City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
July 25, 2016
There was none.
Present: Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, Miller, Shaw; Director Black; Superintendent Dickens; Executive Assistant Dyssegard; Assistant Manuel
Absent: City Council Liaison Mayor Stromberg
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Gardiner called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Study Session – June 20, 2016
Motion: Landt moved to approve the Minutes for June 20, 2016, as presented. Lewis seconded.
The vote was all yes.
Regular Meeting – June 27, 2016
Motion: Landt moved to approve the Minutes for June 27, 2016, as presented. Miller seconded.
The vote was all yes.
ADDITIONS AND DELETIONS
There were none.
Black noted that the easement had been previously discussed by APRC in January 2016. The Commission called for an appraisal to establish a value for the Parks property that would become the easement. The $2000 value established by the appraisal was not consistent with comparable properties but did provide a basis for negotiation with the Nutley Street property owner. The property owner agreed to pay $3372.00 for the requested 280 square foot easement.
- Nutley Street Easement Approval (Action)
The agreement prepared by City of Ashland attorneys included a modification in wording of the termination clause from “This easement may be terminated at any time by mutual consent of the parties upon abandonment, loss or change of any purpose of the easement stated in Section 4, or after breach of any term or condition stated in Section 5 by Grantee” to “This easement may be terminated at any time by mutual consent of the parties. This easement will be terminated upon abandonment, loss, or change of any purpose of the easement stated in Section 4, or after breach of any term” etc…”
Black stated that the termination clause was important because the request was to move a historic cottage dwelling from its current location on Granite Street to the back of the property. Saving the historic structure was the basis for the easement and the easement agreement would be nullified if the building did not remain on the property. He recommended approval of the easement as modified, including the conditions listed in the staff report.
Motion: Shaw moved to approve the Nutley Street easement request as presented, including the amended agreement.
The vote was all yes.
Black indicated that the Ashland City Council would approve the agreement in its entirety at the Council meeting scheduled for August 2, 2016.
City Administrator Dave Kanner reviewed a proposal to amend dispersal of Food and Beverage (F&B) taxes. He said the current 5 cent meals tax (per dollar spent) on prepared food within Ashland City limits currently went toward servicing the debt for the wastewater plant (80%) and APRC (20%).
- Discussion of Proposed Food and Beverage Tax Amendments (Information)
Kanner stated that it had become apparent that street maintenance needs were outstripping street utility fees and additional revenue would be needed. Public Works Director Mike Faught had requested a proposed 262% increase of street utility fees to upgrade and repair City streets. Because such a large increase would likely not be approved, alternative funding was identified from surplus F & B Tax revenues. Kanner noted that a substantial surplus had accumulated due to a steady rise in F & B collections over the past six years. This surplus balance could fund other pressing needs as well, such as street improvements. Revenues could be earmarked for a Pavement Management Program (PMP), mitigating insufficient utility street fees if approved by the voters. The PMP would upgrade or repair every arterial, collector and neighborhood collector-street in Ashland to an excellent condition. Once completed, the improved roads would significantly reduce current and future costs associated with street maintenance.
Kanner reported that the City of Ashland currently had approximately three miles of failed roadway. The pavement and the sub-grade would need to be removed and completely reconstructed. If voters approved the proposed changes to the ordinance, City streets in danger of failing would become the first priority. Kanner highlighted the rationale, stating that constructing a new five-inch overlay would be sufficient to keep the roads in good condition for the next sixty years. Roads such as North Mountain and portions of Tolman Creek Road, Oak and Walker Streets were targeted, with reconstruction slated for the summer of 2017. Cost savings were estimated as the difference between $285,000 per mile for repair versus $1.4 million per mile for reconstruction.
Kanner displayed a chart that detailed F & B tax revenues over time as compared to the annual debt service for the Wastewater Treatment Plant. He noted that bonds for the new plant were refinanced in 2012, adjusting annual debt service from $2 million to $1.6 million. The balance would continue to diminish until the bonds were paid in full. Kanner stated that F & B tax revenues had grown on average by 5.7% over the past six years.
Kanner explained that in keeping with the original intent, the proposal for APRC would be to continue to provide F & B tax funding but at a higher rate. F & B annual revenues would increase from 20% to 25%. The Ashland City Council directed staff to place both of the proposed amendments on the November ballot for approval.
