City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
September 19, 2016
Present: Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, Miller; Director Black; Superintendent Dickens and Dials; Executive Assistant Dyssegard; Assistant Manuel
Absent: Commissioner Shaw; City Council Liaison Mayor Stromberg
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Gardiner called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at The Grove, 1195 E. Main Street
There was none.
Black stated that the City Administrator recently requested from all departments and APRC a year-to-date update on capital improvement projects (CIP), with particular emphasis on financial status as approved by Ashland City Council. Each update was to include monies spent and any changes or deviations as well as outstanding fund balances per project. The updates would be reviewed by the Citizens’ Budget Committee.
Black noted that the APRC report had been well received. Questions related to unspent funds were asked. Black explained that some projects slated for 2015/2016 were somewhat delayed due to time spent facilitating the Performance Audit, the recruitment and hiring of a project manager to manage APRC projects and unforeseen structural issues requiring attention. Black stated that projects currently underway and those waiting to begin would be addressed at an accelerated pace during the second half of 2016.
Black reviewed CIP financial details, noting that project totals were budgeted at $3,817,890 for the biennium. Offsetting resources included $1,374,867 from Food and Beverage Tax revenues, $607,340 from Systems Development Charges, $285,638 from Critical Maintenance funding and $1,550,045 from Municipal Bonds.
Monies spent for projects YTD totaled $471,947. Black stated that approximately $2,123,082 remained for current projects or projected projects in the current biennium. He said some funds were transferred to pay for a critical public safety issue caused by a failure of the Beach Creek pedestrian bridge at North Mountain Park. This resulted in a postponement of lower priority projects pending alternative funding sources.
The Beach Creek pedestrian bridge was financed by reducing fund balances in the Lithia Park asphalt project, the Daniel Meyer Pool solar panel replacement fund, the relocation of the Garfield Park sand volleyball project and others for a total of $115,430.
Black said funding changes came from money left over from completed projects as well as the removal of projects that did not meet the criteria for a capital project, such as building and maintenance upgrades and YMCA Park upgrades. Other changes came from projects listed on the Unfunded Projects List – those that did not have funding available. He noted that he had made the administrative decision to proceed with the project for the sake of public safety.
Landt stated that because the changes resulted in a significant change to the CIP, the emergency action for the Beach Creek pedestrian bridge should have been reviewed and approved by the Commission; Black agreed.
Lewis questioned whether contingencies contained in project fund balances were removed from project totals. Black replied that the cancelled projects were unfunded in that there were no funds identified to complete the projects. Asphalt projects would be postponed until the next biennium, at which time they would become top priorities. When asked by Gardiner if all transferred funds went to the Beach Creek bridge project, Black replied that the transferred funds had become a pool of available funds for projects not listed in the 2016/2017 CIP.
It was agreed by consensus that the Beach Creek pedestrian bridge project would be reviewed, with corresponding changes to the biennium budget formalized at the September 26 APRC business meeting. Eleven current or upcoming projects would also be reviewed at that time.
Dickens highlighted five successfully completed projects to date. He noted that the CIP included $27,000 for a bike skills park, which he felt was sufficient for a beginning-level bike skills course. Project details such as the park’s location could be included in upcoming discussions about the project.
Dickens said the Beach Creek project was in the final stages of construction and the sidewalks damaged by construction were being repaired. He noted the substantial cracks in the asphalt paths nearby (not related to the project) would be repaired with the assistance of Public Works.
Dickens highlighted other details about the project and explained that the culverts would stand for fifty years. Dickens noted that a landscaping plan was underway that included plantings to control erosion on the hillside. He reported that Bee City USA was advising APRC about including pollinator-friendly plants for irrigated areas.
There followed Commissioner discussion about final bids for the Garfield Park project and questions about Ashland Creek Park Phase II. Dickens indicated that Ashland Creek Phase II was the result of a need for a larger storm drain in the street. He stated that the City had required it at the time and put it in at their expense. The City expected APRC to repay them for the work as funds became available.
Landt suggested a review of the established goals for the biennium with a focus on the top five projects. He referred to prior discussions about the profusion of small projects and the establishment of larger top priorities. He highlighted the Lithia Park Master Plan as an example, stating that it was an essential project and while it wasn’t possible to complete in the near future, good progress could be made.
