Wednesday, August 22 2012, 10:57 PM CDT
County commissioners deciding how to use federal funds
By Whitney Clark/KTVL.com
GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Josephine County commissioners met Wednesday morning to decide how to spend more than $700,000 in extra federal funds.
But instead of making a decision, commissioners are leaving it to members of the county's local public safety committee. That committee includes representatives from a number of different agencies including the sheriff's office, district attorney's office and Grants Pass Public Safety.
The commissioner's suggestion at Wednesday's meeting was to add 49 jail beds and extra security in the courthouse.
However, commissioner Harold Haugen suggested giving $500,000 to the criminal justice system and having them decide how to use it. He says he feels they will know how to use the money best.
While each department may have it's own ideas on how to spend the extra money, Haugen says the lack of jail beds affects everyone.
Deputy district attorney Lisa Turner agrees. However, Turner says although the DA's office would chose to add another prosecutor, without enough room in the jail officers can't enforce laws. That means the DA's office can't prosecute criminals, she said.
"People are not showing up to court, so we can't have a trial," Turner said. "There's no repercussions. If they're caught they just get another citation."
Turner says only citations means suspects won't spend time behind bars, and will wind up back on the streets.
While safety is important to county leaders, Haugen said there's only so much money to go around.
"Public safety is our highest priority," he said. "That's why we got hit the hardest when we lost the money because they were getting most of that money."
The committee will meet in the next few weeks to decide how to spend the $500,000. Commissioners say the rest may go to animal control or to pay for federal lawsuits.
A decision is expected September 5th at the commissioner's meeting.