October 17, 2014
Along with Senior Planner Brandon Goldman and Management Analyst Adam Hanks, I met today with representatives of Southern Oregon University to discuss timelines, public involvement and application processes for the university’s co-generation project. SOU needs to replace its natural gas-fired boilers that heat the campus buildings. They are now looking at two co-generation options: a natural gas-fired facility and a biomass facility. (Co-generation means steam is produced that generates heat and powers a turbine to produce electricity.) Biomass is considered a renewable energy source. SOU is in the earliest stages of a public outreach campaign to gain campus and community input on which option to pursue. A public input session for students and faculty is scheduled for October 27 and a community meeting is scheduled for November 12. A community phone survey is scheduled for December and the SOU representatives will be invited to a Council study session in February. The project hinges on getting funding from the Legislature in the 2015 session. Click here for more information about the project.
You may have seen the news release on the City web site yesterday about the increase in vehicle/animal collisions that occurs annually at this time of year. The data in that news release is actually from a 2012 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute on vehicle/animal collisions. Click here to see the full report.
The 2013-2014 Ashland Firewise and Community Biomass Fuel Reduction Grant has ended for individual landowners. Grants of up to $500 were available for Ashland residents who removed and modified fire-prone vegetation near homes. Fire-prone landscaping such as juniper, cypress, and other conifers may pose a hazard to homes in a wildfire. All efforts made towards creating defensible space around homes and neighborhoods in the City of Ashland support the goal of becoming a Fire Adapted Community, a community prepared to withstand the effects of wildfires. Starting in 2013, hundreds of residents received home assessments and 141 applied for grant money. This resulted in 121 residents completing their work and treating over 50 acres of land in Ashland. The entire $65,000 grant was used to better prepare Ashland against the threat of wildfire. The before and after photos below show how juniper trees were removed to create a 30-foot defensible space around a home.
There is currently no individual grant money available, but there is money available to become a Firewise community. To learn more, visit www.ashlandfirewise.org.
On Tuesday, Lomakatsi Restoration Project will begin work again on the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project. The initial work this season is "surface and ladder" fuels thinning in the City’s watershed to reduce fire hazard and improve forest health. Work this fall is funded jointly by the City and the National Forest Foundation (NFF). The NFF graciously offered to match the City’s contribution of $175,000 this fiscal year to address wildfire hazard in our watershed. The combined funds will lead to nearly 400 acres of work completed by the end of December. Lomakatsi workers thin small trees and shrubs that can lead to an intense wildfire under summer conditions. After the vegetation is cut, it’s put into burn piles and then burned under cool and wet conditions. Stay tuned for announcements about burning of prior year’s brush piles (1,400 acres worth) as the forest gets much needed rain and snow.
For the fifth year in a row, Ashland Fire & Rescue held an essay contest (for National Fire challenging fourth grade students to get involved with fire prevention. One essay is chosen from each school and the students are rewarded with a ride to school on a fire engine. The contest is held in the second week of October, which is National Fire Prevention Week. This year’s theme was, “Working smoke alarms save lives: Test yours every month”. Numerous fourth grade students from Walker, Bellview and Willow Wind Elementary Schools took on the challenge of writing about the importance of working smoke alarms. Whether the stories were fiction or non-fiction, the students were accomplishing the same goal; they were talking about fire safety with siblings, parents and friends.
On Tuesday, October 14, Eliana, from Walker Elementary was sitting on her front porch with her father and grandparent, eagerly awaiting her ride to school. Eliana was excited that her story about her cat, Fluffy was chosen. In the story, Eliana's dad forgot to check the families smoke alarms, which lead to no one knowing that there was a fire in the house one evening. Thankfully Fluffy was able to wake-up her father just in time, so he could call the fire department. After taking pictures with the family, Eliana jumped into the front seat of the fire truck and was ready to go. When she arrived, her class and teachers were there to welcome her. Congratulations on your essay, Eliana!
The first of monthly meetings to coordinate a regional CERT effort began yesterday with backing by Jackson County Emergency Management. The effort will attempt to establish baseline training requirements for various CERT member levels, a mutual support agreement, a page and links from the county website, mandatory background checks of all members, and much more. This effort comes at a crucial point when Medford is establishing its CERT program. Basic training is in full swing, with 18 eager trainees; some coming from as far as Eagle Point. Participants are halfway through course completion with graduation scheduled for Wednesday, November 12, at Station 1. The course culminates this Saturday with a real-life disaster simulation with volunteer victim students from OHSU-SOU's nursing program. We will be video recording the simulation to create a new marketing skit and training video.
Last week, contractors started work on the airport taxilane extension project at the Ashland Municipal Airport. For many years the airport has dealt with having access only to and from the north hangar area by one taxilane. This single access caused potential traffic problems when one airplane was trying to access the runway while another was returning from the runway. Airplanes don’t back up very easily. With this new taxilane this problem will be eliminated, allowing one outbound lane and one inbound lane. This project was identified in the airport master plan as the top priority and not only makes the airport safer and more efficient, it also allows for access to areas of the airport that were previously inaccessible. This means that as demand for hanger space increases, there will be a place to build them.
This project is managed by the Public Works Department’s Engineering Division. They have been working with Precision Approach Engineering to put together a plan that meets the current needs of the airport and FAA regulations while also accommodating future hangar construction. The contractor selected for this project is Knife River Materials. The first step in the project is to excavate the area, to allow for proper grade of the new taxiway. Once the excavation is completed and approved by the Engineering Division, the taxiway will be paved and connected to the existing asphalt. This project is scheduled to be completed in early November, weather permitting. This project is primarily funded by an FAA grant and only requires a 10% match from City airport funds.
Ashland’s Geographic Information Systems Division won two of the four awards for mapping at this year’s Northwest GIS Conference. Our GIS professionals were honored for Best Public Service and Best Cartographic Display. This was an open competition and awards were voted on by all of the 300 conference attendees. There were about 20 maps entered, so it was stiff competition.
The Normal Neighborhood Plan working group has held seven meetings to date to hear public input and discuss various elements of the plan in detail. The working group is now in the process of formulating recommendations relating to the proposed zoning designations, housing densities, transportation connectivity, infrastructure financing, and open space allocations. The working group is scheduled to meet again on October 23rd, with their last meeting anticipated in November. The working group is expected to present their final recommendations to the City Council for consideration on December 2nd.
October 10, 2014