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City may purchase home of missing former NASCAR racer

The city of Ashland is planning to acquire 21 acres of land just outside Ashland city limits that were once home to missing former NASCAR racer Harold Hardesty and use if for a variety of purposes, including wetlands where discharged wastewater can cool before entering Bear Creek.

The two tax lots on Bear Creek at 1291 Oak St. are adjacent to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Hardesty, 87, walked away from his home and disappeared in 2017. The Sheriff’s Office in April suspended what had been a periodic search for Hardesty’s remains, saying evidence, including his declining health, efforts to acquire a firearm and a security video apparently showing him carrying one when he left his residence for the last time, pointed to suicide. His estate listed the property for sale at $1.5 million.

According to staff report, the city negotiated a purchase price of $1.2 million with the Hardesty Trust.

The city’s plan at this point includes a training site for fire department training, equipment storage, riparian improvements and potential public parking. The home site would be retained.

Funds would come from the wastewater fund ($720,000), street fund, water fund and general fund.

Staff has identified a 6-acre parcel to replace its current debris yard on B Street, which has been appraised at $1.8 million to $1.92 million as of January 2018, according to staff report. Staff proposes that the council sell the lot on B Street to cover the $1.2 million transaction.

The parcel also housed a gas station for a number of years. According to a staff report, the city reviewed a level 1 environmental evaluation that was conducted by prior owners and found “no significant concerns.”

According to the latest offer in March, the seller expects the sale to move forward before June 30. The council is expected to vote on the potential purchase at its business meeting Tuesday, May 15.

There are two items on the agenda for Monday’s study session:

Jackson County Jail presentation: Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler will give a 40-minute presentation on the current challenges at Jackson County Jail in Medford. Sickler recently proposed a $1 million boost in expenditures the next fiscal year to Jackson County Budget Committee this April. He has called the 292-bed Jackson County Jail a top concern.

Wildfire mitigation strategies: Community Development staff and Forestry Division Chief will brief the council on the city’s effort to develop new standards in fighting wildfire. The effort includes modification of boundary map to cover all properties within the city as under threat of wildfire, amendments to the city’s codes for fire prevention plans and adoption of a fuel modification area.

Tuesday’s business meeting agenda includes:

City administrator recruitment process: The council will vote on a process and selection criteria for choosing the next city administrator. Staff reported that the deadline to apply was extended until May 11 due to a low number of applicants. The council and the mayor are asked to help the recruiter to narrow down the semi-finalists of 15 to 25 applicants to a short-list to invite to Ashland. The current proposed timeline has interviews taking place between June 13 to 15, including panel interviews with the City Council, staff and citizen representatives. Staff also proposed a criteria list of five “dimensions” — vision, experience, leadership, communication style and interpersonal skill— to help the council in the process.

Public hearing on a development proposal: The council will continue a land use public hearing on a subdivision proposal at 475 East Nevada St. The applicant has requested a number of exceptions on the affordable housing requirement at its first hearing, prompting the council to ask for additional affordable units. Since then, the applicant has withdrawn its request on several proposals, as it ended its intention to partner with Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity. Staff recommends the council approve the new proposal, as well as a requirement to build three additional small units.

Transportation and Growth Management Grant: Staff is asking the council to approve the city’s application to Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Grant. The grant, which requires a local grant match of 12 percent, would help fund the city’s ongoing campaign to “Revitalize Downtown Ashland.”

The Monday meeting starts at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday’s at 7 p.m. Both meetings are at the Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St. They are on RVTV on cable TV and the web.

— Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.

Tidings file photoA 2007 photo shows Harold Hardesty by his beloved restored gas station off Oak Street near Bear Creek in Ashland. He’s been missing since April 10, 2017, and is presumed deceased.