Sheriff: Survey says public supports tax levy to fund jail

Sheriff: Survey says public supports tax levy to fund jail

EUGENE, Ore. - A poll found support for a tax levy to fund the Lane County Jail, Sheriff Tom Turner told KVAL News.

The full results of the survey will be shared with the Lane County Board of Commissioners during meetings Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. and on Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. in Harris Hall at the Lane County Courthouse.

Turner told KVAL News the majority of those polled supported a 50 cent per $1,000 of assessed value tax if the money is dedicated to the county jail.

Turner said such a levy would raise about $12.7 million per year, enough to double the number of jail beds available for local offenders from the current 135 to as many as 270 beds.
The sheriff told KVAL's Tom Adams on Monday, "That would allow us to be able to incarcerate Measure 11 offenders, and that alone would help me sleep at night because we'd be able to provide that capacity."    The sheriff believes keeping a levy narrowly focused on the jail could be a building block to restore the county's public safety system and adds, "We hear the message.  It's to assist with this (the jail).  It's nothing else; it's a specific need."

The Lane County Jail has suffered cuts as the sheriff's department has coped with increasing costs and declining revenues. The county historically received a percentage of timber sales on public lands managed by the federal government. As those declined, the federal government made direct payments to timber counties to make up for the lost revenue. Congress has been phasing out those payments in recent years.The county has cut jail beds, resulting in the release of inmates who might otherwise be held until they face trial or post bail.

The county plans the two public hearings Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning to solicit input from the public. The Board will discuss the tax proposal after the hearing on Wednesday and may take action, Chairman Sid Leiken said.

The county asks speakers at the hearings to limit their public testimony to 3 minutes or less per person. Community members who wish to convey more information can submit their testimony to the Board in writing and then briefly summarize their views before commissioners, the county said.

Those who are unable to attend either public hearing can send their written comments to the Lane County Board of Commissioners, 125 E. Eighth Ave., Eugene, 97401 or via email to publiccomment@co.lane.or.us.