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Gold Hill levy would fund sheriff's deputy

GOLD HILL — Voters in the May 17 election will be asked to fill at least one vacancy on Gold Hill City Council and decide whether to fund a $250,000 law enforcement levy for a full-time sheriff's deputy.

The levy amount represents half of a three-year contract with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department for a deputy assigned just to Gold Hill for 40 hours per week. The remaining half would be funded through city coffers.

An earlier attempt at a public safety levy, which requested the full $500,000, was voted down 189 to 55 in November 2015.

Councilwoman Donna Silva said the city would live with whatever voters decide.

"They need to decide if they want a 40-hour week officer or if they don't, because it's not about what the council wants. The citizens have to decide," Silva said.

The city has been without its own police force since 2007, though code enforcement has been provided sporadically on a contract basis.

The idea for a levy was presented last year after a community forum in which residents stated a desire for increased police presence.

If approved, the levy would cost residents $1.32 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $132 a year on a house valued at $100,000.

Silva said funding allocated in last year's budget to provide one year of police protection has not yet been spent because of staffing issues at the sheriff's department. The city expects to have a deputy in place by August, she said.

City Manager Rick Hohnbaum did not respond to requests for information on the existing contract or the proposed levy.

The May 17 election could fill two council vacancies created by the resignations of Doug Reischman and Karen Baker.

Only Reischman's seat will appear on ballots, but Silva said council members agreed to offer the two positions to the top two vote-getters. The only declared write-in candidate, lifelong resident Zachariah Dell, said he was willing to take a seat at the council to help "make some changes."

"I wanted to run because it seemed like there was a lot of frustration and not a lot of action. There's always two sides to every story, and the council probably can't please everybody, but it would be interesting for once to probably get all the information and then just work from there to make things better," Dell said.

"I've lived in Gold Hill my whole life, and it's just graffiti and trash. Maybe a sheriff's house and better school ratings would make things better for families. Water rates are pretty high, and the system they use is out of date. It just seems like a general neglect and lack of pride. I'm hoping to just start a narrative."

Currently a stay-at-home dad, Dell served five years in the Army National Guard and attended Southern Oregon University, taking classes toward a communications degree.

Ballots are due by May 17.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.