September 18, 2015
I met today with Rick Graw of the U.S. Forest Service to discuss placing a year-round air quality monitor in Ashland and it looks very promising. I think it’s fair to say he is supportive of placing the monitor here but needs to coordinate with the Department of Environmental Quality and the Bureau of Land Management to determine where a monitor will come from. We scouted locations at Fire Station 1 (that’s him and Fire Chief John Karns on the roof of the station) and identified at least two places where the monitor could go. A question remains as to whether we will have to pay for ongoing maintenance. We should have a decision by the end of this month. In the meantime, the Forest Service has removed the air quality monitor that had been loaned to the Shakespeare Festival this summer, so air quality readings for Ashland are no longer available on the Western Regional Climate Center web site.
As noted in last week’s update, Ashland is by no means the only city struggling with the problem of transients and their disruptive behaviors. The Oregonian offered this editorial earlier this week regarding the ongoing problems in Portland’s north park blocks.
Public Works Department
Talent Irrigation District has informed us that they will keep the water flowing to Ashland until September 28th. We had shut down the back side of the TID ditch several days ago in anticipation of the water being cut off and to test a new pump station at Terrace Street, but with this latest news from TID, we will re-start the water to the back side on Monday.
This week crews from both the Water and Wastewater divisions of the Public Works Department began working on a project in conjunction with the Electric Department. Last year the Electric Department extended conduit up Oak Street and across Lithia Way, ending near the corner of East Main and Oak St. The conduit will eventually extend across East Main and up the Chautauqua Walk to supply new electrical service to the area. Any projects that involve working on or across East Main create extra challenges, so a coordinated effort between the Public Works and Electric is necessary to overcome these challenges.
The biggest challenge is the traffic. East Main at Oak Street is one of the busiest locations in town for both vehicles and pedestrians. It’s vital to create a safe means of travel while allowing appropriate space to conduct the work. Another challenge at that location is the large number of underground utilities. In the three lanes that need to be crossed, there are water, sewer, electrical, natural gas, storm drain and phone lines that must be crossed without being damaged. Because of all the utilities and the potential for damage, Public Works crews began on Wednesday ‘potholing’ the area to determine exactly where these utilities are located.
Potholing is a process used to safely expose underground utilities. The first step is to call for locates. The companies responsible for the underground utilities (including City departments) then have 48 hours to come out to locate and mark the location of their utilities. They mark the location using various colors of paint, with different colors identifying different utilities. For example, blue is water and green is sewer. Once the locates have been completed, staff have a pretty good idea of the location of the utilities but not a good idea of the depth. Some of these utilities have been in the ground for decades, so information on depth is not always accurate. Once located, the asphalt or concrete is removed in the expected location and a Jet/Vac truck is used to vacuum out the material over the top of the utilities. The Jet/Vac is essentially an industrial strength vacuum with a pressure washing system, primarily used for cleaning sewer lines. The crews wash and vacuum away the material to expose the utilities without causing damage. The newly exposed utilities help staff to determine the safest and most efficient route for the new conduit to be placed.
The next step in installing the conduit is trenching, which staff expect to begin within the next couple weeks. The Water and Wastewater crews will be doing the digging, Electric and AFN crews will be installing conduit and the Street Division will repair the road surface. The project should take less than two weeks to complete once work starts. There will be temporary lane closures in the area, but the road will remain open throughout the project.
On Saturday, September 12, AF&R conducted its 3rd annual Ashland Is Ready (AIR) citizen emergency preparedness workshop at SOU’s Stevenson Union. Preparedness information was delivered to 400 citizens of Southern Oregon. At the end of the workshop each participant received a 72-hour emergency kit. Dr. Althea Rizzo of the Office of Emergency Management presented seismic risk and safety information. Our very own Electric Utility Foreman Dave Tygerson, Police Chief Tighe O’Meara and Christine Daoust (spouse of Police Officer Jason Daoust), helped out as well. CERT volunteers were tremendously helpful in assisting with the AIR event.
Ashland Fire & Rescue also provided training for the incoming 2015-16 Southern Oregon University Resident Assistants (RAs), including fire and life safety on campus. About 90 RAs participated in this training. This is an annual event that helps prepare the RAs for the upcoming school year.
On Thursday, several members of the department met with Chinese police officers who are in Ashland for training. This is the third time a group has come from China to train on helicopter-borne rescue techniques with a local company that operates out of the Ashland Municipal Airport. Officers traded shoulder patches and took pictures together.
APD is set to launch a Facebook page next week. Medford PD has had tremendous success with Facebook as a means to gather tips and information from the public, and to push crimestopper tips out to the public. We hope to duplicate their success here in Ashland.
Due to a recent resignation and in order to maintain minimum staffing, APD will temporarily pull its detective back from Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement team. The department will re-engage its MADGE participation after staffing stabilizes.
Last Friday an off-duty officer intervened in a shoplifting/strong-arm robbery as it occurred at Albertson's. (Who says there is never a cop around when you need one?)
On September 17th, staff attended the Jackson County Homeless Task Force planning retreat to update the 10-year plan to end homelessness. Member organizations went through the six strategies to end homelessness identified in the 10-year plan adopted by the Jackson County Commissioners in 2009 and identified actions that took place this program year in support of those strategies. Highlighted were actions taken toward agency coordination and service integration, including integration of health care and social services driven by new programs instituted through the Community Care Organizations (CCOs). Similarly, CCOs are funding new supports for vulnerable populations such as temporary housing for the homeless after surgical procedures and funding to support community health workers that can assist populations with a wide variety of needs including navigating and coordinating all aspects of the healthcare system. The Housing Authority of Jackson County highlighted the "Bridges" program, which is a pilot program that assists families transitioning from addictions recovery programs/housing and who have active child welfare cases, to transition into and maintain stable housing. This partnership between HAJC, DHS Child Welfare Division and On-track is designed to stabilize families and is new to our county. The latter half of the retreat was devoted to planning and strategy development for the coming year. HTF members reviewed demographics on the County's homeless populations and available resources in relation to the changing priorities for funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the State of Oregon. The one year accomplishments on the six strategies, identified gaps and proposed activities for the coming year will be compiled into a booklet and presented to the Jackson County Commissioners.
Board and Commission Updates
The Historic Commission held a study session on September 17 to discuss the impact of changes to exterior materials and architectural features (e.g., siding, windows, and porches) to historic contributing structures in the City’s historic districts. The Commissioners performed visual surveys of the four locally and nationally designated historic districts and described their observations at the meeting. In general, the most prevalent modifications observed were incompatible siding and window replacements. In particular, architectural features such as historic exterior window crowns, sills, and trim being modified or removed with the installation of contemporary siding. The Commission also discussed the homogenization of the historic structures when the variety of smooth wood siding of varying widths, bevels and exposures is replaced with contemporary fiber board siding. The Commission discussed the costs and potential complications for property owners involved with restoration of siding and original windows such as lead paint and asbestos removal. The Commission reviewed and discussed potential standards and a review process for the replacement of exterior materials and architectural features on structures designated as historic contributing and agreed to continue the discussion to a future meeting.