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Possible state budget cuts could close OSP’s La Pine, Prineville offices

Oregon State Police possible office cuts
If the 'hypothetical' 17 pct. cut to all state agencies occurs, OSP has plans to cut 9 offices, including La Pine, Prineville

'It’s going to lead to more crashes, more fatalities'

(Update: Adding video, comments from OSP Capt. Timothy Fox)

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Nearly 200 out of 1,402 full-time Oregon State Police positions could be cut due to an expected $3 billion COVID-19-related shortfall. The 17 percent budget cut could also lead to the closure of nine OSP offices, including ones in La Pine and Prineville, the agency said Tuesday.

The positions include 102 positions in Patrol, Fish & Wildlife and criminal and professional staff.

OSP Captain Timothy Fox, the agency's public information officer, told NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday that some of the 199 positions have yet to be filled -- and if the possible budget cut is realized, they may never be.

Fox said there are a lot of factors that go into deciding which employees could be transferred to other stations, including the length of their union contract, seniority, calls for service, and basis for need.

Fox said he does not know whether positions cut from La Pine and Prineville would be transferred to Bend.

He said the La Pine, Prineville and Madras stations all function as work sites out of the Bend office. He said closing two of those locations would severely impact their workload.

“It is going to increase our response times, and it will decrease our patrol non-obligated patrol time," Fox said. "It’s going to lead to more crashes, more fatalities.”

He said OSP does not have enough resources to serve rural areas without backup.

"It’s going to severely compromise our ability to assist local law enforcement, and it’s really going to hurt the rural areas," Fox said.

Other potential cuts include offices in Hermiston, St. Helens, Tillamook, McMinnville, Albany, Grants Pass and Government Camp.

OSP officials stressed that this was part of Gov. Kate Brown's "planning exercise," for all state agencies, announced Monday, and not a firm figure or plan, but said on Twitter that with that potential $27 million one-year budget cut, "the Oregon State Police may look a lot different if these cuts are realized."

The agency noted that its budget is dependent largely on the state's general fund.

In a statement posted online, OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton told employees, "Please keep in mind, this is a budget exercise to gather information and there is nothing below that has been set in motion."

Six Fish & Wildlife positions would be cut in La Pine, Albany, Tillamook and McMinnville. Other cuts include nearly 40 positions in forensic laboratories and pathology, which the list said "severely impacts all forensic disciplines."

"Now we do the hardest part," Hampton said. "We wait for something beyond our control -- the May 20th revenue forecast that will give us an idea what type of scenarios we are truly looking at.

OSP also noted that the governor and lawmakers could use some of Oregon's "rainy day" funds to patch funding caps or doa combination of both.

Oregon received about $1.6 billion in federal funds for coronavirus relief, OSP noted, but they can't be used to backfill government funding, only go toward incurred expenses.

"These reductions were agonizing for agency leadership and while necessary, one of the most heartbreaking aspects of my leadership experience," hampton wrote.

"While I will do everything in my power to restore every job in this exercise, I had to submit a plan that provided a framework for rebuilding the agency if we were to take the reductions," he added.

"I expect the end result will look like a blend of reductions, utilization of reserves and potential for federal relief," Hampton told OSP staff. "If our agency will be spared to a degree, or face more drastic reductions, we likely won’t know for many weeks. Our reduction plans reflect a July 1st date of action, from a budget perspective."

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.


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