Three community issues were presented at the Public Policy session held March 5th. Of discussion were the Big Toy project at Keizer Rapids Park, the Polk County Public Safety Operating Levy, and the Marion County Extension Service District proposal.
BIG TOY Project:
The Big Toy project is the latest development in the master plan for Keizer Rapids Park. The 10,000 square foot playground is the latest move in the long term plan to develop the area as a regional destination.
The build, which is scheduled to take place between June 10-14, 2015, is estimated to cost $300,000 with the labor for the build donated by volunteers. So far, they have reached 70 percent of their fundraising goal. While no formal vote was taken, a straw poll showed unanimous support from those in attendance at the Public Policy Session for the project.
Polk County Public Safety Operating Levy:
Polk County will be placing a Public Safety Operating levy on the May 2015 ballot. The five-year local option tax would help restore funding to public safety services, which has seen a decrease in revenue due to the reduction and loss of O & C funding in the General Fund and increasing costs of healthcare and PERS. The loss of these monies has had a significant impact on the operations of the Public Safety department. Since 2008, there has been a 30 percent decrease in the Public Safety workforce. Services have also been cut. Sheriff Robert Wolfe shared that patrols have been reduced to 10 hours per day seven days a week, and that after 10pm, they do not have the ability to respond to calls. District Attorney Aaron Felton stated that there is now a delay in the prosecution of crimes due to staff reductions. In a vote after the presentation, 12 members voted in favor of supporting the levy, and five voted against, with one abstention.
Creation of Extension Service District
John Bert, representing the Citizens for Marion County Extension PAC, spoke on the referral to create a new service district on the May 2015 ballot. This would stabilize funding for Marion County Extension programs, which have seen a decline in state and federal funding in recent years. Extension services include the 4-H Youth Development program, as well as classes for agricultural related businesses to learn new skills and increase profits. All 20 cities within Marion County have voted to be included in the service district. Members also voted in favor of supporting the proposal 15-3.
These recommendations will be forwarded to the Board of Directors for consideration.
For more information, please contact Nick Williams, Public Policy Manager for the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. Public Policy sessions are open to all dues-paying members of the Salem Chamber.