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North Spit

In this 2017 file photo, this is an aerial view of the North Spit, the proposed site for Jordan Cove pipeline.

COOS BAY — The Coos County Sheriff’s Office plans to hire nine new employees starting in July to fill out its combined service unit with Jordan Cove LNG.

At preliminary budget hearings last week, the sheriff’s office purposed its LNG division budget, which is just over $3 million for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The division is completely funded through Jordan Cove LNG, no county dollars are used to fund this combined service unit.

The combined service unit was approved well before Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni was elected to his position. When he took office he agreed to continue to work with Jordan Cove to develop the LNG division.

“When I became sheriff they asked if I’d be willing to work with this program, and I told them I’m willing to provide security with law enforcement officers, I am not willing to give security people law enforcement powers,” Zanni said.

LNG division deputies, although funded by Jordan Cove LNG, will be employed by the Coos County Sheriff’s Office. 

“They will be paying for full-time deputies that part of their jobs will be providing the security around the facility out there since obviously it would be a high target area for terrorists or others,” Zanni said.

One of the everyday security responsibilities of the LNG division will be providing security for boats coming in or out of the facility.

“When they’re not doing that, they’ll be working on regular deputy jobs,” Zanni said.

Even though the Jordan Cove LNG facility has not yet been approved, finding qualified applicants and getting them trained does take a lot of time. According to Zanni, it could take between three and five years to get the LNG division fully staffed and trained.

If the facility is not approved most of those hired to the LNG division will lose their jobs, as the county can’t afford to pick up the cost of the eventual 20 to 25 LNG division deputies they hope to hire. Although it would be unfortunate for those deputies to have to find new work the sheriff is confident they will quickly find another job in law enforcement because they will have already been trained.

“When that facility opens we can’t start training them then. They have to be ready to do that task as soon as the facility opens. We foresee that if something should fall through, or this facility is not approved, both through attrition and availability of other jobs we wouldn't end up with much of a liability if any,” Zanni said.

When the Jordan Cove LNG pipeline was purposed it was stated in its charter that if the project created an additional cost to Coos County, that company would have to pay for it.

“This is one of the ways that they’re making sure they aren’t increasing the cost for the county by having us respond to more call out there if they have threats or whatever. So they’re really just paying for it up front,” Zanni said.

The LNG division is not the only combined service unit the sheriff’s office has. Their Marine division is partially funded by the Oregon State Marine board. The Dunes division is partially funded through the United States Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“It’s also similar to our timber deputies who are partially paid through the private land owners to patrol forest areas," Zanni said.

However, the LNG division is the only Coos County combined service unit that is completely funded by a private company.

Deputies who are part of the LNG division will receive all the training of normal deputies as well as advanced vessel operations.

According to Zanni, LNG division deputies will serve the community first, and public safety will not be sacrificed to meet the needs of Jordan Cove LNG.

“If they’re going to wear a sheriff’s uniform their first responsibility is still to the citizens of Coos County,” Zanni said.