The first of two public hearings in the matter of forming a law enforcement district spanning the entirety of unincorporated Josephine County and the city of Cave Junction was held Wednesday, July 12 at the Anne G. Basker-set JoCo Board of Commissioners’ weekly business session.
Sheriff Dave Daniel has personally championed the district proposal, and told the board in May that he would take it upon himself to campaign for the service district on the lead up to the voters deciding its fate this November. All he asked of the commissioners was that they put it on the ballot.
“I’m not asking you to back it. I’m not asking you to even be vocal about it. I’ll do that because it’s my request,” the sheriff told the commissioners.
Daniel cited the uncertainty of relying on temporary levies to fund the sheriff’s department in his rationale for supporting the service district, which would have a permanent taxing rate of 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
County legal counsel Wally Hicks spoke at the first reading of Order 2023-050, which would refer the service district to the voters, July 12 and explained the specifics of what the board was accomplishing with the order.
First, Hicks recapped that the board initiated formation of the district with a unanimous vote June 7.
“The purpose of this hearing is as follows,” Hicks remarked: “To state the board’s proposal to form the Josephine County Law Enforcement Service District, effective upon approval of the voters at the November 7, 2023 election; #2 To allow public comment orally or in writing from all interested persons; #3 To determine whether the area proposed for the district could be benefited by the formation of the district; and #4 To establish the boundary of the district.”
Hicks said that JoCo Community Development Director Mark Stevenson provided a letter dated June 27 offering his assurance that the district would comply with the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. This letter is public record, available on file at the county courthouse.
Following Hicks’ presentation, Sheriff Daniel spoke on the district once again.
“I think this has probably been pretty widely publicized now,” Daniel said. “I think our papers and the news has been all over it. Obviously I’m here to support this initiative and my request to the board to put this on the ballot as opposed to (citizen) petition due to time constraints.”
The sheriff said that while the district will appear on the November ballot based on a board order rather than a collection of citizen signatures, he still views it as a “community-driven concept.”
“While it’s not the fat cash cow, it is something that does create some stability for our law enforcement within Josephine County, and really that’s the goal, is stability,” Daniel said.
The sheriff is tired of losing recruits to other agencies, and says it is far too commonplace for new officers to go through training in JoCo and then transfer to a better-paying organization within 18 months, which results in wasted time and resources on behalf of the JoCo Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Daniel concluded, “It’s not everything, but it’s something and really what we’re looking at down the road (without sustainable funding) is nothing. So hopefully this is something that is palatable to our citizenry and the concept is to give them the opportunity to take a vote, take a stab at this Nov. 6.”
Commissioner John West wanted it reiterated for the record that the city of Grants Pass will not be included in the service district, since they have their own police department, while the city of Cave Junction, which is reliant on the sheriff for law enforcement services, opted into the district courtesy of the CJ City Council. Daniel also elaborated that certain unincorporated parts of JoCo on the outskirts of Grants Pass that are included in that city’s urban growth boundary and thus are serviced by the Grants Pass Police Department will also be exempt.
“I applaud the sheriff for working with the citizens and them coming together and bringing this,” said West. “We have the lightest, the easiest duty here. It’s just to send it to the voters. This time we didn’t have to spend the umpteen hours and the conversations and all the meetings. We just get to put it forward to the voters. I thank the sheriff and I thank the citizens for their hard work and I guess we’ll see what the voters say.”
“I think it’s very important to stress that we’re looking for stability in our sheriff’s office,” remarked Commissioner Dan DeYoung. “We’re looking for something that the sheriff can count on year after year after year, so we don’t have this revolving door of training and then they go somewhere else because they don’t know what their future is here in Josephine County.”
Board Chair Herman Baertschiger wanted to clarify that this proposed service district would not constitute additional funding for the sheriff’s office. Rather, “this is replacement funding for our timber receipts that we’ve enjoyed through the decades that have evaporated.”
“I guess the question that the voters of Josephine County will have to answer is if they want the same presence of the sheriff’s office in your county as you see today, if you want that in the future,” Baertschiger continued. “It’s going to take this mechanism to create the funding for that, and speaking for this commissioner, I do appreciate law enforcement. I want to see it continue and I certainly support this effort.”
The three commissioners unanimously voted to advance the order to a second public hearing slated for Wednesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m.
See the other article for citizen reactions to the law enforcement district and how the commissioners responded during the public hearing.