DEPOE BAY — While the city recently raised the launch fees at the harbor’s boat ramp to $10 and is considering a $20,000 purchase to help with enforcement, the city doesn’t actually have a fine or legal framework in place to enforce the fee, the city council revealed Tuesday.
While discussing changes to the city’s fiscal year 2021/22 budget during a public hearing at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, Councilor Jerome Grant noted that if the city does seek to ramp up enforcement of the launch fees, it will need to first create an ordinance to establish a fine and provide a legal framework to go after boaters who would flout it.
The discussion regarding the launch fees stemmed from a proposal from the Depoe Bay Harbor Commission regarding the $20,000 purchase of a parking machine that would help enforce the fee by making it easier for boaters to pay and help identify who might have skipped out on the fee.
“We don’t have any law that we’ve created or any structure that says it’s against a city ordinance not to pay the launch fee. We don’t even have that,” Grant said. “It’s a compliance thing based on that we’re asking you to pay this launch fee. I’ve said this before, most people would pay anyway, so it would still be nice to have a machine there anyway.”
While the council ultimately agreed to set aside the money in the budget, it was noted there were several logistical concerns regarding the purchase of the parking machine and enforcement.
John O’Brien, chair of the Depoe Bay Harbor Commission, said the machine the commission proposed is intended for parking, but would work well for the purpose of taking boat launch fees as similar machines are used in other harbors in the area for the same purpose, such as the Port of Alsea.
Boaters using the ramp would pay at the machine and then put a ticket on the windshield of their parked tow vehicle, with failure to do so resulting in a notice being placed on their vehicle to pay. The machine would take cash and card, but would not give change.
Alongside Grant’s concerns about the lack of a city ordinance enforcing the fees, staffing someone at the harbor to make sure boaters comply was another concern. O’Brien said it might be possible to organize a volunteer group to monitor the launch ramp for a time when the machine is installed, but the council was unsure regarding potential long-term staffing.
A letter from the harbor commission to the council notes the company selling the machine reports most entities using the machine see a 20 to 25 percent increase in revenue, indicative of increased compliance.
“I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but right now we don’t have the mechanism to force compliance,” Grant said.
If the council does approve an ordinance, they would need to decide on the price of a fine, with O’Brien noting the Port of Alsea charges a $250 fine to violators. Grant suggested it may be wise to add a license plate reader in the future to use the Department of Motor Vehicle database to mail fines to violators.
Since the purchase would exceed $5,000, the city will need to get three bids for the project. The council asked O’Brien if there were alternative companies he knew of to see about purchasing a machine from, with O’Brien noting he only knew of one based out of Washington.
The budget change was pitched by Councilor Fran Recht along with a proposal to set aside $15,000 from the contingency fund for education to pay for a two-day strategic planning training session conducted by members of the League of Oregon Cities.
The budget was approved without further discussion or public comment. A resolution to fully approve the budget will be on the agenda for the council’s June 15 meeting.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the only change made to this year’s proposed budget was to strike the annual payment of $4,999 to the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Other notable items from the meeting include:
• The council received several communications from business owners and members of the public regarding the planned street renovation project south of the Depoe Bay bridge. The controversial project that would affect parking in the area is scheduled to be discussed at length during a June 8 urban renewal meeting, where a representative of the Oregon Department of Transportation will be present to answer questions.
• Roy Hagermen resigned from the Depoe Bay Planning Commission, noting he would soon move out of the area. Grant asked the council to set a posting date to fill the empty seat, noting the planning commission is the city’s most important and the only one the city is required by state law to have.
• The council again extended the city’s COVID state of emergency to match the state’s.
• O’Brien submitted a public comment asking the council to consider designating a no-parking area on NE Lane St. due to the narrowness of the road and the amount of homes there.
• Parks Commission President Jim Hayes gave a report noting that a group of citizens is asking the city to consider creating a dog park. Recht also asked Hayes whether the Parks Commission could consider alternative places to install memorials other than to add additional benches.
• City Recorder Barbara Chestler noted the city’s certified public account has submitted documents for the city’s 2018/19 audit and has agreed to look into harbor fuel prices for the city.
A prior version of this article contained errors regarding the purpose of $15,000 the council set aside in the city's budget, which have since been corrected.