Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Special Meeting

Thursday, June 08, 2006

These Minutes are preliminary pending approval by Council
at the June 20, 2006 City Council Meeting.

June 8, 2006
Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street

Mayor Morrison called the meeting to order at 5:15 p.m.
Attendance: Councilor Jackson, Silbiger, Chapman and Hartzell. Councilor Amarotico was absent.

1.  Discussion of RVTD contract and Route 5 costs.
City Administrator Martha Bennett gave brief overview of the system in place and noted the question of why we have transit in our community and what are we trying to achieve with this service. She noted the current system that helps to relieve our dependency on auto and the goals of having a service that is convenient, promotes ridership and provides transit for those in need. She stated that staff tried to analyze the actions and options based on these goals.

Ms. Bennett stated that the city does a good job of achieving these goals, but financially it is not possible to meet all of these goals. Staff is requesting direction from council on which of these goals is most the important.

Management Analyst Ann Seltzer presented to the council three options based on the goals and the estimated costs associated.

Current Program
• Keep Route 5 and continue to provide free fare to Ashland
• 15 minute service
• $535,000

Option 1
• Keep Route 5 and subsidize reduced fare at 50% ($1 for fixed route and $2 for valley lift), bill city for actual ridership
• 15 minute service
• Assuming 10% drop in riders $330,912; 20% drop in rider $298,556; 30% drop in riders $266,200

Option 2
• Eliminate Route 5 and subsidize free fare
• 30 minute service

Option 3
• Eliminate Route 5 subsidize ($190,000 to street fund) free fare passes with $100,000
• 30 minute service

Ms. Seltzer noted related issues that cannot be resolved over a short period of time, but need to be explored over time. Some of these issues included no participation by Southern Oregon University, the issue of Mountain Meadows being outside the ¾ service, exploring alternative transportation models for smaller communities through MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization), the need for transit routes that extend into neighborhoods, hospital, etc., the need to continue easing congestion and parking and the Federal regulation that requires equal service district wide.

Councilor Jackson agreed with the idea of contracting with a different transit service entity to provide transit service within the city. Councilor Hartzell requested that the council focus on the immediate concerns and suggested a modification of Option 2 which would charge a minimum of $1 for either the bus or Valley Lift. She is interested in option b under option 2 and to look for some reasonable revenue sources.

Councilor Silbiger noted that convenience of service is good but not as important as having the service, to eliminate route 5 with $1 fare and help subsidize the Valley Lift. He also suggested providing regular use passes for residents.

Mayor agreed that convenience does not rank as high as meeting the needs for those that have no transportation. He recommended Option #1 which eliminates route 5 and subsidizing the fare.

Ms. Seltzer clarified for the council that the options being considered are workable options with Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD). She also noted that Option #1 includes RVTD billing the city for actual ridership which would allow flexibility on the commitment of the city for actual dollars in an annual contract. The billing on this could be done either monthly or quarterly.

Councilor Silbiger commented on how the bus does not cost any more to run based on the number of riders and that charging a fare would discourage more ridership. He suggested that the city determine a flat dollar amount for the year which does not rely on the percentage of ridership.

Ms. Bennett explained that RVTD was counting the cost of operating the bus and the cost of loss fare revenue. She asked them not to do this, as the city should not be charged on both ends. She noted that Valley Lift is a variable cost but that route 5 is a fixed cost.

Councilor Hartzell suggested that the council make one decision one at a time, either to retain or get rid of route 5 and allowing a task force to look at or modify it a later date. She suggests eliminating route 5 and that it become a component of where they start. It was determined that there were additional questions by council before a decision on this could be made at this time in the meeting.

Don Laws/968 Hillview Drive/Noted that route 5 and 10 go opposite directions and that eliminating route 5 would affect the amount of time spent on the bus. He stated that this is a matter of convenience but that it is a considerable difference in how much time would be spent on the bus.

