38 million dollars...That's how much the City of Medford is spending on police and fire projects... as well as new ball fields at U.S. Cellular Park. The recent council meeting is bringing up concerns for residents, many of whom didn't even know about the resulting fee increases.
If you're a Medford resident, come January 15th the public safety fee in your utility bill will go up 2 dollars a month. The money goes to rebuild the police station and rehabilitate 3 fire stations. Medford resident Miles Newman just wishes he could have voted on it...."Things that involve millions of dollars should really be voted on by the people," says Newman.
That's not all: The city also approved 6 million dollars for the U.S. Cellular Park for 3 new ball fields and parking. To do that they raised car rental fees from 5 to 12.5%. "It could be well intentioned, but it could be abused at the same time," comments Newman. "Also if it's well intentioned there's no reason it shouldn't be voted on."
It's legal..the city can raise fees without voter approval except...
"Property taxes are the fee that is the required vote of the public," explains City Finance Director Alison Chan.
While the city continues moving money, in light of county problems, like library funding-- which is in need of 5 million dollars plus, resident Christian Farkas wonders if spending 6 million for ball fields is the best option, "It's an ok idea, but I would take the money and spend it somewhere else."
For instance, though it's not the norm, the City of Ashland uses property taxes to support it's library. But Medford Parks and Recreation says U.S. Cellular Park's completion will draw more people to the Medford area, thus helping the local economy. Council members we spoke with on the phone say the public safety increases are a necessity.
The city says they did hold public hearings where residents could speak up about these fees... if you'd like your voice heard on future issues: the city council meets the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month. They start at noon and again at 7 in the evening. The agenda is posted online.