North Bend Government and Politics STOCK

NORTH BEND — Two ballot measure referrals have been filed in the city of North Bend that look to amend the authority of the City Council to impose new or increased fees and to lessen current public safety fees.

The ballot titles stem from recent decisions by the City Council to impose public safety fees that it attaches to citizen's water bills. The money collected goes toward funding the city's two most costly departments: police and fire.

Since introducing the fees a little over a year ago, the council has increased them multiple times. Currently, North Bend citizens are paying $30 a month in city public safety fees attached to their water bills.

Citizens fed up with the fee increases submitted ballot titles this month that would put the measures on the next general election ballot in May 2020 if they gather enough qualified signatures. 

One of the ballot titles looks to amend the city’s charter. A "yes" vote would prohibit the council from raising or imposing any new fees, city taxes, fines, penalties or other revenue-generating mechanisms without a vote of the people during general elections in May or November.

A "no" vote will leave revenue generation methods with the City Council, where additions and raises are currently subject to a public hearing requirement.

The second ballot title would reduce monthly public safety fees from $30 to $15 a month, and require a vote of the people to increase those fees.

According to the ballot title summary, the result of a “yes” vote will reduce public safety funding by $785,000 annually, and the cap will prevent further adjustment without voter approval at the general election.

The result will be the loss of police services from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., decrease of detective staffing by 50 percent, no response to non-injury traffic crashes, animal complaints, abandoned vehicles, theft from motor vehicles, trespass with no other crime, thefts under $25, civil problems, medical calls, welfare checks of employees, internet fraud and false alarms.

The Fire Department will not respond to emergency medical calls, non-injury traffic crashes, lift assist and code enforcement issues, if the measure passes.

A “no” vote will leave public services in place with fees at the discretion of council, but subject to a public hearing. 

The ballot titles have met the city’s criteria, and after a 10-day period, chief petitioners and ballot title supporters will be tasked with obtaining signatures from registered voters in the city of North Bend.

During the 10-day period, any elector who is dissatisfied with the ballot titles may petition the Coos County Circuit Court to review it.

“The public safety fee reduction has until Nov. 1 before (proponents) can bring in their papers and start collecting signatures. The charter amendment (proponents) can begin gathering signatures Wednesday. Both would need to collect just over a thousand signatures,” North Bend City Recorder Rene Collins said.     

Once the county confirms that the required amount of signatures are from registered North Bend voters, the ballot titles will be prepared to go on the next general election ballot.

“The next ballot it could go on would be May 19, 2020, and they would have to get all their signatures submitted by February,” Collins said.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.