Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Monday, December 04, 2006

December 4, 2006
Civic Center Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street

Council Chair Alex Amarotico called the Study Session to order at 5:20 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilors Hardesty, Jackson, Silbiger and Chapman were present. Councilor Hartzell arrived at 5:30 p.m. Mayor Morrison was absent.
1. Discussion of Bike Path Funding and Priorities.
Public Works Director Paula Brown explained this issue has been brought forward to raise awareness and bring forward concerns regarding the design of the North Ashland multi-use path from Laurel Street to Jackson Road. Ms. Brown explained in 2003, the City applied for and received a grant through the Federal Transportation Enhancement program for this multi-use path, which would begin at Jackson Road, cross over Wright's Creek and then continue south along the railroad tracks.

Ms. Brown provided an explanation of the issues and concerns that have come forward with this project:

Because of the federal funding, there are stringent regulations that must to be met.
A significant number of additional property right-of-ways would need to be obtained by the City.
The estimated cost of the project has risen to almost three and a half times the original estimate.
The section of Jackson Road which was intended to be the terminus point of the path was vacated by Jackson County and returned to the Billings Ranch Properties.
The Billings Subdivision has postponed the construction of the golf course which has limited the future access of a northern connection to the Bear Creek Greenway.
There are two railroad crossings within this project that require ODOT Rail and CORP approvals.

Ms. Brown stated that although the path would be a great addition to the City's existing bike path system and a much needed link to the northern corridor, staff is very concerned with the increasing costs of the project.

Ms. Brown reviewed the four options listed in the Staff Memo:

1. Continue with design and spend the allocated ODOT dollars on the North Ashland Multi-Use Path from Laurel Street to Jackson Road.
2. Change the length of the project (from Laurel to the connection with the path currently constructed at Billings Ranch), continue and complete design, and ultimately spend the allocated federal dollars.
3. Stop all work on the current design on the extension of the multi-use path from Laurel Street to Jackson Road and pay back the grant funds.
4. Stop work on the current project and petition ODOT to reassign the funds to a higher priority project.

Ms. Brown stated staff has asked ODOT about the possibility of shortening the path, and they indicated they would not be willing to make that big of a change. She stated that the City could ask ODOT to give them time to see if there is another project or extension we could do instead; however the likelihood of using these funds for an Ashland project in the near future is very slim.

Ms. Brown recommended that the City not proceed with this $1.8 million project. She explained that the City would have to pay back the $90,000 spent on the design of the path; however the payback would not be a loss as the City would retain the bike path design. She suggested that the City look into what we could do with our own money instead.

Ms. Brown clarified that this issue would be brought before the Bicycle & Pedestrian Commission at their January meeting.

Ms. Brown stated she believes the only real option is Option #2. She clarified the only way the City would not have to pay back the $90,000 would be if they had another project ready to go that this money could be spent on, and they don't. She added she does not believe there is adequate time to get another Ashland project ready in time to meet ODOT's timeframe. She added if they had a design completed, they might have the option to switch projects, but feels this is a long shot.

City Administrator Martha Bennett noted that the City could build the bike path project to our standards ourselves for less money than accepting the federal grant. Ms. Brown stated that it is possible to move forward with this project on our own and suggested getting the connection to the Billing's property done.

Councilor Silbiger noted that if they were able to transfer the funds to another project, they would still be in a position where that project could also cost three times as much because of the federal regulations.

Ms. Brown clarified the $90,000 would be paid from the City's Street Fund.

Support was voiced for Option #2; Comment was made that the City is not ready to move to another project and there are significant obstacles due to the federal grant. Additional comment was made that the City would still have the design which could be used as some point in the future.

Councilor Hartzell expressed interest in making sure staff has taken another look at the three possible projects listed in the staff memo as well as the Parks project. She stated she is not convinced that this is a viable route to build to or that this is a design that they will utilize in the future. She noted the bike path connection between Oak Street and 4th Street is an important one and voiced her interest in trying as best they can to find a way to use this money and not have to pay it back.

Ms. Brown stated that staff would check with ODOT on their timeline and this issue would return to Council for their further direction.

2. Discussion of Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and Long Range Financing.
Public Works Director Paula Brown presented the staff report and stated she would like to review:
CIP Planning
Historical Perspective - Planned vs. Actual
Current Year Highlights
FY08 Draft CIP
FY08 Highlights
FY08-13 CIP Planning by Division
FY08-13 Proposed Adoption Process

Ms. Brown explained the CIP planning factors include: 1) the City's master plans, 2) maintenance records, 3) service level expectations, 4) revenues and budgeting implications, 5) balancing budgetary and staffing, and 6) timing.

