Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Special Meeting

Minutes
Monday, August 27, 2007

MINUTES FOR THE SPECIAL MEETING

ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL

August 27, 2007

Civic Center Council Chambers

1175 E. Main Street

 

CALL TO ORDER

Mayor Morrison called the continued meeting to order at 6:07 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.

 

Councilors Navickas, Silbiger and Jackson were present.  Councilor Hartzell arrived at 7:06 p.m. Councilors Chapman and Hardesty were absent.

 

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

1.   Further Discussion of Library Options

Mayor Morrison asked the City Administrator, Martha Bennett, to summarize the Council’s options for re-opening the library.  Ms. Bennett stated the Council needs to address two items concerning this issue.  The first being that Staff require direction on what services the library will provide to determine a budget and possible contract with the county.  Secondly, in light of the upcoming election, Staff and the public need direction on what the city will do if the library levy passes on September 18, 2007, because the following week the city will be required to certify a tax levy.

 

Additionally, Ms. Bennett discussed correspondence the city received from the state librarian, Mr. Jim Scheppke. She stated Mr. Scheppke recommended the city use a specific model utilized in Benton County.  She added she was unsure if this specific option could be successfully implemented by November.  She further discussed each of the previously purposed options, as well as the state librarian proposal, and addressed some of the positive and negative aspects of each as well as any changes, if any.

 

1.      Augment County/LSSI Services:  An average household in Ashland would pay $32 per year for 40 open library hours.  This would increase to $46 per year for an additional 24 hours.  This option is consistent with the ballot title language, and it meets the required criteria if guaranteed through a contract with the County or LSSI.  Without a contract, this option does not meet criteria. 

2.      County Base Service:  No changes noted in the analysis of this option.  The Ballot measure is irrelevant if the city chooses to implement this option.

3.      Attempt a Hybrid Option:  Although there is significant interest in this option, there are many obstacles to overcome.  It may look attractive on paper, but the County will not agree to it because they feel the required terms by Oregon employee transfer laws will be too onerous on them.  This option is consistent with the ballot title and meets most of the criteria, with the exception of opening the library quickly.

4.      State Librarian Proposal:  The City of Corvallis operates the four libraries in Benton County.  The County contracts with the City and pays for half of the operating costs.  There are two noticeable differences between their situation and the Ashland/Jackson County situation; Benton County only has four branches, and the relationship between Ashland and Jackson County differs.  Ashland would need to maintain an excellent working relationship with the other cities in Jackson County, particularly Medford. 

5.      Execute Existing Intergovernmental Agreement:  It is questionable if this option is consistent with the current ballot title.  The ballot title does not address the required upfront costs if the City were to operate its own library.  A significant change in policy would be required because this option does not support the current policy, which is to support and maintain the regional system as much as possible.  This option best meets the local determination and fair treatment of employees criteria but does not meet the criteria of providing sufficient service, or providing it quickly.

 

Comment was made questioning whether or not the City’s living wage ordinance applies if the county hires a contractor and the City engages additional services from that contractor.

 

Ms. Bennett explained that “living wage” only applies to full-time city employees.  She added the City can request that the contractor pay what is consistent with the City’s other contracts.

 

Mr. Richard Appicello stated if the City were providing funds, these funds would be used to pay living wages. He added if other funds are coming in from the County, the decision is theirs to make.     

 

Comment was made questioning how the City and County employee transfer laws would apply.

 

Ms. Bennett responded by summarizing a specific Oregon law that states that when a government function is transferred from one government to another, the receiving government must retain the employees of the giving government.  She stated if the library were reopened, the City would have to retain county employees.  She added that the only employees who would transfer would be those who have seniority rights under the Union Contract.  Ms. Bennett stated the City would not take the county employees’ union or union contract; County employees would join the City’s existing unions.  Additionally, she said the City would retain these employees at their current salary rate for 12 months and meet County requirements that govern employee leave banks including sick leave, but most likely not vacation time.  She added the City must also maintain county employee retirement packages.  She noted the City is allowed to change the number of positions at the library but must provide a good reason for doing so and must remain committed for a period of 12 months.        

