Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Thursday, July 13, 2006

These Minutes are preliminary pending approval by Council
at the August 1, 2006 City Council Meeting.

July 13, 2006
Civic Center Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street

Mayor Morrison called the Study Session to order at 5:15 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilors Amarotico, Silbiger and Chapman were present. Councilor Hartzell arrived at 5:20 p.m. Councilor Jackson was absent.
1. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Update on Railroad Property Clean-Up.
Greg Aitken with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) addressed the Council and explained the DEQ has decided to not approve the Union Pacific Railroad's plans for the voluntary cleanup of the railroad property in Ashland. He stated the reason for rejecting the plan is based on three factors: 1) a mistake was made in the selection of a 30 ppm arsenic clean-up level, 2) deeper contamination than previously known to exist has been discovered since the 2001 decision and will increase the amount of excavation materials from 5,000 cubic yards to 45,000 cubic yards, and 3) issues have been raised regarding the implementability of the clean-up method selected. Mr. Aitken also noted the many comments they received from the community regarding the truck vs. rail clean-up options. He stated the Record of Decision proposed a "dig and haul" approach, however the decision did not indicate which method should be used. He stated the DEQ still believes that trucks could be used safely, however this may not be acceptable to the community.

At this point, the clean-up plan has been called off by the Union Pacific Railroad. Mr. Aitken explained this is a voluntary clean-up project and is classified as low priority by the DEQ because of the low levels of chemicals on the site and the low exposure risks. He stated the DEQ would revisit the Record of Decision, however it will be up to the Railroad to determine the clean-up schedule. He noted it has been 5 years since the DEQ's initial decision and the Railroad could decide to sit on this project for another 5-10 years.

Mr. Aitken presented a diagram of the Environmental Clean-up Process for the Ashland Yard and provided an explanation of the actions that lead to the DEQ's Record of Decision. He clarified that feasibility studies are valid indefinitely, except in the circumstances where new information is presented, and stated the DEQ always retains the ability to re-open a decision. In this situation, they do feel there is enough information to re-evaluate their previous decision and will do a ROD amendment once the Railroad indicates they are ready to move forward with the clean-up. Once the Railroad informs the DEQ they are ready to begin working through this process again, the DEQ will amend their staff report, present it to the City of Ashland, and complete the public involvement process.

Mr. Aitken stated the Union Pacific Railroad has indicated no interest in resurrecting this project any time soon, however they did state they would be placing a temporary fence and signage around the entire parcel within the next few weeks.

Mr. Aitken clarified the following concerns for Council:

1) The contamination is not growing, migrating, or going deeper into the soil.
2) The DEQ would perform water quality testing if there were evidence of a problem and this issue can be looked into during the re-evaluation of the site.
3) The Record of Decision did not sufficiently address air quality monitoring during implementation and the DEQ will need to gather more information on this issue.
4) If the City were interested in local monitoring, the DEQ could provide information and assistance on this endeavor.
5) The ground water on the site was tested and contamination was found; however, it is immobile material and there is no opportunity for people to come in contact with it.
6) The Railroad could decide to cover the arsenic areas, however the current exposure levels would not require the DEQ to prompt this.

Council questioned what actions the City can take before this issue is put to bed. Mr. Aitken stated the City could send a letter expressing their concerns to the DEQ. They would look at the questions raised, respond to the City, and determine if there is reason to take further action at this point.

Request was made for this item to be discussed at the next Regular Council Meeting.

Mayor Morrison encouraged citizens to forward any questions that were not addressed to either city staff or the DEQ.

2. Discussion of Draft Charter and Draft City Manager Charter Amendment.
Management Analyst Ann Seltzer explained the City Council last addressed the draft charter at a Special Council Meeting on February 9, 2006. At that time, the Council directed staff to re-draft the Ashland model charter prepared by Tom Sponslor along with the City Manager amendment, and bring it back to Council for further review. Ms. Seltzer requested Council discuss the charter and direct staff to either move forward with preparing the ballot language or defer this project to a later date.

City Administrator Martha Bennett explained this issue has been posted to the Council Look-Ahead for some time, however it is up to the Council when they wish to move forward with placing the charter on the ballot.

City Attorney Mike Franell clarified Council directed staff to follow the recommendations of the Charter Review Committee, with the exception of Recommendations #1, #2, and #4. He stated the draft charter presented to the Council incorporates these changes and he requested direction from Council as to what else they would like to see in this document. He noted the draft charter was missing language regarding the City Manager/City Administrator position and this would be added to Section 35. He also stated the draft does not include language regarding the sale of city water, and noted the alternatives presented to the Council address this provision.

Council discussed the two water language options presented by staff. Mr. Franell stated the current charter has limitations on providing inhabitants with city water and shared his concern that technically, a business within the City is not an inhabitant. He asked Council for clarification on the intent of this language and stated if the alternatives do not accurately capture this, he could prepare new language. Comment was made that the language should prohibit the sale of water rights and the re-selling the water directly. Additional statement was made to prohibit the privatization or leasing of the city's water. Request was made for the language to be simplified.

Councilor Chapman left the meeting at 7:00 p.m.

Council discussed additional changes to the draft charter, including:

• Remove "mayor" from the definition of council in Section 7 and distinguish between the mayor and council.
• Insert an absence clause for the mayor position.
• Amend the language in Section 16(f) to say "...within five business days of passage of the ordinance".
• Amend the language in Section 19(b) to say "...amendment to a resolution must be read aloud at meeting..."
• Insert language in Section 31(b) to clarify the statement "disorderly conduct or inattention to duties".

Mr. Franell requested council submit all questions, concerns and suggestions to him and stated he would make adjustments to the document and present an updated draft to the Council. .

Ms. Bennett noted the deadlines for having this placed on the November ballot. Some concern was expressed by Council regarding having the charter language finalized in time for the November election. Comment was made that the new charter must be understandable to citizens and Council should be satisfied with the language before placing it on the ballot. Mayor Morrison stated if the charter cannot be ready in time for the November election that is OK, but he does not want to postpone this project indefinitely and would like to keep moving forward.

Meeting adjourned at 7:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder

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