$11,000 in tools taken from affordable housing site

An unidentified burglar stole thousands of dollars in equipment from a construction site in Ashland late Thursday.

As many as 40 power tools — saws, drills, nail guns, compressors and more — were taken from a locked shed at a construction site of the Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit group that is building affordable housing units in town.

"Somebody came in and burglarized the tool shed," said Jeff Strickland, construction supervisor for RVCDC. "We're thinking somewhere around $11,000 worth of power tools were stolen."

As part of the development company's Mutual Self-Help Housing program, RVCDC is working to build 15 low-income housing units on the north side of town, adjacent to the Ashland Dog Park. Under the program, prospective owners work to construct their homes. In exchange, the owners forgo their down payments on the homes.

Workers keep their tools locked in a shed on the construction site. They arrived Friday morning to find the shed door broken off, and realized their tools were missing. They immediately notified the Ashland Police Department.

"I'm a little disappointed something like this could happen at all," Strickland said. "But I'm more disappointed for the homeowners."

Sasha Doffing, a prospective tenant in one of the developments, showed up at the construction site Friday morning ready to work. Doffing said she was shocked when she learned the tools had been stolen.

"It's so disappointing, we had so many plans today," she said. "Now we're going to have to wait."

Instead of working on her home, Doffing and Louise McCullom, also in the self-help housing program, spent Friday morning drilling a plank of wood over the shed's entrance in place of the broken door.

"They pried the lower hinge off, bent the door until the lock bent, then they broke it off and took the tools," McCullom said while drilling the makeshift door into place. She has been working on her home since the development project started last month. While she said it is frustrating to face a setback at the hands of one or more criminals, she is not going to let it deter her from reaching one of her long-held dreams.

"I've lived in Ashland for 23 years, and I've never been able to get my own house in the community," McCullom said. "This means a lot to me."

Eight of the 15 housing units are scheduled to be complete next summer. Strickland said workers should have no problem meeting their timeline, despite the setback.

He says a neighbor told him a grey sedan pulled into the construction site around 9 p.m. Thursday evening. On Almeda Drive by the site's west end, several road barriers lay knocked over, and tire tread could be seen on the gravel leading up toward the entrance of the shed.

Strickland added that all of the stolen tools have "RVCDC" written on them. Anyone who sees a power tool with the company initials on them, or has any information about the burglary, should call the Ashland Police Department, at 488-2211.

Elon Glucklich is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at eglucklich@gmail.com.

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