 

Ms. Bennett added the library would have to be closed for 12-18 months in order for transfer laws not to apply. She stated she had requested a copy of the County’s contract with their employees to verify the exact amount of time the library must be closed, as Oregon law states 12 months but the contract may state 18 months. 

 

Carol Voisin/908 Fox Street/Questioned what information was received before the County made their decision and whether or not the City had any input.  Ms. Bennett responded that the City was not able to read any of the proposals in advance and did not have input.  Ms. Voisin also questioned why the County could not keep the libraries open with funding given to LSSI.  Additionally, she voiced her opinion that she does not support privatizing libraries.      

 

Maureen Battistella/395 Hemlock Lane/Summarized her conversations with different librarians in the areas where LSSI libraries operate, such as Fargo, North Dakota and Riverside, California.  She stated her objective was to find out how LSSI operates in these communities.  She considered several criteria such as staff morale, funding, flexibility of the administration, grants, etc.  Ms. Battistella stated the three different librarians she spoke with were unanimous in stating LSSI libraries were innovative, responsive to their communities, and maintained positive employee morale.          

 

Rich Rohde/124 Ohio/Voiced his opposition against the option of contracting out the City’s basic governmental functions.  He stated that the City in the past, had reached a consensus that public money should pay living wages and benefits.  He stated his understanding of living wages is that it is not just applied to full-time employees.  He also noted the living wage ordinance does not support the contracting out of government jobs for the sole purpose of saving money.  Mr. Rohde urged the council to consider other options, such as the Hybrid Model, to reopen a fully functioning library system that is accountable and serves the entire community.

 

Steve Neuberger/784 Ashland Street/Voiced disappointment with the Mayor’s statement that he could live with LSSI for two years.  He stated he supports the library levy and would like the library to be open more than 24 hours a week.  Additionally, he stated he would like the library to offer a higher level of services and staffing than what the Jackson County Commissioners had previously proposed.  Mr. Neuberger added he would like to City to select the Hybrid Option and utilize the Ashland Living Wage Ordinance.  He referenced an article, outlining how LSSI works and the negative impact it has on staff, operating hours, and workloads, before stating his opinion that LSSI is an offensive plan.  He noted other citizens’ repugnance with privatizing libraries and their desire for a long-term solution, such as the establishment of a library district.  He stated the city needs to take action and focus on the issue of reopening the library, as opposed to making profits.

 

Bill Heinmann/647 Siskiyou/Shared his thoughts on whether or not to support the levy.  He noted the current number of increased taxes, and felt the possibility of an additional tax would contribute to already difficult situation for the City and its citizens.  Mr. Heinmann suggested the City use funds the County is providing as well as their own funds to augment services.  He stated this option would serve as a compromise between the City and the Council and, as an added benefit, there may be funds left over for future budget problems addressing the needs of the entire city.

 

Wes Brain/298 Garfield Street/Voiced his concern with privatizing the library.  He noted Jackson County has demonstrated horrible financial planning in the past.  He stated the privatizing of the library is poor financial planning because many businesses will not come to an area without an operating library.  He added this option would result in a loss of living wages.  He voiced his concern with the loss of a public meeting place, making it more difficult for citizens to gather.  Mr. Brain stated he was present to honor the memory of Alice Grimes, a former librarian who would be upset with the idea of a closed library.  He added the City of Ashland needs a professional public library system and supported Ashland’s view of leading the way by not privatizing libraries and providing living wage jobs. 

 

Walt Marsh/943 Clay Street/Voiced his opinion that mercenaries are running the City library.  He added he resents the idea that profits will come out of the pockets of library employees, and he will never support library mercenaries coming in.  He stated that if the County’s proposed plan is approved, he will go to Bloomsbury and spend all of the money he can afford, he will reread all of the 1,000 books he owns and, the day the library opens under the County’s plan, he will burn his library card on the front steps of the library.

