Ashland City Hall Tidbits

By David Runkel

City Spends $210,000 for Review of City Facilities

Ashland is spending $210,000 for a review of what it owns, the condition of these facilities and when major repair or improvement projects are needed.

ORW Architecture of Medford was the sole bidder on a contract for part of that work approved by City Council last week after Public Works Director Scott Fleury said the review would provide guidance for city budgeting of “big ticket”  infrastructure work and the “electrification of city facilities.”

In documents prepared for the Council, Fleury explained “the purpose of the project (officially the Facilities Planning Optimization and Management Plan) is  development of a sound, actionable, and fiscally responsible facilities plan that supports the entire City government organization by providing safe and inviting work environments that meet the varying operational needs of all City Departments.

“The City’s intent is to retain a consulting firm with the qualifications and staff resources necessary to perform City governmental facility planning services including, but not limited to, conditional assessment, space and programming needs assessment, and development of a long-term facilities master plan. Goals of the project include, developing a firm understanding of what City services should be provided within existing facility locations, what if any facilities and there (cq) uses can be combined or divested, and development of a facility management plan that can be tied to the City’s existing asset management system.”

Councilor Paula Hyatt used the contract discussion to rehash arguments on $8.2 million bond issue to finance improvements to City Hall, along with the Community Center and  Pioneer Hall which city voters rejected four years ago.  She asked if city councilors could be held legally liable if city workers were injured or killed if an earthquake damaged City Hall. 

In reply, Acting City Attorney Douglas McGeary said that even though the city has insurance, it could be possible for victims to go after councilors. But, he thought that was unlikely.

In 2020, opponents of the bond issue contended that while some City Hall improvements were needed, the building was on bedrock and unlikely to be severely damaged in the unlikely event that an earthquake occurred here.

Asked how she justified her City Hall concerns with her vote to place homeless people in a building with major fire code violations, Hyatt said in an email response,  The shelter has installed additional fire detection, put in place a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, fire watch, and has been fully vetted by our fire marshal to ensure the safety of our guests. With regard to city hall, I am asking questions to seek understanding for the safety of staff. That’s why staff is coming back with more information.”

Fire Marshal Ralph Sartain has issued a temporary occupancy permit for the $2.2 million shelter at 2200 Ashland Street, but has told The Chronicle it will not be renewed beyond March 31 unless a sprinkler system is installed and other fire code violations are corrected.

Mayor Tonya Graham’s question to Fleury was on adding solar panels to the $1 million roof replacement project at the former Briscoe School on North Main Street.  The city paid the school district $2 million for the school in 2018 and has rented it out first to artists and a Head Start program.  The building has substantial deferred maintenance issues that reportedly could cost as much as $6 million. 

Fleury said the solar option will depend upon the structural integrity of the roof which is being investigated.  No funds are budgeted for solar on the building.  The roof replacement is being paid for by a state grant.

Mayor Graham Gets a Vote, Briefly

For a brief moment at last week’s City Council meeting Mayor Tonya Graham became a voting member of the Council in addition to being the chair.

Two members of the council, Dylan Bloom and Jeff Dahle, missed the meeting entirely and near the end Councilor Gina DuQuenne said she had to leave. The council was down to three members.  

Mayor Graham expressed her belief that since her presence was needed to make up a quorum, she was entitled to a vote on pending matters.  Initially Acting City Attorney Douglas McGeary agreed.  The mayor voted on one issue. A few minutes later, however, McGeary had a different legal opinion and a revote was taken with the three councilors present voting yes. 

The city charter provision on the role of the mayor clearly states: “The Mayor shall not be entitled to vote on any ordinance or measure before the Council except in the case of a tie vote, in which case he/she shall have the power to vote, and must vote either in the affirmative or in the negative.”

Volunteers Down, Hours Volunteered Up

The Parks and Recreation Commission was told last week that although there was a sharp decrease in volunteers last year, the number of hours volunteered went up.

The numbers are:  893 volunteers for parks and recreation programs, including the senior center in 2023,  down from 1,236 in 2022.  Hours volunteered, however, increased from 10,055 to 12,048.  

Volunteer coordinator Sulaiman Shelton said the volunteers were equivalent to 5.79 staffers, saving the city nearly $400,000.

He singled out the new volunteers at the Japanese gardens, where 40 docents have been providing guidance of visitors to the rebuilt garden area, and desk help at the senior center.   On the other hand there were fewer volunteers at North Mountain Park which led to the cancellation of the salmon festival. 

Commissioner Justin Adams added there were numerous other volunteers who build and maintain hiking and biking trails in the Ashland watershed.  Many of these trails are on federal land, as well as city-owned parcels, but all are part of Ashland’s extensive trail network.


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