By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

Curry County Sheriff John Ward informed commissioners at their April 17 meeting that the sheriff’s department had budgeted for and was planning to institute a K9 unit in the near future.

Ward noted two deputies had been certified as K9 trainers and were involved with K9 units in their previous districts.

“A K9 unit will put a huge dent in our drug problem,” Ward said. “K9 units send a strong message to the public that the sheriff’s office is cracking down on drug offenses.”

A K9 team is as effective as 10 patrol officers, according to Deputy Josh Teter. Dogs save man-hours by searching buildings, vehicles and open areas at a far greater pace than humans.

He said K9s were also effective in neutralizing high-risk situations and apprehending fleeing subjects. These skills also protect officers from potential injuries.

K9s are classified as non-lethal force, according to Capt. Phillip McDonald, and add another tool for officers to use before resorting to deadly force. He said this reduces the danger in encounters for both the public and officers.

Ward and Teter said K9 units increase arrests and assets for a department due to drug forfeitures, cases where money or other assets used in crimes are confiscated before a portion is turned over to the department after the case is tried.

The department plans to purchase a dual-purpose Belgian Malinois for patrol and narcotics detection and lease a Labrador retriever – the nose – for searches, according to the report. The lab is owned by Deputy David Vershall and has already been trained for search and rescue. It will be trained for narcotics detection as well.

The Malinois will cost approximately $11,500. The K9 patrol course will add $7,000, and the narcotic detection K9 course another $5,500.

The local Mini-Pet Mart has agreed to donate food for the dogs, Ward said, and medical care through Town and Country Animal Clinic will cost about $946 per year.

County Director of Operations Julie Schmelzer questioned whether the dogs would stay at the county or go with their trainers if they chose to move to another department.

Ward assured the board that any K9 purchased by the county would stay regardless if the deputies took other jobs.

Commissioners voted unanimously to support the program.

Tax deductible donations to support the K9 unit can be mailed to the Curry County Sheriff’s Office at 94235 Moore St., Suite 311, or dropped off at 29808 Colvin St., Gold Beach, OR 97444.

Other BOC news

Commissioners agreed to pay McLennan Excavation $24,000 for the emergency stabilization of Gardner Ridge Road. One lane of the road was washed out and lost in a recent rain event, but the contractor was able to drop rip rap, dig storm drainage and realign the road. County Roadmaster Richard Christensen said without McLennan’s work the county would have lost the entire road, left residents stranded from their homes and lost logging traffic.

The permanent fix will cost between $300,000 and $400,000, according to Christensen.

Steve Beyerlin awarded contract

The board awarded Steve Beyerlin of Oregon Strong $5,000 to represent the county through next April regarding decreased numbers of spring Chinook salmon on the Upper Rogue River caused by the Lost Creek Dam.

According to county documents, “Steve Beyerlin has produced work resulting in a plan that shows Curry County and other counties suffer adversely from the Lost Creek Lake Project mitigation shortfalls related to impacts to hatchery and wild fish species, and therefore may recover millions of dollars.”

Beyerlin’s letter of no confidence has been adopted by the Curry County Board of Commissioners, and his work on Rogue River Fisheries Recovery and Restitution Project has been favorably received by the State of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as Josephine County, according to the report.

Jim Auborn was recognized by the board for serving 12 years as the Mayor of Port Orford and the board expressed gratitude for “the contributions Mayor Jim made, and respect for his cooperative working relationships he had with the county. He led by example; an example to be followed.”

-Commissioners and county officials thanked Penny Hudgens for 25 years of service to the county in various departments and recognized Karen Kennedy for her eight years on the planning commission. The board recognized Deputy Ryan Broze for his five years with the sheriff’s office as well.

The board declared April Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.

Michael Lange was appointed to an at-large position on the county planning commission.

The sheriff’s office announced a drug take-back event April 27 at both the sheriff’s office in Gold Beach and at the sheriff’s substation at the Port of Brookings Harbor. He noted the sheriff’s office will take drugs residents wish to dispose of at both locations during all regular business hours.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at