Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Special Meeting

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


January 2, 2013
Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street

Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
City Recorder Barbara Christensen administered the Oath of Office to newly elected Mayor John Stromberg, City Councilor Rich Rosenthal, Carol Voisin, and Greg Lemhouse for terms to expire December 31, 2016.
Councilor Voisin, Morris, Lemhouse, Slattery, Rosenthal, and Marsh were present.
1.   A resolution titled, “A Resolution authorizing the City of Ashland to provide a city building for a winter shelter one night per week through April, 2013.”           
Administrative Services Director Lee Tuneberg explained staff followed the format used in Resolution 2007-11 Emergency Shelter with input from the insurance company.  Possible facilities for the shelter were Pioneer Hall, the Community Center, and The Grove.  Parks and Recreation staff recommended Pioneer Hall because of availability and size.  Insurance deductibles were $10,000 for damage and liability was $50,000 per calendar year.  Staff suggested the groups initiating the request provide the insurance needed to cover volunteers and sign hold harmless agreements, if possible.  Volunteers would also sign a waiver releasing the City from liability prior to staffing the shelter.  If the shelter became a regular scheduled event, it could require a formal land use action.
Since City facilities did not allow pets, there was a possible network where guests could get their pets cared for elsewhere instead of leaving them outside.  The shelter would separate men, women, and families, meet fire codes, and guests would sign a waiver and agreement to abide shelter rules.  The shelter would also have plans in place for emergencies, mental health issues, emergency communication procedures, and provide training. Additionally staff recommended a process for securing guests’ belongings while they slept.  Volunteers at minimum would consist of  one male and one female with additional male volunteers needed whenever there were more than 10 male guests.  The shelter would not open if there were fewer than the required number of trained volunteers.  The insurance company estimated an additional $400 each month the shelter was open with no change in annual deductibles. 
City Attorney Dave Lohman added the costs for a non-profit to rent Pioneer Hall were $15 an hour, with a $150 deposit.  Renting Pioneer Hall for 12 hours over night was $180 and the City could carry the $150 deposit for the duration.  The insurance company’s analysis would most likely remain the same with the possibility of increasing the premium $100 each shelter night. 
Mr. Tuneberg further explained the insurance increase for overnight usage was a perceived risk from the insurance company.  He clarified the $50,000 annual deductible pertained to all activities in the City and was not incident related.  Total cost for insurance to host a shelter night weekly for four months was $1,600, additional costs, if any, were unknown at this time.  Volunteers signing a hold harmless agreement would eliminate the City’s insurance requirement as long as the City had sufficient liability insurance for the volunteers.  If Council increased the temperature in the current Resolution 2007-11, the insurance company would review and determine if the change resulted in an increase.
Rabbi Joshua Boettiger explained it was too expensive for Temple Emek Shalom to provide the additional liability insurance staff suggested and Reverend Leslie Becknell Marx did not know if the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship insurance would cover the shelter night or not.
Mr. Tuneberg clarified the City defined emergency shelter services but the insurance company decided how it affected premiums and reviewed potential impacts to insurance costs annually.  The insurance company looked at the building and proposed uses to determine the City’s exposure and did not factor zoning.  The City did not have the ability to negotiate rates with the insurance company.  
Homelessness Steering Committee (HSC) member Heidi Parker explained the committee met with faith agencies whose main issue was training and volunteer coordination to run the shelters.  The HSC formed a subcommittee that provided the training needed.  She submitted into the record the agenda used and described the training.
Barbie Breneiser, a shelter volunteer for the Presbyterian Church shelter shared the shelter prohibited drugs and alcohol and in the six years she worked there, they had not encountered any drug or alcohol related issues.  Occasionally someone who had been drinking would come to the shelter but knew they could not use inside and did not.  If there were a problem, they would ask the individual to leave and if that became an issue, they would call 911.  During 2012, the shelter averaged 14 guests a night, the highest was 25, and the lowest was three.  There were six emergency shelter nights hosted at the church, one at Pioneer Hall, and another at the Congregational Church.  Typically guests were mostly male, very few females and rarely did they host families.
