Medford City Council looks at proposal for ‘Community Livability Unit’

MEDFORD, Ore.– Medford City Council is meeting tonight to hear new ideas and discuss a variety of issues. One topic being discussed is enforcing city code on areas around the Bear Creek Greenway and downtown Medford.

One way of doing that is through what’s called a Community Livability Unit. It’s job will be to address neighborhood and community concerns that will negatively impact safety such as chronic criminal behavior. According to some city officials, this problem is something every city has to address.

“Well there is no cure for this problem,” said Brian Sjothun, Medford city manager. “Every city in America is facing what Medford is facing.”

According to Sjothun, the city may have found one solution with the livability unit, an idea that is being modeled after something similar in Corvallis right now.

“It would mostly be focusing on areas of town where there are activities that are impacting the quality of life meaning folks that may be sleeping in areas,” said Sjothun.

Areas like downtown Medford and the greenway which have been labeled as hot spots.  The unit, which would consist of three patrol officers, one code enforcement officer and one records specialist, wouldn’t just focus on enforcement though.

“Try to link people to services that they may not know are available to them,” said Sjothun “Then try to move folks along that continually are disobeying the ordinances and regulations of the city.”

Rick Turner, owner of Man Food Catering which has been working in the downtown area since September, says there have been a couple disturbances.

“There are things that happen out here but for the most part the city’s been doing a great effort trying to get people to come back to their parks,” he said.

The city will be discussing this issue during the council meeting tonight along with how to fund it. Currently, the city has been paying around $90,000 a year for programs that maintain health and safety along the greenway and downtown. Cost’s for this project are estimated to be around $560,000 a year.

One way the city is discussing financing this unit would be through increasing utility billing of all 38,500 billable units in the city. This would cover the annual cost and equate to about by $14.52 per year or $1.21 per month.

City officials are also looking at applying for a Community Oriented Policing Services grant which could help ease the cost to residents, reducing it to about $11.28 per year or $.94 per month.

While all of this will still be discussed tonight, nothing has been set in stone. However for Turner, he believes it’s a small price to pay for a safe environment.

“You know, it’s collective for everybody, it’s for the greater good,” he said. “$14 a year doesn’t seem outrageous.”


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