MINUTES FOR THE REGULAR MEETING
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
CALL TO ORDER
January 20, 2015
1175 E. Main Street
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Voisin, Morris, Lemhouse, Seffinger, Rosenthal, and Marsh were present.
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS & AWARDS
The Mayor’s proclamations of January 21, 2015 as Kiwanis International Day and January as Child Trafficking Awareness Month were read aloud.
Mayor Stromberg announced vacancies on the Public Arts, Transportation, Housing and Human Services, and Tree Commissions. City Recorder Barbara Christensen added applications for the new Bee City USA sub-committee were available on the Parks and Recreation website and the Commission Vacancies page on the City website.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of the Study Session of January 5, 2015 and Business Meeting of January 6, 2015 were approved as presented.
1. Approval of minutes of boards, commissions or committees
2. Franchise agreement Hunter Communications
3. Approval of 2015 Council liaisons to boards, commissions, and committees
4. City Response to the USFS Ashland Trails Environmental Assessment
5. Agreement to allow the American Red Cross to use City buildings for emergency shelter
Councilor Marsh pulled Consent Agenda item #4 for discussion. Parks & Recreation Director Michael Black explained Parks staff and Fire Chief John Karns reviewed the response to the USFS Ashland Trails Environmental Assessment. Chief Karns further explained the five areas of concern listed in the Council Communication was a compilation from the Fire Department, Parks staff, and the Ashland Forest Lands Commission.
Councilor Rosenthal, Seffinger, and Voisin pulled Consent Agenda item #5 for discussion. Councilor Seffinger wanted the agreement allowing the American Red Cross to use City buildings for emergency shelter to include language that required Council approval for unconditional use exceeding 30 days following a manmade or natural disaster. Councilor Rosenthal noted other communities had experienced issues with extended long-term use by a government agency. City Administrator Dave Kanner clarified that the American Red Cross was willing to make any necessary changes and added the insurance level needed to be $2,000,000, not $1,000,000.
Councilor Seffinger/Rosenthal m/s to change the terms of the American Red Cross Agreement to use Pioneer Hall, the Community Center, and the Grove as emergency centers and allow them to use the facilities for 30 days following a manmade or natural disaster, after which, the City Council would need to approve and extend the occupancy beyond 30 days on a monthly basis, and increase the insurance to $2,000,000. DISCUSSION:
Mr. Kanner explained the agreement could come back to Council for approval with changes or Council could make a motion authorizing Mr. Kanner to sign the agreement assuming the Red Cross accepted the amendments.
Councilor Lemhouse/Marsh m/s to amend the motion to state that the City execute the agreement if the American Red Cross agreed to the terms as changed. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion approved.
Voice Vote on amended main motion: all AYES. Motion passed.
Councilor Rosenthal/Morris m/s to approve Consent Agenda items #1 through #4. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
1. Follow up report on AFN business plan
Director of Information Technology and Electric Mark Holden provided background and requested Council give the City Administrator the authority to make decisions regarding product features, functions, availability, and restrictions and product pricing. Council needed to approve the Strategic Business Plan as well. Having the City Administrator make product and pricing decisions would help shield that information from the competition as much as possible. Publicly discussing strategic plans, tactical plans, product, and pricing put AFN at a disadvantage to the competition.
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained the plan presented to Council in November laid out a general strategic direction for the enterprise with three options. Council rejected the option to keep it alive until the City could sell it, supported the option to increase internet bandwidth capacity and speed and market that aggressively, and deferred the third option to develop new products referred to as the Passive Optical Networks (PON) project. By approving the bandwidth option Council approved the strategic direction, and the now there were items in the plan Council did not get to see because staff was reluctant to bring it to a public meeting. Council needed to create a different governance structure where marketing and operational plans did not come back to public meetings for review due to competition. Council had already spent money on the initial phase of the strategic business plan. The next steps were developing a product line and pricing to match the internet project. Other municipal broadband utilities had local governments adopt ordinances that authorized the City Manager or City Administrator to determine products and pricing as long as they recovered costs.
