Promises made, promises kept: Lane County tackles public safety needs. by Pat Farr

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Lane County Commissioners will address serious public saferty needs when we pass the 2016-2017 budget this year.

Sherriff Byron Trapp outlines additional beds and mental health specialists for the Lane County Jail

Sherriff Byron Trapp outlines additional beds and mental health specialists for the Lane County Jail

After passing the Sheriff’s levy in 2013, voters were promised rigorous standards in keeping dangerous criminals off the streets. We have exceeded the promises made to the voters, while responsibly managing taxpayer resources. The levy was approved to fund a minimum of 255 local adult jail beds and additional services for youth offenders. Currently, there are 317 local jail beds – exceeding the minimum promised by 62 beds, with an additional five to open in 2016.

The additional local jail beds funded by the levy have reduced capacity-based releases (CBRs) by 65 percent and eliminated the pre-trial release of violent, Measure 11 offenders.

Lane County Commissioners will now consider reducing the existing levy rate and continuing to operate the jail more efficiently than anyone thought possible.

Reasons for the proposed levy rate reduction:

  • Lane County property tax revenue and state corrections funding have increased more than anticipated.
  • The County has provided $6.5 million more General Fund support for the jail than anticipated. This is due to unanticipated Secure Rural Schools payments for two additional years following the passage of the levy. (The Secure Rural Schools program has since ended.)
  • The hiring process at the jail to fill levy-funded positions has taken longer than anticipated, saving money.

Sheriff Byron Trapp shared that “our community put great faith in us when they approved the levy. We want to show them that we are being responsible with their money and continuing to provide the services we promised. Every dollar counts to our residents and families.”

Additional public safety needs will be addressed:

At the Budget Committee meeting on May 2, County administrator Steve Mokrohisky and Sheriff Byron Trapp outlined plans to address the burgeoning needs in behavioral health, including mental illness and substance abuse.

In addition to keeping more sentenced violent criminals behind bars, the Commission will consider using general fund dollars to add three full-time mental health specialists and an additional parole and probation officer to the jail staff to ensure that people suffering from behavioral health disorders will receive adequate treatment and complete their sentences while reducing their likelihood of returning to courts and jail.

Treating behavioral health needs, including substance abuse, will create a path to reducing crime and helping affected men and women enjoy more productive and satisfying lives.


A safer Lane County. by Pat Farr

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
Sheriff Byron Trapp is working with County Commissioners to make Lane County a safer place to live.

Sheriff Byron Trapp is working with County Commissioners to make Lane County a safer place to live.

Six years ago, in 2010, a prior board of Lane County Commissioners cut funding for rural Sheriff’s Deputy patrol to 16 hours per day–leaving Lane County residents and visitors without on-duty patrol response for eight hours every day.

During my first year of office the current Board of Commissioners restored funding for 24-hour patrol in the 2013-14 fiscal year and the Sheriff’s Office initiated recruitment, hiring and training immediately following the return of funding.

The process of hiring and training a new deputy takes more than 12 months, including written and physical testing, a rigorous interview, in-depth background check, medical and psychological examinations, 16 weeks of academy training and 15 weeks of field training.

Sheriff Byron Trapp explained, “Returning to 24-hour patrol means that we can respond more quickly to life-threatening, in-progress calls rather than calling in off-duty staff, which can create significant delays in service.”

Lane County has high standards for its deputies and the Sheriff has rebuilt a very talented and dedicated team focused on providing Lane County with quality public safety services.

Open Lane County’s Forest Work Camp to stage forest fire fighters? I made the decision and I’ll stand by it. by Pat Farr

Monday, August 10th, 2015


On a steamy and still summer night in 2014 at about three o’clock in the morning my phone on the night stand beside my bed rang…I picked it up with appropriately and predictably blurry eyes and an equally blurry brain.  I had been dreaming about fishing on a calm lake in the high Cascades and suddenly I was brought back into reality by the sound of  “Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’…”

Forest fire central command was established at Lane County's mothballed forest work camp

Forest fire central command was established at Lane County’s mothballed forest work camp

When I say my phone rang, what I actually mean is that my iPhone woke up and played my ring tone, Steve Miller Band’s “Fly like an Eagle.”

The tone and identity of the voice on the other end of the phone cleared my eyes and my brain within about five seconds, “Commissioner Farr, this is Sheriff Turner.”

Holy cow, the sheriff is calling me in the middle of the night.  How many people ever—ever get a call from the sheriff in the middle of the night?  In that it is not a regular occurrence for me, my newly cleared mind began racing to answer the question, “What is wrong?”

Because nothing right could be coming from this call.

