MINUTES FOR THE STUDY SESSION
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
Monday, February 1, 2016
Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room.
Councilor Morris, Rosenthal, Marsh, Voisin, Lemhouse, and Seffinger were present.
1. Public Input
Braveheart Peter Lavoie/62 Westwood/
Moved to Ashland in September and shared his impressions of the behavior issues downtown and the travelers. He appealed to residents and leaders to practice more compassion and less power when dealing with these unfortunate people and those passing through town. He referenced the International Peace Day that occurred in September and thought the Mayor spoke well. He also talked to Police Chief Tighe O’Meara and believed these two leaders and others were sincere in fostering peace. This was an opportunity to foster peace beginning with the behavior issues occurring downtown. It was also an opportunity to lead by being an example of common decency, care, compassion, and respect to fellow citizens and the visitors traveling through town. He shared his background working with the homeless and his own issues with travelers. He found keeping his heart open, seeing and listening to the travelers gave them the strength to carry on in a more dignified way. He could not change any of the recent laws that would go into effect but encouraged Council to practice compassion.
Mayor Stromberg commented that Mr. Lavoie’s remarks implied Council was not compassionate and did not care about homeless people. That was not true. Council was dealing with complex issues and hoped as Mr. Lavoie followed the discussion on downtown behavior he would have a better understanding what Council was trying to accomplish.
Huelz Gutcheon/2253 Hwy 99/
In order to stop climate change people had to reduce carbons 6% yearly.
If this had started ten years ago, it would have been 3%. Delaying it until 2020 would increase it to 15%. Ashland was growing 1% each year. He equated each gas tank in the United States as taking a chunk of flesh from those outside the country and explained these people could sue $1,000 per gas tank for forced relocation.
2. Look Ahead review
City Administrator Dave Kanner reviewed items on the Look Ahead.
3. Continued discussion of planning for City Hall replacement
Public Works Director Mike Faught, Superintendent Mike Morrison, Eric Watson from Miller Consulting Engineers and John Kennedy from Vitus Construction provided the staff report. City Hall would need a seismic upgrade in order for occupants to leave the building safely during a seismic event. It was difficult to quantify a Richter scale event. City Hall had a site-specific short acceleration of .62 while Portland was at a .9 site-specific acceleration. Portland’s site-specific acceleration equated to a 7.0 event on the Richter scale. Ashland’s scale was unknown at this time and required further study.
They were designing for a 500-year event where 1% of the building would collapse. If a maximum credible earthquake occurred, 10% of the building would crumble. The seismic upgrade and soft costs were $236 per square-foot, included the current footprint of City Hall, and did not include costs to relocate staff.
In addition to a seismic upgrade, City Hall needed mechanical, electrical, plumbing, egress, fire suppression, and tenant improvements resulting in a total of $576 per square-foot. Rebuilding the current City Hall and replacing everything but the north and west wall was $405 per square-foot and did not include temporary relocation costs. Building a new facility on City owned property was $450 per square-foot.
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained the City owned the building. There was a reversionary interest in the deed that if the City stopped using the building for public purpose it reverted to the family that donated the property in 1889. In that event, they would try to locate the heirs to the original donor. If the City could not locate the heirs, they could file a suit to quiet title and squelch the reversionary interest. That was a long complicated process with no certain outcome. The building was historic and he doubted the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) would allow the City to demolish the entire structure. He suggested rebuilding City Hall with four stories instead of two to solve current space issues. It would require a general obligation bond from the voters.
Staff would bring Council a scope for bid at $88,000 that looked into rebuilding City Hall, adding another floor to the Community Development building, and building a new City Hall at the Lithia Way property.
4. Discussion of approaches to downtown behavior issues
City Administrator Dave Kanner reviewed three funding options that included raising revenues, cutting something already appropriated to redirect the money, or contingency. Staff researched increasing the City’s property tax levy with a current tax rate. Once a City adopted a biennium budget, it could not increase the tax rate without a popular vote. Another option would refer a public safety serial levy to the voters. In order to approve a serial levy and collect the money in the next fiscal year the vote would have to occur in May. It would not require a double majority. It could go in September with a double majority. Going out for a vote in November, the City could not collect the money in the next fiscal year. The other option was impose a .62-cent utility surcharge on a ¾-inch meter.
