EUGENE, Ore. — The state of public safety was the topic at hand Thursday.
Lane County Sheriff Tom Turner, joined by District Attorney Alex Garner, Commissioner Sid Leiken, and many other public safety heads, addressed the media and ultimately the public about the still very bleak state of public safety in Lane County, and the alarming future that lies ahead if additional funding isn’t fostered.
Sheriff Turner began with a breakdown of the next two years. His math shows that with reductions in federal funding and if no additional revenue is allocated for his department, by fiscal year 2014-2015, they will only have enough money in the budget to operate 26 jail beds, down from the current 135, and they will have to completely eliminate all patrol, civil service and enforcement, and numerous other repercussions.
He emphasized this is a what if situation but a very likely one if they don’t settle on a solution.
“This is not a situation where we’re Chicken Littles running around saying the sky is going to fall and it doesn’t. The sky falls every year or every other year,” said Alex Gardner, Lane County District Attorney.
“These are assumptions. Obviously, things could change as they do all the time, but the problem that we’re facing right now is that we do not see this help in sight, especially not with any of these existing programs, so with that we’re going to have to come up with a new way to come up with a revenue stream,” Turner said.
The proposed solutions are hoping for a revival in federal timber money, which is pretty far out of county control, and possibly passing a public safety tax, even though history shows the county is 0-for-14 in that department.
They’re hoping to develop a tax proposal that is inexpensive enough for citizens, so that they’re willing to vote for it, but also enough to maybe even bring back a handful of jail beds and even some patrolling officers.
Commissioner Leiken said the board hopes to have a more clear idea of what that measure could be sometime in February.