January 30, 2015

On Monday of this week, I and other city managers/administrators and County officials met with local DEQ solid waste representatives for a presentation on changes to Oregon’s Opportunity to Recycle Act that DEQ is proposing. The key change is that certain waste prevention and reuse programs that are now optional and earn additional credits (known as 2% credits) toward our recycling rate would become mandatory. This is not likely to have much impact on Ashland, as there is a deeply ingrained recycling ethic in our community and we already do more than what would be required under this legislation (Senate Bill 263). At the same time, since the Jackson County waste shed would no longer be eligible for the 2% credits, the Jackson County recycling goal would be lowered to 25% from its current 40%.  In addition, DEQ is proposing legislation that would increase the state’s per ton fees that are charged at all disposal facilities. The increase for all fees combined would amount to about 70 cents per ton, which would translate into 6 cents per month on the average residential bill.  DEQ proposes to use the increased funding for expanding waste prevention and education programs. (These fees have not increased in over 20 years.) Perhaps not surprisingly, many of our neighboring cities in the Rogue Valley, as well as Jackson County, appear to be vehemently opposed to both proposals. With regard to SB 263, the opposition appears to be rooted in the notion that the state will mandate what we’re required to do rather than leaving it at our option, and with regard to the fee, it appears to be a general opposition to any fee increase, along with concerns that DEQ has not provided enough information as to what the money will be spent on. I have attached a DEQ fact sheet about these two bills. 
The Ashland Business Resource Portal is featured in the February issue of Oregon Business Magazine. Click here to see the article. Perhaps ironically, the cover of the February issue asks the question, “Will Medford ever be cool?”
Administration – Conservation Division
Last year was a record year for residential solar installations in Ashland (see table below), despite the fact that we continued the trend of reducing our solar incentives. The industry appears to be maturing to the point at which it can succeed on its own two feet.


Information Technology – Telecommunications Division
The Ashland Fiber Network is now in the middle of an internet project to bring more capacity to its internet services. With AFN’s recently completed Strategic Plan and Council approval of the internet project, AFN purchased and is now in the process of configuring a new Juniper MX-80 Router and an Arris C4 CMTS (Cable Management Termination System) – pictured below.

The Juniper router provides a carrier class gateway to the global internet. The Juniper hardware supports approximately 25 times the current bandwidth (currently 1.5 gigabits versus a potential of 40 gigabits). The Arris C4 CMTS will use the Juniper MX-80 connection to deliver higher bandwidth capacity, better user demand balancing, and improved reliability to AFN’s customers. The next step in the project is to establish circuits (connections) to major internet points-of-presence (“meet me” points for internet carriers; likely Portland and San Francisco). The increase in internet capacity coupled with the use of proven technologies will help ensure AFN remains competitive. In addition, the higher capacity provides AFN the ability to generate new internet based products and services.
Welcome to AFN’s newest employee, Paul Treagan. Paul joined AFN after AFN’s longtime customer service specialist, Vince Zauskey, retired in December. Paul is a graduate of Southern Oregon University with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Multimedia.  He has a professional background in customer service and most recently worked for Comcast as a Technical Support Technician. Paul has a variety of technical skills including computer hardware and software troubleshooting and support, wireless deployment, and internet support and sales. Paul has been with AFN for a month and has already displayed his abilities to calmly and efficiently handle customer support calls. His ability to quickly ascertain a customer’s technical knowledge and explain complex technical information in everyday language has been enormously beneficial to customers and ISP Retail Partner personnel. Paul is a key addition to AFN’s continuous drive for customer service excellence.

Police Department
This week’s heart-shaped show of support at Ashland High School for missing Ashland teen Hannah Thomas-Garner has touched off a new round of media interest in her case. Deputy Chief Tighe O’Meara was interviewed by one of the TV stations and Deputy Chief Warren Hensman by the newspaper on this case again today. As to the items taken from Hannah’s car, the state forensics lab will not test forensic evidence unless they are investigating a crime. In this case there are several points that give us a very strong indication that no crime was committed in association with that vehicle.

