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Will fourth time be the charm?

For the fourth year in a row, another effort is underway to put a tax measure before voters to fund Josephine County's jail, rural sheriff's patrols and juvenile justice programs.

A group called Community United for Safety held a kickoff event Tuesday before about 80 people at the Wild River Pub in Grants Pass to begin a petition drive to collect about 2,150 signatures.

Their goal: to put the proposal before voters on May 19.

"People are fed up with being fed up," said Scott Draper, general manager of Club Northwest and co-founder of the petition drive. "Now is our window. Now is the time to get this done."

The latest levy would set a property tax rate of $1.40 per $1,000 of assessed value. At 58 cents, Josephine County currently has the lowest property tax rate in the state, far below the average of more than $2 per $1,000.

Three proposed levies have failed since 2012, including one earlier this year that was a lower rate of $1.19. But organizers say that what's different this time is that a professional polling company was used to ask voters ahead of time what they would support.

"We listened directly to people," Draper said.

The poll found that 51 percent definitely favored the $1.40 amount, with an additional 12 percent saying they "probably" would vote for it — but only if a boost in patrol coverage is part of the deal.

As a result, the latest proposed levy would pay for 16 patrol deputies, up from 10 now. It would also boost the jail's capacity to 160 inmates, up from 130 now, and pay to reopen the 30-bed Juvenile Justice Center's shelter/detention facility.

A key provision of the measure also calls for creation of a public oversight committee and for an independent audit of county public safety funding.

Draper termed the oversight committee "a bridge between our money and public safety." Sheriff-elect Dave Daniel, who was in attendance, said such a committee "provides solid information to the public."

Voters last May, by a 52 to 48 percent margin, turned down a $1.19 levy that would have allowed the 262-bed jail to be filled to capacity and reopen the juvenile center. However, that measure didn't call for direct funding of patrols.

With no federal timber subsidies on the horizon, the jail might close, Daniel warned. Inmates might then be housed in other jails in other counties, under contract.

"Very likely, commissioners will close the jail," Daniel said after Tuesday's event. "Let's just hope that doesn't happen."

Daniel, a Grants Pass police officer who defeated two-term incumbent Gil Gilbertson last month, had no specifics on what his patrol force would look like, if that does happen.

"I will do the best I can with patrol, to get some kind of emergency response," he said.

Three times in the last three years voters have turned down levies designed to offset cutbacks in timber harvests on federal lands in the county. Recent congressional efforts to continue the subsidies have failed.

Grants Pass resident Linda Scott, who is managing the campaign to pass the latest levy proposal, said petitions will be ready in a few days for people to begin gathering signatures. The effort will include door-to-door campaigning, events and speakers at group gatherings.

Scott hopes to gather 2,800 signatures, in excess of the approximate 2,150 needed to place the measure on the ballot. Deadline to turn them in is Feb. 18.

More information is available at www.communityunitedforsafety.com.