Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, June 06, 2001

June 6, 2001 - 12:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street

Mayor DeBoer called the meeting to order at 12:04 p.m.

Councilors present: Reid, Hartzell, Hanson, Fine, Laws and Morrison. Staff present: City Administrator Greg Scoles, Police Chief Scott Fleuter, Officer Bobby Jones, City Attorney Paul Nolte, City Surveyor Jim Olson, Community Development Director John McLaughlin and Code Compliance Officer Adam Hanks.

1. Traffic Enforcement and Education.
Police Chief Fleuter explained that the most common public safety concerns are related to traffic. The most recent crosswalk enforcement program concentrated on violations associated with crosswalks. He noted the benefits of the Ashland Police Department Volunteers. The Police Department continues to work closely with the Traffic Safety Commission. Fleuter clarified that the number of complaints received and the data gathered drove the request for an additional patrol officer. DeBoer asked that the word "sting" was no longer used, as the negative connotation detracts from the educational benefits.

Reid suggested taking advantage of RVTV to provided spot-education videos for traffic safety and enforcement. Fleuter stated that education and enforcement for crosswalk and traffic safety would continue. Officers working in crosswalk enforcement would gather statistics to determine if the operation has helped with safety. Ashland Police Officers are given discretionary authority when issuing citations for traffic violations. The department philosophy is based on allowing officers to use their best judgement, depending upon the situation.

Council discussed speed limits, enforcement, and safety enforcement issues. Fine suggested considering a strict enforcement policy, including posting signs stating that the City supports pedestrian right-of-way. Laws noted the variances in speedometers and the difficulty when determining a buffer zone. He suggested adopting a citywide 25-mph speed zone, making enforcement easier. Fleuter explained that officers are allowed to issue warnings, if the reason is strictly to enforce and educate. He felt there was a need for additional enforcement for traffic safety education. Reid stated that the council needs to trust that the Police Chief understands the policy regarding public safety, and that he would use his management skills and knowledge to carry out the needs of the people in this community. Fleuter stated concerns regarding a citywide 25-mph speed limit, including transition zones. It may be possible, depending on speed requirements for certain areas. He suggested combining the information from the Traffic Safety and Bicycle/Pedestrian Commissions to make communication more effective. Reid was not in favor of a citywide 25-mph speed limit. She felt the main focus should be safety, and any program should center on education and enforcement. Fine felt that citywide speed limits would not be feasible in the greater area, noting Ashland Street specifically.

Public Works City Surveyor Jim Olson explained that speed limits are governed by State regulations. Factors relating to size of streets and other issues must be followed when posting speed limits. He noted subdivisions, traffic circles, and related difficulties. Council agreed that the community feels the department is performing well, noting a recent survey.

Thomas Harmann/Member of Traffic Commission/Stated that the commission appreciated the council's endorsement for traffic safety education. Fleuter clarified that warning and citation tracking would be developed over the next few months.

DeBoer concluded, stating that he was in favor of Fine's suggestion to place signs upon entering the city notifying driver's that pedestrians have right-of-way. He agreed to speak to the Traffic Safety and Bicycle/Pedestrian Committees liaisons to see if they are willing to combine into a larger committee. Fine stated that the Bicycle and Pedestrian's role is to advocate, whereas Traffic Safety's role is to regulate, they may not be compatible.

2. Code Compliance.
Code Compliance Officer Adam Hanks gave a brief summary of the Code Compliance Program conducted by Community Development, including a combination of responsibilities and duties encompassing many City functions. He explained which departments are most appropriate for handling certain code compliance issues. The program's focus is compliance versus enforcement. Compliance relies on education, communication, and persistence as a means to resolve violations. Citations are used as a last result to achieve compliance. Enforcement programs utilize citations and legal processes as the primary means to achieve compliance.
Hanks listed examples of preventative measures: 1) distribution of Parkrow & Right-of-Way brochures; 2) attendance at all pre-construction conferences for new subdivision and large construction projects; 3) coordination with City Attorney and Planning Staff for better wording of Conditions of Approval; 4) pre-noticing all vacant property owners for upcoming weed abatement deadlines; 5) use of existing publications to inform public about timely compliance issues; and 6) review inspect and comment on all pre-application conferences for upcoming Planning Actions.

Council engaged in a discussion regarding the wide variety of compliance issues and the difficulty assigning performance measures for enforcement. Scoles explained the different circumstances dictating the enforcement for compliance. McLaughlin gave several examples where citations are not effective when dealing with contractors.

Hanks noted that although the process may seem effective, it would be valuable for him to be a part of pre-constructive meetings. Code compliance is enforced through other departments, and he works mainly as a dispatcher for complaints. McLaughlin confirmed that Hanks acts as a communicator on compliance issues and passes on the complaint to the appropriate department and the individual who have the expertise in dealing with the issue.

Council discussed options for the enforcement of citations. Fine suggested reviewing penalties to be sure that the amount covers the cost of enforcement.

Council set the Dynamics Workshop for June 27, 2001, at 12:00 p.m.

Scoles explained the handouts given to council before the meeting regarding issues brought up at the Council meeting the night before, including letters about: the "big box" question, the set back and plat map requirement, and the approval period for the library. A copy of the letter sent to Higher Ed regarding the Perozzi property was also included.

Councilors Morrison and Laws left the meeting at 1:40 p.m.

Hanks explained the procedure for weed abatement, which is handled by Community Development, not the Fire Department. Scoles commented on the variety of issues regarding enforcement of City Codes and the politics of election signs, which has been inconsistent. McLaughlin explained the many aspects to code compliance and how Community Development utilizes the skills Hanks has to offer, including building software programs for permits. Scoles clarified that several departments handle compliance, it would be difficult to say if there was a need for a full-time position. It is a matter of priority.

Council discussed the philosophy of compliance versus enforcement, and their direction for the level of enforcement. It was agreed that reason and discretion was important when issuing citations. DeBoer noted that he had not heard complaints and felt that staff was managing compliance well. Scoles explained that enforcement was complaint driven. Often the public believes the City is aware of infractions, but until a complaint is made, staff is not aware. Reid noted that safety issues are the most important to follow for code compliance.

Hartzell noted the fence between McDonalds and Clay Street. Hanks explained that the pedestrian easement ends and private property begins on the other side. Further development may bring the fence down. At this point, anyone crossing the fence is trespassing.

Meeting was adjourned at 2:05 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder/Treasurer

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