City Council vote affirms authority of parks panel

The Ashland City Council unanimously approved a resolution stating it has no intention of taking over Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission responsibilities.

The resolution also reaffirms the commission's authority to hire a parks director.

The council and commission have had a rocky relationship over the past several months.

During this year's budgeting process, the Ashland Citizens' Budget Committee and council ended the practice of giving the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department half of city property tax revenue.

Instead, the city will receive property taxes, and then give money to the parks department.

The parks department had its own taxing authority for a century, but that ended in the 1990s when Oregon voters approved measures ending many independent taxing authorities.

Until this year, the city and parks department had maintained a gentlemen's agreement to give the department approximately half of city property taxes.

The resolution affirming the commission's ability to choose a parks director and the council's disavowal that it wants to take over commission responsibilities was drafted by Councilor Dennis Slattery. It was approved Tuesday night.

Councilor Pam Marsh said the resolution is an effort to clear the air because of the council and Parks Commission's recent period of contention.

"This says we intend to move forward together," Marsh said.

Parks commissioners have fought the budgeting changes.

City and parks officials now have an ad hoc committee that is exploring stable funding options for the parks department.

Commissioner Stefani Seffinger, who has been active in trying to build bridges between the commission and council, said the resolution will help create a sense of trust between the two elected bodies.

"We all love our community and we want it to work well," Seffinger said.

Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he was deeply disappointed about rumors in the community that the council wants to take over Parks Commission responsibilities.

"I'm completely disgusted it has come to this and we have to put forth this resolution saying we have no intention of taking over another elected body," Lemhouse said.

He said anyone spreading the rumors is trying to cause a tear in the community.

The council's affirmation that the Parks Commission has the authority to hire a parks director will have little consequence for now.

Current Parks Director Don Robertson said on Wednesday that he has no immediate plans to retire and certainly has no plans to seek another job.

He said he wants to finish his parks and recreation career in Ashland.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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