By News-Register staff • 

Polk County public safety levy passing

DALLAS — A crucial Polk County public safety tax evy passed handily Tuesday night. The unofficial count was 9,059 to 7,013, or 56.4 percent to 43.6.

The Willamina City Council and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Council, both of whom represent territory straddling the Polk/Yamhill County line, supported the levy.

Its passage figures to funnel $2.3 million annually into the sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office and community corrections department over the next five years.

The levy is expected to run taxpayers 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a home assessed for tax purposes at $200,000 would pay an additional $90 per year.

"I've got a smile on my face that I haven't had in a long time," Sheriff Bob Wolfe told the Statesman Journal newspaper. "I was thinking it might be a little closer because of the whole tax issue because there are people who are out of work and store fronts that are closed."

In 2008, Polk County counted 112 employees in its public safety departments. Thanks to dwindling timber and Oregon and California revenue, it is now down to 78.

The sheriff’s office continued to provided 24-hour patrol service seven days a week until last year. Now it is down to 10 hours a day, or less than half.

Two years ago, Polk County maintained six juvenile detention beds. It has since cut back to four.

Down to a district attorney and three deputies, the county had begun to only selectively prosecute crimes.

"I felt cautiously optimistic," District Attorney Aaron Felton told the paper. "Based on talking to people before the votes, I felt we would have good results at the end of tonight."

The county has not been able to afford any dedicated court security staff, and has had to reduce its narcotics team operation.

The levy promises to restore 22 full-time positions — 12 for patrol positions and five each for jail and DA's Office posts. In addition, it promises to restore the two juvenile detention beds.

 

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