MINUTES FOR THE STUDY SESSION
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
Monday, March 2, 2015
Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room.
Councilor Seffinger, Rosenthal, Marsh, Morris, Lemhouse, and Voisin were present.
1. Public Input (15 minutes maximum)
2. Look Ahead review
City Administrator Dave Kanner reviewed items on the Look Ahead.
3. Economic Development Strategy program and budget update
Management Analyst Adam Hanks explained the Business Retention and Expansion Survey (BR&E) was one of the key projects for the upcoming biennium. The other key project was videos for the Business Resource Portal to drive marketing and outreach.
Sandra Slattery, the executive director of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce added the BR&E started ten years ago through collaboration between the Chamber of Commerce and the City. The data from the 2012 study provided the information to build the Business Resource Portal. The surveys were confidential and conducted by an independent consultant who analyzed the data then published a final report for the Chamber of Commerce who in turn provided a report to the City. Only the consultant saw the raw data. Consultant services cost $35,000-$40,000.
City Administrator Dave Kanner addressed the staffing resource allocation and explained there was no increase in staff. The budget would now accurately reflect Mr. Hanks’ time with 25% for economic development, 35% in central services, 20% in electric, and 20% in water.
The $50,000 under Immediate Opportunity Funds was a placeholder. Staff was looking into ways to revive the Green Business Challenge. The Immediate Opportunity Funds could go towards software that would support that challenge. The budget allocated up to $20,000 to jumpstart the Ashland Community Resource Center Job Seeker Program. If successful, Immediate Opportunity Funds could go to supporting that program as well. Another use of Immediate Opportunity Funds was the Rogue Community College (RCC) Entrepreneurial Scholarships that would provide funds to Ashland residents to reduce costs for entering into the training program. Avista put money into the program and could contribute or match funds for Ashland citizens interested in starting a business in Ashland.
The business focused marketing and promotion for Ashland Fiber Network (AFN) services in alignment with AFN Business Plan was pending until AFN launched product and services. The Pre-development site expansion and growth evaluation for key employment lands with Ashland was not a high priority. It would take place incrementally. The concept involved a proactive pre-application that evaluated sites ready for expansion or probable expansion properties.
Ms. Slattery provided background on the lack of middle educational training and the need for that training in Ashland. The Chamber of Commerce was looking into collaborating with Southern Oregon University (SOU) and RCC to determine specific skills required and bring in the necessary training. Funds could possibly come from the City and interested businesses. Council suggested applying Immediate Opportunity Funds for RCC Entrepreneurial Scholarships to the middle educational training program as it advanced.
Ms. Slattery and Mr. Hanks clarified the City was not funding the Business Resource Portal or the Economic Dashboard. City contributions consisted of the video component and staff time instead of direct funding.
The seven strategies in the economic development document were solid, the objectives worked well and staff was working through the actions. The document was set up for annual updates with a detailed review and revision every five years.
Councilor Marsh suggested adding a Doing Business in Ashland link to the Business Resource Portal on the homepage of the City website. Council and staff discussed the homepage and possibly having a Doing Business in Ashland link for a six-month trial period. Councilor Seffinger was interested in information for careers and second careers for the older population.
Councilor Voisin wanted the City to hire the SOU Research Center to conduct the next BR&E survey.
Ms. Slattery met with the SOU Research Center and they did not have the capacity to work at the level required for the BR&E survey and maintain confidentiality. The BR&E survey required an independent, confidential economist. Even though the SOU Research Center participated on the Road Diet and Ashland Forest Resiliency projects, using students would not work with this particular survey.
4. Discussion of amendment to special events policy for Halloween parade
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained Councilor Marsh had requested a discussion to establish the Halloween parade as a community event and exempt it from paying City expenses. Council could amend the special events policy and approve a resolution to waive fees for the parade during a Council meeting.
Council agreed to add the amendment discussion to a future Council meeting. Opposing comment did not want to waive the costs and expressed concern the action would set precedence for future events.
5. Review of proposed Mayor/Council budget for 2015-2017 biennium
City Administrator Dave Kanner proposed cuts to the Council budget that had increased 27% primarily due to health insurance by decreasing dues to various conferences, specifically the League of Oregon Cities. Of the $65,000 budget, $31,000 went to pay dues, the remaining covered meeting expenses, room rental fees, training, travel, lodging, and the State of the City celebration.
Council discussed establishing one conference per year for each Councilor or selecting two Councilors to attend various conferences and report back. Some of Council was open to reducing the budget while others wanted to retain the level. One comment suggested breaking conferences down into line items for each conference.
Mr. Kanner would forward conferences to Council they might be interested in attending.
Meeting adjourned at 6:46 p.m.
Assistant to the City Recorder