With Jackson County's refusal to fund upkeep on four historic properties it owns in Jacksonville, the city of Jacksonville now says it wants to take over ownership.

In a letter to county commissioners Thursday, Jacksonville Mayor James Lewis said the city has “a strong and lasting interest in protecting those assets for posterity” and “wants to “relieve the county of the burden of any further maintenance responsibilities.”

By owning and running the historic U.S. Hotel, Beekman Bank, Beekman House and Catholic Rectory, “the city can optimize its historic values and economic vitality,” Lewis wrote in the letter.

The letter came after the county budget committee, of which commissioners are members, on Wednesday rejected a request from the financially strapped Southern Oregon Historical Society’s for $750,000, most of it to maintain and conserve the buildings for two years. The society plans to ask voters to approve a property tax levy in November 2008.

Budget committee members discussed leasing or selling the properties if SOHS can’t raise the funds to maintain them.

County administrator Danny Jordan said he will present Jacksonville’s offer to commissioners. Lewis was not immediately available for comment today.

— John Darling