Black emphasized that he supported reaching goals. He stated that the strategy was to do as much as possible until it became clear that some projects would have to be postponed. Black highlighted small projects that would take little time versus other small projects that would be time consuming. He stated that internal priorities were established accordingly.
Landt stated that the focus should remain on the top five projects and care must be given to not let smaller projects get in the way. It was agreed that the review of projects would include input from APRC as to the sequence of priorities. Dickens reflected that unexpected emergencies such as Clubhouse renovations and the Beach Creek pedestrian bridge generally resulted in slower progress on established projects.
HISTORICAL REVIEW OF COLAS
Black reviewed the decision made by APRC to assign a 1.5% COLA and a .5% “catch-up” adjustment for fiscal year 2016/2017. Recently compiled historical data documented background information regarding APRC and City COLAs. Black noted that a median was established based upon comparable units and comparisons between City of Ashland employees and APRC employees. Two bargaining units within the City were removed from the calculation because they operated under no-strike contracts that were negotiated differently from employees who belonged to unionized bargaining units. The adjusted median was 1.75% for the year. Cumulative totals averaged over five years totaled 19.24% for comparative units and 15.47% for APRC.
There followed a brief discussion about calculations for comparable COLAs and ways to extrapolate data that would work for the largest category of workers. Black stated that it was important to note that the calculations were based on factual data and were not arbitrary. Landt suggested that a more meaningful comparison would be looking at like wages and salaries for departments within the City. He noted that COLAs were a device to account for inflation while salaries and wages were generally more responsive to the marketplace. Black agreed, stating that a marketplace salary and wages survey was appropriate every five or six years.
Lewis noted that management should be taken out of the equation when researching differences between City employees and APRC employees. He referred to prior administrations where staff asked for concessions directly from the Commissioners. Black responded that as the Director, he represented APRC staff and it was his responsibility to bring forward staff requests to the Commissioners when appropriate. He emphasized that because of the non-union status of APRC staff, no specific financial contracts applied to APRC employees and no negotiations would take place. Rather, requests were reviewed internally with Commissioner oversight for any budgetary decisions.
Miller stated that he would appreciate actual salary numbers for City laborers and APRC laborers for the sake of comparison. Black explained that COLAs were not the proper vehicle for establishing a commensurate rate, but wages and salaries were.
Lewis stated that in past years, APRC employees occasionally received no cost-of-living adjustments in years when City employees received COLAs. He noted that the COLA had become problematic because inflation was actually negative yet employees still expected and received a positive adjustment. Lewis acknowledged that arriving at a satisfactory balance was somewhat subjective. Gardiner observed that adjusting salaries was more appropriate than using the COLA metric as a catchup tool.
Black stated that he was approached by relatives of landscape architect John McLaren about a possible donation. McLaren’s grandfather had created a bust of John and because of his connection to Ashland Parks and Recreation, the family wished to donate the bust to APRC. Black indicated that he was appreciative of the offer and would consider the acquisition if accommodations for the bust could be found. Black noted that the donation had been originally declined in 1996 because of its size and fragility. He suggested that it be held in storage until such time as a museum was developed for the Parks system. Dickens agreed, stating that a museum was a possibility given the large number of historic artifacts available in Ashland.
Renovation of Daniel Meyer Pool
Dials reported that the pool had been drained and pool tiles repaired. She noted that it was now ready for the winter season beginning with the 2016-17 Masters Swim program slated to begin in November. In response to a question by Gardiner, she stated that the water polo club had chosen not to use the facilities during the winter.
North Mountain Park
Landt called attention to curb damage occurring at North Mountain Park. He stated that large trucks had been delivering materials, forcing other vehicles to go over the curb to get around them. He suggested the addition of an apron to create additional space. Dickens replied that a curb cut was needed. He surmised that the trucks were delivering wood chips.
Bee City USA
Gardner reported that Bee City USA Subcommittee members were advising Parks regarding a pollinator project that would be incorporated into landscaping at North Mountain Park. He stated that their ideas were detailed.
Landt urged staff to ask about maintenance responsibilities. He suggested restraint when incorporating vegetation that would need ongoing maintenance unless volunteers were willing to extend that care. Dickens replied that the priority was plantings that helped control erosion.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.
Betsy Manuel, Assistant
These Minutes are not a verbatim record. The narrative has been summarized to reflect the discussions made. Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission Study Sessions, Special Meetings and Regular Meetings are digitally recorded and available upon request.