Healthcare, housing on council agenda

The Ashland City Council considers a number of measures Tuesday that would have financial implications for the city and its residents. 

Toward the top of the agenda is a proposal to authorize the Ashland Police Department to apply for a grant to cover most of the cost to hire another police officer. The cost, according to Chief Tighe O’Meara’s request would be $74,000 dollars for a starting officer up to $99,000 for one with more experience. The chief requests permission to file for a Department of Justice grant to cover 75 percent of the expense but the rest would be up to the City of Ashland. The grant, if approved, would cover three years. 

This position will be used, according to the request, to maintain a central area patrol and according to O’Meara, “ allowing the department to re-engage with partnerships from which it has had to step away due to staffing needs.” The request would only allow the police department to apply for the grant. If it’s accepted the council would have to approve adding the position and pay for the 25 percent of the salary not covered in the grant. 

Additionally, the council will consider whether it wants to jump in with Jackson County Commissioners in supporting an increased tax on property owners within the city of Ashland and Jackson County. The increased tax would support historical societies and museums to the tune of roughly $850,000 per year for historical preservation. There are no museums or societies in the city of Ashland included in the funding. 

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners intends to create a county-wide Rogue Valley Heritage District, a special taxing district that supports historical museums and historic preservation activities. The Commissioners plan to place a measure on the November 2016 ballot asking voters to approve district formation and a county-wide permanent tax rate of $0.05 per $1,000 of assessed value to fund the district and its historic preservation goals. This resolution grants consent to include the city of Ashland in the district. 

The Ashland City Council supported the measure in the past but it was not successfully brought to the ballot. 

Another item for the ballot in November is a request by Healthcare for All Oregon (HCAO) which wants the city to authorize a ballot measure where residents can advise the 2017 legislature to create healthcare reform. It is an advisory resolution and HCAO Rogue Valley is asking the city of Ashland to refer this resolution to the November election so Ashland voters can decide whether or not to send this advisory to the state legislature. 

Last month this same group packed the council chambers asking for approval. The council, while a majority approving of the idea, wanted to wordsmith it more with Mayor John Stromberg present. He was in Washington, D.C., and missed the meeting. The measure is expected to be approved on Tuesday. 

Councilors will also look at the hot topic of parking within the city limits of Ashland. City Administrator Dave Kanner proposes creating day and night permitted parking in the Hargadine parking structure. The permits would be as low as $25 and up to $50 dollars monthly. The concept, according to the request, would be so that those who work downtown could purchase parking on a monthly basis by permit. No more than a third of the spaces in the structure could be used as permitted parking. This is so, according to Kanner, the parking is not overwhelmed by locals. “This is to ensure that the parking structure does not get filled to capacity on a nightly basis during peak tourism season by permit-holding employees of downtown businesses.” 

The developers of the Verde Village subdivision on Nevada Street will also be in front of the council, asking for changes after having their annexation approved in 2007. Now the developers want two fewer apartments (from six down to four); are asking that house sizes be larger so that the square footage of more than 2,000 square feet not include garages; and they are also asking for changes in the agreement about how open space is created in the subdivision.

The result, according the notes from city planners, may create homes closer together with higher fences and focused on individual preference rather than community. “In staff’s view, the modifications proposed take away the certainty of the original “community by design” concept that was one of the original design values underlying the proposal originally approved by Council,” according to the staff report. The city of Ashland Planning Commission, according to documents included for the council, approved many aspects of the proposed changes, but determined the council is better suited for policy decisions brought up by the changes worthy of “careful consideration” by councilors. 

The meeting is set to start at 7 p.m. in the Ashland City Council chamber, 1175 East Main St. Proceedings are cablecast live on Channel 9 (or 180) and streamed online at rvtv.sou.edu. For more information on this and all council meetings, visit the city website at www.ashland.or.us.

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

Share This Story