Friday, January 18 2013, 10:40 PM CST
Josephine County proposed district passes first hearing
By Jessica De Nova/KTVL.com
GRANTS PASS, Ore.-Two Josephine County commissioners passed the proposed Josephine County Law Enforcement District for a second public hearing, while a third commissioner, is not convinced it is the best solution.
Concerned Josephine County residents marched up the stairs of the Ann Basker Auditorium Friday, for the Josephine County Board of Commissioners first public hearing on the establishment of a Law Enforcement District.
The district was proposed by Securing Our Safety, a Josephine County citizens' non-profit group, with the goal of solving the county's limited criminal justice services problems.
"They could work toward a permanent solution that would be acceptable by everybody, as far as SOS and their proposal, I'd fight them tooth and nail," said a Josephine County resident as he addressed the board during the public comments portion of the hearing.
Since the levy failed last May, proponents of the plan are worried about crime in the area.
The proposed district would fund the criminal justice services that all county residents share: Adult Jail, Juvenile Justice, District Attorney, Court Services and Animal Control.
Josephine County Sheriff, Gil Gilbertson, said whether it is a levy or a district, something needs to be done.
"It's anecdotal, I don't have anyone to run statistics. We've definitely seen an increase in crimes," said Gilbertson.
He added that unaccounted for, are the crimes residents are no longer reporting, because they know the Sheriff's Office does not have the resources to service everyone.
The funding package that would go on the May 2013 ballot, would average about $1.85 in property taxes, per thousand of a home's value.
Some residents argue, not everyone can afford the proposed increase in taxes.
"It will affect seniors, those on fixed income. This is a poor county. We can't afford another 20 to 40 dollars more of tax," said Selma resident, Mark Seligman.
Though his family is on a fixed income, another Josephine County resident, Steve Schroeder, said there are hidden costs involved in not paying extra money to fight crime. "All of these things come down to costs that go back to the community, to the property owners. Nobody wants to come here and buy property. Nobody wants to start businesses or buy businesses. So it affects all of us," said Schroeder.
Seligman suggests the costs required to increase criminal justice services, go to those areas bringing in the most crime. "If Grants Pass wants to help out, 70 percent of the crime is committed in the city limits. They have $49 million in a rainy day fund. They could put $500,000 out of that to protect their own citizens," said Seligman.
Sheriff Gilbertson said, Grants Pass is not necessarily committing more crimes, they may just have more arrests. "There's 11 square miles densely populated. They have six, seven, eight people on a shift and they're constantly moving around. So these resources are available in a lot quicker response time and they end up arresting a lot of people and bringing them to us," said Sheriff Gilbertson.
A second public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7, at the Anne Basker Auditorium, for a final vote on whether or not to put the Law Enforcement District up for public vote in May.
Commissioners Keith Heck and Cherryl Walker voted in favor of putting the district up for public vote.
Commissioner Hare said he, "does not support the district at this time."
He prefers a temporary tax levy to give the board more time to come up with a better, permanent proposal, that will have a better chance of passing if put up for public vote.
Hare feels, if the Law Enforcement District goes on the ballot this May, it will not pass.