This week, the Lincoln County Commission sat down with the Siletz City Council to talk about one of Siletz’s biggest problems. Law enforcement. Siletz city councilors say the voters won’t approve a tax override for police coverage which they claim ought to be provided through the taxes they already pay.
This time last year, the Siletz Tribe (because so many Native Americans live in Siletz) was paying several hundred thousand dollars a year to Toledo to provide police services. But tribe has since withdrawn the money – the tribe contending that it’s unfair that the taxpayers of Siletz contribute nothing directly for police services while the tribe pays full freight.
This week Siletz city councilors asked the county commission why couldn’t they come up with the money to step up law enforcement patrol services for Siletz. Sheriff’s Lieutenant Dave Carey offered that the sheriff’s office is spread pretty thin at night so when a deputy gets a call for service the deputy may have to drive a half hour just to get there. But Carey also indicated that if a call for service is for a serious crime or injury then inter-agency protocols kick in and neighboring police and/or ambulance crews automatically head for Siletz for a more timely response.
At the root of the problem is the low economic base Siletz has for taxes that could pay for stepped up law enforcement. Tribal buildings and other properties, right down to vacant land, don’t count because being owned by a separate nation they’re not on the regular tax rolls.
Commissioner Bill Hall said the county is well aware of Siletz’s predicament but that there is little that they can do about it – county budgets are stretched thin as it is. Hall reminded the councilors that even with the recession, the sheriff’s office budget has been increased quite a bit over the past 10 years due to state and federal mandates for Parole and Probation workers, employees in the county jail and other mandated programs. Hall said that adding sheriff’s deputies to the roster comes with about a $125,000 expense chit when you add up wages, benefits, personal equipment and a patrol car to push it around the county. Hall also pointed out that the cities of Depoe Bay and Waldport both pay a substantial amount for added sheriff’s office coverage.
Lt. Carey reassured the council that the Sheriff’s Office has re-aligned their patrol resources since the tribe withdrew their revenue from Toledo Police. He said patrols are more numerous but it doesn’t take much to happen in another part of the county to re-direct that patrol unit to a far away location, back from which may take more than a half hour. “We’re a big county,” he said.
And that’s about where they left it.