April 24, 2015

Admin and Legal staff met this week with representatives of Union Pacific Railroad and CH2MHill to discuss plans for the railroad property. UPRR plans to do an “interim action soil removal” this summer on about an acre at the far eastern end of the property where there’s an abandoned and collapsed fueling bunker. Excavated soil will be trucked out and clean fill trucked in. There are, however, no further plans for clean-up on the property at this time.
City staff, with assistance from Recology Ashland Sanitary and a commercial cleaning contractor, will give the Calle Guanajuato Trash & Recycle building located next to the Community Development Building a complete head to toe internal cleaning on Monday, April 27th. The facility will be closed from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Existing signage will be removed and new and improved signage will be installed. The Calle trash and recycle center is an important element in maintaining the atmosphere of the Calle and also performs the important operational function of providing a location where trash can be stored and sorted to separate out materials available to be recycled, reducing the overall volume of waste and containing waste disposal costs. City and Recology staff have noticed an uptick in contamination of the recycling stream at the facility and have sent educational notices to the site users. We hope this leads improved to recycling efforts at this facility. 

Community Development
Normal Neighborhood Plan Update
The Normal Neighborhood Working Group met on April 15, to review changes to the proposed plan as directed by the City Council on December 2nd of last year. The group discussed the changes to the land use framework, open-space framework, and street-network, as proposed. 
Michael Black, parks director, explained that the Parks Department found no current need to acquire land at this time as public parks, and they were in agreement with the location of the active open space presented in the proposed plan. Michael elaborated that the Parks Department would like to work further with future development proposals on the details of locating trails and would absolutely be interested in accepting donated land if the Parks Department had the ability to maintain the property.
Mike Faught, public works director, discussed the improvements needed to East Main Street and the railroad crossing at Normal Avenue. He outlined the improvement costs attributable to either private developers or as contributions from the City’s system development charges. He presented an engineering report explaining the methodology used to calculate the cost of improvements and noted that using the total developer portion of the costs of these improvements, and dividing it by the estimated number of units (472) that the calculated per unit cost was $8,700. He further stated that an option to complete a partial East Main Street improvement could be considered. In this scenario, a phased construction improvement of 250 feet on either side of a new Normal Avenue intersection at East Main would be completed in an initial development phase and the remainder could be completed when development is further along.
Mayor Stromberg presented a conceptual plan based on the Council’s strategic planning and the State of the City address.  The Mayor’s plan included:

  • Family Friendly Housing. He proposed clustered housing developments (“neighborhood modules) with amenities for growing families such as larger unit sizes, common open space and individual garden space.
  • Climate Change Awareness. He proposed that everything could be designed or built with specific energy/water/solar requirements.
  • Aging in Ashland. He proposed that housing could be designed and built to ensure seniors remain safely in their homes longer.
  • Fire-adapted Communities. He proposed that we provide requirements and ways to improve fire safety.

In order to consider the Normal Plan in light of the Mayor’s proposals the working group scheduled an additional meeting for May 7.
On April 23, 2015, the Transportation Commission met to discuss the revisions to the proposed plan’s transportation framework. The commission unanimously approved amending the City’s Transportation System Plan to incorporate the Normal Neighborhood Plan’s street, bicycle, and pedestrian network. Additionally, the commission recommended that in the event a phased approach to improving East Main Street is approved, a minimum 250 feet of full improvements be completed on either side on any new Normal Avenue intersection at East Main, and further that a sidewalk or multiuse path be constructed along East Main Street between Walker Avenue and Clay Street.
The Planning Commission and City Council hearings on the proposed neighborhood plan have been postponed pending the completion of the working group’s review. 

Public Works Department
This week the staff at the Waste Water Treatment Plant began testing the membrane filtration system. The system is required to be on-line by May 1st and to ensure everything is operating properly by that time, the system is started early with a test run. The membrane system is one of the last steps in the treatment process and is primarily used to remove phosphorous from the treated waste water. 

Pictured above is one membrane module that’s been decommissioned and set up as a display. Each module is made up of thousands of individual strands, each about the diameter of a spaghetti noodle. Though it’s hard to tell from the picture, the module is about six feet tall. When in operation, each module is submerged in water. The water to be filtered is on the outside of the membranes, vacuum pressure is then used to draw water into the membranes and the treated water then exits the top of the module through a connection point. The membranes last about ten years, after which they must be replaced. The Waste Water Division last replaced a series of these membrane modules in 2013, at a cost of about $400,000. 

Each membrane module is part of a larger cassette (typically, there are 26 membrane modules to a cassette) and each cassette is part of an overall system train. The picture above shows the connection points for ten cassettes in one of the City’s four treatment trains. Under the floor grate is a large basin of water with each of the ten membrane cassettes submerged. The filtration process continues around the clock and water to be treated enters the basin and water that’s been filtered leaves the process through the upper pipe.
On average, the membrane system filters a little over 2 million gallons of water per day. This process is monitored and controlled by the treatment plant operators. There are currently four operators working at the treatment plant. At least one of the four operators is at the plant seven days a week and an additional operator is on-call 24-hours a day.

At the end of the treatment process a small portion of the treated waste water is diverted to the ‘Water Quality Demonstration Pond’ which is stocked with fish to prove that the quality of our effluent water is more than sufficient to support aquatic life. The fish in the pond have grown and multiplied in the two years since the pond was installed. The portion of the effluent water not diverted to the pond leaves the plant and enters Ashland Creek. Public Works only allows fully treated water to leave the plant, so even the small amount of waste the pond fish generate means any overflow pond water is sent back to the beginning of the treatment process to be fully treated before it’s allowed to enter Ashland Creek. 

Police Department
This has been a quiet week at the Ashland Police Department. The department recorded its 29th bait bike arrest. Thankfully, the rate of bicycle thefts continues to trend downward.
This week APD officer Mike Vanderlip received a letter from a former Ashland High School student. Ten years ago Officer Vanderlip confronted this student concerning her poor choices and the path she was taking. Apparently that conversion struck a chord, as it caused her to apply to college and make some better choices. The student reached out to let Officer Vanderlip know how much that conversation changed her life, and set her on a better path.

Board and Commission updates
Housing Commission
The Housing Commission at its last meeting reviewed the Council's request regarding the student fair housing issue. The Commission reviewed what steps have been taken to address council's request and discussed what further actions need to be taken in order to come up with a recommendation. Staff will meet with the new potential student liaison in the next month, and will work with SOU staff to organize an abbreviated ready-to-rent training to students, scheduled to take place in May. The Commission decided to revisit this topic at its meeting in June at which time staff will bring back more information regarding SOU liaison involvement, a review of the training, and will provide a framework for timeline and next steps. The Commission also discussed and decided upon a procedure for evaluating the social service grant applications. The Commission decided to add an additional meeting to next month's schedule for evaluation, discussion, and final allocation recommendations. The Commission decided to move the applicant presentations to the Wednesday prior to its regularly scheduled meeting to allow enough time for presentations and discussion.


Previous Updates:

April 17, 2015

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