Medford council gets troubling prognosis on bond measures

Potential bond measures to build a new police station and aquatics facilities in Medford will be a tough sell this fall, according to a research firm hired by the city to gauge voter appetite for these projects.

Members of the Medford City Council were briefed Thursday on the results of a survey conducted by Campbell DeLong Resources Inc. of Portland.

The survey was conducted to assesses voters' moods toward the proposed bond measures, which could appear in the ballot this November.

Basically, the city is wanting to know if there's a chance these bond measures would succeed with the recession still in the forefront of most voters' minds.

Martha DeLong, the research director for the company, told the council that both projects stood a chance of passing based on their individual merits.

However, she warned that putting both the police department and the aquatic facilities on the ballot together could end in defeat for both.

"The choice is up to you on which one to place on the ballot," DeLong said to the council members. "But if you put both on, both will go down."

The company surveyed 600 Medford residents in February. The survey outlined the details and costs behind the bond measures and asked residents to say whether they would vote in favor for the projects.

Both would involve property tax hikes, and the aquatics facilities would also include a utility fee.

The Medford Police Department is asking for $12 million in bonds to build a new headquarters. The result would be a tax hike of 17 cents per thousand of assessed property. For property assessed at $207,000, the cost for the measure would be about $35 per year.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed would vote "yes" in favor of the police headquarters bond. Thirty-nine percent said they would vote against the measure, DeLong reported.

There is a small group of undecided voters, a good chunk of whom would need to be swayed in favor of the measure for it to pass in the fall, DeLong said.

"It would be a very, very close vote," she said.

DeLong said cost was not the overriding issue among the surveyed voters.

"They want to know what the benefits of a new police station would be," she said. "They would want to see results, to know this bond measure would make their community safer."

She said the city would have to engage voters in a focused education campaign that would highlight the benefits of a new police station.

Councilman Chris Corcoran said the way to do this would be to nurture a grass roots movement in Medford that would engage voters in a personal level.

"We need to have people going door to door," he said.

Councilman Al Densmore feared that time is running short, with the election less than nine months away. He isn't sure that is enough time to get a large-scale educational project off the ground in time for November.

The aquatics facilities polled a little better than the new police station.

The measure would fund an indoor 50-meter year-round pool at Hawthorne Park and a new outdoor facility at Jackson Park.

Sixty-two percent of residents said they would vote "yes" on the bond measure.

This measure would call for $14.5 million bond, which would bump the tax of a $207,000 property around $40 per year.

The aquatics measure hits a major snag, though, when residents hear that the bond measure is tied to a utility fee hike of $1.32 per month to pay for operating and maintenance costs.

"The utility fee is not likely to pass," DeLong said.

The goal in the coming weeks is to hear from the heads of the police and park and recreation departments to assess who is in the best position to put forth a plan that would win voter approval in November.

The council tentatively agreed to hear from each department during a study session at Medford City Hall on April 5.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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