Mat Marr/31 Union Street/Stated that it is not a matter of convenience but a matter of use and noted that he does not own a car and that route 5 is very convenient. He stated that that paying $1 for the 15 minutes service is worth it and that it is a matter of use and use will drop. Mr. Marr explained that it takes a long to time to develop patterns and if there is a change it would be difficult later to rebuild these patterns. He commented on how important these routes are to the school systems to be able to utilize a bus service that is convenient. He suggested that the council consider using route 5 during the peak utilization time. He urged the council to do as much as they can to make means, other than cars, feasible to get around. Even if mass transit is not supporting itself right now, that we create an info-structure in the long term that continues to move in this direction.

Marge Sutton/989 Golden Aspen Place/Voiced her concern with the issues regarding service to the Mountain Meadows area and supported re-routing to include Hersey Street and N. Mountain. She felt that this would solve the problem regarding lift service and make it easier for those that are able bodied to catch the bus.

Madeline Hill/828 Boulder Creek Lane/Spoke regarding the importance of Valley Lift program and that the operative word is "lift." She is concerned with who would be able to transport wheelchair bound individuals if Valley Lift were to go away.

It was clarified for Ms. Hill that the federal regulation of within ¾ mile is a "minimum" and that it is RVTD's choice to make this service available.

Councilor Jackson noted that the tax rate received by RVTD is $287,000 for route 10 and questioned if RVTD does pass sales anywhere else. It was clarified that RVTD does sell passes but that their passes are not in reduced form. She commented on her support for peak hours, but that this would need to be considered in the long term decision. Ms. Jackson voiced her support of Option #1 which would keep route 5 for the reasons that Mr. Marr and Mr. Laws pointed out and for the stability of pattern. She would like to work out the reduced fare subsidy with Option #1.

It was clarified that the tax rate pays for base service, which is route 10, but not the free fare portion of Ashland.

Councilor Hartzell requested that if any of route 5 is kept, to keep it at peak times and provide the amount of how much this would cost. Councilor Jackson noted the difficulty of providing this information within 30 days.

Staff noted that they had not been able to find any information on Portland's "fare free zone" and "para transit." Councilor Chapman felt that this information is important to him. He suggested free passes for Ashland and offered ways that this could be administrated.

Ms. Bennett stated that the choice for the council is to either to offer free fare or keep route 5, there is no money in the budget to do both. That even if council were to consider a "peak time" bus route, that the cost associated with this would be higher than they would expect.

Councilor Silbiger noted that option #1 provides for the most for the money with the least amount of disruption. Ms. Seltzer noted that the best case scenario would be a 10% drop in riders if $1 is charged the amount that the city may have to subsidize is around $42,000 over a year. If the city is billed for actual ridership, it will assess what our ridership is and allow the city time to explore other revenue streams.

Councilor Chapman stated that the key is determining which option will lose most riders and voiced his concern that there is no data to help make this decision.

Mayor commented that if route 5 is eliminated, it is important to have predictability in order for riders to count on a system and use it. He voiced his concern with a fare that goes from zero to $4 for a one-way ride. Councilor Hartzell also voiced her concern over charging a fare and noted the difficulty it will be on low and medium income families to pay bus fare for their school age students. She stated that it would be easier to adjust time than it is to find the money. Ms. Seltzer did note that RVTD does offer discounted fares for youth and regular single riders.

Councilor Jackson/Silbiger m/s to choose Option 1 with further refinements to be mad on how the subsidy works. DISCUSSION: Councilor Hartzell stated that the city cannot afford to do this for citizens. Roll Call vote; Jackson, Silbiger, YES; Chapman, Hartzell, NO; Mayor, NO. Motion denied 3-2.

Councilor Chapman/Hartzell m/s to eliminate route 5. Roll Call Vote: Jackson, Silbiger, NO; Chapman, Hartzell, YES; Mayor, YES. Motion passed 3-2.

Councilor Hartzell made proposal that staff come back with an option c under option #2 that we look at a subsidy of .50 for fixed rate and $1 for Valley Lift. Ms. Bennett offered to come back with a fare structure that balances to the $290,000 which would indicate what the fare would need to be.

Councilor Hartzell/Chapman m/s ask staff to return with a proposed structure that subsidizes the fixed route and valley lift with the funds that we have. Roll Call vote: Jackson, Silbiger, Chapman, Hartzell, YES. Motion passed.

Councilor added that she understands the logic for retaining route 5 and sees this as an interim option. She would like the council to look at bringing route 5 back as quickly as possible.

