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Easy does it

Medford city officials are on the right track in deciding to survey residents before placing up to three separate bond issues on the ballot for two new fire stations, a police department headquarters and new swimming facilities. But we suspect they know as well as we do what the results will show.

Officials had better sharpen their pencils and get ready to come up with the least expensive options they can find to bring those city service up to date.

It's hard to argue with the need for any of the proposed projects.

Let's start with fire protection.

The existing fire station at Eighth and Lincoln streets west of downtown was built in 1952. It is too small to accommodate modern fire trucks.

In particular, the Fire Department needs space for its 100-foot-long ladder truck it now keeps at a station near Railroad Park in north Medford. The ladder truck would be used if fire broke out in any of the taller downtown buildings — including the new Lithia Motors headquarters now under construction — but it should be housed closer to downtown.

Situating a new station in the city's central core also would provide faster response times.

The Police Department long ago outgrew the space it occupies in City Hall, built in 1968 and intended as a temporary police headquarters. The department is bisected by a public hallway and does not offer secure areas for interviewing suspects and victims. Desks and other office equipment take up space formerly used as a drunk tank and prisoner holding area.

The swimming pool situation is well-known and has been the subject of much public discussion for the past few years. Hawthorne Pool is worn out and can no longer be operated, and Jackson Pool has its limitations as well.

Given all those needs, it makes sense that the city is investing a relatively small amount of money on a professional survey of residents to determine what the public might support. A Portland firm has been hired for $56,000 to conduct the survey and report its findings.

City leaders need to be prepared to find residents less than thrilled at the prospect of spending nearly $50 million to complete all the projects, at a cost to residents that could reach $200 a year for the owner of a home assessed at $250,000.

Still, Medford residents need to come to grips with the fact that the city is approaching a population of 80,000 — a far cry from the small mill town it once was. Municipal services cost money, and residents will be asked to help pay for them.

City officials should be looking for every possible way to economize — by building fire stations on land the city already owns, for instance, rather than buying property.

Remodeling existing buildings for police department use could cost less than building from scratch.

If residents reject the aquatics proposal in its most recent form, officials should consider a scaled-down plan that still would provide water recreation but with fewer amenities.

Working families have had to economize as the economy sagged. The city should be prepared to do the same.