Against the wishes of the Port of Astoria Commission, the Newport City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to award an air service contract to Cape Air of Massachusetts.

The Port Commission voted 4-0 last month to recommend the city reject two bids from Cape Air and Air Azul of Florida and reopen the bidding process to all companies interested in providing passenger air service between the coast and Portland.

The city and the Port have a $3.6 million grant from the state transportation enhancement program ConnectOregon II to subsidize start-up costs for air service from Astoria and Newport to Portland.

But before they can sign a contract for the service, both agencies need to agree on which company is right for the job.

Newport City Attorney Gary Firestone said the two boards will probably have to hold a joint meeting to resolve their differences.

The selection process has been complicated by a complaint from SeaPort Airlines of Portland, which claims it never received a request for proposals despite notifying Port and city leaders of its interest in bidding for the job.

The city of Newport sent out a request for proposals this spring before the ConnectOregon II grant was awarded, setting a June 16 deadline for bids to be received. The grant award was announced June 20.

Two companies submitted proposals to provide passenger air service, and Port and city leaders were leaning toward Cape Air based on its experience until SeaPort Airlines cried foul.

Port commissioners sympathized with SeaPort's situation and said it was in the public's best interest to go back out for bids - especially knowing that a qualified, Oregon-based company is eager to submit a proposal.

At Tuesday's meeting, Newport Mayor Bill Bain and city councilors Patricia Patrick-Joling, Jeff Bertulait, Terry Obteshka and newly appointed council member Richard Kilbride disagreed and voted to contract with Cape Air. Councilors Peggy Sabanskas and Larry Henson voted no and indicated they would prefer to reopen the bid process.

The Council had delayed its decision on air service to Tuesday after two deadlocked votes on the issue last month.

With only six members on board at the time, the Council voted 3-3 to reject the two proposals and send out a new request for proposals.

Then the board voted 3-3 to collect more information on the two proposals before picking one.

Sabanskas, Henson and Obteshka voted to reject the proposals and Bain, Patrick-Joling and Bertuleit voted to do more homework.

At Tuesday's meeting, Obteshka changed her position and voted to contract with Cape Air and the board's new appointee, Kilbride, agreed to make the final vote 5-2.

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