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Heritage District ballot effort will move forward

Supporters of the Rogue Valley Heritage District will continue their signature drive, said Tam Moore, co-chairman of the sponsoring Our Heritage PAC executive committee.

The group announced Wednesday it will go forward, despite collecting only 5,944 of the 16,632 signatures needed to place the question on the November ballot. They'll instead shoot for the May 2010 ballot.

If formed, the district would support 16 local and regional museums and history-related research libraries, including the Southern Oregon Historical Society, which just named Terry Martin as its interim director.

Martin said she will volunteer about 20 hours per week until a new director is named.

John Enders stepped down as SOHS director in March.

Martin said SOHS just received a $32,000 grant from the Kinsman Foundation to hire a grant writer, it just partnered with Standing Stone Brewery to grow hops at Hanley Farm and it plans to increase its sales from Hanley Farm organic produce.

"We're already at the local farmers' market twice a week," said Martin.

She said the organization also is looking at ways to generate money from its archives and photos at the research library.

"It's not doomsday here by any stretch of the imagination," said Martin.

As for forming a heritage district, Moore said the group wants to beef-up its signature drive efforts.

"We're looking for more people to telephone and more people to gather signatures," he said, adding that supporters can always sign petitions at their local historic societies.

Moore said signature collection can legally continue until Sept. 19 and the initiative would go to the May 2010 primary election. Today is the deadline to collect signatures for measures appearing on November's ballot.

The ballot measure proposal asks voters to pay 7 cents for every $1,000 in assessed valuation annually to support the financially strapped historical societies in Jackson County. That would add $11.69 annually for a house with an assessed value of $167,000.

The new property tax would raise about $1 million annually to distribute among all the historical societies, which had their funding cut by the county last year.

Chris Walker, Jackson County clerk, said the group has six months to gather petition signatures, but she questions if the district can do it this far ahead of the election. She was researching the regulations on Wednesday pertaining to the maximum amount of time allowed between when signatures are gathered and when the election takes place.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.