MINUTES FOR THE STUDY SESSION
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
Monday, February 28, 2011
Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room.
Councilor Chapman, Silbiger, Lemhouse, Morris, Voisin, and Slattery were present.
1. Does Council have direction about a response to Mount Ashland Association’s (MAA’s) request that the City request that the Special Use Permit (SUP) for the ski area be transferred from the City to MAA?
Members of the Mt. Ashland Association (MAA) Board of Directors present were General Manager Kim Clark, Treasurer Lisa Beam, Guest Services Manager Ada Rivera, President Tom Mayer, Vice President Frank Rote, Marketing Manager Rick Saul, and Secretary Darrel Jarvis.
Mr. Mayer noted transferring the Special Use Permit (SUP) was economically, socially, and environmentally important and would make it easier for people to invest in the expansion by eliminating third party involvement. City Administrator Martha Bennett added in transferring the SUP the City would relinquish ownership of all assets of the ski area and MAA would take over completely. A replacement contract would determine the terms of the dissolution and the transfer of assets.
Ms. Bennett explained the City’s concern regarding the expansion was erosion and sedimentation in the watershed and a potential negative impact on one of the City’s major drinking water supply. At an earlier meeting with Mr. Clark both discussed the possibility of a multi-party monitoring team similar to the Ashland Forest Resiliency (AFR) Master Stewardship Agreement (MSA). The monitoring team could include onsite review of activities and plan review prior to construction. The group would be comprised of a member appointed by MAA, one by the City, one by the Forest Service and possibly a fourth with monitoring experience.
The MAA Board and Council agreed it was a model that worked well. Council suggested adding someone from the Public Works Department and possibly a fifth member from the community. Both the MAA Board and Council supported setting up criterion for monitoring and guidelines. The AFR monitoring team did not vote but had specific roles through the Master Stewardship Agreement.
Ms. Bennett clarified if the SUP was transferred the new contract would address the City’s concerns and other than the monitoring group, the City would no longer have a relationship to the Forest Service and a direct relationship with MAA only on issues of concern. Mr. Clark added that it made sense to establish a cooperative and a member of Public Works would be a logical participant. He preferred having a Memo of Understanding versus a contract.
Council and MAA Board consensus supported establishing a monitoring team.
Reserves/Unencumbered Assets for Future Restoration
The City was concerned there were enough assets to pay the cost of the required restoration in the event MAA ceased to operate the ski area. The SUP required $200,000 for restoration. The lease between the City and the MAA had the same amount but increased it yearly by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) requiring the MAA to maintain more in terms of cash assets than the SUP. The MAA agreed to maintain those reserves.
When MAA expands the ski area, the U.S. Forest Service will adjust the required dollar amount. In the event MAA failed, the U.S. Forest Service would ask the City to operate the ski area, if the City declined, they would look for another operator. If no one took over operations, they would start requesting the restoration requirements in the SUP.
There was the possibility the U.S. Forest Service might require a certain level of restoration that does not meet the City’s expectations. Mr. Clark clarified the U.S. Forest Service had definite standards, was the property owner and had the final decision. If the expansion happened and the restoration amount was readjusted, the MAA Board was fine taking that amount and starting over with a new CPI.
Current restoration included streambed stabilization and four of the 27 identified sites complete with work started on sites 6 & 7. However, no work has happened for three years due to the court case.
Ms. Bennett explained the City did not have the in-house expertise to conduct a separate study to compare it to what was in the SUP. The U.S. Forest Service had jurisdiction over the property and set the correct standard. Council noted the issue of restoration and failure would increase dramatically with the expansion especially in the early years. If the expansion went forward and MAA failed, the impact would extend far beyond the U.S. Forest Service restoration requirement. Alternately, the U.S. Forest Service requirements may be sufficient to protect the watershed and the expansion might not be harmful to the water supply. Council wanted to know the cost to restore the area in the event MAA failed. Other comments from Council supported the amount the U.S. Forest Service suggested in the SUP. Staff clarified that the U.S. Forest Service may not allow the City to do the restoration they thought necessary to protect the watershed.
Mr. Rote’s understanding was that once the expansion concluded, there would be less sediment than there was now, the expansion would actually decrease the problem. Both the MAA Board and the City purchased testing equipment and have tested and monitored specific sites downstream from the ski area for 10 years. Public Works Director Mike Faught explained new requirements for the total daily maximum load prohibited more than 3.62 cubic yards of sediment going into the reservoir daily.
