Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Special Study Session

Thursday, March 18, 1999

March 18, 1999

Mayor Shaw called the meeting to order at 1:27 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.


Councilors Laws, Reid, Hauck, Hanson, Wheeldon, and Fine were present. Staff present included: City Administrator Mike Freeman, Assistant City Administrator Greg Scoles, Public Works Director Paula Brown, Director of Community Development John McLaughlin, and Fire Chief Keith Woodley.

City Administrator Mike Freeman gave an update on the process that began last June. Began with a conceptual framework for starting the planning process, looking at alternatives for station siting, and updating the space needs study that had been done previously. Noted that discussions with owners of adjacent properties began, and conceptual drawings were prepared. From that, there are two basic architect's renderings.

Explained that whatever option is chosen, it will not reduce the need to buy property adjacent to station #1, as even the smaller station design will not fit on the existing lot at station #1. Noted that the previous direction following Council discussion was to move ahead with stations to remain where they are, with an appraisal of the Blue Mountain Café to occur. The appraisal has been completed, and the property is valued at $380,000 to $400,000. Staff is now seeking direction of how to proceed from this point.

Staff recommends that the draft budget, which will be completed within the next two weeks, include funds to begin the construction of station #1, under the assumption that there will be some sort of debt issuance. Reminded Council that the estimate for station #1was $3.5-$4 million (including property acquisition, architectural fees, demolition, etc.) Station #2 is estimated at $2-$2.5 million as it is a smaller structure, and there is no land acquisition involved. Between now and the Council adoption of this year's budget, staff will look at all possible savings and bring back a figure for the total construction cost of station #1 for a bond issuance.

Wheeldon asked for verification that the neighboring property is in fact available. Laws suggested that discussion should not occur about property matters at this point, as it might endanger negotiations. Emphasized that this differs from the library in that there is no question that the fire station is in the optimal location for the City, and that the Fire Department is a requirement for the safety of the citizens of Ashland. Condemnation is a possibility here where it would not be for a library. Stated that there is not a need to go into detail here.

Scoles stated that conversations have occurred, and the property owners are aware of the situation, have allowed appraisers on the property, have been cooperative and have been willing to work with the City. Stated that there is no offer or deal on the table, but discussions have occurred with both the tenant and the owner. Noted the difficulty in negotiating when there has been no authorization to spend money.

Freeman confirmed for Hauck that the issue should be on the ballot at some point in the next fiscal year. Emphasized however, that if bonds are to be issued, it must be in the budget to spend. Without consensus on the priority for moving forward with this project, there is no reason to put this in the budget and take it to the Budget Committee. This is the last opportunity before the draft budget is prepared to discuss the Council's desire to include this item in the Capital Improvement Plan.

Council expressed their consensus to send this item before the Budget Committee. Laws confirmed that the figure for both stations would likely be $5.5-$5.6 over two or three years. Freeman noted that this was dependent on the bond timing, as both stations could not be demolished and built at once. Suggested that station #2 could be brought back for bond issuance in two years, after station #1 is complete.

Woodley stated that he has not yet given thought to what will be done during construction. Recognized that it will be problematic to run a station during demolition and construction, but stated that he has not wanted to begin planning for this until there are more complete details available. Council discussion of where to put fire station #1 during construction, noting that there will be a need to look at many alternatives.

Laws questioned the June 17, 1998 planning calendar which had suggested construction would begin this summer. Freeman stated that he feels that this project can move forward based on money in the current budget. Explained that Council had allotted $450,000 in the current budget for the fire station, and while some has already gone for the conceptual drawings there is money available to move forward.

Scoles noted for Wheeldon that while design details have not been chosen, the $3.5-$4 million estimates given take into account the potential differences in materials costs, size, site preparation, cost of the adjacent property, any public facility work, traffic signals, and etc.

Fine questioned whether staff was comfortable with the timeframe for getting this matter on the ballot in September, noting that the deadline for filing with the County Clerk would be July 22nd. Staff indicated that the November ballot was a more realistic option, and the extra time would allow for more careful and professional planning.

The meeting was adjourned to the continued meeting for a decision on the matter of expanding the library at 1:45 p.m.

The meeting was reconvened at 1:50 p.m.
Freeman presented the department work plans for the next fiscal year as previously requested by Councilor Laws. Noted that the department heads have listed current projects, and grouped them into three categories: Current Projects/Priorities That Will Continue into 1999-2000, Projects/Priorities Identified in the Draft Strategic Plan That Can be Accomplished, and Projects/Priorities in the Draft Strategic Plan that are Low Priority to My Department and Should be Completed at a Later Time.

Freeman suggested focusing on the items department heads believed could not be accomplished, and if Council disagrees with the stated priorities looking at how projects can be reorganized.

Freeman noted that for Administration and Administrative Services, the only recommendation he felt was a lower priority was holding joint study sessions with other government agencies in the region. Stated that given the difficulty in finding available times that work for the Council to get together for City business, he felt this could wait until later. Emphasized, however, that he would take advantage of any opportunities that presented themselves.

For Finance, there were no recommendations that could not be accomplished over the next year.

In Public Safety, the Police Department felt that investigating the need for the department to respond to high tech crimes could come at a later time.

The Fire Department did not feel that there were any projects in the plan that could not be accomplished.

Under the Electric Department, there were no items that could not be accomplished.

