The Ashland City Council agreed to name longtime city employee Adam Hanks as acting city administrator, spend $211,020 on a environmental cleanup project in an effort to dismiss a federal lawsuit, and streamline the Transient Occupancy Tax grant process at its meeting Tuesday.
Interim City Administrator John Karns officially resigned March 31 — more than a year after he was asked to fill in after then-administrator Dave Kanner was dismissed by the council.
The city approved a national recruitment process in search of the next permanent city administrator in February. According to the timeline proposed, the city expects to appoint a new city administrator before July.
“For the interim seat, we consulted with the recruitment firm, and instead of bring somebody who isn’t up to date with issues in our city, we realized that (Hanks) is a good fit,” Mayor John Stromberg said at the meeting.
Hanks has 27 years of experience working within city hall in a number of positions, Stromberg said. He was most recently the assistant to the city administrator and was working closely with Karns, the mayor added.
Under the temporary contract, Hanks will earn a monthly salary of $10,019.08 — or $57.80 per hour, or a little over $120,000 per year. He will also receive a monthly automobile allowance of $400 unless the city chooses to provide him a vehicle.
Hanks declined to comment in a previous interview whether he will seek the permanent city administrator seat.
The city agreed to let Karns resign early without giving a 90-day notice accordingly to his contract, Stromberg said. In return, Karns will work as a contractor until the end of June. The city won’t be paying Karns’ benefits or health insurance.
Karns will be compensated at $70.26 per hour, and he will not work more than 40 hours a week, according to this new contract.
Councilor Dennis Slattery condoned the mayor’s effort but also raised concerns about having post-employment contract.
“It doesn’t exactly meet my eyes,” Slattery said. “We should make a case study out of this to make sure we won’t be in this situation again.”
Lithia Springs cleanup’s last stage
The council also approved a $221,000 contract to Lake Oswego environmental design-build company Henderson, LLC, to conduct environmental remediation and construction of the wetlands at the city-owned Ashland Gun Club site. Staff said the project will be the last action needed to satisfy Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s standards and set forth ground to dismiss a lawsuit against the city involving lead contamination from bullets.
The city-owned property, located east of the Ashland Municipal Airport, has been leased to the Ashland Gun Club since the 1960s, where club members and different law enforcement agencies practice shooting.
The city conducted a suite of environmental studies in 2008, which found no evidence of groundwater or waterway pollution. In 2012, three neighbors — Cathy DeForest, her husband, Leon Pyle, and Dr. Edward Kerwin — filed a lawsuit against the city and the gun club alleging lead contamination from ammunition, gunfire noise and the risk of bullet strikes beyond the boundaries of the gun club.
The city was ordered by the presiding magistrate to proceed with remediation activities in a 0.65-acre wetland area, which helped in dismissing the case in 2016, according to court records. The plaintiff filed an appeal in December 2016.
The work includes draining and filling the 0.65-acre wetland that was impacted by firing range onsite, as well as constructing 0.78 acres of mitigation wetlands to offset the permanent loss.
The city’s project manager, Kaylea Kathol, said the city received seven bids and chose the lowest bidder.
“It’s not a bad price for wetlands mitigation work,” Kathol told the council.
The lawsuit is ongoing, with the plaintiffs due for a response to the city’s statements on April 18.
Grants Ad-Hoc Committee
The City Council approved formation of a new ad-hoc committee to “streamline the grants process” during budget off-years using funds coming out of the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax.
The process — which staff said had redundant steps — falls under the obligation of Citizen Budget Committee, Hanks said. Under the current resolution, the mayor would convene the citizen members of the committee, appoint members to form a sub-committee to hold two meetings, and reconvene the members to hear its recommendation before presenting it the council.
“The ad-hoc committee would just have a very simple, one-sentence mission,” Hanks said, where appointed members meet and review applications in two meetings before recommending straight to the City Council.
Grant funds total $229,703 in 2018-19 fiscal year, according to staff report.
The council had a lengthy conversation during Monday meeting regarding who could be appointed on the committee, among other concerns.
Four citizen members from the budget committee — Garrett Furuichi, Paula Hyatt, Pamela Lucas, and Shaun Moran — volunteered and was appointed on the committee this year. All five councilors also volunteered to be on the committee.
Study session discussion
The City Council has been discussing off and on about its meeting rules to further increase productivity.
At Tuesday’s meeting, City Attorney David Lohman presented several suggestions on study sessions, which include moving the meeting to Siskiyou Room at 51 Winburn Way, not televising the meeting and allowing “free-flowing, unstructured colloquy.”
Council expressed different opinions on the suggestions, but unanimously agreed the meeting should be televised.
The conversation about the public forum — on what topics (on or off the agenda) and for how long residents should be allowed to speak at meetings — were also brought up.
“It’s hard for the public to come speak in front of the council,” newly appointed Councilor Jackie Bachman said. “We need it. There will be important ideas that will be brought to us.”
The council also discussed possibility to require staff to include Powerpoint presentation slides in the council’s packet, to allow votes during study sessions and to stop asking residents who want to speak at public forum to disclose their street address.
Liquor license approved
The council also approved a liquor license application for a new restaurant on Will Dodge Way.
The restaurant, called MAS, is under the ownership of local chef Joshua Dorcak, who last year won the statewide Iron Chef award in Portland and recently ran a pop-up restaurant in the basement of Mix Bakeshop.
Councilor Rich Rosenthal said he wasn’t “thrilled” to have another drinking facility located in the alley, where an ongoing conflict between the two existing establishments and a landlord is unresolved.
Staff clarified that the application will be a restaurant with 12 to 16 seats that serves alcohol.
MAS’s website states the restaurant will serve its “signature 10-course tasting menu.”
—Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.