SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — The Springfield Jail isn’t looking at layoffs, but it does want to make sure it can maintain the level of service Springfield residents expect. That’s why the city put a public safety levy on the ballot.
Springfield is the only city in the state with a jail of its size, and it costs a good chunk of money to run. But voters decided it was worth it when they voted for the city public safety levy in 2006.
It’s been just more than a year since Marilou Heriot took over the Washburne Cafe on Main Street, an area she never used to be fond of.
“Years ago, I would have never thought of opening a business in Springfield, but Springfield has done so much to change that perception, and the jail is part of that change,” said Heriot said.
Heriot says the justice center has made Springfield safer. Downtown is more welcoming to visitors, and she’s not the only one noticing a difference.
“We have noticed the dramatic drop in crime out on patrols, go walk the downtown and take a look around. These numbers are real,” said Sgt. John Umenhofer, Springfield Police Department.
According to Umenhofer, Springfield’s property crime is one-third what it was in 2008 and violent crimes dropped about 50 percent.
“The jail has been a critical part of this. There’s no question these numbers are directly related to it. I mean, we’ve worked hard in the past and never had reduction numbers like this because we couldn’t hold people responsible,” Umenhofer said.
Umenhofer says since the jail opened in 2010, now they can. But to keep jail and police operations the way they are, voters will have to pass another public safety levy.
For the average homeowner–with an assessed value of about $150,000–it will cost $193 a year, about $30 more than they’re currently paying for the 2006 measure.
“I hope Springfielders see the return on the investment is well worth it, but on the other side of it, taxes are taxes and it’s kind of tough some times for folks,” said Dan Eagen, Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
Heriot says for her it’s worth it to keep her business safe and keep customers coming to Springfield.
“Every once in a while, you see so many people getting let out of Eugene, and I don’t want to see that happen to Springfield, because if there’s no teeth to the law, what good is the law?” Heriot said.
The public safety levy is Measure 20-195 on Springfield residents’ ballots.