Gold Beach City Councilors passed a trifecta of measures at an emergency meeting held via teleconferencing on Tuesday evening, March 24. The flurry of ordinances and declarations followed a hectic weekend of tourism that prompted many citizen complaints about the endangerment of their health and safety and the decimation of limited essential supplies and fresh foods from store shelves.
Councilors first considered whether to declare a temporary state of emergency for the city, which will remain in effect until April 28 unless extended by the council. The declaration delegates authority to the City Administrator “to take actions and issue orders necessary and reasonable to protect health, safety and welfare of the City and the public and to conduct activities that minimize or mitigate the effect of the emergency” caused by the coronavirus. The declaration also designates two additional staff members to serve as “acting in capacity” City Administrator, Will Newdall, Public Works Superintendent, and Police Chief Tracy Wood.
“Our city is at risk, and we need to protect it,” said Mayor Karl Popoff. “To hit some sort of balance is the best we can possibly do.” The emergency declaration passed unanimously, with all five council members present.
The next order of business undertaken was considering whether to pass an ordinance similar to communities to the north of Gold Beach. After considering ordinances passed by the cities of Astoria, Manzanita and Bandon, and Tillamook County, the preferred option was modeled after Bandon’s ordinance. The Tillamook ordinance closed all outdoor recreation, including beaches, boat launches and parks, whereas the Bandon ordinance focused on shutting down transient lodging for tourists.
The ordinance is effective immediately and orders the evacuation of all overnight visitors by 8 a.m. on Friday, March 27. The ordinance defines visitors as those who are spending time in the city for pleasure, recreation or non-business reasons and is not a resident, property owner or business owner.
“The purpose of the emergency declaration is to limit 'Virus Visitors' from hot zone states or communities who are deliberately flaunting Governor Brown’s executive order to ‘Stay Home, Save Lives,’” says the packet provided personally to lodging operators by City Administrator Jodi Fritts. “These individuals are treating this health crisis as a spring break or extended vacation, and potentially infecting local citizens.”
Exceptions include essential workers such as doctors and nurses; delivery drivers; people who are in lodging for medical purposes; employees of local business owners; and vendors, agents and service providers for local residents, property owners and businesses.
Also exempt are local residents of Gold Beach, and their invitees and family members, and persons who are stranded, such as for vehicle failure, financial reasons, disability, victims of domestic abuse or COVID-19 closure in their home city or state.
The ordinance does not apply to people registered for longer than 30 days or employees of a facility that provides employee lodging. Long-term RVers, essential workers living in RV parks, and those whose RV is their primary residence are exempt. People who are simply vacationing in Gold Beach need to follow Gov. Kate Brown’s directive and vacate.
The ordinance also permits the City Administrator to order a limit on the amount of a single transaction from a grocery store, drug store or other establishment selling critical or important supplies.
“We are getting too many travelers who are putting our aging population at risk,” Councilor Tamie Kaufman said. “Visitors are raiding stores, and we have a frail population, limited hospital beds, and no ventilators.”
“We need to go past what we have right now,” agreed Councilor Larry Brennan.
Resolution R1920-12 passed 4-1 with Councilor Becky Campbell opposed.
As a final measure of protection, the City Council unanimously approved a similar resolution as those passed by Curry County Commissioners, the City of Brookings and the Port of Brookings Harbor earlier this week. That resolution has been advocated by State Rep. David Brock Smith (R-District 1) as part of the Oregon Legislative Coastal Caucus. The resolution requests Gov. Brown close all transient lodging facilities in Curry County until May 1, with exceptions for essential workers, the trucking industry and others.
“I know we are in a very difficult time and the economic impacts now are severe to our communities,” Smith said in an email to city administrators. “But to prevent a statewide stay at home order that would be even more devastating to our economies… these proposals could go a long way to keep people from outside our area from coming here at this time while minimizing the economic impact to our communities further.”