Direction to staff is to set up a meeting with RVTD to move forward on related issues that would include exploring peak hours.

2. Discussion of Amendments to the 2004 Oregon Fire Code.
Chief Keith Woodley briefly explained that staff had been directed to look at those amendments that the local community chose not to adopt and to look at the general fire department requirements on hillside development lands as well as the rest of the city, with the intent of determining any gaps or community fire protection being compromised.

Division Chief Marguerite Hickman presented analysis and pictures of various areas of the city that will help illustrate the findings. These problems illustrated street width in hillside areas, foot access to homes, fire flow issues, signage on streets, narrow streets, dead end streets and drives, fire apparatus turnarounds, measurement around structure as it is required to be within 150 feet from the fire apparatus, driveways serving up to three homes, addressing of units, identification and familiarity with fire protection systems and appliances, and fire hazardous vegetation.

Ms. Hickman noted the proposed vegetation management for a code adoption. She stated that these are the type of landscapes that they are looking at to modify in the future because it is poses a high fire risk type with the junipers.

Staff suggested code amendments, code enforcement in several areas including parking, inspection during and or after the completion of projects, and a review of "no parking" signs and if there are more areas where they should be placed.

Councilor Hartzell voiced her support of the suggestions made by staff and proposed going further. She shared past conversation that she had with Ms. Hickman, where Ms. Hickman indicated that seven feet street width was not adequate for trucks and mirrors and SUV's. That three of the four homes destroyed by fire in the past were started by fires outside the home and that sprinklers would not have been helpful and yet our water flow is less than the state standard. Ms. Hartzell had asked the Fire Chief what his top 10 things would be to increase fire safety in town and he had indicated two. One was to deal with the gallon per minute requirement and two was the 150 foot turnaround, of which we are less than the state requirement because we allow turnarounds to happen every 250 feet.

Chief Woodley explained that it is a flow problem. The state requirement is 1,000 and the city's requirement is 750.

Councilor Hartzell also noted that enforcement is also an issue.

Chief Woodley stated that one of the mitigations that they are looking at is to look at the issue of fires starting outside the building and burn into them, is the vegetation. The community has recognized the types of vegetation that are highly flammable, but have not embraced the problem of those plantings that have been created into new developments. The vegetation ordinance that is being proposed is designed to get at this problem and to restrict the use of plant material that is highly flammable.

He explained that the problem with the gallons per minute is problematic. The community will have to take a look at the impact of changing from 1,000 to 750 and how it would have on the ability to issue building permits. There are many areas in the city, not only in hillside areas that have four inch water mains that were installed in the 1930's to 50's and the hydrants won't deliver 1,000 gallons per minute. They are more likely to deliver 750 - 800 gallons per minute. Applying these standards to these areas could restrict building in areas where we have not considered to be accumulative impact on hillside fire safety issues that we are concerned with.

Chief Woodley was asked if 750 gallons per minute would be adequate to fight a fire. He answered that the engines capacity is to pump 1,500 but that there are factors that need to be considered. If there is sprinkler system in the home, it would reduce the amount of water needing to be pumped by 50-75%. If there is no sprinkler system, but the building is properly compartmentalized and it is not a 6,500-7,000 sq. foot home, 750 to 1,000 gallons per minute could probably handle it. Ms. Hickman explained that starting at 3,600 sq. feet, 1,500 gallons per minute is required and it continues to go up incrementally based on the size of the structure. This is what will regulate home large a home can be built and is what is currently in the city code.

Chief Woodley stated that the fire department has over time absorbed some difficulties in regards to their ability to provide fire protection in order to allow developments to go into existing neighborhoods. He commented that they are following community direction.

Councilor Hartzell stated that one of the other costs of planning the way it was decided to plan was spending enough on enforcement.

Chief Woodley explained that they have tried to educate the council and the planning commission about the trade-offs required in the some of the past choices made. He explained issues regarding alley access and the problems associated with these.

