Rogue Valley News, Wednesday, 5/20 – Events Complex Measure Passes, No New Jail for Jackson County, Bentz & Spenser Will Vie for Walden’s Senate Seat in Washington D.C.

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from the online digital home of the valley,

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Rogue Valley Weather

Today Mostly sunny, with a high near 71.

Thursday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 66.

Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 66.

Saturday Mostly sunny, with a high near 75.

Today’s Headlines

Voters Say No to new Jackson County Jail

Jackson County voters defeated a measure to create a permanent jail tax and build a larger jail with a “no” on the new jail by a 71% margin, some 37,000+ votes.

Jackson County Sheriff Sickler’s Office, which runs the jail, made improvements to maximize the number of beds available in its limited space and launched a successful program to hold more people who continually skip their court dates.

“We’ll keep doing our best and see how we can best use the facility we have. Certainly the staff will be disappointed, as I am,” Sickler said. “But we’re resilient, and we’ll continue to do our best.”

The tax would have cost 87 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value — or $169 annually for a home assessed at $194,200.   Money raised would have covered the more than $170 million cost of building the new jail, plus the added costs of running a larger facility. Increased operating costs would have started at $15.5 million more per year if the jail opened in 2024, according to the sheriff.

Jackson County had also planned to spend $66 million toward jail costs.

It’s likely a “go” for the construction of a new Medford Sports & Events Complex from voters last night. With more than 19,000 votes tallied, voters were nearly 58% in favor of Measure 15-187 for transient lodging intermediaries and 53% in favor of Measure 15-188 to raise the transient lodging tax.

Results are still preliminary and may change as more votes are counted.

The plan for a Medford Sports and Events Complex at the Howard Memorial Sports Park include a competitive pool, recreational pool with water slides, and outdoor seasonal splash pad, basketball courts, multi-courts, and space for a presentation and exhibit hall.

In order to fund the facility, the City of Medford proposed a two percent increase to the transient lodging tax, expanding the current airport rental car tax to apply to commercial locations across the city, a $2.40 per month increase to the park utility fee, and early repayment of the U.S. Cellular Community Park debt service bond.

“This indoor complex will contain indoor recreational and competitive pools and a multi-purpose events center,” the City said. “By combining aquatics and the events center into a single facility, the City reduces both development and operational costs through the sharing of spaces.”

Measure 15-187 would amend the city charter to expand the lodging tax to include lodging intermediaries like Airbnb and VRBO, while Measure 15-188 would amend the city charter to raise the lodging tax from 9 to 11 percent.

Around Southern Oregon, the initial results from Oregon’s 2020 primary election coming in, gives Republican Cliff Bentz the win over the many contenders including Knute Buehler, Jason Atkinson, and Jimmy Crumpacker. Bentz will be the Republican nominee for Senator Greg Walden’s Senate seat in Washington D. C. come November.

“Being elected to represent the Republicans of CD2 in the 2020 race for congress is one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” said Bentz in a statement to supporters. “It’s an incredible honor to follow in Congressman Walden’s footsteps. Just as he has done, I will do my best to represent and uphold the values of CD 2 and Rural Oregon.”

Shortly before 9:30 p.m., Buehler — the closest challenger to Bentz’s lead — put out a statement conceding the election to Bentz and congratulating him on the victory.

For the Democrats, Alex Spenser picked up the narrow win over Nick Heuertz.

Results are nearly final and as they finish officially counting ballots today.

Congressman Greg Walden has held the 2nd District seat since 1999, but announced last October that he would not seek re-election, preferring to retire from politics. The massive 2nd District, which encompasses most of south, central, and eastern Oregon, has become the state’s only reliably Republican federal seat in recent years.

As a result, the Republican primary field was particularly crowded for this year’s election — including candidates Cliff Bentz, David Campbell, Glenn Carey, Jason Atkinson, Jeff Smith, Jimmy Crumpacker, Justin Livingston, Kenneth Medenbach, Knute Buehler, Mark Roberts, and Travis Fager.

The Democratic field is more narrow — including candidates Alex Spenser, Chris Vaughn, Jack Howard, John Holm, and Nick Heuertz.

