The Astoria City Council meeting appeared carefully orchestrated Monday as the city bids farewell to controversial Parks Director J.P. Moss and welcomes new parks leader Angela Cosby.
Moss talked about his history with the city beginning with his work as a consultant on the Aquatic Center. He reminded the council that in 2009 the city was ready to close the center rather than continue to pour money into the operation which had grown to approximately a half million dollars a year. Now that expense is between $75,000 and $100,000 annually. When Moss first arrived the Aquatic Center was closed frequently and there was confusion with the public never knowing for certain the hours and days of operation fro the pool. Today he says the center is open everyday the same hours and the facility is scheduled to allow multiple groups to use it at the same time including the ready availability of lap swimming. Moss introduced a series of swim classes that helped raise revenue and established a rigorous training program for life guards. Mayor read a letter from an Astoria man telling the story of his rescue by a Aquatic Center life guard. Ralph Wirfs letter detailed how he had tried the water slide for the first time and ran into trouble when he hit his head on the bottom of the slide. An alert life guard pulled him out when Wirfs said he became disoriented underwater after suffering hitting his head not once, but twice when coming up for air. Wirfs was on hand at the meeting and so was his rescuer who accepted a big hug and flowers from Wirfs as a thank you. It was a touching moment and put an exclamation point on the need to continue the training programs that Moss has insisted upon.
In other action Monday night;
The council also placed their seal of approval on the new plan for city trails. The plan is a major refinement of a plan the city had approved several years ago for the trail system that winds through the urban forest and along the river. Community Development involved the public in the process of determining priorities for the repair of those trails damaged in the 2007 December storms and polled user groups on improvements that might be made. The majority of users want the city to focus on repairing the system before going on to provide any enhancements. The city worked with the assistance of the city parks department in formulating the new plan along with help from the National Parks Service with one of their local interns doing some of the legwork.
The Senior Center project will be a large one involving remodeling the building adding a kitchen and dining hall in the basement area which will become home to the loaves and fishes program as well. The preliminary plan includes electrical, heating and, plumbing improvements throughout the building. Funding is through the Community Development Block Grant Program. The City Council approved the next steps which includes authorizing staff to look for a grant administrator to oversee the details and a firm that will handle design and engineering details for the Senior Center project.
The Astoria Police Department has already applied for a grant to fund special pedestrian-focused enforcement but asked for formal council approval. According to the City Manager Paul Benoit the deadline to apply had a very short timeline so the department applied before the council approved to meet that deadline. Councilor Herzig asked that the police give the public notice of those enforcement efforts but the council did not make it a directive. The grant is small at $1,400 and covers the cost of staff time to perform the enforcement operations.