Freeman stated that the two departments most significantly impacted by the Strategic Plan recommendations were Public Works/Engineering and Engineering.

Public Works Director Paula Brown noted that her department is inundated with current projects, noting the Department Strategic and Training Plans, Wastewater Treatment Plant, Oak Street Traffic Calming, Airport Sewer Service, TID Agreement renegotiation, GIS System, RVTD Bus Shelters, Siskiyou Boulevard Improvements, Calle Guanajuato and Main Street Bridge improvements, and the Water Street Bridge. Stated that an implementation plan for the TAP intertie project is underway. Suggested that placing portable restrooms on the Calle would not be difficult, but that it has not been on the department's budget horizon.

Brown noted that discussions of the feasibility of jurisdictional transfers with ODOT and the County are progressing well, and may actually have positive effects in bringing in financing for bigger picture transportation issues. With regard to the use of technology to encourage citizen participation, which is an item being lead by Administration, there is a need for Public Works staff time to get information out to the public. Discussed the GIS system as an element of this item, noting that this would be a means of providing information to the public at a public computer station or over the internet. With regard to finalizing the riparian ordinance, there is some staff time involved to assist Planning with this item. Also stated that because there some critical functions centered in Public Works, Y2K readiness will require some staff time. In terms of lower priority items, Brown recommended having a consultant look at transit service issues in cooperation with Planning Department efforts.

Wheeldon asked for clarification, noting that her expectation on the item listed as "transit" was that a comprehensive transportation survey would be conducted by a consultant, addressing all modes of transportation. Suggested that this was a first step in addressing community parking concerns. Freeman stated that he felt the downtown parking item and the transit analysis were separate items, and that staff proposed looking at the parking piece first as both could not be undertaken at once given workloads. Wheeldon stated that in order to address parking, information on transportation use in the City is a necessary first step. Stated that her belief was that this survey would be the City's primary effort toward addressing parking this fiscal year.

Freeman read the transit and parking items from the strategic plan for clarification. Wheeldon stated that she didn't feel it was effective to analyze transit service without also looking at the bicycle and pedestrian portion of transportation issues around the community. Explained that she didn't believe such a survey would be conducted by Public Works, and that it could be handled by an outside firm. Wheeldon concluded that parking could not be fully addressed until habits of the community and options were known. Staff suggested that the Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCOG) would be an excellent resource in this area, as they have done this type of research in the area, and a survey would be relatively easy. Hauck stated that relatively current information already exists. Councilors Laws and Hauck agreed with the need to look at other transportation modes. Freeman stated that he would schedule a future study session to design a survey.

Director of Community Development John McLaughlin noted that fully one third of staff time is spent on planning actions and two thirds of staff time is spent on projects. Cited the Tolman Creek Road Neighborhood Plan as an example, noting that after the consultant makes their recommendation, it will return to staff and go through the adoption process with the Planning Commission and the Council, and making the necessary ordinance and zoning changes, followed by initiating the implementation of improvements which may involve an LID process. Stated that the update to the Downtown Plan, relative to parking, will require additional resources in the form of additional staff or a consultant.

McLaughlin asked for Council clarification on some of the lower priority items including the "smart growth" program. Emphasized that the ideas of smart growth are being incorporated into current actions, but staff is uncertain how the Council wants to see these ideas put into a separate program. Suggested that perhaps this item could be worked on with the Conservation Commission in their discussions of sustainability.

McLaughlin noted that there is some confusion over design standards and ordinances, as some community members are expressing frustration with their effects on business recruitment and economic development while others are expressing just the opposite sentiment. Suggested that at some point the design standards may need to be looked at, but stated that this would be a fairly lengthy and involved process.

McLaughlin questioned addressing the undeveloped railroad property in the coming year, given the other projects on Community Development's list and the priority of addressing downtown parking needs.

McLaughlin noted that two items raised by Brown (transit services and the bike trail/sidewalk master plan) were on the radar screen, but that he was uncertain where they could be fit in time-wise in the coming year. Wheeldon questioned whether these items were already at least partially included in the Transportation Systems Plan, and whether there was any way that the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission could play some initial role in these items. Council discussion, indicating that this was a good idea to be considered.

McLaughlin stated that the living wage ordinance may happen fairly quickly, noting that a local group is looking into this issue and will likely bring information to Council and staff in the near future.

Laws suggested bringing these departmental work plans back to the Council for adoption at an upcoming meeting, except for the low priority items, with the understanding that these might be accomplished by people other than staff or incorporated into other projects.

Hauck suggested that these items might be included in the "Post 2000" category, and that time be allowed for a decision on items that might be dropped at the Council meeting.

Laws does not want to see this year's Strategic Plan elements made more important than last year's goals.

Wheeldon questioned what departments have time to do currently. Suggested a presentation six months down the road to update the Council about progress toward goals, and emphasized that she did not want to adopt more goals than could realistically be accomplished by staff. Noted the need for staff to keep Council apprized on progress in meeting these goals, and the need to reconsider prioritization if anything is to be added to staff workloads.

Freeman noted the November 3, Council communication which set the stage for the Strategic Planning process, explained that the last two pieces in this process are implementation and reporting. Emphasized that Council would be kept up to date on the progress made in meeting these planned goals.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:20 p.m.

Submitted by Barbara Christensen, City Recorder/Treasurer

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