Greenway cleanup will cost residents
Medford residents will see a 27% jump in the police safety fee after July 1 to help pay for more officers to turn the Bear Creek Greenway from a notorious haven for garbage and illegal behavior into a family-friendly place.
“We’ve been listening to our citizens,” Councilor Kevin Stine said. “We’ve had too much trash on the Greenway, and we’ve had safety issues on the Greenway and the parks.”
Households pay a $7.42 public safety fee each month, which also goes toward the new police station and fire stations. The City Council on Thursday night decided to increase the fee to $9.42 a month. The fee, which hadn’t been raised for 13 years, would have gone up to $9.66, but the council decided to earmark $300,000 of marijuana tax money to help ease the fee hike.
Without the increase, the council would have had a two-year budget shortfall of $895,600 for public safety.
The existing police safety fee pays for five firefighters and five police officers. Part of the increase will cover hiring a livability team, which will help deal with issues on the Greenway and in parks. The team will be made up of three officers, a record clerk and a code enforcement officer.
They will focus their attention on illegal behavior along the Greenway in Medford, a pathway that sits on the banks of Bear Creek that stretches from Ashland to Central Point.
The new officers will also patrol parks, many of which are located next to the Greenway.
Along with the fee increase, the council approved a $365,432,640 2017-19 biennial budget, an 11% increase over the previous biennial budget. One-third of the increased budget is for the $10 million Foothill Road widening project.
As part of the new budget, Stine said residents will also have to pay a credit card transaction fee for many city government services, including for planning, parking and other departments.
The fee will not apply to payments made to the municipal court or for utility billing.
Incoming police Chief Scott Clauson said he hopes to have at least two officers patrolling the Greenway by the middle of summer, with the goal of forming the entire livability team within three to six months.
A year from now, the team should have the Greenway cleaned up enough to attract family-friendly events, Clauson anticipates.
“We want the Greenway to be a place for recreation,” he said.
The Greenway is a popular place to camp for the homeless, and Clauson said a regional, year-round shelter that’s in the works should be operational in the near future.
Rogue Retreat, ACCESS and other organizations have been trying to develop the year-round homeless shelter, which should take many of the homeless off the streets. Currently, Rogue Retreat offers a winter shelter for the homeless at First United Methodist Church on Main Street that operates for four months. Police said they received less complaints from downtown businesses when Kelly Shelter was open.
Rogue Retreat also operated a temporary cooling shelter last summer.
Over the past five years, up to 60 homeless vets who lived along the Greenway have found more permanent housing, Clauson said.
Police officers will work with social service organizations, including veterans organizations, to help the homeless get off the street, he said.
Police will work with Medford Parks and Recreation to identify overgrown areas along the Greenway to increase visibility for officers and the community.
The Greenway along Bear Creek Park already has been cleared out, Clauson said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.