- APRC Food & Beverage Tax Funding
Kanner referred to Sections C, D, and E of the existing ordinance, stating that the sections would be replaced by new language authorizing the increase to 25% for APRC. Also per the existing ordinance, 20% of the 20% had to be spent by APRC for open space acquisitions. This directive would remain unchanged in the amended ordinance. 25% of taxes collected “shall be paid into a Parks account for the purposes of acquisition, planning, development, repair and rehabilitation of City parks per adopted plans of the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission.” 75% would continue to service debt for the Wastewater Treatment Plant with the proviso that the City could charge up to 2% for administration and collection.
Kanner explained that the existing ordinance limited APRC acquisitions to larger projects listed in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The proposed amendments would allow greater flexibility for APRC system repairs and rehabilitation – needs that in the past were either unfunded or paid for from the Operations Budget.
In response to a question by Landt, Kanner noted that the revenue surplus was accumulating as directed by ordinance, as a Wastewater Master Plan line item. The remaining excess would reduce utility rates, decreasing the impact for users. According to the Master Plan, the rates would increase by 10% each year. New projections, cushioned by the extra revenue already collected, would allow for an adjustment of the rates from 10% to 8% in 2017, 5% in 2018 and 3% annually for the years 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. It is anticipated that no new debt would need to be incurred for wastewater management until 2025 or later. The surplus of $1.5 million, added to the structured rate increases projected above, would facilitate any foreseeable wastewater improvements. In addition, when the F & B Tax expired in 2030, if no action is taken, there would be approximately $16 million in surplus revenues. If approved by the voters, those funds would be channeled to APRC and Public Works per amendment. The proposed 25% allocation for APRC and the establishment of a Pavement Management Fund would address long-term needs more effectively while reducing maintenance costs for both Public Works and APRC.
Black asked about the disposition of the revenue stream for APRC given the expanded uses in the amendment. In a related question, Lewis inquired about retroactive funding if the amendments were approved by the voters. Kanner replied that the ballot measure would have to authorize retroactive funding. He advised that a straightforward proposal without retroactive dispersals could improve the chances for a successful vote. Black agreed, stating that regardless of the outcome, the current biennial budget included funding for property acquisitions.
There followed a brief discussion of the impact of the proposed adjustments after the F & B tax expired in 2030. Kanner stated that approximately seven years of debt service for street improvements would be set aside to replace funding from the tax. Further discussion weighed the pros and cons of the more flexible guidelines for APRC, especially with regard to equipment purchases if funded with F & B revenue. Black explained that equipment needs were ongoing and would not sunset; therefore, care must be taken to separate the two. Gardiner also inquired about the use of F & B funds for equipment needs. Kanner stated that if a unique piece of equipment was needed for a major rehabilitation, then in his opinion, it would constitute a legitimate use of F & B funds. Lewis advised retaining the language as proposed unless Council objected to the use of funds for that purpose. If it became a barrier to additional funding, then any reference to equipment purchases could be stricken from the ordinance. It was agreed by consensus that this approach was preferred.
Kanner encouraged APRC to advocate for the proposed amendments. He reminded the Commissioners that once the measure was referred to the voters, staff would be unable to campaign or solicit support. He stated that the results from an Open City Hall discussion indicated that approximately 92% of those queried would vote in favor of the amended ordinance.
Landt emphasized that there was a certain amount of deferred maintenance that could be addressed with the proposed 5% funding increase. In addition, as Performance Audit recommendations were implemented, the costs of implementation could result in the need for increased revenues. Landt noted that maintaining a robust parks system was important to the citizens of Ashland so residents would likely support increased funding to APRC. He stated that as time went by, it might become prudent to amend the ordinance further to reflect the needs of a mature parks system.
Lewis questioned the consistent increase in F & B revenue – particularly during the recession experienced in 2005-2008. Kanner replied that the bonds were re-financed, decreasing debt service. The average of 5.7% does not include a 9% increase for 2016. He stated that the increases have been steady and were expected to continue.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND STAFF REPORTS
Superintendent Dickens welcomed Supervisor Jeffrey McFarland, on hand to present the annual update on APRC’s Forestry, Trails and Open Space Division.
- Forestry and Trails Presentation (Information)
McFarland said the Ashland trails system was premier, with nearly 47 miles of trails accommodating hikers, bikers, and equestrians. He said the multi-use category encompassed 32.7 miles of trails and the overall number of trails had doubled over the past six years.
McFarland highlighted the Creek-to-Crest Trail system, developed in partnership with the US Forest Service, and said it could be accessed via trailheads at Railroad Park and Lithia Park. Trail signage for that system, provided in both directions, clearly outlined the route from Mt. Ashland to the Ashland Dog Park. Division staff used a $45,000 grant to cover the cost of the trail development and signage.
