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RANKED WOU WOLVES
AT A NEW LEVEL ALONE IN FIRST
Volume 140, Issue 5
February 4, 2015
PUBLIC SAFETY LEVY
HEADED FOR BALLOT
IN MAY ELECTION
REGARDING THE COUNTY PUBLIC SAFETY LEVY
Compiled by Jolene Guzman / The Itemizer-Observer
POLK COUNTY — The Polk County Board of Commissioners
on Jan. 28 approved submitting a five-year public safety tax
levy to voters for the May 19 vote-by-mail election.
This levy is the second attempt the county has made at get-
ting voter approval for more tax revenue to support its public
safety departments, including the Polk County Sheriff’s Office,
district attorney’s office, community corrections and the juve-
nile department. The first levy, for four years and 60 cents per
$1,000 of assessed value on properties, failed by a 58 percent-
to-42 percent margin in November 2013.
Why is the levy needed?
Since April 2014, the sheriff’s office has reduced patrol hours
to only 10 hours per day, meaning that more than 1,600 calls
for service have gone unanswered at the time they come in.
The district attorney’s office, with only four prosecutors, is the
smallest among similar-sized counties in the state. It is strug-
gling to keep up with the number of cases forwarded from
local law enforcement agencies, including all Polk County city
police departments, the sheriff’s office and Oregon State Po-
u What is the duration and amount of the levy? How x Where does funding for public safety in Polk County
much revenue would it generate? How much would the
Five years at 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on proper-
ties. If approved, the levy would bring in approximately $2.392
million in 2015, $2.481 million in 2016, $2.568 million in 2017,
$2.652 million in 2018, and $2.731 million in 2019. For a prop-
erty assessed at $150,000, that would amount to $67.50 per
Where would the money go?
If approved, the levy would restore 22 full-time equivalent po-
sitions in the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Polk County Dis-
trict Attorney’s Office. Of those, 12 would go to the sheriff’s of-
fice patrol division and five would go to the jail. The district at-
torney’s office would receive three additional prosecutors and
two support staff positions. Funding also would pay for two
more juvenile detention beds and staff for community service
The vast majority of funding for the district attorney, sheriff’s
office and juvenile department comes from the county’s gen-
eral fund, which is to say property taxes. Currently, the county
allocates approximately two-thirds of its $16 million general
fund to those three departments.
What is the county’s permanent tax rate?
$1.71 per $1,000 of assessed value. That is the amount going
to the general fund. Polk County Administrator Greg Hansen
said the tax rate was set when the county was receiving
healthy amounts from federal timber payments ($2.3 million
in 2008, for example) and was adequate at the time. Now
those payments have expired with little hope of restoration, at
least not to historical levels. The county’s road bond, currently
at about 54 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, is not part of
that figure. The road bond expires in 2016.
See QUESTIONS, Page 17A
Timing important in decision
Commissioners convinced to put levy issue before voters ASAP
By Jolene Guzman
DALLAS — On an early
July 2014 night, Lisa Mitchell
dialed 9-1-1 only to learn no
Po l k C o u n t y S h e r i f f ’s
deputies were available to
come to her aid.
Mitchell, a Perrydale
School Board member and
Amity Fire Department
member, along with her
daughter and a family
friend, were the victims of a
horrifying domestic violence
incident that night.
“If any piece of the series
of events that transpired that
night were altered, I may not
be here,” she said during the
Jan. 28 public hearing re-
garding Polk County’s public
No one was seriously in-
jured, but the incident
caused a fire that destroyed
Mitchell’s home. She be-
lieves if a deputy had been
available to respond when
she first called for help, that
could have been prevented.
She said she fears there
will only be more victims if
“Consider the conse-
quences … remember the
quote: ‘There is no one we
can send,’ and imagine your
loved one on the other end
of that line,” she said.
She urged Polk County
commissioners to act as
soon as possible.
“What more information
can we learn about this very
critical situation?” she asked.
