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Proposal: Make top level pay hikes automatic

The Ashland City Council will discuss tonight whether to automatically include Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) raises for non-represented management and confidential positions, a change from its current process where it must be first suggested.

The recommendation is for a 2.4 percent increase based on a standard cost of living index. This year it would amount to $4,500 more than budgeted for in the current budget, according to a staff report.

“The staff in this group are spread out over many departments and funds in the City and the additional increase can be absorbed through position vacancies that have remained unfilled, and reductions in expenses to manage to adopted budget,” the report says.

The city is currently negotiating new labor agreements with its two public safety bargaining groups. The remaining bargaining groups’ contracts call for wage increases this year of 2.5 percent for the IBEW Electrical Workers, 1.5 percent for Clerical/Technical, and 2 percent for the Laborers Union Local 121. The Parks and Recreation Commission approved a 2.8 percent cost of living adjustment for its non-represented management.

An ordinance expanding the wildfire hazard zone will also be discussed at this meeting. The document the unanimous approval of the Planning Commission last week. The ordinance would move to expand the wildfire hazard zone to include the entire city of Ashland, as well as establish stricter fire safety regulations for all new construction. A couple of ordinances already in place would be amended, including requirements to remove any dead or dying vegetation within five feet of structures and clearing highly flammable trees 10 feet away from structures. A prohibited plant list of flammable plants to not be planted within 30 feet of any structure would be implemented as well.

The recommendation came about due to the number of fires that have ignited through the years outside of the current hazard zone and the threat posed by flammable vegetation. An ad-hoc committee analyzed potential hazards in town and possible solutions to lessen wildfire risk within city limits.

Expanding the wildfire overlay of the city will not necessarily increase homeowner’s insurance rates (like it would in areas prone to floods), according to a local insurance agent who asked they not be identified out of a concern doing so could jeopardize business relationships

She said there’s no real way to know for certain because rates are determined by a national organization. She said a factor that does determine rates in areas prone to fires is the response rate of the fire department and that it has improved in recent years, meaning that rates have lowered slightly for the city.

The council will also vote on the second and final reading of an ordinance which will ease the process of adding rental units to existing residences. The proposed ordinance amendments create a streamlined approval process for accessory residential units (ARUs) that are less than 500 square feet and attached or inside of a single-family home. The amendments would exempt these units from the planning process. Instead the property owner would obtain a building permit to construct the ARU.

If the council approves the amendments, the ordinance will take effect 30 days after it is signed.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. today, July 17, at 1175 E. Main St.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Tidings file photoAshland's City Hall on the Plaza.