Councilor Rosenthal was uncomfortable making a decision on creating separate governance at this time. He took issue with comments in the Council Communication and during the meeting that if the Council did not approve the Strategic Business Plan that AFN would not go forward with the marketing, financial, and operational plans. He thought Council could vote on a general strategic direction but he was not sure he would support approving a strategic business plan where major components were not developed.
Councilor Marsh thought the City Administrator said Council had approved the internet project and with that inherently approved the actions required to implement the project and that Council did not need to approve the Strategic Business Plan. By approving the project, the remaining items were management responsibilities.
Mr. Kanner responded this was the fourth or fifth business plan since 1998. Approving this plan was a formality since Council already approved the internet project. Staff was in the process of implementing the project and would bring the PON project back the second year of the budget for approval.
Mr. Holden responded to Councilor Rosenthal’s comments and clarified the plans were a routine part of business. The other plans listed in the Council Communication were envisioned as part of the business plan. Mr. Kanner explained Council could pull the internet capacity project from the Strategic Business Plan and vote on that without voting on the plan itself. Mr. Kanner and Mr. Holden could meet with Councilors outside of the meeting to discuss other plans. Staff did not want to vet plans in the public where the competition could see them and would make pricing public when the product launched.
Council understood the need to develop competitive plans in a way that did not give away strategies to the competition. Council comment expressed concern allowing the City Administrator position to make decisions without Council discussion.
Councilor Lemhouse/Marsh m/s to approve internet capacity project. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Voisin, Morris, Lemhouse, Seffinger, Rosenthal, and Marsh, YES. Motion approved.
Councilor Lemhouse/Marsh m/s that Council provide temporary authority to the City Administrator to make final decisions regarding price and products offered until the Council determines the final form of governance for Ashland Fiber Network. DISCUSSION:
Councilor Lemhouse agreed with Mr. Kanner. Council needed to determine whether AFN was a utility or competitive enterprise. It was not fair to have staff bring forward plans while Council decided. He was not completely comfortable with the City Administrator setting pricing without Council approval and was willing to have an intermediary step. Councilor Marsh supported the motion. Council had struggled on how to move forward with AFN and allow it to have the qualities important to competing. Councilor Rosenthal was uncomfortable with the argument of having to go through Council approval was a weakness in the process and wanted a deadline associated with the City Administrator having this authority.
Councilor Rosenthal/Lemhouse m/s to amend motion to reflect an expiration date of 12/31/2015 for authorization of City Administrator to determine strategic product pricing. DISCUSSION:
Councilor Lemhouse supported having a sunset date. Councilor Morris would not support the amendment. The expiration date at the end of the year might not be enough time to determine whether a product line and promotional program or giving the City Administrator the authority made a difference in market share. Councilor Marsh commented Council could renew the sunset date at the end of the year if needed. Councilor Morris preferred two or more years and would vote against the amendment. Mayor Stromberg noted a previous discussion he had with Councilor Marsh on giving the City Administrator authority and suggested if that happened, the City Administrator and Director of IT/Electric meet with the Mayor and Council Chair for monthly updates regarding AFN. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Lemhouse, Seffinger, Rosenthal, and Marsh, YES; Councilor Voisin and Morris, NO. Motion passed 4-2.
Councilor Lemhouse/Rosenthal m/s to amend the motion and have the Mayor and Council Chair meet regularly with the City Administrator to discuss product definition and pricing and outcomes of the AFN strategy. DISCUSSION:
Councilor Lemhouse noted that Council wanted to maintain a level of knowledge and transparency and try to move forward in a business like fashion that was best for AFN. This level of oversight would make the Council and community feel better. Councilor Rosenthal concurred.
Councilor Voisin motioned to include the Director of IT in conversations along with the City Administrator. Motion died for lack of a second.
