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Council weighs competing parks measures in Ashland

Ashland City Council is trying to find a middle ground between two competing ballot measures that would affect parks, and decided Tuesday to hash it out next week.

City Manager Joe Lessard has proposed a ballot measure that would allow the food and beverage tax to be split between the Parks and Recreation Department and fire, police and other emergency services.

Under current law, at least 25% of the tax must be dedicated to parks, and up to 73% can go to street repairs. Two percent is for the costs of collecting the tax.

Another ballot measure, drafted by a group calling itself Friends of Ashland Parks, Trails and Open Spaces, would give the entire food and beverage tax to Parks and Recreation. Signatures are being gathered to put the measure on the November ballot.

On Tuesday, Ashland City Councilor Stephen Jensen said that he and Councilor Paula Hyatt had met with three members of the Friends group in an effort to try to find common ground and endorse one ballot measure.

Jensen said APRC commissioners Rick Landt and Jim Bachman, along with former APRC commissioner Mike Gardiner had attended a Zoom meeting with Jensen and Hyatt Monday for what Jensen said was a productive discussion.

Jensen asked council to endorse what he referred to as the “pure food and bev” ballot measure, which would allocate the entire food and beverage tax to the Parks Department. Jensen said he and Hyatt had promised nothing during the Zoom meeting.

Other councilors and Mayor Julie Akins expressed surprise that the meeting had taken place.

The council voted to discuss the ballot measures again at its next business meeting July 5.

The deadline for the city to file Lessard’s proposal with the city recorder is Aug. 19.

In other council business Tuesday:

  • Michael Hersh, a longtime Ashland volunteer, was given the James M. Ragland Memorial Volunteer Service Award posthumously. It was accepted by his widow. Councilor Stefani Seffinger presented the award, remembering Hersh as a man with a sense of humor, compassion and a boldness to speak his mind.
  • The Alan C. Bates Public Service Award was given to Seffinger in recognition of her many years of service to the city. Councilor Stephen Jensen presented her with the award.

“Our town is grateful and forever changed by her able and constant care,” Jensen said.

As she accepted the award, Seffinger said this will be her last year on council, but she will continue to work hard for the city of Ashland.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.

This story was updated. The original incorrectly said that Ashland had devoted 97% of food and beverage taxes to parks last year.