 

John Sexton/321 Clay Street #28/A former Ashland librarian, Mr. Sexton voiced his concern that the County is moving too quickly to resolve the library issue.  He stated he believes the reason for this is due to the County’s objective to take the decision out of the City’s hands.  He added the County is moving ahead with LSSI regardless of the City’s other proposed options.  As a result, the City will only have the option of augmenting those services. He proposed his willingness to work for the City as a librarian, separate from LSSI and the County. 

 

Helga Motley/231 Gresham/ Voiced her concern with the County controlling the library as opposed to the City.  She commented on the lack of information associated with the County’s proposal.  She also stated her concern that a citizen’s right to privacy, when utilizing public library services, will not be protected if LSSI takes over. 

 

Amy Blossom/140 Susan Lane/ Shared her opinion that the library will only reopen through the option the County has provided.  She suggested the City augment services through the library levy and monitors the results of library services provided to ensure they meet the needs of the community.

 

Anne Billeter/4999 Griffin Creek Road, Medford/Suggested the City augment the County’s budget to provide the best possible library service in Ashland, as well as the County.  She stated research supports the fact that LSSI is not privatization but rather outsourcing.  She added policy-making, on issues such as privacy, would remain with the County.  She commented that this option should be regarded as short term, as the main priority is the reopen the library as quickly as possible.  She added solutions for long term county funding would be addressed later.

 

Kathleen Leary/1975 Ashland Mine Road/ Currently an employed librarian, she stated it is very important the public have access to any knowledge available.  She also voiced her opinion that it is ironic that local librarians and librarian employees have been under attack while, in some instances, they have continued to serve the public with a positive attitude.

 

Bill Street/180 Mead Street/Referenced an article called, “The Company Background,” to support his concern with the City utilizing LSSI services.  Specifically, he stated employees and citizens, in other communities where LSSI failed, were not allowed to discuss what went wrong when a contract was terminated.  He added LSSI required employees to sign nondisclosure agreements to prevent public disclosure of this information.  He stated his concern with LSSI’s business practices as well.  He suggested, if the City chooses the LSSI option with the County, that the City ensure the terms of the contract clearly show what LSSI controls and where their resulting profits will go. 

 

Pam Vavra/457 C Street/Suggested the City consider the option of contracting with the County, as opposed to LSSI, to provide services as they had previously been provided.  She stated her concern that the County is moving too quickly and noted County commissioners are not taking the opportunity to listen to all of the public’s concerns.  She urged the City and County to consider outsourcing later.

 

Ron Roth/6950 Hwy 99S/Suggested the City consider the idea of a library district that would follow school district boundaries.  He noted he is currently unable to vote for the levy in the upcoming election, but with this type of district, he would be able to, despite living just outside of Ashland.  He voiced his initial concerns with the outsourcing of library services, but stated it was better than no service at all.  He announced a fundraising event on September 8 at Eagle Mill Farm to garner funds for library services. 

 

Joshua Gordon/945 Cedar Way/Voiced his concerns with privatization and shared his opinion that it will not be easy for the levy to pass, as there is a lot of division and/or confusion on the issue.  He suggested the City take care to ensure, whatever the election results may be, they carry the decision out as soon as possible with everyone’s support. 

 

Councilor Hartzell arrived at 7:06 p.m.

 

Mayor Morrison noted the purpose of the current meeting was to eliminate any existing confusion among Ashland’s citizens concerning the library levy.

 

Pepper Trail/2011 Crestview Drive/Stated the council has two decisions to make; whether or not to augment the County’s proposal or create its own City system independent of an outsourced option.  He voiced his opinion that County Commissioners have destroyed the County system.  He also stated no matter what the outcome of the levy, the City of Ashland needs to be clear that the long-term goal is a public county library system.  He added if a county library system is not possible, an Ashland public library system should be a priority.

