My View – October 2015

Up until a few minutes ago, as I was channel-surfing to find the Oregon Ducks game on television, I thought this column was in the can. Not so fast, I said to myself as coverage of the Chilean earthquake appeared on-screen. Had I not seen the coverage, this column would have talked about the FUN things to do in-town this month—from shopping, wine tasting, Meet the Pioneers, Haunted Trolley Tours, concerts, art shows, etc.

Sorry to disappoint you, but in the wake of the 8.3 magnitude earthquake that shattered Chile, I thought the ink was better spent on a NOT-SO-FUN topic—CITY PRIORITIES!

The massive Chilean earthquake serves as a stark reminder that a replacement fire station remains our number one priority. Why? Because Jacksonville lies within the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 600 mile-long fault line running from Northern California to Canada. It’s not a case of “if” the BIG quake will occur, it’s “when.” And it’s also about how our city leaders prepare… or don’t prepare.

The Review has been publicly advocating for a seismically-safe fire station for years, a position that has received no serious discussion or attention from the City Council. Instead, the focus (and use of limited Urban Renewal tax dollars) has been directed toward restoration of the historic Courthouse. With limited resources and growing pressure on the budget, now is the time for our leaders to make adult decisions. Please see City Snapshot and read my report on a recent Study Session on repurposing the upper floor of the Courthouse…a meeting I believe proves my point on the need to set priorities.

In my view, we can’t wait for an eventual earthquake to hit—preparation is the key. Our fire and medical responders must be able to get manpower, fire trucks and equipment out of the station and to our front doors in order to save lives. Despite measures to shore it up, the current building is at-risk of collapsing…period. If the City Council chooses not to build a new fire station, our fire and medical services should then be contracted-for by Jackson County Fire District #3 or another district. Although the cost of doing so will make our current monthly surcharge seem a pittance in comparison, something must be done.

I sincerely hope the City Council will begin taking a new fire station as seriously as the Courthouse project before our fire station literally falls on deaf ears… in our Small Town with Big Atmosphere!