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Voters may consider public safety.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Whether the city will run its own jail is anybody's guess, but a bond measure to build some kind of new public safety facility appears to be headed for the November ballot.

The City Council will hold an hourlong work session Monday night to talk about various proposals for building a new public safety center, possibly including a city jail.

Right now, two councilors - Dave Ralston and John Woodrow - have said they would like to see the city build its own jail so that criminals convicted of a crime would do their time instead of being released early by cash-strapped Lane County.

"I am very much in favor of rebuilding the public safety building with a jail," Woodrow said. "I don't know that we have enough information yet to see which way is the most logical path to follow."

Options under consideration range from building a new 100-bed city jail to having the city rent unused space from Lane County and operate a jail there, Woodrow said.

But others on the council aren't certain that running their own jail is a good idea.

"This would just add another tax burden when we're already paying taxes to Lane County,"Councilor Christine Lundberg said. "That's too much money for people."

Anne Ballew, the council's main fiscal conservative, said she supports putting the public safety facility on the November ballot but has reservations about trying to build a jail.

"I'd be willing to support putting a new police facility out there," she said. "What they have is pretty darned cramped. If people want to vote for it, good. But relative to a jail, I can't support it. It just seems too expensive."

The swing vote on the jail issue could go to Council President Tammy Fitch, who said Thursday that she's not sure which way she would go.

"Honestly, I'm leaning towards it," she said. "But I need to make sure from the public's standpoint that we go in with our eyes wide open. What are the true costs of operating it? What are the pitfalls? What are the advantages?"

At the work session, councilors will consider asking the public to support a bond measure on the November ballot to finance construction of a facility costing up to $23.4 million to replace the aging police headquarters on A Street.

No vote will be taken on Monday, but if the council is agreeable, the city staff will develop a specific proposal for consideration at a special council meeting and public hearing to be held in August.

"We're taking various options to the council," City Manager Mike Kelly said. "Public safety only. Or public safety and municipal court. Or public safety and municipal court, plus fire administration."

A report from Police Chief Jerry Smith to the council estimates an 85,000-square-foot building for police, fire administration and municipal prosecutor and court would cost $19 million and add $63 to the tax bill of a $100,000 home.

Adding a jail to the public safety, court and fire facility would drive the price up to $23.4 million, or $77 in taxes on a $100,000 home, the chief's report says.

In addition, it would cost the city $1.5 million a year to operate the jail.

SPRINGFIELD

CITY COUNCIL

What: A council work session to discuss seeking voter approval in November of a bond issue to build a new public safety facility, possibly including a city jail, for up to $23.4 million

Where: Jesse Maine Room, City Hall, 225 Fifth St. Springfield

When: 6 p.m. Monday
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Title Annotation:Government; The City Council will discuss proposals for funding a new building
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 16, 2004
Words:600
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