Talent residents want voters to decide on new proposed jail

TALENT, Ore. — “At the end of the day, all we’re asking for is for the voters to look at it. And if the voters say no, that’s okay,” said Sheriff Nathan Sickler, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

For Sheriff Sickler, a new, larger county jail is a top priority. He’s been traveling from city to city meeting with city councils and advocating for support of a new jail.

That’s because the service district the county is looking to create and tax for the new jail requires the approval of all 11 incorporated Jackson County cities before it can even go to voters.

So far, 7 cities have voted “yes” to be part of the district and move the jail toward the fall ballot. Only one has hesitated, the city of Talent, after councilors decided last Wednesday not to vote on it.

“I just feel like maybe they haven’t had the opportunity to review the documents or talk to all of the criminal justice professionals in the valley who all believe this is a great solution to our issues,” said Sheriff Sickler.

Talent City Manager, Sandra Spelliscy, disagrees. She says the council is well informed.

“I think that they’ve had the opportunity to read the material put out by the sheriff’s office,” said Spelliscy. “He’s been at our council twice [and] a number of our council members had an actual tour of the jail.”

If any city doesn’t give the thumbs up by the May 17th deadline, Sheriff Sickler says it won’t make the fall ballot. However, that’s not sitting well with some Talent residents who think the public should decide.

“I really don’t want one city to hold up the process because then we’ll all have a chance to vote at the ballot box,” said Jeff Wilson, Talent resident.

Although many residents had differing opinions about whether a new jail is needed, they all agreed on one thing: they want the opportunity to vote.

Last week, Talent city councilors said they had concerns that jails were not the best solution to reforming bad behavior and that other solutions should be available to help people like expanding mental health services.

They could still vote on the issue after May 15th if a majority approves voting on the issue again.

Jackson County says without unanimous approval from local cities by the 17th, the estimated tax numbers will change and there won’t be enough time to get it on the fall ballot.

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