The Board of Josephine County Commissioners finalized the transfer of ownership of Sportsman Park, which houses a popular shooting range, at its Oct. 26 weekly business session.
The deed for Sportsman Park was turned over to the nonprofit Josephine County Sportsman Association.
Earlier this year, a series of contentious public hearings was held on the transfer. Ire was drawn initially from the general public at the prospect of giving away an asset valued at potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars when the county is already facing a dire financial situation; gun range patrons specifically were concerned the facility would be shut down if an ownership change proceeded.
However, public opinion shifted after it came out during the hearings that a longstanding agreement with JCSA forbade the property from being sold without the nonprofit’s approval. In addition, deed restrictions prevent the property from being used for any purpose but a shooting range. The commissioners also assured citizens that ironclad terms were included in the property transfer ensuring the range will be operated exactly as it always has, and if these terms are violated ownership would immediately revert to the county.
“The transfer to the Sportsman Association, that was highly contentious here in the valley,” Commissioner Dan DeYoung said. “I think we vetted everything out on that as far as the different reasons why; we looked at the future and property values and also I think we got everything squared away on the federal money that came to that organization years and years ago and the strings attached to that.”
“Personally,” DeYoung continued, “I think this was probably about one of the only ways that the Sportsman Association and the Sportsman Park could remain open to the public without a bunch of strings attached; because now they are their own governing entity out there. There are some deed restrictions that, if they violate those deed restrictions, it could come back to the county at some point in time in the future… I think it’s a really ironclad contract and a lot of thought went into it.”
During requests and comments from citizens, local resident Dennis Turner approached the podium to voice his concerns over the proposed law enforcement retail activities tax, which appears as a ballot measure in next week’s election.
Turner criticized the board for, in his opinion, failing to adequately explain why the sheriff’s office will be drastically downsized if LERAT is rejected by voters, including in an informational packet that was sent out to many JoCo inhabitants.
“It is a mistake to assume that what is common knowledge to you is common knowledge to the public,” said Turner. “May I suggest there are many voters in this community who will vote on Election Day without this information. This may be your strategy, and it may work, but it’s my opinion that it erodes the public’s trust and confidence that you need to be effective.”
Commissioner Dan DeYoung refuted the notion that he and his colleagues have neglected to inform the public about why LERAT is needed, citing numerous forums and press outreach in the effort to prove why the sales tax is necessary to find the sheriff.
DeYoung also acknowledged the likelihood that LERAT will not be approved, saying, “Maybe this isn’t the time for LERAT. Maybe when people understand what the alternative to LERAT is to fund the sheriff’s office into a functioning office, then maybe five years from now or two years from now or 10 years from now they’ll say, ‘You know what? Let’s dig that up and tweak it and maybe bring that back to the voter’… I find it ironic that there’s no other solution out there.”