Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Tue, February 7 2012 at 4:53 PM, Updated: Tue, February 7 2012 at 5:06 PM
Klamath County voters are likely to face a levy on the ballot this May to fund jail operations. But, the Klamath County Commissioners are whittling back the proposed cost of that levy.
Brian Smith has been chairing a committee for the last five months charged with a goal of finding funding solutions for public safety. Smith notes that the committee made their recommendation to the County Commissioners this morning.
"Put a levy on the ballot for 4.2 million dollars per year for up to 3 years to fund the jail."
But Klamath County Commissioner Al Switzer thinks that's too much.
"I've got people that are calling me, saying 'we're on fixed incomes, this is killer for us - we'll do what we can, but we can't pay for the full-bore thing."
The citizen's committee argued that a 4.2 million dollar levy would free up money from the county's general fund for patrols and prosecution. But Commissioner Dennis Linthicum sees it differently.
"What it frees up money is out of the public's wallets."
The commissioners are leaning toward a levy of between 1.2 and 2.5 million dollars. The commissioners noted that voters might be reluctant to pass a 4.2 million dollar levy - and Commissioner Cheryl Hukill thinks a smaller levy might stand a chance.
"People are now telling me they're willing to vote for a law enforcement levy, they just can't do the large one."
But Brian Smith is concerned that smaller amount won't go far enough.
"Opening the jail doesn't solve our problem if we cannot arrest the criminals, prosecute the criminals, or help the juveniles through the system."
The commissioners are expected to announce their levy proposal next Tuesday.
A funding agreement between the city and county to fund jail operations is scheduled to end in June. If the funds can't be found, inmate capacity at the Klamath County Jail will drop from 116 beds to 64 beds.
KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's. He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.
Lyle's job history is quite colorful. He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand. A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer. In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.
Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience. "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain. Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".
When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.