GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Since August, the city of Grants Pass has rented up to 30 jail beds in an effort to cut down on the number of offenders who are cited and released. That contract will end on July 1st and now city officials are looking for ways to keep those jail beds open.
“We were anticipating that levy to pass, it didn’t. Let’s not cry over spilled milk, let’s just get on with it,” said Grants Pass City Council President Dan DeYoung.
Although the jail levy was defeated last week, officials said in the previous two elections, the city precincts show residents supported it. Now, while they wait for certified election results, city council is exploring options for extending their contract with the jail for up to 30 beds for another year.
“Whether the people of Grants Pass voted in favor of the levy and by what margin. That will give us a road map as to do we do this again, or find funding to do this again?” said DeYoung.
Grants Pass police said the beds have made an impact in crime rates since August.
“In law enforcement, you have to have a deterrent factor, and certainly that starts with the jail,” said Grants Pass Police Interim Chief Bill Landis.
Interim Chief Landis said some offenders were caught off-guard when told there was a bed waiting for them.
“For a few months, I think some of them were shocked to be arrested and we had comments such as ‘when did you start doing this,’” said Interim Chief Bill Landis.
Right now one of the leading possibilities for a funding source is adding a fee of about three dollars and change to city residents’ monthly utility bill. The idea is in the early stages, but officials said would generate about a million dollars to continue funding the jail beds.
“If they were willing to pay for the levy, we feel it’s important enough to them that maybe this three dollars and some odd cents a month is in their reach,” said DeYoung.
There’s no set timeline as to when or if this will happen, but city officials said they could have it done by July 1st.
There is currently a fee in the monthly utility bill for Grants Pass residents which funds transportation projects in the city. City officials said right now, the average utility bill for a resident runs about $55.00.