Friday, December 19, 2014

There was a lot to say about the U.S. Coast Guard at Tuesday's Astoria City Council meeting.  Mayor Willis Van Dusen talked about how much pride the city takes in being designated an official Coast Guard City this year and said it's not just about the men and women who serve here saving lives, it's about the families they bring with them. The Mayor then called up a young man named Jake Kaup.  Jake just made Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and his father is the former Commander of Coast Guard Astoria.  In order to quaify for the Eagle recognition a scout must perform a significant community service and Jake's project was to gather a team and rebuld the trailhead at the city's Cathedral Tree trail.  Jake was honored by the council with a Mayor's proclaimation for Jake Kaup Day and awarded a commorative pewter plate in recognition of his work to upgrade the popular trail for all citizens of Astoria.  

There were two other items on last night's agenda that are Coast Guard related.  For the first time the council was presented with the plan for the city to buy the old Armory building and the adjacent lot where the city has provided reserved parking for the Coast Guard as part of the lease agreement for the 17th street Pier (see our full story here). The proposal wasn't acted on by the council Tuesday but staff was given direction to proceed with negotiations.  The council will have the final word when an agreement has been hammered out.  The council also approved a new lease agreement with the Coast Guard for the 17th street Pier that is an annual agreement for 20 years with automatic renewals for additional 20 year periods. City Manager Paul Benoit told the council the agreement has an automatic rate increase of 2% annually.

In other action:

The city council heard a plea from RiverWalk Hotel General Manager Brad Smithart to return to collecting hotel motel taxes on a quarterly basis. Two years ago the city changed it's policy and demands payment of those taxes monthly.  The change was made because some of the motel owners in town were consistantly delinquent on paying those fees they collect from guests.  The River Walk Inn, according to a staff report, is one of two hotel operators that have been delinquent in paying those room taxes to the city over the past year and is currently behind $63,391.51.  Further staff says Smithart has not filed required paperwork, or been responsive to requests for information by the city. Smithart told the council his software computes the taxes quarterly and he claims it is unusual for a city to demand monthly payments. Benoit disagreed and pointed out that the River Walk Inn is behind for payments that were supposed to be made in March and April, May and June, and an estimate of the amounts due for JUly and August as the operator has yet to file the required paperwork for those months.  The Mayor said the isse would be on the next council agenda and directed staff to confirm that monthly collections are common amongst most other citys.  the other hotel behind in payments id the Best Western on Smith Point but since being informed of the delinquency that hotel has brought their account up to date.

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