Ms. Hickman further clarified that after this year's code adoption process they had been in touch with the State Fire Marshall's office and they have identified that both of the code issues that have been adopted that were less restrictive are appropriate for a local jurisdiction to make this decision. They also cited that the turnaround was appropriate due to the laws related to land use planning and that the reduction in fire flow was appropriate because there is an Oregon State Statute or is within the fire code that gives local jurisdictions the ability to do this. Council asked that staff provide a written rationale for doing this.

Ms. Bennett noted that we should match up wherever they have fire code problems with whatever water replacement programs Public Works has in place. Chief Woodley stated that they have this data they could provide to the council on what neighborhoods would be affected.

Staff was directed to bring back proposals to a regular council meeting where action could take place on these amendments. Council requested information on development opportunities and the impact of not changing back to a more stringent code on existing houses.

3. Discussion of AFN Operating Goals.
IT Director Joe Franell presented goals for AFN as the following priorities: 1) Regain and then maintain infrastructure health and reliability, 2) Maintain existing internet customer base (transitional goal), 3) grow the customer base and 4) Operate at a profit.

He explained that staff intends to meet these goals by continuing to offer excellent customer service and product reliability, enhancing current product offerings and launching new products that fit within the structure provided by the goals. Mr. Franell continued by stating that it was clear that AFN must be run like a business and be profit based in order to exist and grow, it does not exist for its own sake. AFN is a community owned enterprise and exists to benefit the community. The goal is to be a positive community partner defined by our contribution to business and economic development, education and the arts.

Mr. Franell stated that AFN has always had the potential for being a tool in attracting high tech, small businesses to the Ashland area. The long-term economic health of Ashland relies on our ability to provide easy access to technology that is appropriate to these businesses. This includes the ability to anticipate and respond to market requirements and technological developments. He explained that the key will be introduction of new products, services and features that meet the needs of our business customers and that there is a natural synergy between technology, education and the arts. Staff believes strongly that AFN must actively pursue opportunities to encourage and enable education in the arts in Ashland.

Mr. Franell stated that a specified goal is that choices of product line will always include this philosophy.

Councilor Silbiger asked when they would see a Business Plan. Mr. Franell explained that it is his intent to "under-commit" and "over-perform." That if un-realistic goals are set, just for the sake of setting hard numbers, we would be setting ourselves up for some kind of failure. Because, perception becomes reality in people minds and if we set perceptions that are un-realistic and goals that may be unattainable or realistically high enough, it would not be a service to the community. He stated that as we work through the six month transition it will start to come together and that by next years budget cycle there will be a good plan on where we want to go and what the numbers are.

When asked about a timeline or timeframe on the business plan, Mr. Franell answered that he expects to have the new products in place soon and that there may be opportunities that may present themselves sooner. He explained that the six month transition period is part of presenting what the options are to people. He offered to go over numbers individually with councilors in order to not create the semblance of providing hard numbers.

Mr. Franell explained that the budget allows for the transition period where it unveils its new place and that next year is the year where the biggest amount of money will be spent on fixing the network. After this is when we should be seeing the reward of our effort and when choices will need to be made on our reward. He stated that operating at a profit is when the fourth goal is realized, to have the flexibility to make decisions about applying toward the debt service or allowing the council to use this profit for something more critical and beneficial to the community.

Councilor Chapman reminded staff that this is a municipal company and we need to offer a service that is offered to everyone in the community at an affordable rate as part of a city service and he did not see this as a goal for the department. He believes that this should be a goal of the department.

Mr. Franell explained that cable television networks were designed to be closed networks and is not supposed to leap radio frequency signals. That there had been instances in the past where leaping cable plants have been mistaken for aerial beacons and could be a problem. He stated that they city had not been good at tracking, repairing and reporting the leakage.

Councilor Hartzell requested discussion with staff on how selection was made under positive community partnership. She also inquired as to what the next step would be. Mr. Franell stated that once the goals are in place and we are comfortable with the goals, which means the council is comfortable with the direction AFN is taking, that the next step would be to start putting together a Business Plan. The Business Plan would be more specific short-term and less specific long-term, as is our own city budget.

Councilor Chapman requested goals of the IT Department as well. Mr. Franell responded that they are currently working on these goals and will present them to the council when complete.

Meeting was adjourned at 7:14 p.m.

Barbara Christensen, City Recorder
John W. Morrison, Mayor

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