And my assessment was correct.  “We have a big fire…”  So why was Sheriff Tom Turner calling me about a fire?

“The Forest Service has crews coming in and they need a staging area…we have a building in Alma and I need permission to let them in…”

I said, “OK, go ahead and open it…”  I was hoping he did not expect me to have a key.

As is turned out the “building in Alma” was our mothballed Forest Work Camp, which is quite a bit more than a building.  It’s about 30 acres of dormitories, commissaries, classrooms and service buildings.  And opening it did not mean turning the key and swinging the door.  It meant turning the facility over to the firefighting command and letting them bring in equipment, helicopters, hundreds of fire fighters and occupying the entire property as a central command point for a lot of fires that had started to erupt in one of the hottest, driest summers on record.

And as it turned out I did not have the authority to say, “OK.”  But I did and I would again, a hundred times, given the same set of circumstances.

What progressed was an efficient and dynamic command center that saved millions and millions of dollars’ worth of timber resources and irreplaceable recreation land and wildlife habitat.  Having a well-located and well-equipped command center very likely saved lives.

The next day I had to answer for my actions…”That was not your call…”

Well, I begged to differ.  I did in fact receive the call and if I had taken time to think the request through instead of making a split-second decision I would have drawn the same conclusion a hundred times:  fight the fire—I’ll handle the paperwork details later…

Aftermath of my decision was not just the saved timber and resources but Lane County began to reevaluate its emergency plan.  Another benefit was that the Forest Service completely cleaned up the camp, knocked down the brush and breathed new life into the Alma Forest Work Camp.

It will never again be a work camp for inmates, but its new life may include residential training, veterans support, farming…

and, oh, yes, a command center for forest fires.

Lane County has a plan in case of emergencies. by Pat Farr

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015



Earthquakes?  Tsunamis?  Volcanoes?

In the event of the unimaginable, Lane County Commissioners have a plan.

Lane County logo blue

On June 2, 2015, the Lane County Board of Commissioners conducted a work session on various aspects of emergency preparedness and response by Lane County government in general, the Board and the County Administrator. In addition to the entire Board, Linda Cook, Emergency Manager and Steve Mokrohisky, County Administrator (CAO) attended and participated in the work session.

During the work session the Board identified a number of areas that it wanted discussed and evaluated at another Board meeting:

  1.    1.  A review of Board procedures to make certain that none of the measures taken by the Board are in conflict with the existing Lane County Emergency Operations Plan (EOP);
  2.    2.  Draft and approve a Board Order (BO) to meet the requirements of ORS 476.280;
  3.    3.  Create a template, and fill in as many of the blanks as possible in advance, for the Declaration of Conflagration (and associated BO);
  4.    4.  Agree upon in advance a procedure for calling emergency meetings and notifications for such meetings required by natural or manmade emergencies;
  5.    5.  Create a BO delegating authority for the CAO to expend and commit county resources in the event of an emergency;
  6.    6.  Consider creating an automatic review process that would bring these emergency procedures before the Board each year, possibly in January, for review, possible modification and renewal;
  7.    7.  Determine which emergency preparedness procedures require Board action and which procedures can be implemented by the CAO using the Lane County Administrative Procedures Manual (APM); and
  1. Decide if the Board will pass BO’s with different authority for different emergencies depending upon the nature of the emergency or general BO’s that apply to all emergencies.



Lane County Commissioners are discussing the plan and the report back from the emergency management team on July 21 2015.  For the entire agenda item click here.



Emergency response in Lane County now has a plan. By Pat Farr

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Lane County logo blue

In mid-July, on a very hot night in 2014, Lane County Sheriff Tom Turner called me—at about 2:30 am—to alert me of an emergency.  Wild fires were burning out of control throughout south and east Lane County and spreading into Douglas, Deschutes and Klamath Counties.

State and Federal elite and emergency fire fighters were being airlifted into our area to risk their lives controlling the conflagration.  They needed a place to assemble.  The place had to be central to the lightning strikes that were causing the fires and had to be accessible to helicopters and large pieces of equipment.  Bunking and sanitation facilities were desired.

Such a place existed: it was the mothballed Lane County Forest Work Camp at Alta, located in the Coast Mountains 35 miles southeast of Eugene.  The Sheriff was asking for my authority to grant access to the county facility.

Of course I said, “Yes,” and the facility was opened and the suppression and control began.  The only problem was:  I did not have the authority statutorily to grant the authority to the Sheriff to open the facility.  I was in violation of law and potentially subject to penalty.

But under the circumstances, of course I had done the right thing.  And maximum resource use happened and the fires were controlled far more quickly than if the camp had remained closed.

Emergencies happen without a plan.  In this case all involved parties praised the decision, but I still acted without authority.

