Port Orford residents resoundingly approved a measure needed to continue paying for their police department in a special election Tuesday.
In a vote that required 50 percent turnout to be counted, nearly 56 percent of registered voters participated and approved the measure 5:1.
Measure 8-96 — a local option tax measure to fund Port Orford Police Department — passed on a 405-83 vote after initially failing on the November ballot. Had the levy failed again, the department would have lost funding June 30.
“If this local tax measure is not enacted, then the city will be forced to eliminate the police department. . .” the notice stated.
“I have no explanation,” Mayor Tim Pogwizd said of the complete turnaround. “Maybe we didn’t educate the people enough the first time, and this time we had a PAC out there putting up signs and talking to people at the post office.”
Former Port Orford Councilor Brett Webb started the PAC, and members worked to educate people about the levy and push its passage, according to Pogwizd.
“I am truly glad it passed,” Port Orford City Administrator Terrie Richards said. “I would have hated to see Port Orford without a police department.”
The current levy pays for the department through 2024, and appears to vindicate city and police officials who claimed the original measure was poorly worded and confused residents, many thinking the levy would add $1.80 per $1,000 valuation to their property taxes on top of the $1.90 per $1,000 already being levied. Instead, the new levy replaces the first and actually lowers the rate.
The March proposal read: “Shall the city replace the expiring police levy with a reduced levy of $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value? This measure renews current local option taxes.”
The new tax rate will be 10 cents less per $1,000 assessed valuation than the current rate.
At a January town hall, some Port Orford officials and residents lamented the possible demise of the police department, while others questioned the legitimacy of a “second chance to get what you want” after losing an election. The town hall was held by city officials to offer voters “factual information about the levy,” according to Mayor Tim Pogwizd.
City councilors there, along with Police Chief Hank Hobart, noted the new levy actually lowered the rate, even though the ballot wording said it would likely raise residents’ property taxes by more than 3 percent.
City councilors, Pogwizd and business owners touted the benefits of the police department, and the council and Pogwizd blamed themselves for the failure of the November levy, citing confusing language on the ballot and their failure to communicate with the public.
Hobart was unavailable to comment.
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