District Attorney makes pitch for public support of Measure 30 taxJOHN DAY - Sheriff John Raichl announced Tuesday night that he hopes to stock the county's substations with health supplies and rescue equipment for local residents and emergency workers to deal with the threats of accidents, disasters and disease outbreaks.
He said the medical supplies are needed to help handle a rising threat of infectious diseases. Last summer, the world witnessed the spread of SARS, and Raichl said with Astoria's growing reputation as a cruise ship town, it is not immune from the threat of disease.
"We seem to be coming into an era that for whatever the reason some of these diseases have come up," he said.
And he said the county also has seen the Norwalk virus, which causes an intestinal sickness, and others.
Raichl's remarks came during a town hall meeting hosted by the sheriff's office at the John Day Fire Hall. Similar to several such meetings held during the past year, the meetings provide a chance for area residents a to connect with the sheriff's deputies who serve them, and vice versa.
In addition to Raichl's remarks on emergency preparedness, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis spoke on the need to pass Measure 30 and why the county needs a new jail.
And closer to home for the folks in John Day, talk turned to protecting oneself against mail theft and a problem with a trash pile growing off John Day River Road.
Raichl said the medical supplies would be at the Knappa and Jewell substations so they could be prepositioned in case of an outbreak of an infectious disease or a natural disaster that may cut off an area such as John Day from Astoria or cities east of Clatsop County.
The search and rescue equipment would allow sheriff's office staff to respond quicker to accident or rescue scenes because they would not have to go into Astoria to obtain gear.
He said he'll be pitching the idea to the county's rural law enforcement advisory board for approval.
As the vote on Measure 30 is fast approaching, Raichl said the defeat of the measure could have serious impacts on local law enforcement. He said it would deny the use of the Oregon State Police crime lab that could impair investigations in Clatsop County.
He also said the measure's defeat would also mean fewer OSP troopers on county highways. Raichl said he wanted people to know that even with fewer OSP cars on the road, the sheriff's office would remain committed to its first priority which is serving the county's communities. He said deputies would only respond to incidents on state highways if they involved fatalities or injuries.
"At the very time we're requesting more troopers in this county, the coastal counties, for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, we're losing them," he said.
Marquis said he's voting for Measure 30 because "I feel the Legislature put a gun to my head and everybody else's" because the state government hasn't made tough choices on balancing the budget already.
He said he isn't happy about a possible tax increase. But Marquis said voting the measure down wouldn't be effective because, even if Oregon's lawmakers "don't have the guts of a woodchuck," not approving the measure would just mean fewer state services without really sending the Legislature a message.
"They're not going to take a cut. They're not going to get hurt," he said.
What really needs to happen is a change in the state's tax system, Marquis said, but in the meantime residents should vote to preserve the state's crime labs and police force.
And locally, he said, it's unfortunately true that if people want a new jail, they're going to have to shoulder the tax burden to get one.
He said the need is clear, and recounted an episode in the courtroom recently in which he was trying to convince a judge to give an offender continued probation and about 15 days of jail time. The offender, however, asked the judge for six months jail because Marquis said the man knew he'd be out in a few days without having to deal with probation - and Marquis added - he was right.
"That young man is extremely dangerous," he said. "He will kill somebody."
To combat that, Marquis said the county needs a justice system that has some teeth in it, one that has the threat of incarceration for criminal offenses.
But "justice costs money," he said, adding, "the bottom line is some additional tax burden on every tax payer."
Chief Deputy Tom Bergin spoke briefly on some local issues, including mail theft. He said it's a rapidly growing crime because what thieves take from mail boxes often allow sthem to steal identities. He suggested residents obtain a post office box, or at least a locking mail box at their residence.
Unfortunately, he said, there is little the sheriff's office can do to prevent the crime but if people are vigilant in reporting suspicious people or vehicles, they may be able to catch someone in the act.
And when asked about a piece of property of John Day River Road that's been collecting garbage, Bergin said he's aware of the situation and promised the area's two resident deputies, who were at the meeting, would look into the issue soon.