Ashland City Hall Tidbits

4 Councilors Shown The Door

All six city councilors attended last Thursday night’s neighborhood meeting about the new homeless shelter on Ashland Street, but four were quickly shown the door. 
It’s too bad for them since the meeting was not televised. In addition, no recording was made of the negative comments and questions asked by upset neighbors who were not even asked to give their names.  The only news reports of the session were in The Chronicle and on Jefferson Public Radio.

They had to leave to avoid violating the state’s public meeting law.  Somehow, the city failed to send out and to advertise that the Council was meeting with community residents.  Therefore only the mayor and two councilors could participate.  Joining Mayor Tonya Graham for the meeting with Councilors Bob Kaplan and Dylan Bloom. 

At the start of the meeting, Mayor Graham recognized the others who were standing in a row at the back of the meeting room in the basement of the Stevenson Union on the SOU campus and saying they had to depart.  Waving their hands the four walked out.

Those departing were Paula Hyatt, who had initiated discussions with neighbors of the new shelter; Gina DuQuenne who lives nearby; Eric Hansen and Jeff Dahle.

Emergency In Buying an Emergency Vehicle

On the consent agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting is the purchase of a new city ambulance on an emergency basis, a move that avoids competitive bids.  In a message to Council, Fire Chief Ralph Sartain said one of the department’s ambulances “is suffering mechanical issues including breakdown while responding to a call.

“Our first out single-role ambulance has 180,000 miles on it and in week two broke the turbo and was taken out of service, leaving us with an ambulance that has 158,000 miles as the reserve,” he said. “We researched for ambulances available for immediate delivery and were able to locate an ambulance on the assembly line at BraunNW that we could take possession of in the next 90 days.”

The ambulance cost of $213,000 is $75,000 below other ambulances the city researched, Sartain said.  The city’s rules require Council approval of any emergency purchases in excess of $5,000. 

The new vehicle will not match the Ashland’s rescue red and black color scheme, however, because it is already on the assembly line.  Politics apparently is not an issue in this purchase.  The president of BraunNW  in Chehalis, WA, is John Eric Braun, who is also the Republican leader in the Washington State Senate. 

Jam Packed Consent Agenda

Eight other items are on Tuesday’s Council agenda.  These items are not open for debate, unless a councilor requests it be removed, and are voted on in a block.

In addition to the ambulance purchase, the Council is being asked to:

  • Approve a contract with Axon Enterprises, Inc, for resupplying the police department with tasers and body cameras for the next five years at a cost of nearly $400,000.
  •  Amend the 2023-25 budget to increase wildfire funding by accepting two federal grants of $294,800 and reallocating $141,000 from ambulance revenues that were not included in either last year’s budget or this year’s. 
  • Approve a $196,650 contract with RH2 Engineering, with offices in Medford, for engineering work on improvements to the TAP (Talent, Ashland, Phoenix) water connection.  The funds come out of a $3 million grant federal American Rescue Plan Act.
  • Approve leasing the rooftop of the city’s building at 90 N. Mountain St. for $550 a year to Ashland Solar Coop for “on site and community solar energy production.”
  • Approve applying for a planning grant from the state Department of Land Conservation and Economic Opportunity to hire a consultant to help draft an economic opportunity analysis for the city.
  • Confirm the appointment of Tara Houston to the Social Equity and Racial Justice Advisory Committee. 
  • Approve liquor licenses for the House of India, 1667 Siskiyou Boulevard, and Marsala Library Bistro and Bar, 258 A street. 

By David Runkel



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