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Ashland mulls how to spend money in downtown

Proposal will be presented Dec. 17
 Posted: 2:00 AM November 07, 2013

City of Ashland officials intend to craft a plan for spending hotel tax money that could include further improvements to the downtown and beautification projects in other parts of the city.

Some money could be used for more changes to the downtown Plaza. A controversial makeover of the Plaza wrapped up earlier this year.

Ashland city councilors have received hundreds of petition signatures from residents upset by the Plaza reconstruction.

The city has set aside about $128,000 in hotel tax revenue for capital projects during the current two-year budget cycle, said City Administrator Dave Kanner.

During a Dec. 17 council meeting, city staff will bring forward a proposal on how to use the money, he said.

Some councilors said earlier this week they would support appointing a temporary committee to research city beautification projects.

"We need to look at things in a comprehensive fashion," Councilor Dennis Slattery said. "We want the downtown to be welcoming and friendly."

Kanner said there are many more potential projects than can be funded with the available money.

Many residents who dislike the Plaza reconstruction were especially upset by the installation of dark gray pavers.

Digging out the current pavers and replacing them with pavers of a different color, such as tan, would cost about $35,000, according to city staff research.

Councilor Pam Marsh said the city should weigh the value of replacing the pavers versus other improvements that could be made.

She said many recent improvements to the downtown were generated by complaints, not because the city had a proactive plan for improving the area.

The Plaza reconstruction started after some residents said the heavily trafficked area was becoming worn and trampled. Tree experts said several mature trees were suffering in the cramped urban environment.

The reconstruction included the removal of lawn areas, cutting of trees and planting of new species, installation of benches and concrete seating walls, landscaping and a public art mosaic.

In other downtown changes, the city replaced garbage cans and removed a pay phone booth that some members of the business community said were unsightly.

City workers are in the midst of excavating and replanting planters at major downtown intersections. The business community had voiced concerns that the planters were sparsely planted and didn't have a cohesive landscaping scheme.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.


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