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State Of The City Address

Good evening to my fellow citizens of Ashland, my colleagues — on the council and city staff members.

Tonight, we stand on the threshold of a New Year, a year — which, if history tells us any thing at all, is likely to bring us a number — of new challenges.

It is customary that each year at this time, the Mayor — deliver a State of the City address in which we look at the accomplishments — of the past year, the expectations for the coming year, and present an — assessment of how well prepared the city is to carry out its responsibilities — to you, the citizens of Ashland.

As your newly elected Mayor, I am honored to have this — first opportunity to present you with the State of the City for 2005.

Before I begin, I'd like to ask us all to reflect for — a moment as we sit here in this building, set in this most beautiful and — liveable of small cities, to think about how tenuous such comfort and — safety and even life itself can be.

Hardly a week ago, the world stopped and watched in horror — as a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions hit a part of the world — we seldom think of. A tsunami with waves of up to thirty feet deep slid — with deadly and inexorable force upon the shores of a number of nations — around the Indian Ocean, creating a scene of death and destruction the — world has seldom seen.

And the world has rushed to help. Many of us here in this — room may already have pitched in in whatever way you could. I didn't bring — up the horrible disaster to urge you to help (although of course I do) — but to point out that sometimes the unexpected, even the unthinkable, — does happen, and we as citizens and members of government must be prepared — to address it to the best of our abilities.

Although a natural disaster of such proportions has never — been visited upon Ashland, and hopefully it never will, we have experienced — times of fire and flood.

Many of you may remember that, just eight years ago, at — nearly this exact time of year, we were digging our Plaza free of mud — and silt left by the flood waters that raged through our beautiful Lithia — Park and downtown area ... many of you had no water or sewer service...homes — went unheated ... businesses were closed for weeks and even months. Though — we experienced no loss of life, the life of our city was severely interrupted. — The economic hardship was great.

That flood, though in no way on the scale of the disaster — in Asia, provided us with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge — to rebuild better than ever and the opportunity to conduct that reconstruction — in a way that leaves us today less vulnerable than we were then ... with — better creek channelization and a better flood preparedness plan than — before. And that terrible disaster in Asia provides us with an opportunity — for perspective ... that no matter how bad our problems may appear, they — pale in comparison to what the children, women and men of those faraway — Asian shores have gone through.

It is my sincere wish that as we face the inevitable irritations — and frustrations of day to day living in the coming year we keep our good — fortune in mind as well, our good fortune to be living in such a blessed — place as Ashland.

Each year, as in past years, our department heads have — been asked to note the important events of the previous 12 months and — provide us with a bit of a look into the year to come as well.

Under the leadership of Dick Wanderscheid, the Electric — and Telecommunication Department made a number of strides forward in 2005. —

Telecommunications continued to make progress toward turning — the Ashland Fiber Network vision into a reality. Navigant Consultants — was hired to help develop a better understanding of what is needed to — build a marketable AFN. 2004 saw the implementation of many of Navigant's — AFN recommendations and we are continuing to implement the remainder.

New performance measures were developed for the Ashland — Fiber Network, to help us better measure the service's growth and development. — A plan for refinancing AFN's debt was implemented which will smooth its — financial operation as it works toward profitability.

In the Electric Department, an electric rate reduction — to Ashland citizens and businesses was implemented. And the department — continued to convert the City's street lighting system to dark sky fixtures.

We saw the implementation of the Ashland/Bonneville Power — Administration Power Shift Pilot program on the Ashland Fiber Network. — This program will eventually yield far more efficient use of electricity — to all Ashland users.

We also successfully launched the 'Earth Advantage' Program, — the City's new home Energy Efficiency Program which we will be promoting — in 2005.

