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OPPOSITION TO LAW LEVY GROWS IN NORTH

By BILL LUNDQUIST

GOLD BEACH-Precinct-by-precinct breakdowns for Tuesday?s law levy election showed the same pattern as the 1999 levy election.

North County precincts voted even more strongly against the levy than last time. No votes averaged about 80 percent, compared with 69 percent in 1999.

Central County precincts voted about 60-65 percent no, nearly identical to 1999.

Support dropped slightly in Brookings, with city precincts voting 52-59 percent no.

Only one Brookings precinct passed the levy, by 52 percent yes. The 1999 levy was closer to a tie in Brookings.

As in 1999, South County precincts surrounding the city proper supported the levy fairly strongly, with 52-66 percent yes votes.

That support wasn't strong enough, however, to overcome the lukewarm response in Brookings and the decisive opposition in the north.

Countywide, the levy was defeated 55.1 percent no to 44.9 percent yes. That average was within two-tenths of a percent of the 1999 results.

Curry County Commissioner Marlyn Schafer supported the levy, but said the results were understandable.

She said the small population in the North County has difficulty paying the cost of state and federal regulations.

The sheriff's office is based in the South County, which gives residents there a higher comfort level, said Schafer.

She said people there know Capt. Mark Metcalf will get out of bed to respond to emergencies or to fill in on patrol.

"No one has really felt the crunch there yet," said Schafer.

As for Brookings, she said one resident called her and told her he'd like to support the levy, but couldn't because he was already paying for police in Brookings.

Schafer didn't hold out much hope for more deputies in the future, though she will begin discussions with Sheriff Kent Owens to see if there is any way of doing business differently.

She said she doesn't believe there will be money in the next few years to hire another county deputy. It isn't just the personnel cost, she said, but training and equipment.

Besides the cost, said Schafer, the election showed that "some people feel we have enough officers."

She said it would probably take a disaster to show people that they need more trained emergency responders.

Schafer had hoped that the state legislature would come through with additional funding for county district attorneys and public health. Curry County then might have had some leeway to put more money into the sheriff's office.

Schafer said Commissioner Lucie La Bont called her Friday morning from Salem and said things weren't looking good in the legislature for counties.

Union negotiations could also impact the fiscal year 2001-02 budget, said Schafer. Meanwhile, she said, the county has to find a way, in the next five years, to retain federal safety net funds.

Schafer said she and Owens agree that they don't want to use grants, that might go away, to fund positions.

Personally, said Schafer, she was disappointed in the outcome of the levy election.

"It's not good planning for the future," she said. "I want to look to the future. How can we put this county back on track?"

She said so much of Curry County is publicly owned that people feel economically "hit" and "just don't think they can pay for it (the levy)."

On the other hand, she wondered if people truly understood that deputies don?t just drive around on patrol. Unless they have time to investigate crimes, she said, the district attorney can't prosecute criminals.

Owens said Friday he has planned no changes for his department. "We've scheduled shifts for the best possible coverage."

He has no plans to move more resources to the South County, where his levy was supported.

"We're committed to respond to every call for service according to priority," he said.

Most calls are in the South County because that is where most people live, he said, so most deputy hours are spent there.

When priority calls come in, Owens will continue to send deputies north.

"I couldn't in good conscience do anything else," he said.

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