LONG BEACH - To the delight of the Long Beach City Council members, paving of the north section of the Discovery Trail will soon begin.

During the Sept. 21 council meeting, the council rapidly approved a bid contract with Lakeside Industries to perform the work. Originally, the paving was scheduled to start in October, with a completion date no later than the end of the month.

"There's one problem," City Administrator Robert Strope warned the council. "The contractor would like to start next week."

After years of delay and frustration, the council was more than happy to be advised of such a difficulty.

"This is great," said Council member Ralph Moore. "We're actually moving forward."

"This is fantastic," said Council member Mike Unruh.

The city received bids from two contractors to perform the work, with both bids within several hundred dollars of each other. In the end, the city accepted Lakeside Industries slightly lower bid of $63,658 to pave the section of trail leading to the Clark's Tree monument and the parking area of the Breakers, from 17th St. N. to 27th St. N.

The council also approved Ocean Lodge's proposal to build a conference center at their Bolstad Avenue location. The planning commission, during their Sept. 13 meeting, recommended the proposal be advanced to the city council for final approval.

The conference center would be able to seat approximately 100 people, but owner Way Lee doesn't anticipate many events of such a size. He envisions other activities, such as exercise classes, and other multi-use functions for the center.

The council, after some discussion, also approved the use of alternative siding material, such as Hardiplank, instead of cedar shingles. Hardiplank, made of fiber cement which mimics the appearance of wood, is becoming increasingly popular on the Peninsula because of its durability. The council has received several requests to allow the material in place of the traditional cedar wood siding.

During the report section of the meeting, disaster preparedness became a subject of discussion.

"I don't want to get caught short," said Moore. "If the tsunami warning wasn't a wake-up call and if the hurricanes aren't a wake-up call, we're not doing our jobs," he said, referring to the weaknesses in disaster preparedness exposed by recent disasters in the South.

Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright emphasized again that individuals need to take personal responsibility for establishing their own plans, given the potential speed with which a tsunami might occur. The police department has a plan in place, including traffic control to allow people to leave the Peninsula as easily as possible.

"We need to quit blowing the sirens for every little thing," said Unruh. The Long Beach Fire Department has been working to switch to radios. Each time the fire siren sounds, the city, police, and even the Chinook Observer receive calls from concerned people asking if it is a tsunami warning.

Other suggestions included putting up additional evacuation route signs on the streets and in hotels and motels and paving some high-ground specifically as an evacuation area.

"We want to not only have a plan but we want to try it out," said Mayor Ken Ramsey.

Strope said he could organize a presentation, advising on the progress of the various organizations involved in disaster planning, a long list that ranges from the federal to the local levels of government.

"Long Beach has never been afraid to take the lead before," said Moore of the possible plans and preparations under local control.

City Community Development Director John Schelling told the council the University of Washington has a program in their department of architecture where graduate students study communities and, based on the results, advise them on hazard mitigation planning, including tsunami preparedness and evacuation planning.

The council agreed it might be a worthwhile to find out more information on the program.

The council also asked the city staff to begin review of the city's comprehensive plan, the document that guides the city's growth and designates certain areas for certain uses, such as businesses, residential, and industrial areas. The process will be similar to the review of the zoning ordinance, which was just completed, involving workshops and public hearings.

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