 

Marilee Jenkinson/2200 Ashland Street/ Voiced her hopes that, no matter what options the City and/or County choose, the local children are not let down and are provided with an open library.

 

Mayor stated the Council will accept a short-term solution to reopen the libraries for now, but they will not stop working towards a long-term solution that will meet the needs of community.  He added the Council is very aware of the issues presented and that decisions may need to be made that not everyone will support.

 

Ms. Bennett stated that although the Hybrid Solution seems to meet the needs of everyone, without the County’s approval it may not be an option.  She also stated the “go-it-alone” option might be difficult to carry out as well.  She added this option would most likely require a new ballot, as the current ballot title language does not cater to this option.  Under this option, she commented the City could approach the County about purchasing their collection, as it may be cheaper to do so rather than building a collection.  

 

Comment was made requesting clarification on whether or not, under the Hybrid Option, there are other variables that could be negotiated with the County that have to do with governance.

 

Ms. Bennett responded that if not for the public employee transfer issues, the Hybrid would be a lot easier to accomplish.  She suggested the City contract through the County’s vendor to ensure local involvement in material selection and information dispersal.  She added quality of service is an important issue to address as well.  She stated the City would need a citizen body to give feedback to the County in order to adjust services in case of problems that may arise and that would be difficult to make Ashland employees public employees, if the County says no.       

 

Ms. Bennett explained that if the library is to be reopened by November 1, 2007, the City needs to address these issues now.  She further clarified that the transfer law only applies to the transfer of employees from one public employer to another.  She stated transfer laws do not apply to the County because LSSI is a private company.    

 

Councilor Navickas commented he is strongly opposed to privatization and outsourcing.  He stated the City needs to keep all of their options open and consider the “go-it-alone” alternative.  He suggested the City send the County a letter stating they are taking control of the building.  He added the City could then begin negotiations around a possible hybrid agreement.

 

Councilor Hartzell stated that the Council needs to consider all aspects of privatization and be grounded in the information provided.

 

Councilor Jackson stated she feels strongly about fair wages and unions but does not think that Ashland can lead the rest of the County, as it is not the largest city within the County.  She noted much of the County did not vote to support libraries.  She stated her main concern was to reopen the County libraries and that the City of Ashland has the opportunity to change County involvement by voting.  She noted Ashland is part of the system, and voiced her opinion that she does not think the library will be re-opened within a calendar year if the City argues with the County over who owns the building.  She suggested the City supplement services with the County.  She added the most important immediate decision to make is to support the levy to reopen the library.  She stated her desire for a public library with public employees but noted she cannot make this decision for the County.  She urged the Council to support the levy and work to supplement the library services that can be offered in Ashland.  She added the City should clarify the exact amount of the library levy. 

 

Councilor Silbiger voiced his support for the ballot measure to re-open the library.  He noted the County is not willing to provide additional funding other than what is outlined in their proposal.  He stated the purpose of the current meeting is to give the public a clear idea on the direction the Council is taking concerning the library issue. He voiced his unhappiness with outsourcing, but noted the situation is temporary.

 

Mr. Appicello clarified that the City has an existing Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the County until they choose replace it.  He added changes could be made through negotiations.

 

Councilor Hartzell stated conducting library operations is different than capitalizing library operations.  She stated funds could be used to buy the things the County takes back.  She voiced her concern that this is not a short-term solution and noted the importance of ensuring any decisions made are temporary.

 

Councilor Navickas also voiced his concern that whatever short term option the City chooses will not remain short term.

 

Comment was made that it is important for the City to send a clear signal to the voters on the direction the City is taking to open the library as soon as possible.

 

Mayor Morrison reminded the council that the most important issue at hand is to reopen the library and that there should be no confusion on the library issue.  He voiced his support on augmenting the proposed library services and supporting the library levy in order to accomplish this.  He stated the City needs to determine the level of service, ensure fair compensation and negotiate with the County for a long-term solution that provides a public library system in Jackson County.

