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Sheriff's office gets new deal to patrol Gold Hill

GOLD HILL — Three additional years of law enforcement protection by Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies were approved Wednesday for Gold Hill.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the renewal of an intergovernmental agreement between Jackson County and the city of Gold Hill at the commission’s meeting. The costs range from $170,000 to $181,000 annually.

The contract provides 40 hours per week of combined service time — between patrol, code enforcement and other services — and will replace an existing agreement, taking effect Oct. 1 retroactively.

Interim City Manager Rob Lowe said the city is pleased to continue coverage under the sheriff’s office.

“The good news is things are relatively quiet around here and all the changes that are happening are all good,” Lowe said. “We had good negotiations with the sheriff’s department, and the city was basically pretty satisfied with the level of support we’ve gotten from the last agreement.”

The previous contact, which was approved in October 2015 for annual costs ranging from $162,000 to $182,000, was authorized in response to ongoing public-safety concerns after Gold Hill disbanded its own police force a handful of times between 2000 and 2006.

Lowe said the sheriff’s office has been responsive to concerns — residents have requested increased code enforcement and visibility of patrol cars in various neighborhoods — and has been easy to work with.

“Of course, you’ll always find people who say it’s not enough until you have a cop on every corner 24-7,” he said. “And some people are not ever going to be satisfied.”

Issues that have remained on the city’s radar but have slowly improved include squatters living in vacant buildings, drug activity, and homeless people in downtown, Lowe said.

“We have heard from residents who really just want to see deputies get out and drive the neighborhoods and maybe see a car down Fourth Avenue or other side streets instead of just up and down Second Avenue,” he said. “We’re looking for that deterrent and increased presence.”

Lowe said he wasn’t satisfied with the lack of code enforcement, but he is happy with the fixes the sheriff’s office has agreed to under the new deal.

“They have more or less agreed and staffed up their (community service officers), and we’ve already seen dramatic improvement.”

Sgt. Julie Denney, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, said Gold Hill hasn’t seen any types of crime trends that were different from other parts of the Rogue Valley, and that the contract would ensure a continued level of protection beyond “emergency only.”

“Having this contract in place definitely makes a huge difference for the city, which had no protection in place before this contract,” Denny said. “Previously, when they didn’t have a department, we would just respond to the 911 calls. With this contract, it lets us pick up all those other little cases that matter to people but that aren’t necessarily emergencies, so we hope that’s making a noticeable difference for people.”

Denney said a specific schedule had intentionally not been made for patrol coverage.

“We basically break up the service time throughout the day, so we’re not using predictable times,” she added. “Also, we have patrol time in addition to time for the (community service officers) to do their work.”

“With this contract, the sheriff’s department gets additional revenue from us and, in exchange, they ensure a certain level of staffing out here,” Lowe said. “It’s virtually a carbon copy of our prior agreement, but they’ve been very responsive to our needs and concerns.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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