In the Human Resources Department, Tina Gray was kept — very busy this past year with recruitments, new employee orientations — and general benefits administration as a number of our long-term employees — retired. Among those retiring were:

o Scott Fleuter, Police Chief, after 7 years

o Larry Murphy with the Waste Water Treatment Plant, after — 19 years

o Robert Pope, with the Waste Water Treatment Plant, after — 12 years

o Robert (Robo) Robustelli, with the Street Department, — after 15 years

o Mike Vincent, with the Waste Water Treatment Plant, — after 19 years

o Richard Marshall, with the Waste Water Treatment Plant, — after 25 years

o Paul Nolte, City Attorney, after 13 years, and

o Stu Smith, with the Conservation and Building Department — after 22 years.

We applaud them for their many years of dedicated service — to the community.

On the horizon we have three labor union contracts that — expire this June (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-Electrical, — International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-Clerical/Technical and — Laborers). In order to better fit with our budget cycle and to facilitate — bargaining three contracts at once, we have requested cooperation from — the unions in beginning our negotiations earlier. Instead of settling — in June when the budget has already been set, we are going to begin negotiating — in January and have a much better handle on how the contracts might impact — the budget. This allows for more accurate budget development.

Under the direction of Fire Chief Keith Woodley, the City's — Fire & Rescue Department:

Continues to work toward averting wildfire catastrophes — by securing a $250,000 National Fire Plan Grant to assist private landowners — with wildfire fuel reduction work on their lands located in the urban-wildland — interface. Work is currently ongoing.

They secured an Oregon Homeland Security Grant to help — design and install a radio repeater system to improve emergency communications — for the fire department. Specifications for this system are currently — being developed.

They secured a Federal Emergency Management Administration — grant to prepare a wildfire evacuation plan and install evacuation route — signs in the City of Ashland.

An AM radio emergency broadcast station was installed — at the Fire Department to provide emergency response information at 1700 — MHz on the AM radio band to the community in the event of a community-wide — emergency.

The Community Emergency Response Team program and its — capabilities was expanded. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) — continues to attract new members and provides an important support for — the community in the event of an emergency. If anyone is interested in — becoming a CERT member they should contact the Fire Department for information.

Fire and Rescue provided staff support for the development — of the Ashland Community Wildfire Protection Plan and submitted it to — the Forest Service.

They successfully planned and implemented a 183 acre commercial — thinning project and helicopter timber sale on City-owned forest lands — to remove dead, diseased, dying timber and to thin overstocked timber — stands to improve forest health.

They conducted a community-wide emergency management exercise — for city staff training in connection with the Hosler Dam Emergency Response — Plan.

The department also applied for and won an Assistance — To Firefighters national grant for the construction of a trailer-mounted — house which will be used to teach fire safety education to school children. — This unit will serve all of Jackson County and should be delivered in — March 2005.

It should also be noted that the department is completing — its first year in the new fire station, for which both fire staff and — the city are very grateful.

In the Planning and Community Development Department, — 2004 the City of Ashland saw 19 new housing units added to its affordable — housing stock.

Community Development Director John McLaughlin and his — staff have tackled our affordable housing needs in a number of ways.

working with the Ashland Community Land Trust to develop — a six-unit apartment complex on Garfield and to acquire three additional — units with the use of Community Development Block Grant funds awarded — by the City.

The Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation has — applied $635,000 in City CDBG funds to purchase property for the development — of 15 affordable housing units for home ownership. These units are to — begin construction in 2005.

The City of Ashland dedicated the proceeds from the partition — and sale of surplus property (Strawberry and Westwood) to further the — development of affordable housing.

The City of Ashland passed a minimum density ordinance — in multifamily zones in an effort to ensure that such land is used efficiently — and provides for a needed housing type, apartments.

The City is exploring the process to make a downtown parking — lot available for the development of up to ten affordable rental units — and has issued a Request for Proposals for the development.

The Planning Division processed over 150 planning applications, — creating opportunities for new homes and businesses throughout the community. — Key approvals include a new mixed-use multi-story hardware and apartment — complex on Ashland Street and continued investment in Ashland's downtown — through new mixed use developments. The Planning Commission also reviewed — and approved the first new dormitory housing on the SOU campus in approximately — 40 years, meeting the housing needs of a changing student population.

