October 16, 2015

There are a number of interesting articles to share with you this week. First, given the recent focus on downtown behavior issues in Ashland and the upcoming study session and Council meeting at which this will be dealt with, it’s worth noting that this is a national problem and that other jurisdictions are just as flummoxed as we are in terms of solutions. This article from Governing Magazine discusses the problem with trying to regulate panhandling, while this second article, also from Governing, discusses the problem of “travelers.” I had a lengthy chat this week with the city manager of Santa Cruz, which has taken many, many measures to deal with this (virtually none of which would be legal or constitutional in Oregon) and he reports mixed success at best and a perceived increase in the number of travelers in town.
And just to show that it’s not just modern art that can be controversial, here’s an article from the Boston Globe about protests in front of a Renoir exhibit. (The protesters believe Renoir was just a lousy artist and that his work shouldn’t be displayed in the museum. Personally, I like Renoir a lot.)
Finally, here’s an article from Oregon Business magazine that talks about tourism as a business recruitment tool. It doesn’t specifically mention Ashland, but it’s certainly pertinent to our economic development efforts.
LATE BULLETIN:  It looks like we’ll be getting an air quality monitor in Ashland at no cost to the City. I will nail down details and have a report for the Council at the Monday, October 19 study session.

Administrative Services
Kudos to City and Parks employees, the Safety Committee and Risk Management for stellar work at making Ashland a safe work environment. The City has received a .69 experience rating modification (ERM) from the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, reflecting a great record relating to preventing workplace accidents. Anything less than 1.0 means a good track record. Previously the City had a very good .84 ERM for years. The .69 rating is outstanding and likely to be a first for City and Parks. Insurers use ERM as a measure for setting Worker’s Compensation premiums. Ashland is self-insured for Worker’s Comp, so the ERM reflects something we already knew by virtue of our relatively low claims volume. 

Public Works Department
Early in the morning on Thursday this week, the Street Division of the Public Works Department responded to a call of a dead animal on North Main St. This is not at all uncommon, but what they found when they arrived was very unusual. Typically, crews find a deer or raccoon that’s been hit by a passing vehicle. This time, however, they found a large bird, face down, on the side of the road. They quickly realized it was a large owl and it wasn’t dead, but it wasn’t doing well. The responding crew realized if they left it, it would only be a matter of time before something bad happened. Even though the crew was not prepared to deal with a live wild animal, they were unwilling to leave the owl alone. They very carefully wrapped the owl in a sweatshirt and brought back to the Public Works’ service center to determine what to do next.

When the crew got the owl inside where they could see better, they realized it had a swollen left eye and there was some blood on its beak but it didn’t appear to have any other injuries. This was fairly early in the morning so staff was unable to contact anyone locally to help determine what condition the owl was in.  They put the owl in a large box and one crewmember drove it to Wildlife Images in Grants Pass.  When the owl was first discovered, no one was sure if it would survive, especially as it was very lethargic and barely put up any resistance when wrapped in the sweatshirt. By the time it got to Wildlife Images the owl seemed to be doing better. It was much more active and putting up a little bit of a fight, so everyone is hopeful it can make a full recovery and be returned to the area where it was found.
Here’s an update on the Iron Mike statue project from the Storm Lake (Iowa) Pilot-Tribune:  http://www.stormlakepilottribune.com/story/2240984.html

Electric Department
As part of a monthly safety program, the Electric Utility linemen recently participated in annual pole top rescue training. The annual refresher requires use of climbing and rescue equipment and, as can be seen in the picture at the left, the use of a fully configured (tools, safety equipment, etc.) life size/weight mannequin. The annual exercise is extremely important for the linemen. If a lineman were to ever need to perform a pole top rescue of an injured coworker, time and safety are both critical. In addition to burns, electrical shock may lead to heart arrhythmia and/or stopped breathing. In these situations, it is critical the victim be brought down to safety and administered aid as quickly as possible, seconds count. The annual training keeps the procedure fresh and the rescue skills honed.

The Department has been very busy with projects. In combination with the railroad work at Oak Street, three crew members delivered and helped place an eighty-foot section of fourteen-inch steel pipe at the Oak Street rail crossing site. The pipe is being used to traverse the railroad right-of-way, thereby avoiding right-of-way usage charges. The pipe will be used to convert an existing three-phase overhead line to underground.

Electric crews are also upgrading the distribution system infrastructure serving SOU. The upgrade of the distribution system provides SOU with an alterative route for delievery of power. The alternative delivery path path provides the University with an even more reliable energy service. The project, centered along Siskiyou Blvd. at Ashland St., required new (larger capacity) conductor and the reconfiguration of switching and metering points. The new conductor is in the air and the project was completed October 1.

