The Ashland City Council will hear recommendations on how to spend funds from the transient occupancy tax for downtown beautification during their meeting tonight.
The TOT, also known as Ashland's tourist tax, is a 9 percent tax added to lodging accommodations in the city. The ad hoc Downtown Improvement and Beautification Improvement Committee was appointed in March to determine how to spend the funds budgeted for "other City projects that qualify" with an emphasis on downtown projects.
The committee had a budget of $124,000 for these projects. In April, the City Council approved three short term projects. These include three "Welcome to Ashland" signs, improvements to the right of way on Lithia Way between Oak and Pioneer Streets and additional lighting on the walkway from Oregon Shakespeare Festival's New Theater to East Main Street. After these projects, about $100,000 remains for the current budget cycle ending June 2015.
One project proposed by the committee is to improve landscaping in the parking lot on Lithia Way and Pioneer Street. The committee has determined that the ash trees in the lot are nearing the end of their lives with most of the growth occurring at the end of branches, which poses a risk of branches breaking and falling on people or cars. Many of the shrubs also are damaged and need to be replaced. The irrigation system also would be replaced and fencing would be installed to protect new plantings. The project is estimated to cost $31,000.
The committee also recommends public art for a city-owned half wall adjacent to Earthly Goods clothing store, 142 E. Main St. Seating also would be incorporated.
Other projects include new planters in the Plaza, partial replacement of Plaza pavers and sidewalk improvements on the corner of Lithia Way and Pioneer Street.
The council also will give direction to city staff regarding questions to be included in the biannual citizen satisfaction survey.
Every other year, Ashland contracts with the National Research Center for a satisfaction survey of its residents as part of the National Citizen Survey. The mail survey will be sent to 1,200 households in Ashland this fall and results will be reported in January. The city will be benchmarked against all communities nationally, as well as against university communities with populations of 10,000 to 40,000.
The 2012 survey found that Ashland citizens were, in general, much more satisfied with quality of life and city services than citizens of comparable communities. However, Ashland did not measure up well against other communities in terms of economic sustainability.
Ashland is able to generate three local specific questions for inclusion with the national questions. Proposed question subjects include economic development, how to deal with City Hall's space concerns, social services and more.
The City Council also may approve a resolution setting the application fees for medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, as well as hear updates on the drought and Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project funding attempts. The council also will hear the fourth quarter financial report.
The council meets at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St. The meeting also will be broadcast on channel 9 for Ashland TV customers and channel 180 for Charter customers.
A complete agenda and details on each item is online at www.ashland.or.us.
Email reporter Ian Hand at email@example.com or call him at 253-722-4071. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/IanHand_DT.