This has been a good year for the Public Works Department. — I want to share with you some of the highlights accomplished by Director — Paula Brown and her able staff:

All of the operations groups have really engaged in an — aggressive and diverse set of maintenance accomplishments:

The GIS program has fully integrated the base maps to — the utility system mapping (electric, water, sewer, storm drains). This — enables the crews to have current information and make better decisions — for maintenance and replacements. In addition, the link of the GIS system — to the water and wastewater flow models will help to anticipate the needs — for growth and let staff test different applications.

The cartegraph computer program for pavement management — is in full swing and provides great information that improves the street — maintenance program for slurry seals, crack maintenance and overlays. — This analysis helps to reduce costs of full replacements and extends the — useful life of our street network.

The cartegraph program has also been extended to include — building maintenance and wastewater piping to better anticipate a five-year — maintenance and repair plan to effectively manage the financial responsibilities. —

We have effectively looked at our equipment and fleet — purchases to purchase smaller vehicles for the non-crew vehicles, and — are continuing to look at the dual fuel or alternative fuel options. Bio-diesel — is being tested in several of the fleet vehicles.

Infiltration and inflow in the city's sewer lines has — been further reduced through an aggressive sewer mainline evaluation and — repair program. This includes televisioning the lines to locate root problems — or line breaks then fixing or replacing those lines. Smoke testing has — also been completed in several areas to decrease illegal connections. — This has also helped to reduce the number of sewer related claims.

We have operated the "new" wastewater treatment plant's — membrane facility for two full years and have streamlined that process — for better efficiencies in staffing and maintenance.

On the Capital Improvements side efforts have shifted — from transportation projects to water:

Siskiyou Boulevard and Ashland Street were fully completed — in the early spring of 2004, but there are several significant street — projects to complete this year including:

o Beginning Water Street Bridge replacement in March 2005;

o Completion of the 2004 Street Project which includes — the right turn lane at Walker Avenue and E. Main (completed), curbs and — sidewalks on the north side of Hersey, widening a section of Tolman Creek — Road from Ashland Street to E. Main, and reconstruction of E. Main from — Dewey to N. Mountain;

o Completing the miscellaneous concrete project which — includes some downtown curb extensions and crosswalks for safety, sidewalks — on Nevada (LID) and other sidewalk sections throughout town; and

o Beginning the design of the Central Ashland Bikepath — extension to the north end of town along the railroad tracks.

Replacements for the old 1909 water main transmission — pipelines from Hosler Dam to the plant and on into town have been designed — and will be constructed next year at an estimated $1.75 million. That — will reduce the potential for system failures from aging infrastructure.

The preliminary design for the Talent/Ashland/Phoenix — Pipeline extension is nearing completion and the next steps are to secure — land for the receiving reservoir, complete final design and determine — the best timing for construction and water rights approvals.

The Ashland Municipal Airport has seen several improvements — to taxiways, 14 new T-Hangars, and a nearly complete Master Plan. Funds — for the taxiway improvements have come from the Federal Aviation Administration — and Oregon Aviation Administration. The T-hangar building was funded through — a conventional loan to be repaid through rents.

Next year's 2005 focus for Public Works is to:

Complete the fiscal year '05 construction program and — find innovative ways to effect change so that we are better able to tackle — the projects that come up; Focus on training for in-house construction — and maintenance projects to better respond to our customers; Find new — ways to use emerging technology and equipment to improve efficiencies — without compromising quality and safety; Review options for the pending — temperature regulations at the wastewater treatment plant and focus on — the "right water for the right use" which includes options for even more — conservation practices with our potable water use and backyard irrigation — systems; Continue to look at options and solutions to improve safety at — our railroad crossings, and funding availability; and Continue our traffic — safety programs to improve neighborhood safety, school links for bicycling — and pedestrian use, and downtown pedestrian safety projects.

In the Police Department, Police Chief Mike Bianca and — his staff have seen an improvement in police technology this past year — with wireless data connection to police cars.

The police department continues to have successful management — of major events, such as the 4th of July celebrations, the Children's — Halloween parade and New Year's Eve festivities. They also solved three — homicides and two bank robberies.

