Ashland City Council members said downtown trash cans are an eyesore, but they asked city staff to look for cheaper alternatives to the $1,000-per-can replacements that were originally proposed.

Ashland City Council members said downtown trash cans are an eyesore, but they asked city staff to look for cheaper alternatives to the $1,000-per-can replacements that were originally proposed.

The city of Ashland is investigating costs for sprucing up the downtown, including replacing garbage cans, washing sidewalks and improving planter boxes.

Management analyst Ann Seltzer said city staff had identified replacement garbage cans that would cost $1,000 each, or a total of $37,000 to replace all 37 downtown cans. She said the cans must be strong enough to withstand vandalism, heavy use and impacts from cars.

The current cans are housed in wooden slat containers and have no covers to conceal trash or keep rain out, and some of the containers have broken slats.

"I think the trash cans are terrible and they are a health risk," Councilor Carol Voisin said during a Monday night study session.

"Yeah, they're gross, but $1,000 a trash can is a lot of money," Councilor Greg Lemhouse said.

Councilors directed city staff to investigate cheaper alternatives. The website www.trashcontainers.com lists public 32-gallon metal slat trash containers with lids starting at $527 when 25 or more are purchased. A less ornate, 32-gallon, metal trash container with a domed lid costs $298 when 25 or more are ordered.

As for dirty sidewalks, property owners are responsible for cleaning sections in front of their buildings. But because many owners aren't keeping their sidewalks clean, the council asked staff to begin power-washing sections with cold water to remove dirt. Councilors decided against paying an outside company $10,000 to steam-clean the sidewalks, which would have removed gum.

Councilors said the city should consider adopting a fee for downtown maintenance that property owners would have to pay. Councilor Russ Silbiger said the city did have a downtown maintenance fee years ago.

Councilors learned that it would cost a few thousand dollars to have a landscape architecture firm design a planting scheme for the various downtown planter boxes in front of businesses, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and other buildings. Plantings currently range from topiaries to pansies in downtown boxes.

Where possible, city staff are adding grates around trees that have open tree wells. Later this summer, the city will lay gravel epoxy into tree wells where grates don't fit. The epoxy levels out the wells with the sidewalk while allowing water to flow through.

In response to a Chamber Downtown Task Force concern about unsightly telephone booths, city staff have made arrangements for a phone company to remove two booths in front of the Black Swan Theatre and Bloomsbury Books.

One telephone booth will remain near the Ashland library.

Costs to potentially repair a broken fountain in front of the Black Swan Theatre have yet to be determined, according to the staff report.

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