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Ashland adopts budget with capital improvements

ASHLAND -- The City Council adopted a $83.2 million 1999-2000 budget Tuesday.

The budget is about 12 percent over this year's because of several big-ticket capital improvements, such as the waste water treatment plant and the Ashland Fiber Network. The most hotly contested issue on the budget was the cutting of staff in the city recorder's office. Cate Hartzell, chairwoman of the budget committee, was in the minority of committee members who had wanted to keep at least a three-quarter-time staff person in the recorder's office.

She asked the council Tuesday to at least monitor what the cut would mean in terms of service provided in the office.

I request this knowing that members of the council are interested in pursuing action to change the charter and eliminate the office of the city recorder, Hartzell said. I believe that this budget may begin that process and as such council should couple it with a responsible assessment of impacts to the public.

In other action, the council agreed to lower the penalties for illegal camping. The previous penalty was a maximum $5,000 fine and one year in jail. City Attorney Paul Nolte noted because of the possible jail time, the city must pay for an attorney if the accused is indigent. The new maximum penalty is $500 with no possibility of jail time.

Only one person spoke on the issue -- a homeless man who didn't think camping should be a crime at all. He noted that the council members used the words under God when they said the pledge of allegiance before the council meeting started.

Jesus was camping. I don't ... see where camping is against God's law, Robert Ingalls said. Why should any resident of this town be prohibited from camping? This is completely ridiculous.