 

Councilor Jackson proposed several items for negotiation with the County such as; hours of operation, children’s programs, a combination of the living wage, professional staff, privacy issues and a means for accessing quality of service with the ability to revisit the contract.

 

Ms. Bennett stated that meeting minimum requirements in the ballot measure would be negotiated with the County. 

 

Ms. Billeter commented that the only difference between the proposal LSSI previously submitted and the revised proposal is the reduction of hours.  She noted the City should not need to supplement the book budget. 

Ms. Bennett noted questions/issues she had previously asked the County to address and stated she did not yet have any details on them.

 

County Commissioner Dave Gilmour was present and shared with the council that there is no question that County funding is restricted, and the City cannot rely on the Federal Government in the future for this funding.  He voiced his disappointment in the failure of the ballots in the May election.  He noted the number of communities that are suffering due to property taxes.  He commented that a 15-library system makes sense, despite the fact that a majority of citizens in the County are against the idea.  He explained that staff is leaving to pursue jobs elsewhere, and something needs to done quickly before they are all gone.  He has read the information on LSSI and noted that oversight is important.  He suggested that anyone concerned about LSSI should speak with the Library Advisory Committee so that the committee can take into account these concerns while going over the contract.  He commented there is a good chance the libraries will be open possibly earlier that November and voiced his hope that communities will come forward to augment services.  He suggested operating as a separate district, but noted taxes will have to be lowered to accomplish this.  He stated the City’s focus should be to supplement, as the County will not be able to provide full services.     

 

Mr. Gilmour responded to questions in regards to the willingness of the Commissioners to negotiate a contract with liberal escape clauses that this information will have to be negotiated in the initial contract, and it is not clear how willing County Commissioners will be, or LSSI.  He added the Library Advisory Committee will be formulating a contract and recommended the City make sure all-important elements, such as an escape clause, are in the contract.

 

Ms. Billeter provided the names of all the members sitting on the Advisory Committee, and noted citizens can call the Library Business Office to request the e-mail addresses of these members. 

 

Jackson/Silbiger m/s that the council support the local option levy in order to keep options open, that the City Administrator continue to negotiate with county staff toward augmentation of a contract being discussed with the county and that the city will not levy anymore than necessary.

DISCUSSON:  Councilor Navickas stated he is not convinced the City can legally use the levy to augment the County system, and he does not think the City can provide the services they want through LSSI.

 

Councilor Hartzell stated the City is not giving voters a clear sense of how much of the levy they would use, as well as the services they would provide.

 

Councilor Silbiger agreed and stated that the City should clarify the amount of the levy to be used

 

Councilor Jackson stated the City should stick to the minimum amount of services that is offered in the ballot. 

 

Ms. Bennett explained that the council could determine how much of the levy should be used but that it depends on what services the City wants to buy.  Mr. Appicello clarified that the County has an obligation to provide free library to citizens when the County uses a private corporation and that the language in the Ashland measure on charging non-residents would not apply.

 

Councilor Navickas voiced his opposition to limiting the levy to a specific amount, stating it will appear hollow to the voters and eventually the City will end up changing the levy anyway.

 

Councilor Hartzell commented that the ballot language prohibits the City from using the levy for anything other than library services.  She stated it would be difficult to negotiate some programs because they are open-ended.  She suggested allocating funds to hire an individual to track and monitor the effects of the contract and would like the City to have maximum flexibility for future options.  She suggested exploring local donations, which will become Ashland property, and voiced her support for volunteers.

 

Roll Call Vote: Councilors Jackson, Hartzell, Silbiger, YES.  Councilor Navickas, NO.  Motion passed 3-1.

 

Staff will continue to bring back reports to the Council as new information is received and the issue will be added to the upcoming executive session agenda.

 

ADJOURNMENT

Meeting adjourned at 8:40 p.m.

 

Barbara Christensen, City Recorder    

John W. Morrison, Mayor

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