We are currently developing an emergency plan that would delineate absolutely the chain of command in authorizing use of county resources and facilities in case of emerging disasters.

Jail beds provided by the public safety levy keep violent offenders behind bars. reported by Pat Farr

Monday, October 27th, 2014


Sheriff Turner and I celebrate the passage of 20-213 on May 21 2013

Sheriff Turner and I celebrate the passage of ballot measure 20-213 on May 21 2013…Since then we are happy to report that dangerous criminals are now staying lodged in the Lane County Jail…

In May of 2013 the voters of Lane County passed a local option levy that funded additional jail beds in the Lane County Jail.  We are pleased to report back a fiscal year comparison of capacity based releases (CBRs) for the year prior to the levy and the year following the levy.  As many community members know, prior to the levy, the lack of funded jail beds resulted in the early release of defendants and offenders each day.  Many of these early releases went on to commit more crimes and create more victims.   Thanks to community support and the desire for a safer Lane County, we are headed in the right direction.

In July of 2013 with the passage of the public safety levy, the jail opened 131 previously empty beds, increasing the capacity for local defendants and offenders to 256 beds.  Since the opening of the additional jail beds, CBRs have decreased significantly.  In the fiscal year following the levy (FY 13/14), the number of CBRs dropped almost 75% to 1,289 (as compared to 5,129 in the prior FY).  Please see the chart below to view CBRs for FY 12/13 and FY 13/14.

This chart shows the dramatic decrease in early jail releases

This chart shows the dramatic decrease in early jail releases

Prior to the levy between January and June 2013, 123 pretrial defendants who were being held on violent felonies were released early due to lack of funded jail beds.  Since the passage of the levy and the opening of the additional beds, that number is down to zero. 

Between January and June of 2013, the jail was forced to release 21 Measure 11 pretrial defendants.  Since the passage of the levy and the opening of the additional beds, that number is down to zero.

The additional jail beds provided by the public safety levy have assisted in keeping dangerous defendants and offenders in jail, allowing for safer neighborhoods and an increased quality of life. 

The Sheriff’s Office and the Board of County Commissioners thank the community for their support in helping keep Lane County a great place to live!

(And Thank you, Sergeant Carrie Carver for this report)

An ordinance to tax recreational marijuana sales in Lane County. by Pat Farr

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014


Allow recreational marijuana sales and use in Oregon or not?  Tax recreational marijuana sales in Lane County or not?

Ballot measure 91 would allow for the sale and recreational use of marijuana products in Oregon.  Lane County ordinance 14-16 (draft) would tax it.

Ballot measure 91 would allow for the sale and recreational use of marijuana products in Oregon. Lane County ordinance 14-16 (draft) would tax it.

This morning, October 7 2014, Lane County”s Board of Commissioners passed a first reading and authorized a second reading and public hearing regarding taxing recreational marijuana sales in Lane County.

The motion that passed 4-1 (Bozievich, Leiken, Stewart and Farr, yes; Sorenson, no) was pertaining to this agenda item:

FIRST READING AND SETTING SECOND READING AND PUBLIC HEARING/ORDINANCE 14-16/ In the Matter of Establishing a Tax on the Sale of Marijuana and Marijuana-Infused Products in Lane County (Relating to Measure 91).

The public hearing has been set for October 21 at 1:30 pm in Harris Hall.  This gives the public an opportunity to weigh in on the upcoming decision by County Commissioners whether to tax marijuana sales in Lane County should Oregon Ballot Measure 91 pass on November 4 of this year.

The draft ordinance can be read here.

You can read about Oregon’s Ballot Measure 91 here.

Between now and October 21 you can let Commissioners know how you feel.  Send comments to me before October 20, 2014 and I will pass them along to the other commissioners via public email.

There is a robust ongoing discussion regarding the social and budgetary impacts of the passage of such laws.  Stay tuned, and please weigh in.


Lane County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff Recruitment Open House – Thursday, January 9th, 5:30 p.m.

Monday, January 6th, 2014

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office will hold an open house on January 09, 2014, at 5:30 p.m. This informational meeting is designed to give applicants the best opportunity to be successful in the recruitment process prior to submitting their application. The recruitment process for deputy sheriffs and reserve deputy sheriffs will officially open on January 12th.

To view the news release in its entirety, click here.

Sheriff’s Office December Newsletter – LCSO Continues to Recruit for Deputy Sheriff

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

To view the newsletter in its entirety, click here.

Lane Levy for Jail Beds and Prosecutors?

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Would you support or oppose a Lane County government countywide property tax levy that would add to the number of jail beds and prosecutors?

For complete poll results, click here.