Grants Pass City Council votes against public safety utility fee

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – The City of Grants Pass will not be moving forward with the creation of a public safety utility fee, at least for now.

It’s a decision that fire crews say could have tangible consequences in the very near future.

It was initially approved 4-3 back in August but not all the councilors were present.

At Wednesday’s second reading, the vote ended in a 4-4 tie, leaving Mayor Sara Bristol to cast the final deciding vote against the fee.

“It’s important to fund public safety, I think everybody on the council is committed to fully funding public safety, but we just need to look at how we want to do that, and this just didn’t feel right,” Bristol explained.

While the utility fee didn’t pass, the problem still remains.

It is the latest in a flurry of efforts by the council to provide law enforcement and fire crews with additional funding.

All failed to pass other than a $1.79 levy that has been in place for over a decade.

Bracken Sharp, the Vice President of the Grants Pass Professional Firefighters, said they’ve already cut everything that they can.

“We don’t have any more funds to get rid of before we start closing fire stations, cutting positions,” Sharp said. “We’re understaffed already.”

Staffing issues haven’t been helped by questions about job security within fire crews.

Sharp said out of all the firefighters who have left Grants Pass over the past 15 years, an overwhelming majority have said they left because they were uncertain about their jobs due to a potential lack of funding.

“If we stay at a $1.79 levy and there’s not additional funding coming in, 100% we will have to make [cuts],” Sharp said. “I mean we cut everything that we could have without having to close a station and that was even put on the chopping block this last year.”

According to Sharp, those cuts could come as soon as next summer or whenever the council finalizes the budget for 2025.

Mayor Bristol said the council will have to get innovative to avoid cutting personnel, something she said the council is strongly against.

“Citizens can’t always afford to pay more, and so it’s just not the right answer to always be asking for more money,” Bristol said. “We have to get more creative about how we can save as well as where we can find extra revenue.”

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Ethan McReynolds is a reporter and weekend anchor for NBC5 News. He grew up in Bothell, Washington and graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Broadcasting and minors in Journalism and Sport Management. At Gonzaga, he started his own sports podcast. Ethan loves rooting for his hometown Seattle sports teams, especially the Mariners. He loves playing baseball, basketball, and soccer. He is also an avid Taylor Swift fan.
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