Brookings Police Chief Kelby McCrae said Monday that Chetco Community Public Library property, although public, is not covered by the city’s camping ordinances.
The city’s ordinances apply to city parks, according to McCrae, but library property is “separate and distinct from the city’s public property and stands alone.”
He said due to the library board’s “abundance of caution” in addressing homeless camping, it has not “requested assistance from the Brookings Police Department in addressing those camping on its property.”
A homeless camp has grown on library grounds over the last month beginning with an RV parked in the lot and expanding into three RVs and up to seven tents.
At the library board meeting Nov. 2, residents and patrons decried effects of the camp including allegations of public urination and defecation, drug use, sexual harassment and fear for their children.
Until the board requests intervention, the police cannot lawfully intervene, according to McCrae. But there are procedures in place to address camping in city parks.
Tuesday, City Manager Janell Howard released a statement focusing on cooperation between the library and city concerning the homeless camp after Library Director Julie Retherford saw McCrae’s statement.
“The city and the library have been working tirelessly to tackle these issues,” Howard said.
City and police officials, Retherford and two attorneys have been meeting regularly, according to Howard, with some meetings occuring as far back as September.
“Legal counsel advised that if the library had a ‘no camping’ policy, it would be lawful for the police department to assist the library in enforcing trespassing against those camping who refuse to leave,” she said. “The library is currently working to enact that policy.”
According to Retherford and Howard, the library board will meet Wednesday, Nov. 7 to consult with their attorney and vote on a new code of conduct.
If the library enacts limitations on camping or a “no camping” policy in that code, the city is prepared to enforce it, Howard said.
However, she cautioned the city would have to post the intention to remove the camp 24 hours before action could be taken. She said notice would be given to those living in the camp and to resource providers to “assist in the transition for the homeless living there.”
She finished the statement by apologizing for any perceived delay and noting that dealing with such issues is “a process.”
Given the need for notices and a 24-hour delay, if the library board enacts a “no camping” policy, and posts it Wednesday, the police could intervene as soon as Friday morning.
Howard emphasized neither she nor McCrae blamed the library for the situation but said the police department was fielding numerous calls asking why they weren’t doing something about the camp.
“No one’s intent was to point fingers,” she said.
Retherford could have asked the city to intervene at any time, according to Howard, but she needed to have the support of the library board.
She noted people may sleep on public land in the city, but that doesn’t mean 24 hours of sleep, and it doesn’t mean building a campsite or having a party.
“We have met with the police about this issue,” Retherford said. “Library Board Chair Stuart Watkins and I met again today (Tuesday) with Janell (Howard) and the Brookings Police Department. We discussed the plan for enforcing the new library code of conduct that will be adopted tomorrow, and we are all on the same page and working together.”
The library board meets 2 p.m. today (Nov. 7) in the Library Annex.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .