August 21, 2015

The Conservation Division recently was recently audited by the Bonneville Power Administration’s Energy Efficiency Department. A large chunk of the invoice project files requested by BPA for manual on-site audit were residential, due mostly to the fact that the majority of our energy efficiency rebates are residential. Conservation/Energy Analyst Dan Cunningham bore the brunt of getting the documents together and in order, and working with the BPA auditor. The auditor was very complementary of the extra details maintained in our files and confirmed that the City is in compliance with all federal requirements. Both Dan and commercial Conservation/Energy Analyst Larry Giardina deserve thanks for their outstanding efforts.
Responses are due next Wednesday (August 26) to the City’s request for proposals to conduct a greenhouse gas inventory; the first step in our Climate Change and Energy Action Plan process. We are cautiously optimistic that we’ll get four or five proposals.

The newest alternative energy addition to the City’s fleet was put into service this week. It’s a Ford CMax Energi for the Conservation Division. It is a hybrid, but it’s a bit different in that the driver can operate it in all-electric mode rather than the vehicle deciding when it switches between gas and electric. This allows us to drive it pretty much exclusively in all-electric mode for all daily miles and only use the gas engine when traveling outside of the valley on occasional training-related trips.

Here’s an interesting article from the Oregonian regarding an Oregon Court of Appeals ruling that the odor of marijuana smoke is not legally “offensive.” The odor from marijuana grows in residential zones has been an ongoing code enforcement problem for the City and an ordinance that would limit outdoor growing in such zones is heading to the Planning Commission for study session discussion next Tuesday, August 25. (Look for this as an Open City Hall topic next week.) We do receive occasional complaints about public marijuana consumption, particularly on the plaza, in the area in front of City Hall and at the entrance to Lithia Park. While marijuana possession and use is legal, public consumption is not and the Police Department does plan to start cracking down on it.
Here’s a link to a great article about Ashland that recently appeared in the Los Angeles Times under the headline “Bucolic Ashland, Ore., is a Shakespeare-steeped literary retreat.”

Community Development/ Public Works
Over the past couple of months, Community Development and Public Works have been assisting United Way of Jackson County in coordinating the location of a new bike share opportunity. You have perhaps already read about the Zagster bike-sharing program. The Ashland location under the Lithia Way overpass began operating in late July.

The Zagster bike share is open to anyone age 18 and over, but focused on those in need of transportation to work, school or social services. Participants in the program need to create an account and sign up for a one-year membership for $20.
Public Works Department
On Thursday of this week the Water Division installed a new water service on Van Ness Ave. This is a common task for City crews and something you may see from time to time on the streets of Ashland. A water service is basically the pipe that connects the large water pipes in the streets to the smaller pipes in homes and businesses. Every property in town that’s connected to City water has its own water service. The City began providing water in the late 1800s to just a few locations and now provides nearly 10,000 water services throughout the City. 

Water services come in a variety of sizes, depending on the anticipated use. A small house, for example, may only need a ¾” diameter water service to supply enough water for all the fixtures in the building while a hotel or apartment complex may require an 8” diameter (or even larger) service. The size is determined as part of the building design process and is decided by many factors including plumbing code, whether or not the building will be equipped with fire sprinklers and general fire code.
When water service is installed, the first step is to determine where the nearest water main is located and the most appropriate location for the water meter. Water crew members will mark the location and call for locates. Locates are paint markings on the surface of the area showing where all the underground utilities in that area are located. All companies with underground utilities, such as gas, electric or cable lines, are required to locate their facilities when requested. After the locates have been completed (this can take up to four days) the crew will remove the road surface to access the water main. They then dig down to the water main being very careful not damage the water pipe or any other located utilities along the way.
Once the pipe has been exposed, the pipe is ‘tapped.’ On smaller services, like the residential service connected on Thursday, a tapping machine is used to make the connection between the new service and the existing water main. This machine is attached to the water pipe and cuts a hole in the pipe and installs a valve. This valve is turned off when installed, so when the tapping machine is removed, a closed valve is connected to the pressurized water main. This new valve is now the connecting point for the new water service. By using the tapping process, a new water service can be installed without the need to shut down water service to all the nearby locations.
From the newly installed valve a new pipe is connected and placed in a trench to the location of the water meter. This new line is connected to the water meter and a meter box is placed around the meter to protect the meter from damage. Once the meter is connected, and the trench is re-filled, a plumber can make the final connections from the water meter to the building. The Water Division is responsible for maintaining the water service up to and including the water meter, but anything beyond the water meter is the responsibility of the property owner. 

Ashland Fire & Rescue
Ashland Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) staff recently met with the administration for the Siskiyou School in order to assist the school in developing a consistent, streamlined and thorough emergency preparedness plan. The school has been utilizing a generic form, but will now make necessary updates and exercise the plan. The school also plans to send at least two representatives to CERT’s fall basic training and additionally is considering offering all staff a training session in the upcoming school year during an in-service day. The fall CERT training will take place in October. To register contact Ashland CERT at 541-552-2226, or cert@ashland.or.us.
Staff from Ashland Fire & Rescue is part of a task force assigned to the Canyon Creek Complex fire near John Day. The Canyon Creek Complex is currently estimated at 48,201 acres. It is the number one priority nationally for resources, with some 649 personnel assigned to this incident. Yesterday, firefighters set hose lines in the northeast corner of the fire as a contingency should winds shift and again push the fire towards homes located there.

