Petition To Oppose Ashland City Council’s $75 Million Water Infrastructure Loan

ASHLAND, Ore. — One of Ashland’s residents has initiated a petition to bring a loan of $75 million to upgrade the city’s aging water treatment plant to a public vote. Dean Silver, in response to the city’s decision to approve the loan, argues that residents should have a say in the council’s financial decisions.

The current water treatment plant is susceptible to flooding and doesn’t incorporate the newest filtration technology that adapts to changing water conditions, such as toxic algae blooms. The loan is intended to finance a new water treatment plant.


Ashland City Council Water Infrastructure Loan Approved

Earlier this month the Ashland City Council voted to borrow the money from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fund a new water treatment plant. Scott Fleury, Ashland Public Works Director, said the loan works similar to a credit limit and the city would be approved to borrow up to $75 million, but will only pay back what it borrows. The loan is connected to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, a federal program providing long-term, low-cost loans for water infrastructure projects.

Scott Fleury, Ashland Public Works Director, said the city has attempted to reduce the costs of the new water treatment plant, but inflation in the construction industry has increased 2019 estimates of $35.9 million. Current estimates for the new water treatment are $55-70 million.

The loan is set to be paid through a series of 10% rate increases over the next four years to pay for the project. Fleury said Ashland is working on expanding its low-income assistance program to help people who will be affected the most. This would remove the age requirement for the program, currently applicable to low-income individuals who are 65 years and older.


Ashland Resident Gets Approval to Run A Petition Against Water Infrastructure Loan

Dean Silver, an Ashland resident, is trying to force the city to bring the issue to voters. He says residents should have a say on the $75 million loan. He received approval from the city recorder’s office to collect signatures for his petition on Tuesday. If the petition gets enough support, the issue is likely to be put to a vote in November.

Silver says the City Council shouldn’t spend such a big amount of money without voter approval. The number of signatures needed and the deadline for the petition are currently unclear. State law says 5% of residents must sign the petition, but a city ordinance sets the minimum at 10%.

Silver said that if the petition gets enough signatures, there will be a good six months for everybody to talk through the issue. He said the basic issue is, “Should the city spend that kind of money on the kind of water treatment plant that’s been proposed?”

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