Council commented the issue was water quality and the City should focus on that and form an agreement that highlighted the weaknesses and the City’s position in relation to those weaknesses. Staff responded the existing agreements between the U.S. Forest Service and the City captured the issues and the results from monitoring the water quality could be included in a replacement agreement. In the worst-case scenario of not enough reserves, the City could negotiate with the U.S. Forest Service to restore the area to City standards whether they held the SUP or not.
The MAA Board thought the existing restoration sum including the expansion restoration sum and inflation was acceptable although some of Council thought the amount was too low.
Staff would bring back an agreement between the MAA and the City regarding background data, monitoring and remedies available to the City if sedimentation exceeded an expected level during the construction.
Non-Voting Seat on the Board
The Board supported having a Councilor serve as a non-voting member of the MAA Board and referred to the model the City used with the Ashland Community Hospital. That member was non-voting, and the Board wanted to reserve the right to reject whom the City suggested. The member would sit in on all Board actions with the exception of personnel and executive meetings. Mayor Stromberg suggested making the member ex officio so they could participate in discussions and the MAA Board agreed.
Ms. Bennett explained a Council member asked to receive cash for the transfer of the assets. The City owns the lodge, ski lifts, and some of the equipment for an appraised value of approximately $700,000. The lease required a minimum liquidation value and allowed the City to appraise the assets at any time. If the MAA was below the amount required, they set aside cash and paid for the appraisal. If MAA had sufficient funds, the City would pay the $22,000 for the appraisal. Mr. Rote added in operating permit transfers charging for the permit was not allowed.
Comments from Council opposing the request for a cash transfer of assets stated it was an overreach and inappropriate. Supporting comments suggested more funds going towards restoration, would position the City better in the event of failure. A Council member suggested the MAA pledge the cash value of assets towards restoration costs.
Ms. Beam thought the U.S. Forest Service would be in first position for restoration, even if they set aside more assets. Asking to pledge all assets would hinder their ability to make improvements, and apply for loans in the future, they could not use the assets as collateral, and the bank would sit second to the City. Staff clarified the SUP holder would be in first position if there were a failure.
Mr. Clark confirmed funding for the expansion would be donations only and the MAA would not borrow against assets unless the Board changed their minds. Ms. Beam added there were people who would make donations only if the City was not involved.
Councilor Chapman clarified the assets would not be pledged to the City and would only happen if the U.S. Forest Service was unable to locate another operator. In the event of a failure and no one took over, his suggestion would require the MAA to pledge a portion of the cash liquidation of assets for restoration projects and have that requirement as part of the SUP. Ms. Bennett added this was the reason to hold the SUP, if MAA fails, the City could choose the next operator and have the first right of refusal. Ultimately, the U.S. Forest Service would have to approve any agreement.
Mr. Clark commented on the potential liability of the City retaining the SUP. If the MAA failed, the entire liability would rest with the City finding a new operator or restoring it as the SUP holder. Additionally the City could incur litigation if there were a major accident at the ski area.
Council consensus was to continue the process of possibly transferring the SUP.
2. Does Council wish to revise direction related to an ad hoc committee to address homelessness?
Councilor Slattery suggested having one central ad hoc committee with several groups from the community forming “stakeholder” committees and presenting the central ad hoc with each of their top three issues and solutions regarding homelessness. Examples of stakeholder groups included the Chamber of Commerce, League of Women, Southern Oregon University (SOU), City of Ashland, Homeless Representatives, and the Faith Community. The central ad hoc committee could consist of two Councilors, 3-5 experts on homelessness and 1 staff person. This group would review each committee’s three issues and forward to Council for deliberation. He also recommended taking the ideas on the short-term list and implementing ones that were feasible and have the stakeholder groups address the more controversial items or all of them.
Council supported the suggestion of multiple ad hoc committees. Councilor Slattery will provide a formal plan and a revised Council Goal on Homelessness at the April 5, 2011 meeting.
3. Look Ahead Review.
City Administrator Martha Bennett reviewed items on the Look Ahead.
Meeting adjourned at 7:20 p.m.
Assistant to the City Recorder