(Scott D. Johnston photo) Diane Solem, left, takes the oath of office from Ocean Shores City Clerk Rachel Carl. Solem was one of nine applicants for the vacant City Council seat caused by the death of Robert Crumpacker.

(Scott D. Johnston photo) Diane Solem, left, takes the oath of office from Ocean Shores City Clerk Rachel Carl. Solem was one of nine applicants for the vacant City Council seat caused by the death of Robert Crumpacker.

Diane Solem selected to fill City Council vacancy

With a four-vote majority vote of the six remaining council members, retired marketing executive and KOSW board chair Diane Solem was named to fill the vacant Ocean Shores City Council seat caused by the death of Robert Crumpacker last month.

“I think I have the experience and the background to bring people with different ideas together,” Solem said in her opening remarks, noting her father became a mayor when she was 13 years old.

“I remember being raised to think that government was a good thing and that being in government was actually an honorable profession, and I still think that to this day,” Solem said.

She noted she has been at council meetings for the past 18 months for the city owned public radio station.

“I actually love it when I see 40 people out in the audience that want to give their comments,” Solem said. “I love to see people this active in this community.”

She listed public safety along with coming up with a solution for the Point Brown sidewalks and bike lane project to be among her top priorities.

Eight of the nine applicants, under the process for selecting a replacement, appeared before the City Council at the regular meeting Monday night at the Convention Center. The other applicants included former council members Jackie Farra and John Schroeder, along with previous council candidates Shannon Rubin, Michael Darling and Carlos Roldan, who all ran in the last city election. The others were screenwriter/filmmaker/designer Hank Isaac, retired education administrator Kathryn Sprigg, and Richard Wills, former Army technician and current trustee on the Ocean Shores Fresh Water Committee. Door Mouse Boutique owner Patricia Habeck withdrew her name before the meeting on Monday, Farra decided to withdraw during her presentation, and Roldan was unable to attend.

To qualify, an applicant must have had at least one year of full-time residence in the city, be a current registered voter in the district, and be able to serve out the term until the Nov. 2019 election.

At the council meeting, each applicant spoke individually for three minutes before council questions were asked. The same questions were asked of each candidate.

The council then deliberated in executive session, reconvened, and voted publicly with Solem the only applicant to be voted on after her name was offered by Councilman Steve Ensley and approved by votes from Jon Martin, Lisa Griebel, and Bob Peterson, who was ill during the meeting but participated in the selection via phone.

Solem will serve until November 2019, at which time the position would be up for election for the remaining two years in what would have been Crumpacker’s full term.

Transportation Benefit District

In the first formal special meeting of the Ocean Shores Transportation Benefit District No. 1, the council approved a proposition to be placed on the Aug. 7 ballot where voters will be asked to authorize a two-tenths of 1 percent (0.2%) local sales and use tax to fund transportation improvements.

The action was made possible after the council last year approved the benefit district as a means of funding street and road repairs and maintenance. The city would have to approve the resolution by May 11 to make it on the county’s Aug. 7 ballot.

The sales tax increase is one method to fund improvements, but it requires voter approval during a general or special election. The state law allowing such a method states that the ballot proposition must include a specific description of the improvements.

The proposal, if approved, would keep the sales tax increase in place for 10 years, bumping the combined local and state sales tax from the current 8.8 percent to 9 percent total. It will be known as Proposition No. 1 on the ballot.

“Ultimately it will be the voters who decide if this goes into effect or not,” said Finance Director Angela Folkers.

City Public Works Director Nick Bird presented a Pavement Assessment Report to begin to document the condition of the city’s streets and the main causes of problem. There are 224 lane miles in Ocean Shores, he said.

“Obviously, when you look around Ocean Shores, there are a variety of distresses we need to address,” Bird said.

“In the interest of moving forward on the Transportation Benefit issue, we wanted to make sure we rolled this out,” he added about the timing of the report. What is still missing is a pavement management program, which Bird advocated for.

Cost to correct the current problems was estimated to be $360,000, with annual costs of $336,000 for pavement preservation maintenance or a more aggressive maintenance program that comes to $633,000. With the maintenance, settlement repairs would cost about $60,000.

Bird said the recommendation is to set aside about $420,000 annually as “the target we are shooting for,” Bird said.

Councilman Steve Ensley pointed out the numbers “are estimates” and will change from year to year, but it gives the council an idea about what it will cost to solve the problem.

“We wanted to provide some guidance as to what our minimum target is,” Bird said.

Councilwoman Lisa Griebel asked what the city currently was spending in the 2018 budget on street maintenance, and Bird said it was likely not more than $20,000.

Ensley, former city finance director, pointed out that a sales tax increase likely would produce about $220,000 for the street repair programs, if approved by the council sitting as the board of the Transportation Benefit District.

Asked why the need to put it on the August ballot rather than the November general election, Mayor Crystal Dingler said she constantly gets questions and hears concerns about the condition of the roads.

“The sooner we get started the better,” Dingler said.

“The longer we wait on this, the longer our roads are going to deteriorate,” said Councilman Jon Martin, who urged for a vote as soon as possible to move forward, and made a motion to send the issue to the voters.

Councilwoman Holly Plackett spoke against it and said she was “up to my limit with any more tax increases. … We do not need to take another tax increase to the public for this.” She said the city currently has enough revenue to pay maintenance costs from a surplus left over from 2017. Susan Conniry also voted against it, saying she would have rather had it placed on the November ballot, but it passed 3-2 with Ensley, Martin and Griebel voting for it.