YCOM group eyes levy options
It currently relies largely on assessments on its member fire and police agencies. That isn’t proving sufficient, and the agencies, strapped themselves, are balking at a future of escalating increases.
YCOM also needs to address some acute deficiencies in the emergency radio system serving the southern two-thirds of the county.
The Advisory Group agreed it would be best to consider the operational funding issue and capital needs issue separately, and put the immediate focus on operational funding.
Though there seemed to be a consensus on the need to submit a levy at some point, the timing, amount and logistics remain under discussion, and probably will for some time to come.
“The bottom line is funding,” said retired sheriff Lee Vasquez. “The way things are going, we are getting further and further behind. The only solution is to find new funding. That’s the only way it’s going to happen.”
However, because YCOM does not serve the entire county, the county cannot serve as a vehicle. YCOM will have to create a special taxing district.
The majority of the meeting was spent discussing how that might best be accomplished. To that end, the group agreed to invite a representative of the Special Districts Association of Oregon to its next meeting.
Carlton Police Chief Kevin Martinez, who is chairing the Advisory Group, said time is short. He said it’s probably too late to get something on the November ballot, but he’s like to move as soon as possible.
McMinnville Police Chief Ron Noble said the May 2014 primary would probably be a more realistic goal, although even that might prove optimistic.
“The commissioners understand the importance of YCOM and the need to keep improving,” said Commissioner Mary Stern, who attended as an observer. She said formation of a special district would be “a way of standing together to meet that need.”
But Amity Fire Chief Bruce Hubbard cautioned, “We have to be careful not to ask for too much.” He cited a pair of failed bond issues from recent years, noting, “That’s what derailed us in the past.”
The group also briefly discussed its other major looming need, replacement of the radio system’s microwave backbone.
Murray Paolo, information systems director for the county, said the state had recently released its criteria for the next round of Homeland Security grants. He said the focus is on sustaining and maintaining current initiatives, which fits YCOM’s need perfectly.
He said he was “burning the midnight oil” to get an application in by the July 26 deadline.
Although Paolo said the county has a good track record with Homeland Security grants, more entities are competing for less money this year. “The support of everyone in this room is going to be important,” he said, drawing nods all around the table.
The group concluded by discussing a recent push toward consolidation of the dispatch function in regional centers and what that might mean locally.
Director Janis Cameron said one option YCOM needs to explore is whether it would make sense to contract out the dispatch part of the operation, while continuing to handle radio communication among member agencies.
Stern concurred, saying, “Would it save us money to consolidate? We need to answer that so we know we’ve looked at every available option.”
The group tentatively plans to meet next at 10 a.m. Friday, July 12, in Room 101A, Building 2, at Chemeketa Community College Campus, 228 N.E. Norton Lane.