GRANTS PASS — The Josephine County Board of Commissioners has decided not to pursue the idea of playing classical music outside the county courthouse in an effort to drive off street people.
The decision was arrived at after county Legal Counsel Wally Hicks advised against it, saying in a memo to commissioners that the music might be disruptive to legitimate business at the courthouse and the nearby Basker Auditorium.
"We thought it would be too disruptive," Commissioner Lily Morgan said.
Workers inside the courthouse already can easily hear the conversations of people outside, so they certainly would be able to hear music.
Morgan said she expects the board to also issue an order banning smoking, with off-limits areas to be determined. The area could extend to the nearby Grants Pass library. Morgan also expects staffers to remove benches.
Also to be considered, she said, was the use of metalwork atop short walls there, in an effort to discourage people from using the walls as benches. The county also is looking into designating the area a park, so Grants Pass police can arrest troublemakers if they return after being told to stay away.
As Morgan looked out the window of fellow Commissioner Dan DeYoung's office, only a few people were outside in the area. But just the previous day, a drug deal was caught on camera, Morgan said.
"We can't look the other way with that going on," she said.
Complaints about rowdy behavior have come in from city, courts and transit workers, including county transit director Scott Chancey, who is looking into possibly moving a bus stop from the area.
"He says this is a problem for his transit riders as well," Morgan said. "People have the right to come and go in peace.
"Some of these folks are nice; it's their social hour," she added. "Some are not."
Many of the loiterers smoke, explaining the idea of banning smoking to move them along. Plus, smoke is unhealthy, and the county's public health department has asked that smoking be banned at all county facilities.
DeYoung played down the classical music issue, although he encouraged the discussion a couple weeks ago after Simon Hare talked up the idea in earnest in a meeting several weeks ago.
"I think we were kind of kidding about it," DeYoung said, adding that he'd be fine with listening to classical music.
"It won't bother me to hear it all day long," he said.
DeYoung is clearly irate about what he sees and what visitors endure. Last week, he saw someone outside with a hash pipe.
"We had no less than 35 to 40 homeless people just partying it up," he said. "This is on the doorstep of the courthouse. If we don't do something about it, we are remiss. There's drinking down there. Cussing. Fighting. Dope deals daily."
The issue has been simmering, with city officials a few weeks ago requesting action from the county.
Police are called to the area daily. In the past, the city has removed street furniture at several locations around downtown, with immediate results.
— Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.