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City administrator likely to continue for another year

The status of the city's interim leader, next steps on making a decision about City Hall, funding for an emergency operations center and how to pay for additional police officers that have already been authorized are all up for discussion by the Ashland City Council at meetings Monday and Tuesday.

Interim city Administrator John Karns has served for about 11 months after the dismissal of Dave Kanner. It's proposed the former Ashland fire chief's tenure in the office be extended for about another 21 months to July 2019, after the next biennial budget is approved. The staff report prepared by Mayor John Stromberg for Tuesday's meeting lauds Karns' active management of city administration instead of the "caretaker" style usually adopted by "interim" leaders.

The council is scheduled to meet in executive session following Monday's study session regarding "employment of a public officer," then vote during Tuesday's regular meeting on appointment of a city administrator.

Monday's study session also includes review of options for coming up with $330,000 a year to pay for three new police officers. Funding for two additional officers has already been allocated from an increase in property taxes (4.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation per year) and from marijuana tax proceeds, along with initiation of a public safety support fee of 50 cents per month on each electric meter. Options for funding the balance include reductions in spending on other general fund items or increasing the transient occupancy tax, public safety support fee, property taxes, food and beverage tax, parking meter fees or local gas tax, or starting a live entertainment ticket tax.

There's also an agenda item for Monday's study session on capital improvement program strategic planning that includes review of road rehabilitation and overlay projects planned through 2019, including Wightman Street, Mountain Avenue, Hersey Street and Grandview Drive.

The City Hall discussion Tuesday will include a review of steps taken to date, including an already completed seismic study and recommendations of an ad hoc committee that favored rebuilding at the existing location. The structure is made up of two unreinforced masonry buildings, one built in 1889 and one in 1913, that have been modified numerous times through the years, but remain unsupported on three sides and is certain to collapse in a major earthquake.

The council will be asked by staff Tuesday if it wants to proceed with drafting a ballot measure for the May 2018 election on a bond issue to pay for an emergency operations center and training facility for the Ashland Police Department. There's no amount mentioned in the staff report for the bond, which says architectural drawings for the structure have been completed and a bid book is being finalized, but an amount of $1 million for the bond was mentioned at the prior council meeting.

The winter shelter item, which is on the consent agenda for Tuesday's meeting, renews the city's commitment to make a city facility (currently Pioneer Hall) available three nights a week for use by the homeless. The shelter is staffed by volunteers organized by the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Temple Emek Shalom, Ashland First Congregational United Church of Christ and the South Mountain Friends Meeting. The only cost to the city is about $400 a month for liability insurance. First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Episcopal Church each also host one night of shelter per week, for a total of five nights per week when a homeless shelter is available in Ashland.

Also on the council's business meeting consent agenda is establishing an Alan C. Bates Public Service Award and authorization of a special procurement for dam safety engineering.

The award would honor the memory of late state Sen. Dr. Alan Bates, who represented Ashland and southern Oregon for 16 years. The Alan C. Bates Public Service Award would be a way to "recognize and thank individuals in the public sector for outstanding efforts in making Ashland a better place," according to a staff report. It would be bestowed at the annual State of the City event along with the existing James M. Ragland Volunteer Spirit Award. Potential honorees could be elected or appointed officials; government employees/staff; and community members engaged in public policy.

The dam safety item involves an engineering survey needed to meet federal requirements. The cost of about $81,000 is included in the city water supply budget for Hosler Dam.

Monday's study session begins at 5:30 p.m. and Tuesday's regular meeting at 7 p.m. Both are in the Council Chambers at 1175 East Main St., and are cablecast and webcast live via RVTV.

— Email Tidings Editor Bert Etling at betling@dailytidings.com, call him at 541-631-1313 and follow him at www.twitter.com/betling.