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Ashland approves levy lengthening library hours

The Ashland City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to put a property tax levy of up to 25 cents per $1,000 on the November ballot to keep the Ashland Library open 40 hours a week over four years.

Pam Vavra, chairwoman of the Citizens' Library Advisory Committee, told the council that Ashland can't count on passage of a county-wide library levy in the current economy and should shoot for passage of the increased Ashland levy in this presidential election year, when measures don't have to have a double majority, in which the levy must receive at least 50 percent of the votes cast, and the voter turnout must exceed 50 percent.

Ashland last year passed a library levy for two years, which collects 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation on property, but allows up to 58 cents per $1,000, if needed.

If the a countywide levy were created in 2010, said Vavra, it would create a "hole" in funding of the Ashland library from mid-2010 to mid-2011, which could be filled by passage of a new levy.

After a six month library closure last year, the county came up with funding for 24 hours a week, which Ashland augmented with funding for another 16 hours.

The council referred the ballot measure to the city staff for financial analysis and to determine the exact amount needed. The council will vote on the levy again when those numbers are known.

In another matter, the council voted unanimously to oppose the Bureau of Land Management's WOPR (Western Oregon Plan Revision), with Lesley Adams of Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center saying the plan "benefits a few instead of the majority" and increases forest fire danger while it harms drinking water sources, habitat for many species and quality of life that supports tourism.

The comment period for WOPR expired in January, but the council vote, said Adams, would encourage Congress to pass legislation to protect old-growth forests in the remaining eight months of the Bush administration.

Under the resolution, the city calls on the BLM to protect old-growth forests (more than 180 years old) and mature forests (80 to 180 years old) in 2.5 million acres of Western Oregon forest lands.