Continued discussion on amendment:
Councilor Lemhouse clarified the intent of the motion included the City Administrator and any staff he chose from the IT Director to the Director of Finance. Mr. Kanner was comfortable discussing city operations with Council at any time. For the monthly meetings, he suggested the Mayor and Council Chair focus on what policy level decisions Council could make to support the management decisions instead of the role of a management oversight committee. Mayor Stromberg compared their roles in the meetings to Council’s role during the TAP project, connected without participating in the decisions. Councilor Lemhouse further clarified the meetings were a way for Council to feel comfortable doing something new. It would also give the community the correct perception AFN was trying to enter into a competitive business structure but also maintain as much transparency at the same time. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Lemhouse, Seffinger, Rosenthal, and Marsh, YES; Councilor Voisin and Morris, NO. Motion passed 4-2.
Roll Call Vote on the amended main motion: Councilor Morris, Lemhouse, Seffinger, Rosenthal and Marsh, YES; Councilor Voisin, NO. Motion approved 5-1.
NEW AND MISCELLANEOUS BUSINESS
1. 2014 Citizen Survey Results
Management Analyst Ann Seltzer explained the survey captured residents’ opinions on Community Characteristics, Governance, and Community Participation in safety, mobility, natural environment, built environment, economy, recreation and wellness, education and enrichment and community engagement. Out of the 1,200 surveys sent to random households, 397 responded resulting in a margin of error plus or minus 5%.
Positive Community Characteristics responses ranked Ashland to national benchmarks for areas of safety, mobility, built environment, economy, and community engagement with higher than national benchmarks for natural environment, recreation and wellness, and education enrichment. Ratings below the national benchmark included public parking, availability and variety of housing options, cost of living, and employment opportunities.
Responses to areas of Governance were also positive, and similar to the national benchmarks with the exception of snow removal. Economic development received the lowest rating yet was in line with national benchmarks.
Community participation responses were higher than national benchmarks. Ms. Seltzer reviewed responses to four special interest questions. Overall, ratings for Ashland were stable and similar to 2012. Economy was important to residents who thought the City should focus on that area over the next two years. Other areas of concern included public parking, affordable housing, employment opportunities, and economic development.
City Administrator Dave Kanner shared 57% of the respondents not only lived but also worked in Ashland. People who had lived in Ashland five years or less gave lower rankings to city service and satisfaction with the general community than people who had lived here for a longer period. Council would discuss the economic development strategy during a Study Session in March.
Council commented on the high ratings for satisfaction with city government, parks, and recreation programs. Areas of concern were more of a confirmation than a surprise. Other comments wanted to see questions designed specifically for Ashland with the Southern Oregon University Research Center conducting the survey.
2. Appointment to Audit Committee – Mayor/Council liaison
Councilor Voisin/Morris m/s to appoint Councilor Rosenthal as the liaison to the Audit Committee with a term ending 12/31/2015. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
3. Council consideration of changes to department head compensation
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained staff did salary comparisons with other jurisdictions similar in size to Ashland and jurisdictions that related in scope. Ashland was competitive with salaries to similar sized jurisdictions and not competitive with jurisdictions with similar complexities. Staff looked at non-salary compensation that included increasing HRA Veba, and housing allowance. It was against federal law to increase HRA Veba for a small group and not the whole and housing stipends equated to a salary increase. Increasing contributions to existing 457 plans was not an option because almost all department heads were at maximum contribution levels.
Staff proposed adding a two-step salary increase for the City Attorney, Human Resources Manager, and department heads, contributing to 401(a) retirement accounts, and increasing the amount and accrual of administrative leave.
The City would build the increase into the budget and it would affect all funds, primarily in the second year of the biennium, cost $54,000 in salary and $14,000 in payroll rollups. With the exception of one department head, all others had topped out on salary.
Council suggested having four-steps at 2.5% instead of two steps at 5%. Mr. Kanner explained bonuses were difficult to apply unless everyone received the same amount. Bonuses also created potential morale issues.
Close to all department heads were eligible to retire but may not want to retire at this time. Staff would research if a bonus went towards retirement income.
Council directed staff to come back with information on vacation accrual time.