Popular trail routes were discussed: Siskiyou Mountain Park, While Rabbit Trail and the Mike Uhtoff Trail. Uhtoff was developed to create a separation between mountain bikers and pedestrians and was named in honor of Mike Uhtoff, a citizen instrumental in obtaining the land. The Oredson-Todd Woods Trail connects with Siskiyou Mountain Park and is home to the well-known Ashland waterfall.
McFarland noted that APRC Forestry, Trails and Open Space personnel regularly and routinely protect woodland resources. This includes hazard tree removals, eliminating invasive species and defending the natural environment. The lands serve hikers, bikers and equestrians while providing staging areas for firefighters requiring access to remote portions of the forest lands in which wildfires occur.
Wildlife preservation is also ongoing and includes a Pacific Fisher project in which the animals are fitted with radio collars and tracked. Data have shown that Siskiyou Mountain Park is favored by the Fisher. McFarland stated that information collected verifies that Parks’ efforts to preserve habitats have been successful.
McFarland presented a slide show that included pictures of volunteers assisting with trails maintenance or development. He said maintenance is approached with the goal of repairing or rehabilitating the existing system. He showed examples of drainage repairs completed by volunteers and work groups. An example of a state-of-the-art trails management solution was described as the restructuring of trails that become icy in winter, thereby making them safe for hikers in winter. When a section of the White Rabbit Trail was washed away in the 1997 floods, it was rebuilt with a large drain to prevent runoff from flooding. A nine-year ongoing project was noted: the Ashland Pond Restoration Project, in which a number of groups have planted trees and cleared unwanted vegetation.
McFarland described other cooperative partnerships: Working with Jackson County to maintain Ashland’s two-mile portion of the Bear Creek Greenway; the TID trail, developed as dog friendly, with APRC installing pet waste dispenser stations toward reducing water pollution in the area; fuels reductions within Hald-Strawberry Park; and the Ashland Trails Project, built in cooperation with the US Forest Service, Ashland Woodlands & Trail Association (AWTA) and APRC, with a goal of completing 25 miles of new trails.
McFarland commented on other volunteer trail projects such as an Eagle Scout project in which a gravel drain was installed and a stairway built on difficult terrain for increased safety. He said ATWA members work tirelessly, contributing many hours to worthy projects such as the development of the new Red Queen Trail, to which the APRC Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) also contributed. He spoke of YCC’s nest box day in which five 21-foot poles holding nest boxes were collared to prevent squirrels from ravaging the nests. He said volunteers come from OSU each year as a part of the Alternative Break Program to work on trail improvement projects and students from John Muir School also learned how to plant trees and reforest an area that was formerly a tangle of blackberries. In total, over 49 groups provided volunteer hours for Parks projects over the past year.
McFarland displayed a map of Lithia Park and spoke about trail connectivity within the Park. He said the recently completed Red Queen Trail was two and ˝ miles long. Approximately six miles of trails within Lithia Park connect to the Granite Street Trail, the Burnson Trail, the TID Trail and others. Other maps depicted pedestrian and bike trails in the lower watershed area. McFarland noted that the BTI Trail tie-in above Lithia Park was re-routed to accommodate mountain bike races.
McFarland talked about signs and said official-looking signs were left untouched while older black and white signs suffered from vandalism. Steps were underway to add signage depicting trail difficulty levels using well-recognized symbols. The new symbol signs would be added onto the signs currently in place.
He spoke about an art program developed by the Public Arts Commission in which sculptures would be sponsored for ten sites along the Bandersnatch and Red Queen Trails in the watershed. Beginning in Lithia Park, people would be enticed to follow the art trail. The first site, featuring a Pacific Fisher sculpture, was completed.
McFarland said APRC had assisted Ashland Fire and Rescue with their recent updates to the Ashland Forest Plan, established in 1992. Since 1992, 11 additional properties were added to the plan. The plan details forest land by unit. Data is collected for each unit and a historical record is kept that outlines forest management practices for each unit, including treatments, current conditions and desirable future conditions. Topographical information is detailed and flora and fauna are identified. Records are updated electronically and made available to area workers.
McFarland said tools of the trade are specialized for trail creation. APRC has a “power wheelbarrow” that can haul up to 500 pounds uphill, or about 800 pounds on level ground – a great assist when maintaining trails in remote areas.