The guests at the Presbyterian shelter tended to self-police and discouraged troublemakers resulting in no problem encounters.  Ms. Parker related an incident where a volunteer was concerned about the mental health of one of the guests.  She contacted Frederick Berger who had extensive knowledge regarding the homeless and mental health issues.  He came to the shelter and counseled the man in question.
The majority of guests were over the age of 18.  Council wanted to know the liability to the City and its obligation to due diligence when it pertained to under aged guests.
Ms. Breneiser went on to explain volunteers managed the emergency shelter nights by ensuring space was available, they had enough volunteers, and finally notifying the proper channels.  This usually happened a couple days in advance but sometimes it was the same day.
Keith Haxton explained he and John Wieczorek were two of the core facilitators and volunteers for shelters in town.  Mr. Haxton responded to the Risk Management Recommendations and explained the Presbyterian Church had a separate section for people who wanted to be isolated.  The majority of guests were adult men, with divider walls or separate rooms for women and families.  Volunteers would provide dividers for Pioneer Hall shelter nights.
Most shelter guests did not like to sign waivers or agreements but would if necessary.  Volunteers would develop an emergency plan for Pioneer Hall.  Managing mental health issues was covered through the shelter training.  Ruth Coulthard, a volunteer at the Presbyterian Church created an emergency phone tree in case of emergencies.  The Presbyterian Church had a room to store guest’s belongings.  Supplies and first aid equipment were stored in a secure area as well. 
The volunteer requirement of one male and one female was new.  Historically it was two women and difficult to get male volunteers.  Current rules stated if there were less than the minimum volunteers required, the shelter would not open.  They kept a back up list of on-call volunteers to prevent closures.  For the Pioneer Hall shelter nights, Mr. Haxton and Mr. Wieczorek, representing Temple Emek Shalom and UUF would make the decision not to open the shelter.
Father Tony Hutchinson/292 Clinton Street/Introduced himself as the Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church.  Homelessness was a terrible blight and a shame on the nation.   Having volunteers willing to give time, effort and wealth in support of providing hospitality for the most vulnerable in the community was a good thing the City should encourage.  He understood the City had concerns with liability and possible things that might go wrong.  Trinity Church went through similar questions with their due diligence when they opened their shelter but it had worked out well.   He stressed people should live their values.
John Wieczorek/165 Orange Avenue/Suggested as people entered the New Year they evolved as a community to the stage of accepting that providing shelter from cold weather to fellow human beings was the right thing to do.  Approving the third night would help.  He listed the costs associated with not providing a shelter and the benefits a shelter would offer.  He hoped Council would look at the third night from the benefits it provided and not simply from the risk.  He asked the City incur any and all increased insurance costs associated with the use of the city building.
He did not support or see a need for criminal background checks for volunteers but if required he would.  Mr. Haxton interjected there was an issue of costs and if the City compensated for the costs, it would not be a problem.
Heidi Parker/344 Bridge Street/Noted her experience with background checks and that Council would need to clarify the range.
Reverend Leslie Becknell Marx/Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship/87 4th Street/Celebrated the opportunity to speak on this subject, thanked the volunteers and the willingness of the Council to consider an additional shelter night.  Regarding the insurance, she hoped the City would be generous.  She thought the insurance company was taking a prejudicial stance by assuming a risk for people without permanent homes that was unreasonable to her.  She hoped Council would cover the additional insurance costs.
Joan Kalveloge/991 Hiawatha Place/Was glad the churches had years of knowledge proving shelters were not an undue risk.  Shelters created a collaborative and respectful relationship.  She thought the insurance company would be greatly relieved when the City joined the churches and saw what actually happened with this population.  It would save the City money in other services, but most of all it would improve a sense of community that was about taking care of the most vulnerable members.
Susan Freeman/673 Siskiyou Boulevard/Questioned why the temperature in the emergency shelter resolution was set at 20 degrees and thought it was too low.  She asked Council to consider a higher temperature to enact the resolution and reconsider the dates as well.  She was also interested in participating in the volunteer training.
