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Gold Hill will have sheriff's presence

GOLD HILL — A former city police chief will help re-establish a law enforcement presence in town.

Gold Hill disbanded its police department last June, but the City Council has approved plans for a Jackson County sheriff's substation in town. Undersheriff Rod Countryman, who led the city police department for just under two years, will help with the arrangements.

Countryman came to Gold Hill in 2002 to lead a police department that had a troubled history. He left the job in 2004, as the police department continued to be a source of discord at city council meetings.

The new substation will give city residents better contact with deputies and save time for deputies who currently have to travel to White City or Medford to file reports and do their paper work, Countryman said.

"The whole object of the thing is to have a place where (deputies) can go in to do reports instead of coming back in to White City or Medford," he said.

"We're very excited about that, and it sounds like a mutual win," said Councilman Mike Ely.

The council closed the police department June 30, 2007, after an ongoing struggle over former chief Dean Muchow, who succeeded Countryman. Concerns over insurance liability from police actions also prompted the council to act.

Countryman said the office space, which he used as chief, could be operational within a month. Ironically, it's the same space he used when he first came to town.

Gus Wolf, Gold Hill's interim mayor and the city's safety committee coordinator, said he was pleased with the pending arrangement and appreciates Countryman's efforts.

The city will receive $150 monthly rent for the office space.

Deputies already assigned to the city will be able to spend more time on assigned patrol routes that include the city. Countryman said he anticipated sheriff's deputies, and perhaps officers from other law enforcement agencies, could use the office space as much as six or seven hours daily.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.