The Ashland City Council will consider whether to extend city water service to the proposed Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center south of town along Interstate 5, and whether to let the facility hook into an existing sewer line that leads to Ashland's sewage treatment plant.

The Ashland City Council will consider whether to extend city water service to the proposed Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center south of town along Interstate 5, and whether to let the facility hook into an existing sewer line that leads to Ashland's sewage treatment plant.

The council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

Residents who live in the vicinity of the proposed welcome center and rest area — which would be at mile marker 12.5 — have said it would use scarce city water, increase noise, attract transients and criminals, and increase fire risk. Oregon Department of Transportation officials and tourism proponents have said it would provide a needed rest area and information to northbound visitors as they enter the state. Office space would be set aside for Oregon State Police, which would help alleviate safety concerns.

For inside the buildings, ODOT officials are asking to use 1,400 gallons of potable city water per day — the amount used by members of 3.7 houses. Using 1,400 gallons of water wouldn't negatively impact the city's water supply, city staff said.

ODOT plans to use Talent Irrigation District water on landscaping.

City Councilors should bar ODOT from using any city water for irrigation if they approve the water connection, city staff recommended.

A sewer line already extends past the site. It served a rest area higher on the Siskiyou Pass that was closed in 1997 because of dangerous collisions on a steeper section of I-5.

Ashland's sewage system could handle the connection, city staff said.

In addition to getting permission for water and sewer service from the city of Ashland, ODOT also must go before Jackson County Commissioners on May 11 to ask for an exception to state land use Goal 11, which prohibits extending city water services for an urban use on rural land.

The state Land Use Board of Appeals and the Oregon Court of Appeals previously ruled that ODOT needs to get an exception to Goal 11 to move forward.

Construction costs for the Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center would be $7.5 million, with $2.5 million of that needed for the Welcome Center.

ODOT has money for the rest area, but the state agency Travel Oregon would have to pursue welcome center funding if the facility wins approval from elected officials, ODOT officials said.

If Ashland City Councilors want to approve water and sewer service for the facility, they could condition that approval on the welcome center moving forward, city staff suggested.

For more information on the proposal, and for information on other items on the City Council's Tuesday night agenda, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=13956.

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