Comment was made questioning how staff scheduled the debt. Administrative Services & Finance Director Lee Tuneberg explained that staff first determines what restricted money they could use, and stated that financing is the last step.

Ms. Brown stated there are several factors that impact the CIP, including: construction timing, design requirements, funding shortfalls, and schedule changes. She also commented on the FY07 highlights. She stated that the CIP budget for FY07 was planned at over $13 million, however realistically it should have been roughly $9.1 million, and the City will only spend about $6 million. She explained the rest of the funds are for projects that will likely slide, such as the Tolman Creek Waterline and the Fire Station construction. Ms. Brown noted that for the last two years she was not apart of this process and stated from now one she only wants to bring forward projects that are going to be constructed and that has not happened for this budget.

Ms. Brown requested Council's input as to how they want to approve the CIP. She stated she does not want to rush this issue if there are further questions and noted staff could bring this back at another meeting or study session.

Ms. Brown noted that the draft FY08 CIP already has some holes in it, and stated she anticipates them not completing the N. Ashland bike path, which will reduce the total by $1.8M. She also stated they will likely not spend the $700K for the B & A Street overlays. She commented on the Hersey Street pedestrian safety improvements and noted that the City did not receive funding for the Laurel Street improvement, however staff will reapply for funding next year.

Comment was made that citizens should be better forewarned about upcoming projects that will be affecting their neighborhoods.

City Administrator Martha Bennett noted that the Council could choose to adopt the CIP before the next budget, and stated that staff needs Council's help in prioritizing the projects that are important to them.

Ms. Brown noted the Plaza and Beach Street projects will come back to Council and they could decide to move forward with one over the other. She also noted the Schofield LID could come before the Council at the beginning of the year.

Ms. Brown stated that she would be bringing back names for the Street Financing Task Force and clarified for Council "PMS" stands for Pavement Management System. She commented on sidewalk safety repairs and improvements and noted the need to find a funding source so the City can keep its system operational.

Suggestion was made for staff to help Council better understand which budget items have funding streams and which don't.

Councilor Silbiger left the meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Ms. Bennett noted that debt funded projects and unfunded projects are two separate things. Ms. Brown clarified the information listed in the Long Term Plan.

Ms. Brown listed the funding highlights in the FY08 CIP for Water. She clarified the preliminary design for the TAP was in the FY05/06 budget. She also commented on the reservoirs and stated these are listed in the mater plan and noted the significant increase in steel prices.

Comment was made questioning if the master plans can be found on the website. Ms. Brown stated that she will make sure they are all made available on the website.

Ms. Brown commented on the Wastewater CIP and noted the next big issue will be meeting DEQ's thermal temperature requirements. Ms. Bennett noted that staff will be bringing forward the "Right Water for the Right Use" discussion to the Council prior to the DEQ thermal temperature discussion. Request was made for these discussions to be had together. Staff clarified if the "Right Water" discussion does not identify the solution to the DEQ requirement, it will be brought back for further discussion.

Ms. Brown noted the AFN/Telecommunications CIP is still preliminary and stated the IT Director would be brining this back before Council. She commented on the Technology and City Facilities CIP and noted the City does not have a master plan for city facilities. She stated that staff will need to compile information and begin the process for facilities planning. Comment was made regarding the Council Chamber improvements item and questioning if minor improvements could be made to the Chambers in the interim. Ms. Bennett explained that part of facilities planning is identifying priorities for facilities needs. She stated we have more needs than money and Ms. Brown noted the City is lacking a funding source for many of these items.

Mr. Tuneberg provided a brief explanation of the Parks CIP. He explained that for the most part Parks is funded by property taxes, however there are some services they can charge for. He also clarified that the SDCs and Food & Beverage tax monies are used to purchase park land, but turning it into a part comes from Parks operating budget. Mr. Tuneberg clarified he would set up a time to meet with any interested councilors to review "Budget 101".

Ms. Brown requested Council provide direction as to whether they would like to address the CIP outside of the budget process or include it with the budget adoption. Comment was made expressing support for reviewing the CIP before the budget is adopted, but questioned if there was adequate time to do this prior to this year's budget process. Comment was made that there does not seem to be adequate time to address the CIP during the budget process.

Ms. Bennett clarified it is possible to discuss the CIP prior to this years budget process. She suggested that this issue could come back to the Council in January and suggested Council submit any input between now and then to her. She added if they do not feel they could devote enough time to this subject as a regular council meeting, staff could schedule another study session.

Councilor Jackson left the meeting at 7:15 p.m.

Support was voiced for the Council reviewing the CIP prior to it coming before the Budget Committee. Comment was made that it is not appropriate for the Budget Committee to determine which projects should be delayed and that this should be handled by the elected body.

Meeting adjourned at 7:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder

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