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Council mulls stimulus wish list

ASHLAND — The city of Ashland hopes to get a share of federal stimulus money meant to jump-start the ailing national economy.

During a meeting that starts at 7 tonight, the City Council will decide whether to submit a $34 million wish list of projects for possible funding.

"We have received no assurances that any of these projects will be selected for funding," city Project Engineer Jim Olson cautioned council members in a memo.

But the League of Oregon Cities and the Oregon government have asked local communities to submit lists of public works projects that could begin quickly.

Congress is likely to consider a federal economic stimulus bill that would pump billions of dollars into the economy. The stimulus would be similar to the Work Projects Administration's plan in the 1930s to lift America out of the Great Depression, according to Olson's memo.

The Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water line connection that would link Ashland to a supplemental water source from Medford could be included on the wish list. Building four miles of pipeline would cost $6.8 million. The water line already extends to Talent.

Repaving streets, replacing water and sewer lines, building sidewalks and restoring a section of Ashland Creek are among the other projects that could be submitted for federal funding.

The projects already are on the city's to-do list and would normally be stretched out over many years, paid for by local taxes and fees with some funding from outside sources. However, some projects don't have funding available.

Also tonight, the council will consider whether to approve a plan that would guide development of all Rogue Valley cities in an effort to preserve farmland and open spaces. The hope is to accommodate a growing population while maintaining green space and a separation between cities.

City Councilwoman Kate Jackson has been helping other cities with the plan for years, although Ashland decided early on to limit growth around the town.

Last week, the Ashland Planning Commission split 4-4 on whether to recommend that the City Council sign the draft plan. The Planning Commission was missing a ninth tie-breaking member because former Commissioner John Stromberg took office this month as mayor.

The City Council tonight also will hold a public hearing about a proposed welcome center and rest stop outside Ashland near Exit 14 on Interstate 5. The welcome center could help the local and state tourism economy, but neighbors have expressed concerns about noise, crime and the potential strain on city services.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.