May 9, 2019
Police Station, Prescott Room
219 S. Ivy, Medford, Oregon
The Medford City Council Study Session was called to order at 6:00 p.m. in the Prescott Room of the Medford Police Station on the above date with the following members and staff present:
Mayor Gary Wheeler; Councilmembers Clay Bearnson, Kay Brooks (arrived at 6:23 p.m.), Tim D’Alessandro, Alex Poythress, Eric Stark, Kevin Stine and Michael Zarosinski (arrived at 6:07 p.m.); City Manager Brian Sjothun, Deputy City Manager Eric Zimmerman, City Attorney Lori Cooper, Human Resources Director Bonnie Barasch, Building Director Sam Barnum, Planning Director Matt Brinkley, Public Works Director Cory Crebbin, Fire Chief Brian Fish, Chief Financial Officer Ryan Martin, Parks, Recreation and Facilities Director Rich Rosenthal, Police Chief Randy Sparacino, Communications Manager Kristina Johnsen, Deputy Chief Scott Clauson, Deputy Chief Phil Eastman, System Analyst Clint Picton, Controller Lorraine Peterson, and Deputy City Recorder Winnie Shepard
Councilmember Dick Gordon was absent.
Council Goal Setting
City Manager Brian Sjothun reported that after Council’s visioning meeting, the City’s leadership team divided into five groups to review the goals set by Council.
Throughout the evening, Mr. Sjothun asked attendees this question: “What would you do if you could not fail?” These are the responses:
- Brian Sjothun: Would like to create the maps program similar to Oklahoma City.
- Mayor Wheeler: Would leave the City better than when he began serving as Mayor and that included creating an aquatics center. Would make Medford more livable and thriving. The City should serve as a model for other cities in Oregon.
- Councilmember Bearnson: Would provide more options and incentives for area youth. Children should want to stay in Medford after graduating high school. Medford is improving slowly, with the addition of the sports park and skate parks. He would use some of the cannabis revenue to subsidize program fees for youth.
- Councilmember Michael Zarosinski: Does not want Medford to be the number one crime city in Oregon. He would like lower average home prices and higher average incomes in Medford. The City has not spent much time working on improving the average income here. He asked the following questions:
- How do we accomplish our goals with the available funding?
- Why do not we have an OSU and OIT here in Medford?
- Could South Stage project provide jobs?
- Could we use hemp to create finished products here?
He would create a bike trail system similar to Sun River, an indoor equivalent of USCCP as an aquatics facility.
- Councilmember Kevin Stine: Would create a Parks and Recreation mecca. He would ensure that people that work in Medford can afford to live here. Maybe create a program with wage scales to determine the rental expense.
- Councilmember Alex Poythress: Appreciated the Bear Creek Master Plan and he would like Medford to improve the creek area. Would like to create Medford’s version of the San Antonio River Walk. Citizens could walk along the creek safely with entertainment along the way. In the downtown area, maybe a park, housing for all income levels, including multi-story housing, and a downtown grocery store. These types of amenities could attract area youth to our downtown for college and graduation.
- Councilmember Tim D’Alessandro: Agreed with most of what has already been said. Would revitalize the Greenway to include lighting, murals, etc.
- Housing for all levels of income
- Build 4 pools, one in each Ward
- Invest into the revitalization of downtown
- Build a big indoor aquatics facility
- Significantly increase funding for art throughout town
He also noted that Bear Creek has a fairly strong odor at the end of the summer and creating a walkway or having businesses face the creek might not be feasible.
- Councilmember Kay Brooks: Would bury the viaduct, eliminate car lots and bad hotels downtown, bring google fiber to all citizens as a public utility, create more housing in downtown, and accomplish everything in the Bear Creek Master Plan.
- Councilmember Stark: Noted that he grew up in Medford, left for college and returned to Medford. He would like for more youth to do that. We need to increase infrastructure and parks, build at least one pool, preferably two. We need to improve the economy, because people cannot find a job that pays enough to afford the housing and cost of living. If we do not improve those things, people will not return to Medford after graduating college.
- Deputy City Manager Eric Zimmerman: Would institute a program similar to one in his previous community. It focused on internships for at-risk youth. The students were guaranteed 80-100 hours paid through a mentorship program. The program provided public service as an option after high school.
- Planning Director Matt Brinkley: Would make Medford a place that other cities look to as an example of “what to do”. Medford often compares itself to other cities, when other cities should be comparing themselves to us. Other cities should want to contact Medford for procedures, because ours are successful.
- Parks, Recreation and Facilities Director Rich Rosenthal: Would request that citizens present proposals regarding how the City should invest the $1.3 million allocated last night, so that it would generate revenue for the City. He did add that the idea would be problematic to manage and track.
Medford in the 21st Century Vision Strategic Plan
Mr. Sjothun advised that the Medford in the 21st Century Vision Strategic Plan began in 1997 with a public survey. There was overwhelming support to create the vision, with more than 300 people offering to assist. Council approved a resolution adopting the Vision Strategic Plan in 2002, which contained 10 strategies: Growth Management, Parks, Recreation and Environment, Public Safety, Human Services, Economic Development, Arts and Culture, Cultural Diversity, Education, Transportation and Housing.
The finalized plan was very large and difficult to manage both internally and externally. The recession also changed the City’s focus to core services.
Mr. Brinkley reported that the 2050 Plan defined a long-term vision and implementation program for the revitalization and redevelopment of Medford’s city center. It divided the downtown area into sections, focusing on seven goals: regional position, growth, urban design, historic preservation, housing, transportation and partnerships.
