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Ashland meals tax covers old sewage debt

I see that the city of Ashland just sought approval to appropriate $3.6 million to upgrade its water treatment plant. Isn’t that what the money generated from the meals tax was originally supposed to pay for?

— Scott K., Medford

You have the right idea, Scott, in that much of the meals tax covers a treatment plant, but you’re looking upstream when you ought to be looking downstream.

About 80 percent of Ashland’s meals tax, passed by voters in 1993 and renewed by voters in 2009, covers debts for past wastewater treatment plant upgrades, according to Mail Tribune news reports going back to the early 1990s.

Voters passed the prepared meals tax in the early 1990s, first at 1% to fund park purchases, and soon thereafter Ashland City Council expanded it to 5% in order to cover past environmental upgrades to the sewage treatment plant.

The earlier upgrades were expected to be paid off by 2022. Funds from the meals tax will then be used for future environmental upgrades. Voters will revisit the meals tax in 2030.

Ashland’s sewage treatment plant, located in the 1100 block of Oak Street, is separate from Ashland’s water treatment plant on Granite Street, where the city’s drinking water originates.

City Council approved earlier this month $3.6 million toward engineering costs to replace the Granite Street facility. The proposed, new, seismically sound plant is not covered by the meals tax.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501 or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.