Councilor Rosenthal/Lemhouse m/s direct the City Administrator to adjust the City’s wage scale for all City Department Heads, as well as the City Attorney and Human Resources Manager, by adding four steps to the existing salary range in 2.5% intervals. DISCUSSION:
Councilor Rosenthal commented it was important for the City to position itself as competitively as possible to attract a skilled candidate pool. Adding four steps was reasonable. He also felt that the City Recorder’s position should be included in this process. This was an investment to attract the best and brightest to Ashland. Councilor Lemhouse added compaction was an issue and the City needed a motive for people to enter management. As department heads retired, overall salary would decrease with replacement hires starting at a lower salary range. Additionally, this was a plan that could change if the economy took another downward turn.
Councilor Voisin agreed department head salaries should increase but would not support the motion. A compensation study should happen first and the salary increase should include the lowest paid employees, secretaries in the City who happened to be mostly women. Councilor Marsh thought adjusting the salary ranges would send a message to perspective candidates. The City was looking for excellent candidates, and wanted new hires to stay. Councilor Seffinger thought leadership had shown a great deal of innovation that came from investing and appreciating department heads. The leadership they supplied the City was invaluable. It made sense to try to continue to get the best possible people. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Rosenthal, Marsh, Morris, Seffinger, and Lemhouse, YES; Councilor Voisin, NO. Motion approved 5-1.
Mr. Kanner would provide Council with a comparison of vacation accruals to other jurisdictions, and information on which jurisdictions offered 401(a) and at what level.
Councilor Lemhouse addressed the City Recorder’s salary noting some considered the City Recorder a department head. Councilor Voisin raised a point of clarification asking the City Attorney to explain how the City Recorder’s salary was set up. Councilor Lemhouse deferred the point of clarification to the end of his discussion and continued. The City Recorder was an elected position with salary set by the City Charter. He thought this was an appropriate time to discuss possible changes to the City Recorder’s salary, restructuring the position, and sending it out to the voters in the future.
City Attorney Lohman read from the City Charter that “… the salary of the elected Recorder shall be in the amount being paid in 1974 and be adjusted starting with the fiscal year 1974-75 in the same percentage as the average salary adjustments of the other supervisory employees and department heads of the City of Ashland.”
Mr. Kanner further explained when Council raised department head salaries they also raised the City Recorder and the Municipal Judge’s salaries. Mr. Lohman noted there was some ambiguity regarding supervisory employees. Staff looked at all the management positions in the City, what they received as pay raises including COLA and step increases, averaged it, and made that average the pay increase for the Judge and Recorder.
City Recorder Barbara Christensen clarified in the past the percentage was based on seven employees and now it was close to thirty employees, which makes the increase percentage to her position and the Judge’s less. The formula had changed over the years, especially with the compensation study when more individuals became supervisors. Mr. Lohman agreed it was complex.
Councilor Lemhouse suggested a Study Session to discuss potentially restructuring the pay of the City Recorder, what would it look like, and decide if this should lead to restructuring the position. Council agreed. Councilor Voisin wanted Council to consider discussing a compensation study during a Study Session as well.
ORDINANCES, RESOLUTIONS AND CONTRACTS
OTHER BUSINESS FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS/REPORTS FROM COUNCIL LIAISONS
Councilor Seffinger explained she was a member of the Senior Advisory Board and would make informal reports regarding the Board to Council. An article in the Ashland Daily Tidings represented itself as a fictional report but made derogatory comments about the Senior Center that were untrue. The Senior Center Director responded to the paper regarding the article. The Board was interested in having senior issues represented when considering planning and AARP’s age friendly communities, something she wanted discussed at a future Study Session.
Councilor Rosenthal noted Ashland was named the number one town to live and work as a moviemaker for 2015 by Moviemaker magazine. He congratulated the local film and media industry.
Councilor Marsh invited the community to attend the State of the City event Tuesday, January 27, 5:30 p.m. at the Community Center.
Councilor Lemhouse thanked everyone involved with the Martin Luther King Jr. event. It was successful and well done.
Mr. Kanner distributed an updated Look Ahead and briefly reviewed items. He went on to explain municipal utilities statewide were looking into requesting the legislature amend the new marijuana law to allow municipal utilities and public utility districts to impose an electrical charge on commercial indoor marijuana growing operations. Council supported the idea.
ADJOURNMENT OF BUSINESS MEETING
Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder John Stromberg, Mayor