Memory care facility water line request denied

​​The Village at Valley View, a 44-bed residential care home for Alzheimer’s patients to be built on Valley View between TC Chevy and Lithia Springs Resort near Highway 99 just outside the city limits of Ashland will not be getting what they hoped for: tapping into the city’s water transmission line for its fire-suppression sprinkler system.

The request was made by developers based on the fact that the city of Ashland has a water transmission line running through the property and the cost would be far less than building a storage tank, approximately $150,000.

Passionate arguments about best possible resources for those who will be housed in a locked facility at night and fire suppression swayed a split council but in the end they voted 4-3, with Mayor John Stromberg casting the tie-breaking vote, to deny the request on the basis that “the project could go on without tapping into the $8 million line paid for with city residential tax dollars,” according to Councilor Pam Marsh.

Ashland city staff recommended against the connection. Public Works Director Mike Faught suggested tapping into the transmission line would leave the city “inflexible” if it should decide to increase water flow in future years. City Attorney David Lohman said the city would not be able under current ordinances to make an exception for just one business. “It would have to be an entire class” of businesses, he advised.

All councilors agreed the project is important in a community with 200 fewer "memory care" beds than surveys say are needed, and it will go ahead without tapping into the line. Stromberg said the Village at Valley View can and will build a 44,000-gallon storage tank for its sprinklers, meeting state safety standards. He argued allowing a “non-standard hook up” such as this would create liability for the city.

Most connections come through distribution lines. The line crossing the property is a transmission line, without the pressure calibrated for serving customers as is the case in distribution lines. If the city were to serve this customer, city consulting engineering firm RH2 said in a letter, "it is recommended that separate distribution piping be installed ... if the City is going to supply water to this area." Further, taking such a step could tie the city's hands as to how it engineers its connection to the TAP (Talent-Ashland-Phoenix) water line.

Developers say they will continue the project and will build the storage tank. As of Tuesday night they did not plan any further appeals.

Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins is a journalism instructor at SOU. Email her at akinsj@sou.edu and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.

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