper had the story:

... the Mayor of Brookings said to the Mayor of Brookings ... well anyway, Mayor Bruce Manley of Brookings OR, that is, met with Forrest G. Frie, the mayor of Brookings, SD, for a short conference in the Brookings (OR) City Hall ... "You've got a nice town here," said the mayor of Brookings, SD. "We think so," said the mayor of Brookings, OR. The Pilot, Feb. 8, 1968

Solving the problems of the past has not been easy, but with an ever increasing population and widening demands for more and better public services, elected and appointed city officials are facing even greater challenges. Similar unresolved problems confront unincorporated Harbor across the river. Consolidation of these two interdependent com-munities seems crucial to the development of the whole area. Perhaps that will dream will come about when the people on both sides of the river feel a wider sense of community -- of common-unity.

It might even be timely to recall the original name of this area. The Indians called it Chetco.