Keith Haxton/110 7th Street/Explained homelessness was a social problem that required a social solution.  He urged Council to approve the third night of shelter.  He spoke of his own experience of being homeless and sleeping in cold weather.
Sangigo Bruce Thanburn/654 Oak Street/Shared his experience as a homeless person and thanked Ashland for making him feel welcome and supported.  When he got on his feet and stable enough to turn his life around he realized he owed service to the community by helping others who were struggling.  He suggested Council and the public attend the dinners for the homeless, get to know them, realize they are not different just people who have had harder times, and start to diminish the fear people had regarding the homeless.
Cate Hartzell/1892 Garden Way/Read Resolution 2007-11 and commented the City had made next to no investment to put forward a resolution that really helped uphold one of its responsibilities to the residents.  Volunteers counted as in kind services that amounted to thousands of dollars.  The City had a social services plan and one of the goals was cooperating with non-profit organizations and the faith communities to meet social safety net services.  She thought the Council memo contained double standards regarding background checks, waivers to sleep, high insurance rates, while other events held in City facilities produced a higher risk and did not have the same requirements.  She encouraged Council to be cautious but aware of the discrimination that occurred around economic and mental health categories.  Council should also lease a building that had space to store personal belongings.    
Ron Roth/6950 Old Hwy 99 South/Thought the City should provide hypothermia insurance.  He proposed the City use Pioneer Hall two nights a week and work with the faith-based community to have a shelter open seven nights a week from November 1 through the end of March.  He went on to quote scripture.
Daniel Rowe/991 Hiawatha Place/Understood the complexities of municipal governments and liability issues.  At the same time, $400 a month was a small amount of money and could not imagine that money was driving the discussion.  He had met people who were homeless and often it was a series of bad circumstances and they needed help.  The faith community proved they could help people and had not experienced great problems.  He encouraged Council to try the shelter night and in the end hoped, they felt it provided a service to the community.
Max Afshar/419 Willow Street/Observed how easy it was to get lost in the minor details of the proposal.
Council was considering hosting people who did not have any other option but to sleep on the street in the winter and the city had the resources to prevent that from happening.  He asked Council to take responsibility for the insurance and put forth their best effort to make the shelter happen.
Councilor Voisin/Slattery m/s to approve Resolution #2013-01 and to assume cost for additional insurance and allow for minor changes to current resolution at a later time, change Section 2(f) from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. to fit with other shelters, in Section 3(e) delete pets and delete requirement for a background check for the volunteers.  DISCUSSION:  Councilor Voisin reminded Council the mission of the City was to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of all citizens.  Collaborating with the faith community was a good opportunity to fulfill that mission in cooperation with the citizenry.  She wanted to delete pets from Section 3(e) because the Presbyterian Church had no difficulties with pets and recently the Trinity Episcopalian Church made the decision to allow pets.  Pets were important to the homeless and provided a needed service.  If the City was going to have background checks for the homeless shelter volunteers, they needed to extend that requirement to all volunteers in the City of Ashland.
Councilor Slattery supported the concept but noted the huge difference between faith community and a government entity.  This was not about fear, it was about responsibility, ensuring the process would work next year, and getting citizen approval since their taxes would pay for the shelter.  He supported an additional shelter night but questioned why the faith community did not provide shelter seven nights a week.  The proposal involved a public building paid for by public funds and was a different paradigm than using a building from the faith community.  If something went wrong in a public building, the City and taxpayers could be sued at great cost.  He was not in favor of allowing pets, supported a basic background check, training, and wanted to know who was backing the volunteers. The City needed to be responsible to the insurance company’s requirements as well.  He strongly agreed the City should support a shelter night, and supported all the requirements for the shelter to make it successful.

