Alternative for Public Safety

        The County system is based on the "Court" versus the common belief it is based on the "State" or "Police Department".   It is where the "State" extends its authority locally for the enforcement of its laws, collection of its taxes, distribution of its social programs, and general application of its land use for that part of the State's territory.   The ORS identifies the local administrative body as the "County Court" consisting of an acting Judge and two Commissioners.   This body has working for it an enforcer (sheriff) to apprehend and educate law violators, ensure serious cases appear before the Judge, and then to ensure any Court ordered corrections are executed.   Jump forward to today finding a separate State Circuit Judge and most local administration under a "Board of Commissioners" or "County Court" without much judicial responsibility.   Most citizens have experienced living in cities and towns which have their own security forces (Police Departments).   Most mistake the Sheriff Department as a Police Department existing to serve the people versus its function to serve the Court.   A well funded Sheriff Department will have excess funding to extend its services into patrols and rapid response to citizens in harms way.   The Lane County Sheriff Department does contract itself out as a Police Department to serve towns near Eugene who pay extra.   Eugene, Springfield, and Florence have their own separately supported Police Departments.

        A December 2012 presentation in Florence by the western district Lane County Commissioner and Lane County Sheriff continued the never ending call for more taxes, fees, and regulations.   In the past, citizens accepted new taxes and fees on the basis the new public services received offset the private costs of doing without.   Would you willingly pay an extra dollar in tax if it meant everyone would have free access to attorneys for civil matters?   A private citizen knows he/she can not sell a value-added product or service unless the buyer feels the cost is offset by the benefit.   Would you willingly pay a road tax so instead of mud the major roads could be gravel or paved and maintained?   However, we are now seeing increasing public burden connected to merely "slowing" down the removal/denial of public products and services.   The cost of public workers consumes on average 80% of all public collections.   {The 2010-2011 Florence CAFR shows its police department has an 85% labor cost.}   Since these increased extractions from the private sector are not offset by value added, they effectively are destroying existing private wealth and the motivation to produce more.   In other words, it is costing us more to have these public services than doing without them and dealing with any need privately.   We are following history with the transfer of wealth from diminishing producers (private sector) to increasing consumers (public sector).

        The coast is a small insignificant voting block for but one of five commissioners; accounting for just 5%.   The valley (greater Eugene) will decide what is best for itself and the coast will continue contributing to their desires seeing little making it back to the coast.   Plans are for a $0.55 serial levy with the May 2013 ballot. This is to be replaced by a county-wide new tax district to provide for public safety needs (to Eugene).   The December 2012 presentation announced the County eliminated 131 jail beds in 2012 and expect to be down to only 26 serving the County by the end of 2013 or into 2014.   There are only two ways the coast will see any improvement in county-level public safety, either form its own county or form its own "public safety service" district.   So, let's research the service district option here.

        Fire districts are created by popular vote for areas which they can "effectively" and "practically" service with the limited revenue they receive.   According the our Fire Chief; the Siuslaw Valley Fire & Rescue district is 120 square miles, protects a population of approximately 15,000, and covers the major coastal population centers.   An exact overlay would effectively and practically provide for a "Public Safety Service" district.   The Oregon Constitutional restricts what may be provided by non-county-sheriff public safety services.   It may be more appropriate to call it a "Police Service" district since all city police departments face the same limitations.   However, the Lane County Sheriff's Office does contract out many of its functions and could contract "restricted" functions to the coast's "Siuslaw Police Service" district (SPS).

        Some outside the SVFR district may want to be included.   To cover for the whole coastal area (west of the Hwy 126 tunnel), we might as well create Siuslaw County with its own local Sheriff, Judge, Court, County Offices, etc. keeping the $20M we currently provide Lane County.   Gotta pick one or the other; or, keep sending our taxes, fees, and federal/state transfer payments down the Lane County rat hole!   Keep in mind that Eugene is going to continue stripping the coast if the coast does not preempt them with its own new district or new county.

        To determine the cost of the SPS starts with determining what is expected and practical.   Special consideration needs to be made for those within the Florence City limits who are already supporting a police department.   Just like the rural fire district combined with the urban fire district to form SVFR, something similar might be possible pertaining to the SPS.   There is Oregon precedence to the application of separate tax rates.   Those within the present and future city limits have paid for patrol and apprehension; but, there are additional important services the SPS would provide.

        The public safety need is for prevention, civil service, apprehension, adjudication, and correction.   At the December 2012 presentation, the Sheriff reported 25% of those apprehended with felony charges were released by the County Attorney by his not even appearing for arraignment.   These are NOT counted in the 15+ daily early release from jail/prison "statistic" since they were never "arraigned".   How many patrol officers are not even bothering with charging ciminals.   To have an effective coastal public safety, the SPS will need to provide its own patrol officers, prosecuting attorney, civil server, probationary officer, and jail cells (can rent from Lane County for now).   Florence already has its own vacant courthouse and even a few jail cells certified to incarcerate those with misdemeanor charges.   Lane County's jail bed rental rate they reported to be the third highest in Oregon at a cost of $40,000/bed/year.   Nothing would prevent the SPS from eventually building its own minimal-security felony-certified 20 bed jail.   Lane County may only incarcerate those awaiting trial or serving short terms; those serving over a year must be transferred to a state "prison".   The prior Florence Police Chief identified that a fully functional healthy coastal county would need a 25 bed jail facility.


Taxed AssessmentApplicable Area$.55 LevyJail Beds
26,055,465,050All of Lane County$14,331K358
807,533,480Inside Florence not SVFR$444K11
645,173,536Inside SVFR outside City$355K9
1,452,707,016Inside entire SVFR (SPS)$799K20

These figures will be adjusted UP when a new Property Tax CD is purchased.

        This sub-project is still being researched and anyone wanting to assist and even establish a round-table committee can go to the contacts page.   Additional information provided by the current Police Chief is that the 911 emergency service/dispatch is costing Florence $50,000 per year since Lane County Sheriff has refused to pay like other agencies do.   So, the SPS can start figuring out the costs with this figure.   Lane County pays its jailers $140,000 in salary and benefits, guarantees a lifetime benefits based pension, and gives them lavish time off.   A coastal SPS has the option NOT to offer PERS, those hired would be members of OUR community, and it would be a new business for the coast.   The coast may even be able to get the SPS to activate the local courthouse Florence built and get Oregon to assign a DA and Circuit Judge as done for Lane County in Eugene.   No more having to drive to Eugene for court matters or do our civic jury duty.

        While this is vastly inferior to the coast breaking away from Lane County to form its own county with its own elected Sheriff and keeping its taxes here; it does at least provide an alternative to the current path of joining Lane County as it goes down the hole into bankruptcy.   The proposed jail tax will eventually be consumed by Lane County's expensive labor contracts though there will be a temporary bump up in the number of jail beds serving the County.   If we don't act on this ourselves, it will be done to us by the valley with little value returned to the coast.

    Safe - Local - Equitable - Affordable - Representative