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City to draft plan for ongoing sustainability

Ashland intends to craft a sustainability plan to guide city operations and eventually involve the community.

The plan could be far-reaching, since the city provides residents with water, sewage treatment, roads, electricity and a number of other services.

Sustainability generally is defined as using resources to meet the current generation's needs without compromising resources for future generations.

It's not certain yet whether the city will need to hire outside experts to help develop the plan, said Project Manager Adam Hanks, who provides staff help to the Conservation Commission.

"It's about how to be good stewards of the resources you consume," Hanks said.

The Conservation Commission is researching other cities' sustainability plans and is tasked with creating a framework for Ashland's plan.

Hanks said part of the work will be recording the many green initiatives the city already has undertaken. The plan also will identify areas for improvement.

For example, the sewage treatment plant is the largest consumer of electricity when it comes to city operations. The city potentially could bring in an engineer who could identify energy-saving steps for the plant, Hanks said.

The council could adopt a policy to construct new city buildings and carry out major remodels to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver standards.

The city likely would not pursue official LEED certification because it's a costly process, Mayor John Stromberg said.

The city is taking steps on other fronts to address conservation.

The budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts in July, calls for adding a half-time conservation staff member, who will help residents and businesses use less water.

The fiscal impact is $50,000, according to the 2012-13 fiscal year budget document. The city long has had plans to hire an assistant city administrator, with a salary range of $105,889 to $119,107, according to the budget document.

Benefits generally cost about half of a city staff member's salary.

The assistant city administrator will oversee the conservation division, which currently has two full-time workers and will eventually add the half-time water conservation person, Hanks said.

The assistant city administrator and half-time conservation worker positions likely will be filled this fiscal year.

City operations will be addressed in the first phase of the sustainability plan, with communitywide improvements to be considered in the second phase, according to city officials. Many local businesses already operate within sustainability frameworks, including the Ashland Food Co-op.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.