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New jail committee takes final shape

Photo Credit: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Columbia County Board of Commissioners meet during a staff session in July to review applicants for the new Jail Operating Citizen Advisory Committee. The committee will be tasked with overseeing the spending of jail levy funds.

Columbia County's newly formed Jail Operating Citizen Advisory Committee will meet Tuesday, Oct. 14.

The committee was formed to oversee the spending of revenue from the county's jail levy approved by voters earlier this year. JOCAC, as the committee is known by its acronym, will serve as an advisory group to the county commissioners. The committee consists of voting public members who will meet with Sheriff Jeff Dickerson and a member of the board of commissioners.

"We are here to help the committee reach its authorized goals by providing the information they need to fully review expenditures of levy funds," Dickerson explained.

County commissioners sorted through 15 applicants in July and, last month, appointed the final two members to the committee.

Dickerson said the committee met informally in August and, in September, Richard Lager of Warren was selected as the committee chair.

Tuesday marks the third meeting.

The jail levy is expected to see an infusion of just over $7 million into the county over the next three years to pay for jail operations and staffing.

The levy was approved by voters in May, after a ballot measure for a four-year levy was rejected in fall 2013.

Funding from the property tax measure is expected to sustain the jail over the next three years, but it's unclear what will happen when that money runs out.

Earlier this year, Dickerson said he lost sheriff's deputies who took other jobs because they felt they didn't have long-term job security.

Tuesday's meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Columbia County Jail at 901 Port Avenue in St. Helens. The agenda includes a tour of the jail, a report from the Sheriff's Office about the recent hiring process and the progress in recruiting additional staff, information on how the committee will report to the Board of Commissioners and a public comment period.

JOCAC is slated to meet monthly and will decide Tuesday whether to hold a meeting in November.