Input sought on Medford's public safety building plans

New Medford police, fire facilities paid for by utility fee hike subject of online survey

Medford's police and fire departments have teamed up with the University of Oregon to gauge local residents' reaction to the city's recent approval of $32 million to build new public safety buildings.

The City Council in September approved a $2 per month increase in a public safety utility fee to pay for a new police headquarters and fire facilities.

The University of Oregon Sustainable Cities Initiative has posted an online survey so the public can comment on the fee and their knowledge of police and fire activities. The responses, which will take about 10 minutes to provide, will remain anonymous.

The council approved raising utility fees to pay off $32 million in bonds for a new police headquarters and fire stations. The council also approved raising rental car fees to pay for a $6 million expansion at U.S. Cellular Park. The city will seek $38 million in bonds to pay for the projects.

The decision has come in for criticism from community members in various public forums.

The survey is available at http://www.ci.medford.or.us.

Medford police Chief Tim George said the survey is designed to determine how well the police and fire departments are informing the public.

"It's an opportunity for us to increase their knowledge of public safety," he said. "We're trying to gauge people's knowledge of police and fire."

The projects would be paid for by adding a surcharge to utility fees over a 30-year period. The fee would raise $2 million a year, with an interest rate on the bonds of 4.75 percent.

Under the proposal, the police would build a $21.6 million headquarters and parking garage at Ivy and 10th streets. Medford Fire-Rescue would build three new firehouses to replace buildings constructed in the 1950s and '70s.

The surcharge to pay for the bond would increase utility bills by $2 a month the first year. The fee would rise over time, eventually hitting $4.82 a month by the fifth year. During the five-year period, other existing fees, such as a $2.82 street fee, would decline. The net effect is that by the end of five years, the overall utility fees would increase from $49.71 to $51.79 per month.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.


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