Councilor Lemhouse did not think Council needed to be reminded what the Council’s mission was, and that everyone wanted to do the right thing.  He could not support the motion if it did not include background checks for volunteers, or allowed pets.  He thought the best way for the City to help was increasing the dollar amount to $5,000-$10,000 annually and use those funds to to provide transportation and shelter to those in need.   He preferred a long-term approach to develop a funding mechanism and a program that provided vouchers to the faith-based communities to give to help people in need.  Providing shelter one night a week seemed like a band-aid.  He was not in favor of the motion as it stood.     
Councilor Marsh agreed this was a band-aid but thought it was a step worth taking.  In dealing with homeless, there were many objectives.  One was guaranteeing the health and safety of people on the streets and this was a step in that direction.  A second objective was using City resources to leverage them with help from the community.  This was essentially a 12-week pilot program, a follow up meeting with the faith community to determine what worked, what did not, and whether to continue and a report to Council with the outcome.  She thought the insurance was outrageous but did not want it to dictate policy.  She was also concerned with the start time, and did not want to displace events that went to 7:30 p.m. or 8:00 p.m.  She supported allowing pets in the shelter but thought background checks required further discussion.
Councilor Marsh/Slattery m/s to amend the motion that the waiver required for use of the shelter include a statement that the individual is 18 years or older. DISCUSSION: Councilor Marsh did not think a shelter was an environment for minors and doubted the City could guarantee safety.  Additionally, statements from the police department indicated how rare it was to have families needing shelter.  Roll Call Vote: Councilor Marsh, Morris, Voisin, Slattery, Rosenthal, and Lemhouse, YES. Motion passed.
Councilor Rosenthal emphasized this was an experiment and there would be opportunities to make course directions if something went wrong.  This was one step in an ongoing process of a much broader issue. 
Councilor Morris understood it was an interim program but did not support allowing pets or removing the background check requirement, and subsequently would not support the motion. 
Councilor Morris/Slattery m/s to amend the main motion to include the provision on pets.  
DISCUSSION: Councilor Morris did not think pets should be allowed in a Parks and Recreation building.  Councilor Slattery thought allowing dogs could jeopardize the program and possibly affect insurance.  Councilor Voisin commented many people using the shelters had pets that were better trained than pets belonging to non-homeless owners.  Both the Presbyterian and Trinity Churches had no issues allowing pets.  She doubted people would use the shelter unless their dogs were with them.  Councilor Lemhouse noted the likelihood of someone suing a church over a dog bite was less than suing a city.  Additionally people allergic or afraid of dogs might not access the shelter if dogs were allowed. 
Roll Call Vote: Councilor Morris, Slattery and Lemhouse, YES; Councilor Marsh, Voisin and Rosenthal, NO. Mayor Stromberg broke the tie with a YES vote. Motion passed 4-3.
Councilor Morris/Marsh m/s to amend the main motion to include the requirement for background checks.  DISCUSSION: Councilor Morris noted the requirement for background checks was in Resolution 20078-11 and that it might be required for insurance.  Councilor Voisin called for a point of clarification to ask where the requirement was specified in Resolution 2007-11.  Councilor Lemhouse responded Section 2. Terms and Conditions, subsection (2) and Councilor Morris read, “The shelter will be staffed by volunteers from nonprofit organizations or other organizations in the business of providing for the needs of persons.  The city’s insurance company requires organizations providing volunteers to provide a letter to the City of Ashland stating that all shelter volunteers have received appropriate training to staff a shelter and have passed criminal background checks.”   Councilor Voisin explained background checks on volunteers never occurred, questioned why the City was doing that now and did not think it was necessary.  Councilor Slattery was surprised to find the City had not been doing criminal background checks when it was required but they should going forward.  Councilor Rosenthal thought the fact this stipulation had not been enforced was correctable.  The volunteers in this case would act as facility managers and it made sense to have people in charge of a public facility go through a process already approved in a resolution.  Roll Call Vote:  Councilor Marsh, Morris, Voisin, Slattery, Rosenthal, and Lemhouse, YES.  Motion passed.
Councilor Lemhouse/Morris m/s to amend the main motion that states start time will be approximately 8:30 p.m. ending 8:00 a.m.  Roll Call Vote:  Councilor Marsh, Morris, Voisin, Slattery, Rosenthal, and Lemhouse, YES. Motion passed.
MAIN MOTION: Approve Resolution #2013-01, that includes the City to assume cost for additional insurance, allow for minor changes to the current resolution at a later time to Sections 2(f) making start and end time approximately from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. in order to fit with other shelter times, include requirement for background checks and that the waiver required for use of the shelter include a statement that the individual is 18 years or older.
Roll Call Vote on main motion as amended:  Councilor Marsh, Morris, Voisin, Slattery, Rosenthal, and Lemhouse, YES. Motion passed.
Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.


_____________________________________           _______________________________

Barbara Christensen, City Recorder                             John Stromberg, Mayor


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