Fuels reduction in remote areas often includes burning debris rather than chipping. In conservation areas, no new roads can be built so the brush must be burned according to very restrictive conditions. Most open space properties have undergone treatments so the work is primarily maintenance. This year storms weakened a number of large trees, creating hazardous situations. Several big firs were removed for that reason. Pine trees were infected with beetles, decimating areas of forest land. In 2015, 75 trees were removed in an effort to stop the damage from spreading. In 2016 only nine trees were removed for that reason. Wood is recycled and used for building storage and equipment sheds, a new teahouse for the Japanese Garden in Lithia Park and a myriad of other park projects.
The list of open space properties maintained by Parks covers 540.15 acres. Invasive treatments covered 42.15 acres in the last annual count. Thinning, cutting, and piling are included in that care. Approximately 60 acres of weed abatement were treated. Because some areas receive treatments more than once, staff actually covered 238 acres.
McFarland highlighted the satisfaction that comes from working in Ashland’s parks, open spaces and forest land, and he thanked the Commissioners for their support.
Dickens said park patrons speak appreciatively about the trails system and are complimentary about the ongoing labor of APRC’s Forestry, Trails, Open Space and Construction Division. He reported that a resident recently commented on the connectivity within the trails system and specifically the areas separating mountain bike users from pedestrians.
Gardiner noted that the Bee City USA Subcommittee was created by APRC a year ago. Subcommittee members are citizen participants and he serves as an APRC representative. The mission is to promote pollinator gardens and educate people about the importance of pollinators in our environment. Members attend events throughout the Valley, disseminating educational materials and answering questions from a booth or table. Articles are written to editors and a website has been designed.
- Bee City USA Subcommittee Update (Information)
The Subcommittee has designed a pollinator garden program whereby residents can be recognized for their personal pollinator gardens. Subcommittee volunteers inspect the gardens upon application and, if qualified, provide an opportunity to purchase a sign that shows their participation in the national program. Currently twelve applications are awaiting the Subcommittee’s review.
Subcommittee members also promote a pesticide-free environment wherever possible and have brought suggestions to APRC about alternatives to pesticides and herbicides. Gardiner noted that the Subcommittee would be asking the Commission to consider further changes to the APRC Integrated Pest Management Program.
Black commented that Fourth of July festivities were enjoyed by Commissioners and staff. APRC employees and volunteers were especially honored to be the parade Grand Marshal in honor of Lithia Park’s centennial. Dyssegard noted that the Ashland Parks Foundation staffed a booth and collected several hundred dollars in donations.
- Fourth of July wrap-Up Report (Information)
Dickens reported that a 50-year time capsule was buried next to the bandshell in Lithia Park during early afternoon. He stated that staff and volunteers assisted in the ceremony.
Performance Audit Update (Information)
Black stated that a final review of the audit was performed by the Performance Audit Advisory Committee. They determined that there were a few last-minute changes that needed to be made by the author. It is anticipated that the completed manuscript will be presented to the Commission at the next regularly scheduled meeting. Once Commission approval has been granted, project timelines will be assigned tentatively to begin in August.
Landt emphasized that the Performance Audit highlighted a substantial amount of deferred maintenance, in a situation similar to that experienced by Ashland’s Public Works. Parks maintenance, like street maintenance is more expensive to correct if repairs and rehabilitation have been deferred. The proposed amendments would enable APRC to accelerate repairs and catch up on maintenance. Landt stressed that implementation of the recommendations in the Performance Audit might cause expenses to escalate.
ITEMS FROM COMMISSIONERS
Lewis invited those present to attend the Golden Spike Ceremony slated for Thursday July 28, 2016 at noon. The event will be held at the corner of 8th and A Street and will include music and fun. Shaw commented that people were pleased that Dan Merrill would be the recipient of the Golden Spike Award.
Landt asked for an update about the Pump Track event. Dickens replied that those who attended were impressed with the concept and enjoyed the demonstration. He explained that the track was a skills feature designed to help kids develop agility and balance. The track can accommodate bikes, and scooters as well as skateboards. The demonstration was a part of a traveling demonstration along the West Coast.
Shaw reported on the success of the Up and Down Ashland event that marked the official opening of the Siskiyou-Cascade bikeway. He stated that it was well organized, with approximately 80 riders participating in the 51-mile bike ride.
UPCOMING MEETING DATES
Study Session August 15, 2016 @ The Grove 1195 E. Main Street -- 7:00 p.m.
Regular Meeting August 22, 2016 @ Council Chambers 1175 E. Main Street -- 7:00 p.m.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.
Betsy Manuel, Assistant
These Minutes are not a verbatim record. The narrative has been condensed and paraphrased to reflect the discussions and decisions made. Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission Study Sessions, Special Meetings and Regular meetings are digitally recorded and available upon request.