It was testimony like
Mitchell’s and other similar
stories told over the course
of nine public hearings that
Jennifer Wheeler that the
county needed to put a five-
year, 45 cents per $1,000 of
assessed value tax levy for
public safety on the ballot as
soon as possible.
“I don’t know how you
look at a woman like Lisa
and say, ‘Sorry, we are going
to have to put this on hold,’”
Wheeler said. “That’s not ac-
Ainsworth and Craig Pope
were also moved by stories
they heard, adding their
votes to Wheeler’s to place
the levy on the May 19 ballot.
See DECISION, Page 17A
IN YOUR TOWN
Contrary to popular belief, libraries aren’t just for
In fact, the Dallas Public Library has a seven-mem-
ber Teen Advisory Board (TAB) dedicated solely to
making the library a fun place for teenagers to be.
“I heard other libraries have success with it, and I
wanted to try to see if that would work for Dallas,”
said Betty Simpson, the librarian in charge of chil-
dren’s and teen activities at the library.
With the help of TAB, the library has created an
expanded “young adult” section and is revamping
its teen-centric activities.
FALLS CITY NEWS
The rehabilitation project on Falls City’s beloved
staircase between Third and Prospect streets is steam-
ing along, with the help of a large group of volunteers.
Falls City Mayor Terry Ungricht said more than 20
volunteers have helped pour concrete on nine stairs
that were beyond repair and install new handrails, a
process which is nearing completion.
When the weather allows, the stairs will be sealed
to fill cracks, smooth the surface and protect the stair-
case. Painting the stairs — with a waterfall theme —
and the installation of three benches on landings
along the staircase will complete the project.
Hannah Boyack leaves her heart on the stage in
Central High School’s performance of “Oklahoma!”
which opens Thursday night.
Boyack’s character, Laurey Williams, is joined by a
high-energy cast of 50, all singing, dancing — and
occasionally fighting — in the 1906 Oklahoma Ter-
The result of so many doing so much onstage at
the same time is an emotion-packed experience for
the audience member, with laughs, gasps, surpris-
es and maybe even some tears.
Performers also go through a ream of emotions
during the production.
Nearly half of Monmouth’s streetlights are
brighter and clearer — and using 65 percent less en-
ergy than their predecessors did before.
A number of the city’s old high-pressure sodium
(HPS) bulbs have been replaced with new light-
emitting diodes (LED), which require less energy to
put off the same amount of light.
Chuck Thurman, Monmouth Power & Light su-
perintendent, said the projected energy costs for
the city to run the streetlights will be $32,000 a
year, a noticeable drop from $77,000 a year using
the old style of lights.
POLK COUNTY NEWS
Graduation rates in Polk County schools, and
statewide, are up for the most part for 2013-14, but
a change in how the state calculates the rates is
partially responsible for the uptick.
Dallas’ graduation rate is up to 66 percent, from 52
percent last year, but that rate, six points lower than
the state average, is technically down from 2012-13.
This year, the Oregon Department of Education
included students who have fulfilled graduation re-
quirements but have deferred receiving diplomas
so they could earn college credit in fifth-year pro-
grams, such as Dallas’ Extended Campus.
It’s the final home
meet of the year as the
Dallas wrestling team
looks to cap a perfect
league season when
it hosts Silverton.
6 p.m. $5.
It’s opening night as
the Central High
in the CHS perform-
ing arts auditorium.
6:30 p.m. $5-$8.
The April Verch
Band brings its
to Western Oregon
7:30 p.m. $11-$28.
Polk Soil & Water
trict is conducting
its annual Native
Plant Sale at the fair-
grounds in Rickreall.
9 a.m. Free.
Buell Grange north-
west of Dallas is
hosting its monthly
8-11 a.m. $6.
The Willamette Valley
New Horizon’s Or-
chestra has a recital
planned at Faith
Lutheran Church in
7 p.m. Free.
It’s rivalry night as
Central plays host
to Dallas in a Mid-
7 p.m. $6.
Cloudy; a shower?
A Few Showers