Depoe Bay City Council meeting gets contentious

William “Bill” Masella, left, owner of Trollers Lodge and The Whale Inn in Depoe Bay, speaks with Depoe Bay City Councilor Debbie Callender prior to the council’s Tuesday evening meeting at Depoe Bay City Hall. (Photo by Michael Heinbach)

Mayor, councilor debate over website redesign proposals

DEPOE BAY — Before Tuesday evening’s Depoe Bay City Council meeting became somewhat contentious, the council approved the addition of two volunteers to the city’s Financial Advisory Committee, and recommended the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to approve a liquor license application for a new downtown business.

Frustrations appeared to boil over during the new business portion of the meeting held at Depoe Bay City Hall, when city councilors discussed proposals from potential independent contractors to replace, upgrade, manage and host the city’s official website. The conversation led to a confrontational exchange between Mayor Robert Gambino, who pushed for the council to accept a website redesign proposal as soon as possible, and Councilor Jerome Grant.

“With the need of municipalities to be service-oriented to its constituents, and with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and the effects of the COVID quarantine, now more than ever is the time the city needs to revise its connection with residents and contacts, and achieve a broader format,” Gambino wrote in an Oct. 29 memo to the council. “Up-to-date webpage technology will allow staff to accomplish their duties with fewer interruptions, ultimately saving city finances, in addition to serving our citizens effectively and efficiently.”

Gambino, leaving office at the end of the year after deciding not to run for another term, further explained that city staff recommended using a portion of $50,000 available to the city in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. According to Gambino, that money is only eligible for use through the end of the year, the reason he urged the council to act soon.

Of the proposals submitted to the city by invitation and not via standard request-for-proposal process, Gambino, City Recorder Barbara Chestler and Council President/mayor-elect Kathy Short made their preferences known during councilor discussion they wished to move ahead with a website proposal from Tallahassee, Fla.-based Municode at an initial cost of about $12,000.

Municode hosts and services websites for Oregon municipalities that include the cities of Toledo (https://www.cityoftoledo.org/), Corvallis (https://www.corvallisoregon.gov/), Troutdale (https://www.troutdaleoregon.gov/) and West Linn (https://westlinnoregon.gov/).

“The track record is there,” Chestler said. “It’s not a fly-by-night company, and they work with municipalities specifically.”

Grant, who seemed apprehensive about immediately entering into a contract with a website service provider while the city struggles with finances, questioned whether the city followed the proper procedures in collecting bid proposals from three companies. He asked whether the proposals were personal service contracts, as Chestler stated during the discussion, or if the city was soliciting goods and services, which requires the formal request-for-proposal procedure, and for the city to accept the lowest bid.

“Did (the city attorney) give the nod on not putting this out for lowest bid, because I know that you’re not an attorney, Barbara,” Grant said in addressing the city recorder. “And you’re reading from a statute that has certain definitions, and that’s why I’m asking if the city attorney gave the nod that that ordinance applies in this circumstance.”

Grant’s solution was to make a motion that Depoe Bay move forward with hiring Municode to redesign and host its website, but only after taking into consideration the city’s attorney’s position on whether it properly followed mandated procedures on acquiring bids for the project and that CARES Act money can be used.

 “I’m feeling like there’s a little sales pitch here, where we’ve got this money that we can potentially use to pay for this, and it’s a limited-time offer that we can get this and apply the grant (money) to it, right?,” Grant asked the mayor.

Gambino responded emphatically, saying that he was the person who did the research into website design firms, had never heard of Municode before doing that research, and that he was in no way trying to sell a product to the council.

 “Are you going to get indignant now?” Grant asked. “That’s fine, just talk in your normal voice.”

Gambino paused before replying, reminding Grant that after the council first discussed upgrading its website more than two years ago, no further action was taken until the mayor himself recently began researching the topic.

 “That’s why this came to (the council) now,” Gambino said. “I am tired of it. I’ve only got another month of this stuff. If we don’t act on this soon, and I don’t care, that’s fine to check with the attorney, that’s great, but if we don’t act on it soon and we keep delaying it and saying ‘let’s do this research, let’s call other cities and all this,’ it (the grant funding) is going to go bye-bye.”

The council then approved, without a dissenting vote, Grant’s motion to select Municode to redesign its website on the condition the city attorney believes Depoe Bay followed state, county and city procedures in attaining bids. Chestler told the News-Times on Thursday afternoon that the city expected to hear the attorney’s opinion before the end of the week.

Earlier in the meeting, the council approved the appointments of William “Bill” Masella and Dorinda Goddard to the city’s Financial Advisory Committee. Masella, owner of Trollers Lodge and the Whale Inn in Depoe Bay, attended the meeting and received a brief interview with the council prior to his appointment. The council appointed Goddard, chief financial officer of Dockside Charters, without a formal interview. She didn’t attend the meeting, according to her husband, City Councilor Loren Goddard, because she was suffering back spasms.

Additionally, the council voted to recommend OLCC approve the liquor application of Crushed Grapes and Crafty Taps, which will be located at 50 N. Highway 101.

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