The measure on the ballot in Cowlitz County to increase funds for fighting the meth epidemic failed recently, but only by a very narrow margin. It is clear that many voters felt the county sheriff needed more money to fight the steadily increasing problems surrounding the use of methamphetamines. One questioner found, however, that some who voted against the measure felt that simply jailing offenders would not solve the problem.

The enhanced sheriff's operating fund being requested on the November ballot in Columbia County includes a 90-day treatment component in the jail, designed to coincide with the usual length of sentence for a second meth-use offense. Citizens working to put the measure on the ballot came to the same conclusion as those who opposed the measure in Cowlitz County; that is, a revolving door with no attempt to break the cycle was not the answer.

In addition to providing treatment, the sheriff's staff will be enhanced by 15 members, and among other goals, will more than double the current four deputies now available to patrol the roads of the county. The coverage currently provides for one deputy on the day shift and three on nights (forget such niceties as swing and graveyard; it's just nights here). The night men are on call all night, from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., and if anyone is sick or on vacation, some of those shifts last even longer. All that overtime doesn't save taxpayers any money because all that overtime has to be paid for. The deputies haven't actually received that pay because of a shortage of funds, but it's accruing and amounts to as much $60,000 for at least one of the deputies (which will have to be paid upon retirement if not before).

The sheriff is required by law to provide policing in the courthouse and now uses volunteers due to understaffing. The civil deputy (legal paper server) position has been unstaffed for a couple of years. The sheriff serves papers personally, but admits he's about six weeks behind most of the time.

I could go on, but you get the idea. There isn't time to mount a formal campaign prior to the ballots going out in the mail on or about Oct. 21. I urge you to plan to vote for the measure when you receive yours without a formal campaign contact. Just do it because it needs to be done.


St. Helens


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