Today, firefighters are concentrating limiting the fire's expansion and protecting houses and private lands.  Recent weather patterns are expected to continue with afternoon winds generating increased fire activity.
Below is a photo which includes two of the AF&R staff members currently working on the Canyon Creek Complex. Firefighter/ Paramedic Ron Garfas-Knowles (third from the left) and Captain/Paramedic Todd Stubbs (fourth from the left).

Thank you to all the firefighters currently fighting the numerous fires in the Pacific Northwest!

Parks & Recreation
Here are some highlights of recent or upcoming Parks and Recreation Department activities:

  • The Parks and Recreation Department is finalizing its new Advertising and Sponsorship policy, which is set to be implemented in the fall.
  • The Daniel Meyer Pool is still open, and is expected to be closing in early September. On average there have been 74 recreational swimmers and 26 lap swimmers per day this season.
  • The North Mountain Park Nature Center exhibit room mural project is nearly complete, with assistance from artist Jenna Kesgen.
  • Bear Creek Greenway Trail has had a bit of facelift with new signs, a pruning of brush, and the removal of a 100' x 5' section of puncture vine.  Staff also rebuilt three bollards along the Ashland section of the Greenway.
  • The Japanese Garden Gateway boulder installation was completed.
  • Parks staff is currently working on a new Oak Knoll Golf Course cart path construction project.
  • Parks staff continues to monitor and adjust water consumption in Parks and City landscapes and due to their efforts as of July, irrigation in those areas has decreased by 30% or more in some locations. 
  • North Mountain Park field is getting some maintenance in preparation for the fall soccer season.
  • Both the Hunter Park tennis court and the Garfield Park basketball court are being prepped for crack sealing.​

Information Technology Department
The Information Systems (IS) Division has completed a major upgrade and relocation of City applications and hardware systems. The systems were consolidated from multiple obsolete, standalone computers to a centralized, modern Virtual Machine (VM) environment. The VM environment allows the sharing of hardware resources across multiple applications. The City’s VM environment provides the City with a lower cost of operation, better utilization of assets and a more reliable and resilient application environment.

The IS Division also completed the installation of a new City network firewall. The firewall is the first line of defense for the City’s network against the “outside” world. The new firewall replaces four outdated and underpowered devices simplifying management and further reducing operating costs. The new firewall not only provides the City with secure, fast access to the Internet but also allows the City to provide advanced security services. The Police Department’s secure connection to the Oregon State law enforcement databases (WebLEDS) is a prime example of the secure services supported by the new equipment.
Around the City the IS Division has:
  • Completed the installation of a new wireless access point in the Siskiyou Conference Room improving the speed and reliability of the network service for Council Study Sessions as well as other City meetings.
  • Installed new fiber and cooper network connectivity at Hosler Dam and the Water Treatment Plant to support the security cameras in those areas.
  • Installed a “femtocell” device at the Water Treatment Plant. The “femtocell” equipment provides, for the first time, cellular voice and data service in and around the Water Treatment Plant. The technology tunnels cellular voice/data communications through the City network, out to the Internet, and from there to Verizon’s communications network.
  • Brought on-line the fiber delivering telemetry data from the Waste Water pumping stations operating around the City.
  • Installed a new point-of-sale system at the Golf Course Pro shop. IS also updated the golf course’s automated irrigation system allowing the Park’s staff to more efficiently control irrigation via iPads while on the course.
  • Installed a new storage array (group of individual hard drives acting as a single pool of storage) in the data center. The storage array provides much needed additional data storage and will allow the City to streamline the backup/disaster recovery process.
Board and Commission Updates
Housing and Human Services Commission
The Affordable Housing Trust Fund subcommittee met with staff on Monday to discuss needed resources, and to brainstorm next steps to bring back to the full Commission for approval regarding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund charge. The subcommittee will propose four action steps to the full Commission for feedback and approval. Action steps include: an outreach questionnaire to eligible applicants regarding potential activities and funding gap needs; a review of the City's Housing Needs Analysis to look at data on housing needs; a review of project pro formas for recent affordable housing new construction and acquisition rehab projects to better understand project costs; and lastly, a review of existing trust fund leverage calculations and determination of a funding amount formula. These items will be discussed at the regular Housing and Human Services Commission meeting in September.
Planning Commission
At its August meeting, the Planning Commission approved a joint application by the City and Independent Printing Company (IPCO) to construct a new street (Independent Way) crossing Hamilton Creek and providing a connection between Washington Street and Tolman Creek Road. In conjunction with this request, driveway locations, rough grading and preliminary utility locations were also approved to lay the groundwork, literally, for eventual development of the remainder of the private property. This project represents a lengthy effort by Public Works staff to develop a plan for the new street that was agreeable to the private property owners, that did not conflict with established uses already in place on the property, and that still sought to meet city standards. After site visits and initial discussions before the Planning Commission in July, the project came back with revisions addressing all concerns raised by staff and commissioners and was unanimously approved. This new street will provide a vital link recommended by the Transportation System Plan that will improve safety, circulation, as well as access to the Jefferson/Washington employment area.
Normal Neighborhood Plan
The Ashland Planning Commission held public hearings on the Normal Neighborhood Plan on Tuesday July 28, and August 11. The commission reviewed the Normal Plan Working Group changes and unanimously recommended approval of the final plan with a number of specific amendments. The plan and recommendations are to be presented to the City Council at a public hearing on Tuesday September 1. Materials to be presented to the City Council are available online at www.ashland.or.us/normalplan.​

Previous Updates:

August 14, 2015

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