Adam Hanks and I yesterday attended the Southern Oregon Business Conference, presented by SOREDI, and the basic message, delivered by University of Oregon economist Dr. Tim Duy and Josh Lerner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, is that all trends are pointing upward and indicating a more robust economy in Oregon and the Rogue Valley in 2014. A copy of Mr. Lerner’s PowerPoint presentation can be found at this link. (From this page, click on the link for “Economic and Revenue Forecast slide presentation.”)
Lastly, a bit of good news (more than a bit, actually) about PERS: Investment gains and legislative modifications cut the PERS unfunded liability in half in 2013. As a result, the PERS employer rate increases that had been projected for Ashland at the start of this biennium (in the 3- to 4-percentage point range) will more likely be in the one- to two-percentage point range; a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This, in my opinion, does not signal a green light to spend the money that we are (prudently) reserving in the current biennium to offset the projected higher rates in the coming biennium, but if this forecast holds, it could make budgeting substantially less stressful in 2015. We will probably get an estimate of our 2015-17 biennium PERS rates in September and our final rate determination in December.
Here’s a snapshot of projects currently underway in the Public Works Department:
We have released an RFP for engineering services related to the design and construction administration for upsizing the A St. sewer from 1st St. to 8th St. The consultant will also be responsible for the public outreach portion of the project as many property owners will be affected during construction. The hope is to minimize the impact and construct during the off-season.
Civil West Engineers will perform a value engineering review of the Bear Creek Trunkline sewer improvement project. The 2005 master plan recommended replacing some of the trunkline with 15” pipe and the 2012 master plan recommended installation of a 24” parallel line. We want to perform a more in-depth analysis and get the recommendation dialed in as there could be significant cost savings in the long run by upsizing the existing pipe rather than installing a parallel line.
Poles and bases for the rapid flashing beacon project at the high school crossing have been ordered. The old poles will be removed and the new rapid flashing beacons installed during spring break week.
Thornton Engineering is providing the City with plans and construction specifications for construction of a new storm drain up Mountain Ave. and through a proposed development project. The developer will upsize the portion of storm drain associated with his project and the City will reimburse him with SDC funds. The city project will tie onto the developer’s storm drain improvement and run through the south side of his project. The storm drain project is a master plan priority improvement project.
Engineering is working with the Water Division on an in-house water line replacement along Highway 99 from Tolman Creek Road towards Crowson Rd. This will upsize a 2” water line to a 12” water line. The project also involves construction plan and construction signage approval by ODOT.
Engineering is also working with the Water Division on a project to remove moss at the Granite Street reservoir.
The airport improvement project for a taxilane extension and security fencing has started and Engineering is now working with the consultant and FAA on preliminary design and data acquisition.
Engineering is working on a letter of intent and appropriate documentation with a consultant for low-interest funding of the TAP project.
The wastewater treatment plant outfall relocation RFP has been finalized and approved by Legal. The RFP should be released this week in order to have a consultant perform the necessary wetland modeling needed to cool the effluent and meet permit limits associated with the new NDPES permit. The new permit will be drafted in fall of this year by DEQ and will include an implementation schedule associated with work required to cool effluent and relocate it from Ashland Creek to Bear Creek. The consultant selected for this project will also perform necessary public outreach associated with any work activities for the project.
Engineering continues to work on FERC required items including an erosivity analysis of Hosler Dam’s left abutment and installation of security fencing and cameras.
Engineering is collecting data and reviewing specifications for purchasing the TAP pump and pipe.
Ashland’s electric utility set what we believe is a record for load on our system when, at 9 a.m. on December 9th, we delivered 43 megawatts of electricity to our customers, or about double our normal load. To our credit, the system performed flawlessly at what was a critical time, with temperatures hovering in the single digits.
The Police Department has received nine reports of Unauthorized Entry into Motor Vehicles over the last two days. All vehicles were unlocked and the suspect searched them for valuables. In most cases, nothing was taken. These are the type of crimes that are often under-reported, especially when nothing is taken, so it is likely that there are more victims. This is an area-wide problem. Talent PD has taken 17 UUMV reports during the same time period.
The chief received the following email from the head of Jackson County SART.
Chief Holderness and DC Falls,
I wanted to bring to your attention the outstanding job that Detective Theron Hull did on a recent sexual assault victim interview.
On January 28th 2014 I brought a female sexual assault victim whom I had been working with for several weeks to meet with Detective Hull for an interview; prior to this date she had filled out the online report and had been contacted by him as she requested.
The victim was extremely nervous about meeting with law enforcement and also unsure whether she wanted to make a report, and what sort.
Detective Hull did a great job putting the victim at ease and beginning the interview process slowly, letting her ask questions and get comfortable before he turned on the recording.
He asked her to tell him as much as she was ready to about the incident, and the manner in which he listened and asked the occasional clarifying question was respectful and conducive to her taking the time she needed to tell her experience; he did a very good job building a rapport with her and she became visibly more comfortable with him and the situation as the interview progressed.
It was obvious from the information he shared that Detective Hull had already put time into looking into the perpetrator and his background; as the story unfolded it became clear to me and no doubt to Detective Hull as well that this case would be an extremely difficult one to bring forward, but he never expressed doubts about the importance of her reporting, and assured her that what she described was indeed a crime. I have been in interviews elsewhere which ended with an abrupt “well, I can tell you there’s no way we can do anything with this” or similar words, effectively shutting down the victim, and Detective Hull did the exact opposite here: he made the victim feel that, no matter how she chose to proceed, he was glad she had come in and told her story. He never appeared in a hurry to wrap up, or anything but attentive and serious in his intention to help her.
At the end he reassured her again that what happened next would be within her control, and was clear about how the interview would be stored and treated. He let her know that she could take as much time as she wished to make a decision about next steps.
After he left us, the victim said to me “I feel so much better now” and “that was way easier than I expected;” she said she had not been able to sleep well because of worrying about the interview, but now things would be better.
As an advocate I am fully aware that my work with victims sometimes has a different “endgame” than law enforcement’s, but Detective Hull basically proved me wrong in that: he showed me through his actions that he was fully committed to helping her in any way he could regardless of the elements of her case, and I can state emphatically that the manner in which he conducted this interview had a profoundly positive impact on this woman’s life. Even if she never does anything else with this case, her experience with Detective Hull will, I am sure, lead her to seek help from LE more easily in the future should something else happen to her, and I am sure she would encourage another victim to come forward if she were asked about her experience. In the end, the way she was treated by Detective Hull may be one of the most important factors as she moves forward after an event that has shaken her life. I feel fortunate to be able to work with such a thoughtful, compassionate and dedicated detective and I wanted to pass on to you my appreciation of his work.
Thank you for providing an environment that supports such victim-centered work,