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Mail Tribune file photoHarold Hardesty, now believed dead, stands near his historic replica gas station on property that the city of Ashland is purchasing.

Ashland buys Hardesty property for $1.2 million

The Ashland City Council voted Tuesday night to authorize a $1.2 million real estate transaction to acquire a 21-acre parcel adjacent to its wastewater treatment plant for a number of projects, including the construction of a wetlands for wastewater cooling.

“(The land) addresses issues and challenges for various departments,” Councilor Rich Rosenthal said. “We are controlling our destiny with this purchase.”

The council unanimously voted to approve the transaction, which is set to close on June 3 per agreement with the seller.

The two parcels at 1291 Oak St. were once the home to former NASCAR racer Harold Hardesty, who walked off his property and disappeared in 2017. A periodic search was called off in April, a year after his disappearance, as the Sheriff’s Office indicated that he might have committed suicide, based on his declining health, efforts to acquire a firearm and a video footage of him carrying one when he left his residence last year.

Hardesty is a member of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, operated a race track in Medford and raced in 16 NASCAR Grand National races in the 1950s.

His property was listed for sale at $1.5 million.

Public Works Director Paula Brown said the location and the size of the land “fit nicely with several goals” of the city, including the construction of a wetlands to cool down wastewater before it enters Bear Creek.

The 21-acre parcels will also provide spaces for a replacement of B Street yard, a new training site for fire and police department, riparian improvements and a potential public parking lot, according to the staff report.

“(Without it), we don’t know what it would have cost us,” Brown said when asked by the council of the consequences of not purchasing the property. “This one — it’s just staring at us.”

Fire Chief Mike D’Orazi told the council a training site would allow the department to practice drills more often, as he also proposed for the site to be shared with police department.

“We have no facility that the department could do our trainings regularly,” he said. “Our normal drills are difficult to do on city streets and parking lots, but we have made it work.”

Brown said staff hasn’t determined what to do with the existing house on the property, adding it could serve as office space or be divested and sold.

The city will use funding from various departments to cover the purchase, with wastewater fund contributing up to $720,000. Staff proposed that the city divest its property on B Street, which has been appraised at at least $1.8 million, to cover some of the costs.

“This is a forward-thinking move,” Councilor Stefani Seffinger said. “I like to see all the departments working together like this.”

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.

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