Benton County asks voters to renew law enforcement levy

Benton County asks voters to renew law enforcement levy

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Sheriff's deputy Brad Dyke is on the beat between Corvallis and Philomath.  

Dyke says the best part of the job is unpredictability.

"That's what I like," the deputy said. "It's the best part of it; that unknown as to what you're going to do throughout the day."

Benton County officials are dealing with a different kind of unpredictability: the November election.

Voters in Benton County will decide on a 5-year law enforcement levy on the November ballot.

The tax rate under the levy would stay the same at 90 cents per $1,000 property value.

It would cover law enforcement needs, county jail bed rentals and 24-7 road patrols.

Some health disease prevention programs are also in the levy.

County Commissioners say that with federal forest payments gone, this renewal is even more important. Federal timber payments were used in four of the last 5 years to offset the levy costs to Benton County residents.

The county has the distinction of having the smallest jail per capita in Oregon with only 40 beds, and it not enough.

Chair of the Board of Commissioners Jay Dixon said "we typically have 75 to 80 prisoners on any given day, so we rent space through this levy."

Dixon said he knows skeptics believe officials will find ways to lock in the services if the levy goes down.

Dixon said: don't count on it.

"You'll have a reduced criminal justice system," he said of Benton County if the measure fails.

Bottom line: Dixon said measure failure would mean cuts of $6 million a year, 7 patrol deputies out of a job, and an end to 24-hour patrols.