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Ashland opens Emergency Operations Center

The city of Ashland announced Monday that it has opened its Emergency Operations Center and made a few other changes designed to aid residents in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the city’s Emergency Management Plan, a 318-page document available on the “forms and documents” page of the city’s website (Ashland.or.us), once activated the EOC “will track, manage and allocate appropriate resources and personnel. During large-scale emergencies, the EOC will, in fact, become the seat of government for the duration of the crisis.”

If necessary, the document goes on, the EOC will serve as a multi-agency coordination center for the city.

Ashland public information officer Chris Chambers said opening the EOC is a powerful tool.

“It’s an organization that helps to prioritize and bring resources as needed and basically just organizes the city in a different mode of response than we normally work in, in our day-to-day jobs,” he said. “Depending on what the need is, it streamlines our response and lets us create a strategic plan to address the needs.”

The city of Ashland also announced Monday that utility customers will not be charged late fees for past due balances or be disconnected for late or non-payment through April 30. Also, bill payment plans will be extended beyond the three-month policy time frame, and the due date for the lodging tax and food and beverage taxes will be extended to June 1. Both previously had late April due dates.

“The city recognizes that our residents and businesses may be affected in different ways and are encouraged to contact the utility billing staff to develop custom payment plans during these current unique and challenging circumstances,” said a news release, which directed residents to email utilitybilling@ashland.or.us.

Mayor John Stromberg lamented the potential impact of the novel coronavirus Monday, noting that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s decision to ban dining at the state’s bars and restaurants and prohibit gatherings of 25 people or more will be tough to swallow for local businesses.

“So that means everybody who’s in a business that depends on people filling up a space in town — the rug has been completely pulled out from underneath them,” he said. “We’re going to need some substantial help financially for the business community.”

Also this week, in an effort to help the public practice safe hygiene to limit the spread of COVID-19, the city has placed 24 portable restrooms and 18 portable hand-washing stations throughout Ashland. The stations have been placed strategically at places with heavy foot traffic, including Lithia Park, North Mountain Park, Oak Knoll Golf Course, Garfield Park and near the bus stop by the Ashland library.

An interactive site map of hygiene stations can be found at gis.ashland.or.us/Coronavirus, and Ashland is releasing coronavirus-related updates that pertain to the city at ashland.or.us/coronavirus.

On Friday, the city announced that the Community Development Building and City Hall will close to the public 15 minutes early — 4:15 p.m. for the Community Development Building and 4:45 p.m. for City Hall.

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.