  • We know, from Hannah's friends and her own social media account that she planned to run away;
  • We know that she planned her runaway time, and the manner in which she would run away, including damaging her car and leaving her cell phone behind, but taking the SIM card;
  • Her car was in fact left abandoned, damaged with the cell phone remaining but the SIM card gone. In addition there is no evidence of a crime in the vehicle except the broken windshield which appeared to have been hit by a heavy object from the outside.
  • We have a credible witness who picked up a girl claiming to be from Ashland and had been at a party the night before (as Hannah had).  This man believes that he picked up Hannah;
  • We have another witness who claims he saw Hannah just after the above noted witness dropped her off, consistent with the time and place this all would have happened; and
  • After another girl who ran off with Hannah was returned home (Sylvia Davis) we learned that Hannah wanted to run away with Sylvia, but Sylvia's adult friend would not allow her to come along.

APD continues to monitor the case and is in regular contact with Hannah’s parents and law enforcement agencies in California, but in the absence of evidence of a crime, we’re very limited in what we can do.
Gail Rosenberg, a long time Police Department employee, has announced her retirement in April of this year. Gail started the department as a dispatcher and later became dispatch supervisor. After we contracted dispatch to Medford Gail became the certification and training manager for the PD. She is presently an administrative analyst and responsible for a variety of things including budget, purchasing, training and accreditation. We will start the recruitment for Gail’s replacement next week.

Community Development Department
Housing Program Staff this week attended a meeting on the World Health Organization’s “Age Friendly Community” designation, which is a program that puts policies, programs and/or services in place that promote quality of life, community engagement, and independent living for older adults. The Age Friendly Community model highlights eight areas of the environment that impact quality of life and independent living, including prioritizing a range of housing options that meet the needs of older adults and activities that support modification of housing and promotes aging in place. The model also identifies transportation, accessibility, civic engagement and social services as areas that impact quality of life. The City’s Consolidated Plan for the use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds also requires that the City consider policies and services that address these core areas, and is further required to consider the needs of special needs populations including the frail and elderly. (Note:  Councilor Seffinger has requested a study session discussion of the Age-Friendly Communities initiative, which is tentatively scheduled for May 18.)

Public Works
This week the Public Works Water Distribution crew replaced a hydrant on Roca St. We currently have 1,263 hydrants in the City, all of which are inspected annually. During the last yearly inspection of this hydrant it was determined the torque required to operate the hydrant exceeded allowable limits. In some cases it’s possible rebuild the internal components of a hydrant but many things factor into this decision. When determining if a hydrant should be replaced or rebuilt, the age, internal design and availability of repair parts are all considered. This particular hydrant was originally installed in 1966, which is actually not very old to have problems like this. It’s very common for us to have hydrants in service for more than 70 years.  It was determined this particular hydrant should be replaced with a new hydrant. New hydrants are a much better design than older hydrants and they’re constructed of better materials.
When we replace a hydrant, the area around the hydrant has to be excavated down deep enough to access the pipe that supplies water to the hydrant; in this case a depth of about four feet. Because of the limited access and the proximity of other utilities, this excavation was done manually using shovels and digging bars. Once the excavation is complete we must shut the water off to the hydrant before the hydrant can be replaced. Some hydrants have a valve located in the branch line (pipe) that serves the hydrant but in other cases the water main that serves that section of town has to be shut off. In some instances this does mean water will be shut off to some water customers but those customers are always notified in advance. After the water has been shut off, the old hydrant is then removed and hauled away to be recycled and the new hydrant installed. 

Board and Commission updates
Housing and Human Services Commission
The Housing and Human Services Commission met this week. The Commission reviewed and discussed the City’s Affordable Housing Trust fund ordinance and a survey on tools to fund affordable housing trust funds and affordable housing in general, entitled “A Survey of Revenue Tools to Fund Affordable Housing and Services in the Portland Metro Region.” The H&HS commission discussed the models of funding in the survey and brainstormed other potential funding options. At the next regular meeting, to be held on February 26th, the Commission will hear an update on the state of the student fair housing project.

Previous Updates:

January 23, 2015

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