Council could amend the Food and Beverage Tax for downtown issues but needed to consider all the potential uses before deciding. This topic was on the agenda for the February 29, 2016 Study Session. Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds were restricted to real property improvements that supported tourism and tourism promotion and would not apply to hiring police cadets, downtown ambassadors, or social workers. Council could allocate social services grant money.
Police Chief Tighe O’Meara explained the hiring and training process for the cadet program. Changing the scope of the position to a community service officer was a good idea but could cause issues with the union. The Police Department was currently working through a cadet eligibility list and would redefine requirements to attract more applicants once they started the hiring process for two additional cadets. Council suggested adding four new cadets instead of two. Chief O’Meara noted the cadets carried radios, not weapons, and explained a radio was an officer’s first and best protection. Cadets worked 16 hours a week.
Chief O’Meara went on to address renting jail beds and explained the contract obligated payment regardless of whether a prisoner was using the bed but in general practice they only charged when the bed was in use. Post-conviction bed rental was preferable to pre-conviction.
Council noted there were people in the community interested in developing a volunteer ambassador program. Other Council comment expressed interest in building up the Police Volunteer Program.
Mr. Kanner met with Community Works regarding social service outreach workers. They could hire two people to work May through September and would provide supervision for $37,000. The Mayor and Council expressed some concern with the last time the City contracted with Community Works. One comment suggested making the contract a competitive procurement process or use the ambassador program for social service work. Mr. Kanner clarified ambassadors typically provided customer service and uniformed presence, not social services. Council suggestions included redirecting funds from the Ashland Community Resource Center, hiring a caseworker, and possibly using social service grant money to fund the caseworker. Council concern not think social outreach would address behavior since the majority of the people in the downtown area were aware of the services available to them.
Councilor Voisin noted one element that was missing was the voice of the homeless and travelers. They were not able to attend Council meetings or Study Sessions because of the time the meetings began. She suggested having a forum with the leaders of the homeless and transients. They had suggestions regarding behavior. Mayor Stromberg suggested he and Councilor Voisin arrange a meeting with these individuals.
Councilor Voisin was also working with Pam Hammond regarding a code of conduct that would apply to everyone and had consequences.
Council was interested in adding more cadets to the cadet program, waiting to see what the community brought forward concerning the ambassador program, and creating a one-page proposal for social service outreach workers to circulate throughout the community. The Mayor added determining actual annual costs the City of Medford paid to Jackson County for jail bed rentals.
Councilor Lemhouse addressed earlier comments made by Councilor Voisin indicating Council had not allowed a certain population to be heard and explained why the statement was unfair.
City Attorney Dave Lohman distributed two documents submitted into the record on public misconduct and a code of conduct resolution. The Public Misconduct and Potentially Applicable Laws had three columns. The first column depicted recent complaints about specific misconduct. The second column described existing laws and the third contained comments and background. Page 2 of the document addressed possible new ordinances and amendments. Page 3 noted complaints regarding rude behavior. As long as it did not involve physical threats, the City could not address this form of behavior due to constitutional limitations. The code of conduct resolution originated in 1995 and Mr. Lohman modified language for current relevance. If Council was interested in discussing the potential new ordinances and resolution, he could have them ready for a meeting in March.
Council wanted ADA accessibility added to the stationary persons hindering sidewalk passage ordinance. Other Council comment questioned whether the new proposed ordinances would solve behavior issues currently occurring downtown. Mr. Lohman suggested Council send him a list and reiterated there were certain things the City could not do.
Mr. Lohman would bring the potential ordinances to a Council meeting for consideration of possible first readings. Council could also discuss existing and potential ordinances, additions, and amendments to the code.
Meeting adjourned at 7:46 p.m.
Assistant to the City Recorder