Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

June Podesta began the Brookings City Council meeting June 10 by detailing problems with homeless camps on Mill Beach. She said new problems were arising with the improving weather such as increased garbage and fires.

New camps had formed underbrush below South Coast Lumber property and the city’s wastewater treatment plant, according to Podesta. She said the transients, unlike residents and families, place their fires back in brush and risk starting wildfires.

She asked the city to create an ordinance forbidding camping at the beach or limiting fires and said signs posted at the access stating the rules would help as well.

“Watch ‘Seattle is Dying,’” she said. “That is what is happening at Mill Beach.”

“Seattle is Dying” is a news show shot in Seattle by KOMO TV. KOMO’s Eric Johnson said the show is the third in a trilogy including “There But For the Grace of God” — about the homeless — and Demon at the Door” — about the hellish existence of heroin addiction.

“Seattle is Dying is about everyone else,” Johnson said. “It’s about citizens who don’t feel safe taking their families into downtown Seattle. It’s about parents who won’t take their children into the public parks they pay for. It’s about the filth and degradation all around us. . .”

Park rangers from Harris Beach cannot keep up with the trash at Mill Beach, according to Podesta. She said there are so many homeless moving in “there is no way to keep up.”

Mayor Jake Pieper called the situation “an ongoing saga,” and said it was a shame because Mill Beach is a community gem. He noted the city has closed the parking area at night, but he noted the beach itself is state property.

Building department fees

Councilors voted to increase building fees in the city and add about $15,000 per year in revenue in doing so. The goal, according to city documents is to have the fees pay for the cost of processing and providing services.

City Building official/inspector Garret Thomson said the city also had to add some fees to make the schedule fit the format the state uses and to allow the city to use ePermitting, another goal the council had set for the changes. ePermitting, according to the State of Oregon ePermitting System website, allows licensed contractors to apply for building permits with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Councilor Ron Hedenskog said he was happy the city could use the system and doing so would make Thomson’s job easier.

The new system and fee schedule will increase building fees “slightly more than originally proposed,” Thomson said, and will keep the city in line with fees set by the international code council — the fee schedule used by the state. Those fees run about $150.00 per square foot. The changes will increase the building fees for a $250,000 home from $1,425 to $1,607.

Hedenskog noted this was the city’s second step of three proposed to increase fees over time to get them in line with permitting costs. But Thomson said the third step would no longer be needed as these changes and cost-of-living increase had met those goals.

“It was not appropriate,” Pieper said, “for citizens (through their taxes) to pay for the (permitting) costs of building new housing.”

Master fee schedule

The council voted to approve the city’s master fee schedule after a report by City Manager Janell Howard who said fees had been raised across the schedule by 1.5 percent in accordance with the consumer price index as of February 2019.

City documents stated fees were added for using the lights at Azalea Park to offset that cost, and fees were added for recreational sports as well — $60 per hour will be charged for the lights and $25 per game per team in recreational sports. The city recently agreed to administer the local adult softball league.

Councilor Brent Hodges noted the city could recoup more of its costs for parks if it stopped waiving the fees “every time a group asked.”

Pieper noted most of the groups asking to waive the fees are non-profits already receiving a 50 percent reduction in park fees. He said many of the groups are also getting money from the city in tourism and promotion grants.

Hedenskog said the city should look at some means to recoup the fees if it is going to waive them.

“Every time,” Hodges said.

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