Air quality is now in the unhealthy range. See and follow precautions  by staying indoors, especially if you have health concerns.


January 2, 2015

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued its 2013 Material Recovery Report for Jackson County this week and it shows our waste recovery rate basically unchanged over 2012: 49.1% vs. 49.3%. That’s well ahead of the legislatively mandated waste recovery goal of 40% for Jackson County. The report also shows per-capita waste generated in the County down slightly from 2012 to 2013. In total, there were 139,677 tons of waste disposed in Jackson County in 2013 and 105,705 tons recovered. To see a copy of the report, click here.  The 6% credit the County receives is for reuse, waste prevention and composting programs.  As impressive as the 49.1% recovery rate is, it still lags behind the statewide recovery rate of 53.9%.  (Click here to see the statewide material recovery report.) Unfortunately, it’s not possible to calculate a recovery rate just for Ashland, although it would be easy to believe that Ashland is well ahead of the rest of the county on waste recovery and reduction.
A few year-end tidbits from 2014 to start the new year. First is an editorial from the Oregonian calling on the state to do away with the medical marijuana program. That’s followed by an opinion piece from the CityLab e-newsletter on the dumbest local ordinances of 2014. I was a little perturbed to see Hillsboro’s marijuana tax ordinance on the list since it was, after all, based on Ashland’s. 

Finally, as Mayor John Stromberg knows, mayors are often called on to perform ceremonial duties that can seem odd at best. In the photo at left Mayor Sam Rice (the gentleman at right) accepts a donation of toilet paper for 200 needy families from Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of Charmin.  Why was his township singled out for this publicity-generating donation? Well, the Honorable Mr. Race is the mayor of Buttzville, New Jersey (and I am not making that up).

Information Technology – Telecommunications Division
From the management of the Ashland Fiber Network comes this interesting tidbit of information:  According to the University of Michigan’s 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index, Time-Warner Communications is the most unpopular company in America, followed closely by Comcast, our soon-to-be competitor for cable and internet business.  Click here for the MSN article about this customer dissatisfaction study.  Actually, nearly every company at the bottom of the rankings is a cable or telecommunications firm (including Charter), although three airlines managed to sneak in there. 
Care to take a guess at which company earned the highest customer satisfaction score in 2014? I’ll have the answer at the end of this update*.

Public Works
Last week the Public Works waste water crew began replacing a 350-foot section of sewer line on Morton St. The pipe being replaced is six-inch diameter concrete pipe originally installed more than fifty years ago. This is within the normal expected life cycle of concrete pipe.

The new pipe is eight-inch diameter PVC (plastic) pipe. PVC pipe has been in use for decades and is now the material of choice for our collections system. The conditions inside the sewer system can be quite harsh and PVC pipe holds up to those conditions as well as, or better than other pipe systems available today. Many factors, both inside and outside the pipe, will impact how long the new pipe will be in service but it is expected the PVC pipe will be in service for more than 100 years. This project is scheduled to be completed by January 8th. 
The Public Works Departments’ Cemetery Division has been monitoring several trees in Mountain View Cemetery (across the street from Fire Station 2) that have been showing signs of stress. These trees began to show stress in early summer, leading us to think it was related to the drought. The water at the cemeteries was run very minimally all summer; just enough to keep things alive. When these trees began showing signs of stress they were given additional water in hopes of keeping them alive but the trees have not improved now that we’re in the wet season. An arborist has now confirmed our suspicion that pine beetles are attacking several trees. 

Pine beetles have been a problem in Oregon for many years but this is the first time the City has had them in our cemeteries. Once they’ve infested a tree there’s little that can be done to remove them. It appears that as of right now there are six large trees that cannot be saved and a seventh that’s not looking good. We’re closely watching the remaining trees and if we see signs of the beetles in them, we will consider all the treatment options that are available to us.
The consulting arborists say the beetles tend to be more active when the weather warms up; typically April through October. This means these trees must be removed before then to hopefully minimize the spread of beetles to other trees. Typically when we have to remove a tree, or if one is blown down in a storm, the wood is given to the Jackson County Fuels Committee to be used as firewood for area residents. In this case, in order to prevent the further spread of beetles, the wood needs to be disposed of quickly and will most likely be taken to Bio-Mass before warmer weather sets in.
These trees are expected to be removed by the end of February. Stumps will also be removed at that time. Replacement trees will be planted and staff is currently in the process of determining what species of tree will do best in this location. 

Police Department
We learned today that a crew from the ABC-TV news program 20/20 will be here January 13-14 to begin work on a piece about the You Have Options program. In addition to talking to Detective Carrie Hull, it’s our understanding that they’ll speak to representatives at SOU, who have been instrumental in making this program a success. 
New Years Eve was relatively quiet for APD, although there were several extra officers on duty. Police responded to two separate menacing (each with a knife) calls, and several fight calls in the downtown area. The officers all responded well and took some less than cooperative people to jail while maintaining the calm.
With Deputy Chief Corey Falls’ departure to become Jackson County Sheriff, APD is now down one position. A background check was launched today for a lateral transfer candidate.  Hopefully, that will work out and quickly get us back to full strength.

Fire Department
AF&R’s migration of its records management system from Firehouse to Emergency Reporting went “live” on January 1. The City has been with Firehouse for many years but it is a server-based program. Firehouse will be changing to a web-based program soon and will be increasing fees substantially so this was a good time to look at an alternative. Emergency Reporting is affordable, meets our needs and is more intuitive. In addition, paramedics will spend less time on reports, the system meshes with our dispatch system, and it allows for quicker downloads to Springfield (for billing).   
This represents a major change for AF&R, as the department relies heavily on its records management system. Firefighter/Paramedic Brent Knutson led this change and did a great job of working through many issues and challenges. AF&R is also deeply appreciative of the work the IT Department, in particular Database Administrator Eric Bruhn, did in keeping Firehouse up and running for many years and solving problems as they presented themselves.   
*The company with the highest customer satisfaction score in 2014 was H.J. Heinz.  Click here for the complete list.

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December 19, 2014

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