Jacksonville Fire Station
Courthouse or Firehouse? Time to Prioritize! – by Whitman Parker
On September 20, I attended a seminar at Medford City Hall on earthquake preparedness—sponsored by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. The speaker/geologist, Althea Rizzo, laid it out simply for the 250+ attendees: Oregon sits smack in the middle of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 600-mile long fault line running from Northern California to Canada. She likened the chances of a 9.0 earthquake to a woman who is 8 ½ months pregnant… “It’s due anytime now.” Scientists know earthquakes along portions of the zone occur on average every 240 years. The last big one was in 1700, 313 years ago…making the “baby” overdue. Quakes along the entire Cascadia Zone occur every 500-600 years—these are the 9.0 biggies and are of greatest concern to public safety experts.
Scientists believe our area has a 37% chance of being hit by “the big one” in the next 50 years—here in Jacksonville, the earth will likely shake for 4+ minutes with aftershocks expected for weeks. The damage to water and sewer lines, power grids, sanitation districts, septic fields and roadways will be massive—not to mention the damage caused when many of Jacksonville’s non-reinforced brick masonry buildings come toppling down like toy soldiers. The loss of life and injuries could be significant—being prepared is not optional.
Rizzo noted that food and supply routes may be cut-off should bridges on Interstate 5, collapse and that access routes up and down Highway 101 connecting coastal towns may be severed for five years. Not only will brick and mortar literally crumble and collapse, economies may collapse when companies relocate rather than rebuild here. The bottom line: being prepared requires prioritizing and taking personal responsibility by stocking our homes (and businesses) with supplies of water, food, clothing, fuel and other necessities to survive without outside help for months.
In my view, surviving the Big One also requires Jacksonville’s elected leaders and officials to prioritize now how tax dollars and other publicly-held funds are spent …and on what projects. In last month’s Review, a full-page op-ed debate on the future of the Courthouse drew more attention than any topic in recent years. I heard from many who feel restoration and relocating public offices there might be a good idea, IF we have the money. For the majority, restoring the Courthouse is admirable but IS NOT A PRIORITY at this time. In my view, the most responsible use of public funds is BUILDING A NEW FIRE STATION. The city just received $680,000 from the MRA land swap and has responsibly held funds aside to notch the dam. However, your City Council just authorized using $29,800 of it to strip and re-paint the south-facing Courthouse windows…all 3 phases will cost $73,000. This is public money…money I believe should be spent on public safety first—on a new fire station.
For years, this subject has been lobbed like a ball—back and forth while leadership waits…waits to purchase the right piece of ground, waits for a government handout grant, waits for land to be annexed and a land owner to grant the city an acre on which to build. While we wait, the risk of the fire station collapsing increases as tectonic plates move beneath us. Should the station collapse during the Big One, we are literally dead. In my view, the solution is right in front of us: build a new fire station on the existing site…before it’s too late!
With Jacksonville’s limited resources, we can’t have it all—it’s time to decide if we value a Courthouse or a Firehouse in Our Small Town with Big Atmosphere.
Posted September 25, 2013