GOLD HILL — Hoping to stem vandalism and other shenanigans at downtown parks and the city beach next year, city officials have directed City Manager Rick Hohnbaum to negotiate with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department for a part-time public safety position.
The person filling the 20-hour post would perform duties such as code enforcement and provide a law-enforcement presence.
City council members unanimously favored the idea.
Hohnbaum said citizen concerns about transients and vandalism had prompted a fresh look at the city's lack of law enforcement, and he called the decision a "very positive step forward" for the city.
The city has been without its own law enforcement for much of the past decade — having disbanded its police force twice since 2000 — with the exception of occasional contracts for code enforcement services with outlying agencies.
"It is something that we have definitely needed for some time. We have seen a big increase in that need this past summer based upon activities we're seeing in the downtown and around the city," Hohnbaum said.
Council member Gus Wolf said the increased public safety would help deter inappropriate activities and provide assistance with issues such as blighted properties, wandering dogs and other city code violations.
"I think the main thing for us is deterrence. It would deter people who are thinking about doing bad things," Wolf said.
"We expect our issues to increase around spring and summer, so if we bring someone on now, there's time to familiarize him or her with the community. We just think it'll really be a positive for the city."
The city's public safety fund has $100,000 available for the new venture, enough to fund a community service officer for at least the next two years, Hohnbaum said.
In a related vein, the downtown merchants association plans to meet with sheriff's officials to discuss a neighborhood watch of sorts for local businesses, Hohnbaum said.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.