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Medford council sets grant priorities

Cleanup and park improvements along Bear Creek are among the priorities for the city of Medford as it applies for federal funding during the 2021-23 biennium. [Mail Tribune/file photo]
Homelessness, workforce housing, Bear Creek cleanup, forest health among areas of interest

Medford City Council approved resolutions detailing its federal funding and legislative priorities Feb. 17, including workforce housing, homelessness, mental illness, and more money for the Medford Area Drug Gang Enforcement Team.

One section highlighted “forest management reform and wildfire relief.” It stated that the Almeda fire in 2020 reduced air quality, and wildfire smoke contributed to a $3 million loss in tourism activity, leading the city to support “reform of federal policies coupled with additional funding” that could allow for proactive forest management so there are fewer, less threatening wildfires, and could provide “long-term economic benefits for the community.”

Other priorities focused on marijuana, such as stopping illegal cannabis grows as well as providing banking services and fair tax treatment for legal cannabis businesses.

Appropriation requests

The largest federal appropriation request being sought by the city is $3 million for development of Midway Park, an undeveloped 30-acre park property along the Bear Creek Greenway, in a part of the city considered “densely populated” and “low income.”

The money would be used by the city to cover the cost of outfitting the property with a variety of amenities, such as an accessible playground, splash pad, sports court and pavilion. It also calls for an adjacent bike park and urban trail system.

The list included a request for $2.4 million to make safety improvements to ease traffic conditions near the intersection of Barnett Road and Highland Drive to reduce the backup of vehicles into the south Medford interchange at Exit 27.

City officials want to expand the Medford police Livability Team through a COPS hiring grant. Documents accompanying the council agenda stated that a $2 million COPS grant and $500,000 in congressional spending for a local partner to hire mental health professionals would “expand the abilities of the Livability Team to improve safety and general livability ... in Medford.”

An allocation of $1.5 million would be used for the city’s public safety radio infrastructure, which is amid a transition from a VHF to a digital format. The need for improved communication among public safety personnel made itself “particularly evident during the 2020 Almeda fire.”

While a bond measure would be used for new radio tower infrastructure, there is a need for digital subscriber units because the analog units won’t work with the incoming digital system.

Grant projects

One of the largest federal grant on the city’s wish list is $3 million for restoration and improvements along seven miles of Bear Creek.

Reducing invasive species, removing trash and pollution, and making trail improvements are among ways the city wants to improve the creek area.

Blackberry plants along with other invasive species “provide cover for illicit activities, creating public safety hazards along the corridor,” it stated.

Among other grants being sought are $685,000 for improving the region’s fire station alerting system and $400,000 for establishing a community court within the city’s Municipal Court system.

The regional fire station alerting system would be upgraded from the current system that is partly composed of a manual alert installed in 1980. The new system would shorten call response times of fire, rescue and emergency medical personnel, council documents said.

City ordinances and other lower-level violations would be decided in the proposed community court. Cases would be held away from the courthouse, with a focus on providing necessary services to people who are homeless as well as those dealing with mental illness. The goal is to have fewer people being sentenced to the county jail.

General fund grants

The council approved grants for several local nonprofits. The city received 22 funding requests, and 12 of the programs received grants from a fund of $265,300 for the 2021-23 biennium grant cycle. The recipients must be nonprofits that provide programs and services the city government can’t or doesn’t provide.

The largest grants were $50,000 each to Rogue Retreat for the Kelly Shelter Navigation Center and St. Vincent de Paul for housing move-in. The next largest grant, $45,000, went to ACCESS for nutrition support for Medford’s most food-insecure residents.

Other programs receiving grants of between $5,000 and $22,500 were La Clinica for its mobile health center; Set Free Services to provide basic needs; Hearts With A Mission for its youth emergency shelter; Maslow Project for family advocacy wraparound support services; Rogue Valley Council of Governments for Food and Friends Meals on Wheels and Senior Meals; CASA of Jackson County; Jackson County Child Abuse Task Force-Children’s Advocacy Center, and Community Works, for two programs, Dunn House Shelter and transitional housing for homeless youth and youth with children.