We saw Rich Walsh promoted to Deputy Police Chief, and — said goodbye to Officers Kevin Flynn who was with the city for 9 years, — and Joe Gagliano, with the city for four years. Jenette Bertocchi from — the front office moved on after six years with the police department.

And we bid farewell to Donna Daniels who retired after — 20 years of service to the Community Service Volunteer Program.

The Finance Department was again presented with the Budget — Award which it has now won 12 times and the Comprehensive Annual Financial — Report award 13 times.

The amount allocated during 2003-2004 for the Ashland — Low Income Energy Assistance Program (known as ALIEP) was $67,000 with — an amount distributed to citizens of $53,720. There remains a balance — at the end of the program of over $6,000.

102 Senior Citizen households, 25 Disabled, — Military — and 150 low income households benefited by the ALEIP program for a total — of 278 households.

The Payroll department has been asked to be on the advisory — committee for PERS. A work-study group has been established and will meet — with several government entities on a quarterly basis.

In the Legal Department, following Paul Nolte's retirement, — Assistant City Attorney Mike Franell was appointed the City Attorney in — July. Mike Reeder joined the Legal Department as the Assistant City Attorney — in October. The Legal Department has been busy this past year handling — the usual lawsuits, claims, appeals and now, with the enactment of Measure — 37, is gearing up for potential land use claims.

The Administration Department oversees our Sister City — Committee, and ties with our sister city, Guanajuato, continue to thrive. — We have been sister cities with this delightful city for the past 33 years — and hope for many more. This last year saw the dedication of the Guanajuato — Room at the Ashland library and a visit from the Mayor of Guanajuato, — Arnulfo Vazquez Nieto and the Governor of Guanajuato, Juan Carlos Romero — Hicks.

Each year the City sends two high school representatives — to Guanajuato to celebrate the Presa de la Olla festivities; last year — Sylvia Van Ausdal and Holly Brooke Milligan were chosen for this honor. — Guanajuato in turn sends its Queen and other dignitaries to Ashland during — the July 4th celebrations.

Our own Senora Chela Kocks was awarded the prestigious — El Pipila de Plata while in Guanajuato earlier in the year. Chela Kocks — has been a constant source of energy contributing to our successful relationship — with our sister city.

Ashland and Guanajuato enjoy a warm relationship, due — to our many student, city and professional exchanges that have served — to produce so many bi-lingual persons.

The Parks & Recreation Department has continued its fine — partnership with the City in providing us with beautifully maintained — parks and a constantly expanding proven recreation department reflecting — our changing community needs. We would also like to note that Don Robertson — celebrated his first anniversary this week as Director of the Parks & — Recreation Department.

In 2004 the Charter Review Committee was formed. The committee — has been meeting a couple of times a month since October to review the — existing charter to determine if it will adequately serve the community — well into the future, and if necessary, the committee will prepare a draft — charter for the City of Ashland. The proposed charter will ultimately — be reviewed by the city council for placement on the ballot for the voters — of Ashland.

For the 19th year in a row Ashland was again named A Tree — City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation to honor its commitment — to its community forest. It shows that trees are very special to Ashland, — as Ashland hosts it own annual Tree of the Year selection process. Residents — are invited to select their favorite tree in Ashland. The winner of the — Tree of the Year for 2004 for Ashland was the Monterey Cypress located — at the corner of Scenic and Wimer. That marked Ashland's 17th Tree of — the Year contest.

The James M. Ragland Memorial Volunteer Spirit Community — Service Award for 2004 was awarded to local community access TV personality — Pete Belcastro. I would also like to take this time to thank all of our — countless volunteers who devote hours and hours of their time to the city. —

In closing, I would like to welcome our new City Councilors, — Jack Hardesty and Russ Silbiger, and congratulate Cate Hartzell on her — relection. I would also like to salute Alan DeBoer, who served very ably — as mayor over the past four years, and Don Laws, who served on the city — council for 30 years. Thank you.

I would also like to express my thanks to all the city — staff for their continued hard work and dedication.

And that concludes my first State of the City speech. — I wish you all a happy and peaceful new year.