The Board of Josephine County Commissioners voted to set a first hearing in the matter of forming a countywide road service district and proclaimed the week of July 16-22 Parole and Community Supervision Week at their July 19 weekly business session, held at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
Unlike the proposed law enforcement service district expected to be on the November ballot, the road service district would not have a taxing rate. Instead, federal forest reserve funds that were previously transferred to the county road fund will now be distributed to this district. An Oregon law that went into effect last year allowed for this change to occur. Both the city of Grants Pass and Cave Junction have opted to be included in the district based on a vote of their respective city councils.
JoCo Public Works Director Rob Brandes said the hope is that the federal government will withhold less of the county’s forest reserve share with the district in place.
“The PILT dollars that the county gets every year based on our federal acreage is not taxable so we get payments in lieu of taxes,” Brandes explained. That money flows into the county but before we get it what they do is look and say, ‘Did you get any money under the SRS, the national forest fund, the Grazing Act all these kinds of things?’ If you’ve got any of those that is a deduction against your PILT payment so in the case of Josephine County our $1.9 million PILT has the first $600,000 taken off the top because they say, you got $600,000 to your road fund with SRS so by creating a road district we will take that money into the road district. Instead, and the theory, the hope, the prayer, the cross the fingers ‘til next spring, is they can’t net that against us. So Public Works gets that same $600,000. It just comes to a district instead of through the SRS versus the county fund but instead of $1.3 million we’d get the full $1.9 million PILT.”
Board Chair Herman Baertschiger called the road district “an excellent idea and we’ll just see where it goes from here.”
Brandes noted that there is a chance the Feds could find a loophole and still withhold the $600K, in which case he would propose disbanding the district because there would be no use for it.
The first public hearing for the countywide road service district is scheduled for Aug. 23 at 9 a.m. at Anne G. Basker Auditorium.
Also in the meeting, the commissioners honored parole officers.
“We’re recognizing some folks that, you know, they’re kind of working behind the scenes so you don’t hear a lot about them but they have to do amazing things,” remarked Baertschiger. “They literally have to pull rabbits out of hats and we understand that and I guess if we’re not reading about you in the newspaper it’s a good thing.”
The proclamation read in part, “Community Corrections is an essential part of the criminal justice system and Community Corrections professionals uphold the law with dignity, while recognizing the right of the public to be safe-guarded from criminal activity.
“Community Corrections professionals are responsible for supervising justice-involved adults in the community and Community Corrections practitioners are trained professionals who provide services and referrals for offenders.”
Deputy Community Corrections Director Scott Hyde came up to the podium to accept the commissioners’ proclamation and made brief remarks.
“Commissioners, thank you so much,” said Hyde. “I want to thank you for taking the time to acknowledge the good work that’s being done at Community Corrections. The foundation of our agency are 36 outstanding individuals who show up every day and answer the call. The call is simple – we bridge the gap between accountability and reformation. While this call is simple in concept, it’s difficult in practice. In other words, it’s much harder than it sounds. We supervise approximately 850 adults in Josephine County and the truth is not all of those individuals are ready for change, and for those individuals we represent accountability in their lives.”
Hyde added that he believes Josephine County has “one of the finest Community Corrections agencies in the state,” based off of “anecdotes and an ever-increasing supply of empirical data.”
“From our public-facing support staff who welcome you with a smile and remind you that everything’s going to be okay to our community crew coordinators who humbly labor alongside our community service teams keeping our highways clean and our irrigation ditches flowing with water to our CAP staff who saved the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year through jail avoidance to our correctional counselors who provide motivational enhancement and cognitive behavioral therapy to our highest risk populations to our POs who keep us safe, these are the 36 who answer the call and work tirelessly for the betterment of Josephine County. So I say thank you commissioners for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this team. I truly appreciate that and I consider it an honor.”
Baertschiger called the Community Corrections Department’s work crews and their supervisors “excellent” and said he once went on a ride along with parole officers in downtown Los Angeles, which was “an experience I’ll never forget.”
“Thank you for all you do,” expressed Baertschiger. “It’s amazing.”
Commissioner John West added, “The community doesn’t see all that you do and I want to thank you for everything that each one of you do and keep up the good work; we’ve got your back.”