The Ashland City Council will consider a resolution at Tuesday night's meeting to raise city utility rates to fund five new police officers for the city of Ashland.
Options presented would tack a monthly fee on each water or electric meter, costing those who pay bills on the meters between $8 and $65 per year.
Police Chief Tighe O’Meara earlier this month requested consideration saying the city often has situations where it only has one officer on patrol within the city limits. He also requested a restoration of a school resource Officer. The price tag given was roughly $550,000.
Councilors decided not to decide but instead to have the city staff prepare a resolution which would allow raising utility fees for the purpose of funding the request.T
The price tag has been openly questioned by Budget Committee member Shaun Moran who estimates the cost with equipment and training to be closer to three quarters of a million dollars. Moran sent an open letter to council questioning not only the process but the price.
In an open letter to the council Moran questions the math. “Additionally, the $530,000 per year, average cost of $106,000 per officer, add-in proposal doesn’t seem to reflect the true costs to the city. When you calculate the police staff employee average pay per year (personnel services) and then add in the average yearly cost to the city to employ that police staff (service and materials), as outlined in the adopted 2015-17 budget, the true cost to taxpayers, appears to be higher.”
Council will decide to pass the resolution, postpone it or vote against it.
In addition councilors will consider expanding the area where downtown behavior is monitored. The area under consideration is largely the public parking lot on Lithia and Pioneer where those on the homeless spectrum often sit and gather. The area on the Plaza and downtown has already been set aside as no smoking zones, no sitting or laying on the sidewalk and no aggressive panhandling. Now the City Council is considering expanding the zone to include the parking lot and adding a condition that parking spaces can only be used for cars, rather than sitting or congregating.
The council passed it in a first reading and could finalize the decision on Tuesday night. In its evening of first reading only one person came to the council to suggest passing more ordinances of this type criminalizes the poor and homeless. Others who spoke represented business entities who spoke out against those whom they said smoke in the alley on Will Dodge Way and acted in an aggressive manner.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.