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OSU, city to add 5 officers in party crackdown

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OSU vice provost of student affairs Susie Brubaker Cole, from left, Corvallis Police Chief Jon Sassaman and Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president of marketing and university relations, unveil their plan to crack down on parties and alcohol violations by spending $2.45 million in new money to pay for five law-enforcement officers. The proposal was discussed Monday by the Community Relations Advisory Group.

The city of Corvallis and Oregon State University plan to spend $2.45 million in the next four years in a party crackdown that will put five new law-enforcement officers on the streets.

OSU plans to pay for two Oregon State Police troopers that will start by July 1. Three city livability officers would be added a year later.

OSU is paying the bulk of the freight, $2 million, with the city chipping in $450,000 in the 2016-17 fiscal year, although that sum still requires Budget Commission and City Council backing. Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president of marketing and university relations, said that OSU has identified $600,000 of its planned contributions and is working to identify sources for the remaining $1.4 million.

The goal of the additions is to put more “boots on the ground” in the battle over livability in the near-campus neighborhoods.

Corvallis Police Chief Jon Sassaman noted that livability calls for service (noise, loud parties, alcohol violations and fights and disturbances) have declined 45 percent since the city and OSU began working on neighborhood issues, but he and OSU officials say more work remains to be done.

“Progress has been made,” Sassaman told a meeting Monday of the Community Relations Advisory Group. Sassaman was joined in the unveiling of the new strategy by Clark and Susie Brubaker Cole, OSU’s vice provost for student affairs.

Sassaman noted that considerable efforts already have been made in the livability fight, starting with the Collaboration Corvallis project from 2012-14. Also mentioned were the passage of a property tax levy in 2013 that enabled the CPD to hire its first three livability officers, OSU hires in student conduct and Greek life and educational and collaborative contributions from property managers and landlords.

“We still think there is room to improve on that,” Sassaman said of the decline in livability calls. “That’s what this does for us.”

The also includes a series of ambitious strategies and initiatives that filled a four-page spreadsheet — and likely will require further funding as yet unknown.

There is no secure funding for the five officers beyond four years and whether the city will propose — and the voters pass — another levy remains unclear, Clark said he felt certain the two entities “will find a way.

“To go backwards would be devastating,” Clark said, adding that if the campaign is successful “Corvallis will be known as a community that doesn’t tolerate this behavior. That would be a great improvement.”

“This is an amazing piece of work,” said Ward 2 Corvallis Councilor Roen Hogg, who co-chairs CRAG. “We have a good plan in place to address this, there is real money and we’ll have more boots on the ground. I think it will make a real difference in the safety of students and the livability in the neighborhoods. I can’t say how happy I am about this.”

Two of the community members of the panel urged caution. Charlyn Ellis, who lives north of campus, noted that although progress has been made, “it’s been a rough last couple of weeks” because of an uptick in parties linked to warmer weather.

Suki Meyer, who lives east of the campus, said she will “need to read (the plan) and digest it, of course” when panelists were asked by Clark “are we on the right path.”

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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