Change could come to emergency preparedness committee

Paula Vetter, left, with Les Wierson, Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn and Karolyn Adamson.

Cannon Beach panel could restructure

By Lyra Fontaine

Cannon Beach Gazette

A proposed restructure of the Cannon Beach emergency preparedness committee would make the city’s emergency manager, police chief, public works director, fire chief, Community Emergency Response Team leader and Medical Reserve Corps leader permanent voting members.

But will there be enough voices for residents?

Committee chair Karolyn Adamson, who created the committee in 1999, said she strongly opposed the draft ordinance because it would reduce citizen input. “It’s extremely important to keep this citizen advisory committee in effect as it is now,” Adamson said. “I think citizen committees are the bedrock of democracy. People are starting to feel right now like they don’t have input in this city.”

Three council-appointed community members and a nonvoting City Council liaison would complete the 10-member group, which would be renamed “emergency management committee” if the proposed ordinance is approved.

At a work session last week, some members opposed the creation of one emergency management committee combining citizens and city staff. Others said bringing staff on board could benefit the committee.

Adamson said citizen involvement is key in neighborhood outreach and recovery planning, as most city employees do not live in Cannon Beach.

City Manager and Emergency Manager Brant Kucera and Mayor Sam Steidel drafted the proposed ordinance.

“If (staff) are going to have to carry out this work, we need to have input on the work,” Kucera said. “I have limited resources to do things. If we want to accomplish something, we need voices to say what we can or can’t accomplish.”

The committee — which provides evacuation planning, public education and advice to the council — has four community members and Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District Chief Matt Benedict.

“The way I see the restructuring is that it’s beneficial for the committee,” member Paula Vetter said. “We’ve gotten to a point where I think this committee needs to grow. We have a lot of great ideas but we’re splintered.”

Vetter said she would like the committee to have a long-term vision, and including city staff and the fire chief could help implement the committee’s ideas.

Member Herb Florer, a candidate for City Council, said a “broad, general and long-range” citizen advisory committee could coexist with the city’s emergency management command structure.

“We’re looking at two different things that are being combined into one and not very well,” he said, adding that residents will be crucial for education and long-term planning for the months and years after an emergency. “It does take citizen involvement for recovery and resiliency.”

The committee would be “dead” if the changes are made, and the new group could be too large to effectively make decisions, member Les Wierson said. He suggested splitting the committee into four divisions on emergency preparedness, incident command, emergency preparations and recovery.

“There are separate phases to disaster response,” Wierson said. “You can’t do everything in one committee.”

Members pointed to the committee’s success in creating evacuation routes and advising the council on topics like radios.

Kucera said the city’s strategic planning goals include a long-term disaster recovery plan, emergency response communications and water system resiliency.

“It incorporates what all of you mentioned today,” he said.

The proposed changes will be discussed again at a work session in late September.


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