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Cannon Beach City Council Deliberates Land Purchase, Emergency Shelter Funding

A proposed budget for the city of Cannon Beach calls for $543,000 in expenses to purchase land for an emergency shelter, as well as to plan the use of the existing Cannon Beach Elementary School site.

But although the money is available in the $13.5 million budget for 2013-2014, the City Council is unsure exactly how to proceed.

The city’s budget committee, composed of the council and five Cannon Beach residents, will meet tonight to continue budget deliberations. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in Haystack Gardens, across the street from City Hall.

City Manager Rich Mays told the committee at the first budget meeting last week that revenue is projected to increase 7 percent over last year’s budget.

The budget includes a $25,000 allocation to conduct a geological study of the city-owned five-acre “sports park” on the Tolovana Mainline south of town and east of U.S. Highway 101.

It also includes another $125,000 for the design and engineering of a proposed shelter for the site and a phase-in of utilities, including electrical power, gas and communications.

Funds would come from “excess reserves” in the city’s $5.36 million general fund, the city’s RV Park fund and the RV Park reserve.

The site, which never was developed into a park, is being considered as a location for an emergency shelter. Although building contractor Mike Clark, owner of Coaster Construction, has offered to donate $250,000 for a shelter, city staff members have determined the total cost for the shelter could range from $669,500 to $877,000, depending on how the utilities are installed.

As proposed now, the 2,000-square-foot shelter would house 70 cots.

Another allocation calls for $373,000 to go to the purchase of 55 acres adjacent to the sports park. Owned by the Campbell Group, the forested property is being considered by a citizens task force as a site for a new elementary school. The City Council, which has not yet voted to support construction of a school on the property, also may consider combining a school and emergency shelter in one building.

The council has an option to buy the property, which is outside the tsunami zone. Before the option is up in December, the city will pay for a geological study on the land to determine if it would slide in an earthquake and if it is suitable for a school building or a shelter.

Clark also has offered to donate another $100,000 to help purchase the property. Other funds for the purchase could come from the sale of timber on the property to the Campbell Group. However, the council hasn’t decided yet if it would harvest a portion or all of the trees.

Funds for the initial purchase also would come from excess reserves in the general fund, the general fund reserve, the RV Park fund and the RV Park reserve.

A third allocation in the budget is for $30,000 to conduct an environmental assessment and a park plan for the existing Cannon Beach Elementary School site.

Seaside School District Supt. Doug Dougherty has proposed that the school be closed in June to help make up a school district budget shortfall. If the building is vacated, the City Council has requested that the district turn it over to the city. However, Dougherty said recently that he isn’t sure how or whether the district would use the building once the students were gone.

A portion of the property also belongs to Clatsop County and could revert to the county’s ownership if the district moves out completely.

If the city is able to acquire the property, which borders Ecola Creek and is several hundred feet from the beach, it has been designated open space or a potential park in the city’s comprehensive plan.

As with the other proposed allocations, the money would come from the general fund, the general fund reserve, the RV Park and the RV Park reserve.

In a City Council work session the following night, the council’s discussion focused on the need to study the geology of the sports park and the 55 acres and request a potential design for a shelter before deciding how Clark’s donation would be used.

“I don’t want to sound unappreciative, but it puts us in a quandary about how to use it in a wise fashion,” said Councilor Melissa Cadwallader.

Councilor Sam Steidel suggested turning the “quandary into a master plan so we have a clear description about what we’re doing.”

Councilor Nancy Giasson said she liked the idea of going slowly.

“But I also want a vision of how this (the emergency shelter) fits in with the 55 acres. If we’re spreading it out over time, we will have a view of what we’re doing,” she said.

As for the school site, the council will further consider spending funds for an environmental assessment and a master plan. If the buildings are removed, the city may have to conduct an archeological assessment, Cadwallader noted. The school site once was home to a Native American village.

This story originally appeared in Cannon Beach Gazette.

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