ON THE BALLOT: Enhanced Sheriff’s Patrol for Pacific City and Neskowin Water Districts

By April Bailey, for the Tillamook County Pioneer

Shall a law enforcement district be formed with permanent tax rate of $.58 per $1000 assessed value beginning in FY 2017-18?

This is the question posed to the citizens within the Pacific City Joint Water-Sanitary Authority and the Neskowin Regional Water District.

Neskowin Water District area
Pacific City Water Authority area

This is an area that sees its population surge during summer months with second homes owners, vacationers, and an untold  numbers of day trippers to enjoy the majestically beautiful Cape Kiwanda and Proposal Rock beaches. A quick survey of the new buildings, especially in the Cape Kiwanda area, testifies that the private sector has responded to this growing tourist economy.

So how about the public infrastructure needed to support these seasonally intensely populated areas, or even the reduced winter populations? Local residents have certainly seen the county work to improve roads in recent years, such as the Resort Drive construction project, and improved safety for pedestrians crossing Cape Kiwanda Drive to access the beach. But, has the time come for full time police protection? And how to fund such an expensive endeavor? These are the questions set forth to the voters that seem to be most impacted with both the issue and its funding.

As posed to a question to the general population, merely all agree that the whole South County area would benefit from enhanced police patrol. In researching this article not one opponent to an increased police force came forward. In fact, many South County residents expressed a disappointment that the area selected for direct coverage of the enhanced police patrol limited the voter participation and tax contribution. Yes, most people in the area are so concerned with emergency response time by police they are willing to pay higher property taxes.

As one case in point to emergency response time concerns, Cara Elder, long-time resident, gave personal testimony to being threatened by another motorist in “broad daylight” near the bridge in Pacific City. When Elder tried to flee from the angry motorist he followed her to a nearby place of business. Fearful to lead a possible assailant to her home, Elder called 911. The emergency dispatch told her she may have to wait up to an hour because, “the deputy was on a call in north county.” Another local business owner described the summer months in Pacific City as “a bit third-wordly or anarchy.”

This ballot measure may be the solution to such wait times that could have disastrous outcomes. And while, the direct coverage area would be Pacific City and Neskowin, the officers would be required to respond to any calls within “Sheriff’s protocols”. Presumably, this would mean in the least, South Tillamook County.

And what will be the cost to the residents within this district? Well as the levy states, the property taxes of those within Pacific City Joint Water-Sanitary Authority and Neskowin Regional Water District would raise $.58 per $1000 assessed value. If the assessed home value is $250,000 then this measure would increase the tax rate by $145 per year. Since this is a permanent tax rate it could neither be increased or decreased, ever.

And herein lies the issue for many: This measure is a permanent tax rate on property owners. Some of have suggested that it should have possibly initially been a bond measure or local tax option, to leave the possibility of disbanding an enhanced police patrol in the future if such a force were to become obsolete. There have also been suggestions that possibly the Transient Lodging Tax, that has had a reported excess in funds, should be the means to support an enhanced police force in the South County area.

So it seems the necessity of an enhance police force at this time in the Pacific City and Neskowin areas is generally an accepted need. What remains to be seen is whether voters will agree with the means to pay for such a force will be through a permanent tax rate to a select group in south county.