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Gold Hill wants a second police officer

GOLD HILL - After a close call last year, voters once again will be asked to support a five-year operating levy to fund a second patrol officer for the newly reestablished police department.

Though 70 percent of the voters who turned out for the September special election were in favor of the $270,000 levy, the measure failed when turnout reached only 43 percent. Money measures in elections other than general require a 50 percent voter turnout.

If passed May 21, the levy would provide $54,000 annually, enough to fund a second patrol officer.

Salary for the newly appointed police chief and operating costs are funded by the city's $75,000 public safety budget.

While the levy's second attempt also will fall under the double-majority rule, council members hope for a bigger turnout now that residents have seen the benefits of having their own police department.

Police Chief Rod Countryman, who reopened the department April 1, provides regular patrols and emergency coverage after hours.

"Since I've been here, I've not had a day off," Countryman said. "Actually, I thought I'd have an opportunity to put things together a little before such a rush on services."

Aside from a 40-hour work week, the new chief has logged 37 hours for after-hours calls in only two weeks.

"I'm just one person and I'm only scheduled to work 40 hours in a week," he said. "I've been putting in quite a bit more time than that, and sooner or later I'll burn out. Having an additional officer would give the community much better coverage."

Council member Donna Silva said she hopes reopening the department will help voters see the value of local police presence.

"Hopefully, the people in the city are seeing the new police chief out and about and that will prompt them to at least voice their opinion whether in favor or not in favor," Silva said.

She said voters must decide whether they want a police department or merely 40-hour-a-week coverage.

"One person cannot be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," she said.

Without an additional officer, Countryman said, he would remain on the job but was unsure what level of coverage could be provided consistently.

The city is attaching a flier with levy information in April water bills. Ballots go out May — and are due back by 8 p.m. May 21.

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at.