The Port of Brookings Harbor board of commissioners decided to form a special committee to look into law enforcement options for the port district if the county's financial difficulties continue.
Commissioners decided to create the committee after a lengthy discussion of law enforcement options for the port district and especially areas south of the Chetco River, acknowledging the failure of the county's levy could mean inadequate law enforcement in the unincorporated areas in the southern end of the county.
At the meeting, audience members and commissioners said there was already a lack of law enforcement in the southern end of the county and with the Sheriff's Office facing cuts, including the possible elimination of the Harbor substation at the port, less law enforcement presence could quickly become a reality.
At first, commissioners Sue Gold and Roy Davis expressed their dismay about learning through the Pilot that law enforcement was going to be a topic at the meeting.
"I'm surprised the whole thing was in the newspaper with a tax levy coming up without us discussing it," Gold said.
Commissioner Jim Relaford said that three months ago they had discussed providing police services for not just the port but for the entire unincorporated area south of the Chetco River.
"One of our roles is economic development," Relaford said. "Without security, you won't have economic development."
Commissioner Mike Manning said the port had been more secure in recent months since the sheriff's substation relocated to the port.
Relaford said he was not so concerned about now but what is going to happen in July 2014 when it is estimated the county will run out of money.
"You can't live without law enforcement," Relaford said. "If there is an organization that can create a safe environment for business, that is us."
Manning said he did not think the port commission was qualified to do that and suggested a town hall meeting to get opinions from the community before going forward.
During the public comment portion, Roger Thompson said the port had a difficult time the last time it tried to pass a levy, and the levy to pay for law enforcement would have a difficult time passing in Brookings.
Relaford acknowledged that raising a levy to pay for law enforcement would duplicate sheriff's services, but he said the sheriff's office needs to be fully funded to provide services at the southern end of the county.
"In July, the (county's) reserves will run out," said Tim Patterson, port commissioner. "You're not going to have a substation or anyone (patrol deputies) coming down here anymore."
Davis appointed a committee, including commissioners and citizens, to look at law enforcement options for the port district.
The committee will meet at 7 p.m., Dec. 4 at the Best Western Beachfront Inn, 16008 Boat Basin Road, Harbor. Those interested in law enforcement options for the port district are encouraged to attend.