LONG BEACH - Once the Long Beach City Council returned from their executive session on Wednesday, Sept. 7, the rest of the meeting proceeded quickly despite the two controversial subjects on the agenda.
Executive sessions are special meetings, closed to the public, allowed by the Open Public Meetings Act for specific purposes of discussing sensitive issues, such as threatened litigation or the qualifications of potential public employees. However, no action can be taken and no final decisions made during the executive session. In this instance, the session was called because of threatened litigation.
The first topic on the agenda concerned the official naming of the Peninsula. A vote has been called for by proponents of the name Cape Columbia and the city was approached with a request for $500 to help with funding. During the Aug. 3 city council meeting the request was denied. In the Aug. 17 council meeting a request was made for more information, such as if there could be multiple questions on the ballot to help clarify the issue, the exact wording on the ballot, and how and by whom the ballots would be tallied.
Tom Downer, spearheading the proposed name, responded by e-mail to the inquires. He said other donors, such as the Ocean Park Area Chamber of Commerce, did not want to change the previously set guidelines, asking one question, basically should the Peninsula officially be named Cape Columbia.
"I think we asked some legitimate questions and did not get an answer," said Council member Gary Luethe. "I feel like we've done our part."
Council member Mike Unruh pointed out the vote would probably occur with or without funding from the city.
All the council members expressed a wish to know the public's opinion on the name, particularly members of their constituency and Long Beach businesses. Mayor Ken Ramsey asked if a local vote could be conducted by including a ballot in the water bills. City Administrator Robert Strope said he would explore that option for finding local opinions.
"We're going to have to get that answer," he said. The name could not become official without widespread community support.
Trail updateThe next item on the agenda concerned the ongoing battle to install culverts or a bridge along the Discovery Trail on 30th St. in Seaview.
Original plans to install a wooden bridge to span the waterway proved to be unfeasible. Construction was set for March 28, but then cancelled. Instead, large culverts were ordered, and delivered to the site. But objections from the area's residents revealed additional permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife would be required to add fill and the necessary abutments to the waterway.
Now the city is exploring the possibility of purchasing a steel bridge to span the waterway. The bridge would be of a large enough length and strength so that the supports would not effect the waterway, and so that no additional permits would be required. The estimated cost for the bridge would be $50,000.
Council member Fred Cook asked if they had a right of way in place to the bridge from the south, concerned about a "bridge to nowhere." There is ongoing litigation concerning properties to the north of the waterway, with a court date set for November. He was assured people could walk the trail from the south, cross the bridge, and continue up the beach if Seaview sections of the trail were not completed.
The council voted for Strope to investigate the possibility and cost of the bridge option.
Gas prices have also begun to effect the city. The council voted to temporarily increase the mileage reimbursement rate from the federal level of 40.3 cents per mile to 1.5 times that rate, or 60.6 cents a mile for city employees who use their private cars for official business.
"I just hope this gas thing doesn't kill us," said Luethe, with all nodding in solemn agreement.