In the downtown area, in coordination with Public Works, crews installed new conduit (for both electric and City data) across Oak St. and E. Main St. to the base of Chautauqua Way. The work is part of the final phase of the Oak Street feeder project started last year. The underground extension provides an important upgrade of the infrastructure feeding OSF and has the added benefit of providing an alternate source of power (separate feeder) to the downtown plaza area. The work to the top of Chautauqua way will begin in November with project completion expected in February of 2016.

The Mountain Ave. substation was taken out of service by BPA the first week in October. The City’s two remaining substations (owned by Pacific Corp) made up the difference while Mountain Ave. was off-line. The planned outage of the substation allowed BPA to test and perform routine maintenance on their large transformer and other related substation equipment. BPA also installed additional counter measures to deter raccoons and other animals from climbing the equipment and potentially causing outages (as the City experienced once this past summer). The outage also provided the opportunity for city crews to repair a series of hot spots in the equipment located at Mountain Ave. The hot spots had been previously identified with the Department’s new Flir thermal imaging camera.

The department recently received the following kudos from one of our citizens.

Sent: Monday, October 12, 2015 5:45 PM
To: Thomas McBartlett III
Cc: Dave Tygerson
Subject: pole and serv trans 698 ashlnd st

the pole install and service transfer at 698 ashland street was done with the utmost professionalism and efficiency last friday. i would personally like to thank rick, lonnie, ken and john for their hard work, focus and attention to detail. (also, to the crew that accompanied them after lunch including dave from the tree department). these guys showed an unwavering love for their work and were a pleasure to work with. they are a true piece of americana at its finest. and daves input and consultation proved invaluable in the overall scope of the job; setting the pole was definitely the right decision. it came out unbelievable and its purpose allows for easy service and future options (w/ re to running service underground). i also want to thank you tom for your time and patience and ultimately making the right call for all concerned. if i can ever be of service to you and your department, please do not hesitate to call.

Fire Department
Chief John Karns was awarded an Honorary Life Membership by the Ashland Chamber last week at its annual awards dinner. Since Chief Karns’ arrival in Ashland, he has become very engaged with the community, including personal membership in the Chamber. The Chamber is appreciative of his leadership in making the community better prepared for disasters and community involvement. Congratulations, Chief and thanks for your commitment to this community!
Ashland CERT recently graduated twenty-one new trainees. Included in the graduates were three SOU students and one teenager accompanied by his father. Many of the graduates brought family and friends to the graduation ceremony, which prompted them to sign up for the next course in 2016. Several of the grads have already signed up for future training opportunities and have an interest in completing a Map Your Neighborhood gathering where they live. The final simulation in the CERT training brought a new partnership in the form of two Young Marines troops acting as victim volunteers. CERT staff look forward to working with them in the future and providing the youngsters with disaster medical first aid training as well. 
Two fourth graders rode to school on a fire engine with Ashland Fire & Rescue during Fire Prevention Week for winning the Fire Prevention Week essay contest. “Hear the Beep When You Sleep” was the theme and is a good reminder to go home and check your smoke alarms. Sky Smith from Willow Wind and Amaru Connor-Yure from Walker Elementary School both wrote great essays.
Below is Sky’s celebrity arrival at school with a proud mom.

Below is Sky with her engine company - Acting Captain Brent Knutson, Engineer Robert Stephens, and Firefighter/Paramedic Ron Garfus-Knowles.

On September 30th, Ravenwood Place was also officially recognized as Ashland’s 23rd Firewise Community.  Ashland is still leading the state in the number of Firewise Communities for a given area. The Fire Adapted Communities program has interfaced with more than 75 people in Ashland in past two weeks, providing educational materials about Ready, Set, Go! and Firewise Communities to 40 SOU students and 35 private landowners in Park Estates. In addition, Firewise posters and materials were on display at the Jackson County District #5 open house as well as the SOCAN-sponsored Climate Change Symposium in Medford.  The Fire Adapted Communities Coordinator, was interviewed on Channel 12 on Newswatch in the morning talking about fire season and giving tips to landowners as the seasons change.

Police Department
In the last week there has been some fairly significant engagement on the Police Department’s new Facebook page. It is turning into a great communication tool and APD will look for more ways to use it.
Last Saturday Chief O’Meara participated in the SO Pride parade. He stated, “It was actually a lot of fun and I am looking forward to doing again in the years to come.” Here is a picture of the Chief with some high school students from Crater Renaissance Academy and the Lotus Rising Project.

The department assisted the US Marshals locate and arrest a national fugitive on Clover Lane.
There was an incident of "upskirting" that occurred at the recycle center. After Police asked for the public's help in identifying the man he turned himself in and was charged today with that crime.
Officer Jason Billings was chosen as the employee of the quarter for 3rd quarter of 2015.


Previous Updates:

September 18, 2015

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