The 2050 Plan included integrating the Bear Creek Greenway into the bicycle and pedestrian transportation system, improving downtown aesthetics along arterial streets, expanding the downtown parking district, creating a special zone for parking, increasing downtown residential units, creating partnerships that reinforce the goals outlined within the plan, etc.
The Plan is consistent with the current goals and many of the projects have been completed: two building parking structures, streetscape and pedestrian improvements all along Central and throughout downtown. The plan suffered from lack of funding.
Bear Creek Master Plan
Mr. Rosenthal noted the Bear Creek Master Plan was commissioned by the Medford Urban Renewal Board and the City Council in 2001 to guide the development along the Bear Creek. The Plan contains 66 projects and was adopted in the Comprehensive Plan in 2003. It divided the 7.5 miles of creek frontage into three zones: north, center and south. The center zone included a downtown development portion. The plan included habitat enhancement, creek side dining, sitting areas, water features, public art, interpretive trail, etc.
The main challenge to the plan was that it relied on assistance from outside the City, including the County, state, ODOT, property owners and business owners. It was also limited by the expense and economic conditions. He noted there is a lot of privately-owned property along the west side of the Creek.
Five Council Goals from February
Mr. Sjothun outlined Council’s five goals from February and proposed a sixth:
Health and Safety, with the following subordinate goals:
- Deputy Chief Phil Eastman: Would create a sales tax and maybe a tourist tax. Tourists expect to pay sales tax and it would provide revenue from people that are not residents of Medford.
- Controller Lorraine Petersen: Would partner with Human Resources to create a leadership academy for Council and City employees, at management levels and above. Management should transition from tactical thinking to more strategic visioning thinking; it would also avoid “working in silos.”
- System Analyst Clint Picton: Would create Medford’s version of the San Antonio River Walk. Medford has a lot of potential and that would improve the livability in the downtown area.
Mayor Wheeler noted multiple comparisons to Bend and suggested everyone be more “Medford-centric” and recommended that we make Medford a model for other cities in Oregon.
The meeting adjourned at 7:40 p.m.
Winnie Shepard, CMC
Deputy City Recorder
- Neighborhood livability partnership: includes departments, biennium deliverables, funding and future deliverables.
- Livability concerns: Livability team; partnering with Jackson County and ODOT, continuing the Greenway health and safety operations.
- Homeless System Improvement Plan:As previously discussed within a study session, the goals and actions will continue to be finalized.Council would need to adopt the plan by October 1 and create spending priorities before staff begins the grant funding process.
- Public safety level-of-service (LOS) with fire and police. Staff needs direction regarding Council’s preference for safety LOS.
The Council had no objections to creating the health and safety goal.
Councilmembers Zarosinski, D’Alessandro and Stark requested information on staff needs, specifically regarding firefighters. They would like to know duties, amount of cross-training, the required LOS, and whether the City researched the use of smaller vehicles.
Mayor Wheeler added that the City needs the physical capability to provide required health and safety services. He also thought the goal could be included within the current livability goal.
Councilmember Poythress recommended adding emergency response management under this topic.
Deputy Chief Phil Eastman’s group discussed how to incorporate approximately 100 units of residential housing for low to moderate income families within the downtown core. The units would create a mixed‑use area and create a more walkable and inviting downtown.
Mr. Sjothun noted that the housing strategies action items included the review and approval of changes to development standards, adoption of new parking policies, encourage downtown residential development and increase opportunities for housing. The Homeless Action Plan and CDBG program are also included in this topic.
Controller Lorraine Petersen’s group believed the City’s Master Plan should be updated and reviewed to include improving both sides of the creek, creating greenspaces and partnering with businesses to flip their frontages toward the creek. People continuing to purchase items online will create development opportunities for greenspace, parks, an event center or hotels that could bring people downtown. It was noted that the water quality within the creek itself needs improvement.
The group did not spend much time discussing an aquatics facility, the citywide space needs assessment or public works infrastructure, as those projects have already begun.
The City needs a facility on the east side of town for public works emergencies, but also for public safety. The current proposed budget includes a fueling island, fuel storage, security, etc. for the east side service center.
The group added redevelopment and revitalization to the downtown area to the list. The freeway only has two off-ramps into town, while Bend has seven. They suggested some type of redevelopment under the viaduct to improve the aesthetics and bridge the gap between east and west Medford.
Mr. Sjothun clarified that the City could partner with ODOT during the viaduct widening project to potentially mitigate our concerns. He also outlined Council’s expressed funding allocations for the Bear Creek Master Plan, an aquatics facility, a citywide space needs assessment and public works infrastructure. The Transportation Commission will review the Transportation System Plan to prioritize the transportation list and assist staff’s improvement of the public works infrastructure.
Councilmember Zarosinski suggested catering to Amazon or other online companies to retain area jobs. Urban Renewal Executive Director Harry Weiss agreed with the employment concerns and suggested diversifying empty locations for meeting places for social gatherings, as shopping centers have traditionally served this function as well as providing products.
Councilmember Brooks noted that the Oregon Employment Department has identified e-commerce as a growing employment field in the Rogue Valley. She recommended the City provide infrastructure to support that increase through city-wide fiber. This would enable all citizens to utilize the internet for remote employment. She also suggested using empty retail store space for satellite locations for colleges.
Mr. Sjothun advised that the remaining topics would be discussed at the Council goal setting meeting on May 30 and through the G3 meetings.
Councilmember Bearnson presented his preferences for the marijuana funding. He suggested five main categories: housing, homelessness, public infrastructure, downtown revitalization and economic development. He recommended codifying regulations for the marijuana revenue, specifically to create a dedicated fund for Council’s spending discretion. That fund would be included as a single line item within the budget, but would not be dedicated toward one specific expense in perpetuity.