For Oregon’s Secretary of State position, Republican voters knew who they wanted but Democrats had a much closer call.

Republican Kim Thatcher built an overwhelming lead of more than 84 percent over competitor Dave Stauffer, ensuring that she will be the party’s candidate in November.

Democratic votes were much more evenly split between candidates Mark Hass, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and Shemia Fagan. At 10 p.m., Hass had a narrow lead with almost 37.4 percent of the vote, and Fagan trailed with a close 34.8 percent. McLeod-Skinner had a respectable 27.1 percent.

For the past several years, the Secretary of State position has been held by Republicans. The late Dennis Richardson took office in January of 2017 after winning a statewide election, but he passed away following a battle with brain cancer last February. Governor Kate Brown then appointed former Republican House Speaker Bev Clarno to take up the position until another election could be held.

Brown was required to choose a Republican replacement for Richardson, but held to the condition that Clarno would not run for election in 2020 — opening the door to an entirely new field of candidates.

Oregon reports 33 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, 8 new presumptive cases, 2 new deaths

COVID-19 has claimed two more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 140, the Oregon Health Authority reported late yesterday.

Oregon Health Authority reported 33 new confirmed cases and 8 new presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 8 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 3,726. The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Curry (1), Deschutes (6), Jackson (1), Marion (12), Multnomah (9), Umatilla (3), Washington (6), Yamhill (3).

Around the state of Oregon

As the state of Oregon braces for deep cuts and a revenue shortfall of as much as $3 billion, state spending on direct coronavirus response has blown through the $100 million mark — and doubled in just the last two weeks reported, records show.

The high rate of spending provides context for ongoing tensions between Governor Brown and state and local governments over about $1.4 billion that the state received from the federal government under the federal CARES Act.

So far the state has agreed to shift about $415 million to local and tribal governments, but Multnomah Chair Deborah Kafoury and Clackamas Chair Jim Bernard said Friday that they aren’t getting enough to fund costs associated with their counties’ reopening.

The situation will take more shape with state economists’ release of a budget forecast this week.

But if state agencies continue spending $20 million to $30 million a week just on direct coronavirus spending, the 12-month total of unexpected spending would easily exceed $1 billion — and that does not include indirect costs caused by the pandemic.

The spending includes tens of millions for personal protective equipment, payments to local public health authorities, and a $4.2 million weekly payment to two nursing facilities that the state is paying to house nursing home residents who have COVID-19.

Andrew Phelps heads the state Office of Emergency Management, which has been tracking the spending. He said there are more questions than answers over how much of Oregon’s spending on the coronavirus will be recouped — even concerning the CARES Act money that’s already been authorized.

“We’ve gotten pretty definitive guidance that it can’t be used to make up for lost revenue that the state or more local jurisdictions experience,” he said, but beyond that, there’s been “so little guidance.”

One point of clarity: the CARES funding must be spent by Dec. 31.

The other area where the state can go for funding is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thanks to a disaster declaration issued for Oregon by President Donald Trump on March 29. But how much it will get is unclear.

That program typically reimburses state spending by a rate of 75%, but Oregon is seeking a full 100% — much as Puerto Rico received after Hurricane Maria in 2018, Phelps noted.

Gov. Kate Brown on May 1 made that request. About a dozen states have sent similar letters, said her spokesman, Charles Boyle. Oregon hasn’t yet received a response.

Brown recently said more federal coronavirus aid will be needed to offset the state’s planned cuts.

If you are lacking resources due to loss of income and are at risk of homelessness, Oregon Housing and Community Services’ COVID-19 Rent Relief Program may be able to help.

OHCS has allocated $8.5 million through a needs-based formula to regional Community Action Agencies (CAAs). The formula weighed severe rent burden data, poverty data, homelessness data and unemployment claims.

CAAs will begin taking applications in the coming days. Oregonians in need should contact their local CAA directly. Tenant income loss documentation and other materials are required to access this program. Rent payments will be made directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant.

The $8.5 million was allocated by the Oregon Legislature through the Joint Emergency Board. OHCS anticipates additional resources from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will be made available in the weeks ahead.

The funds were allocated statewide to local communities. See the Governor’s blog for the full list and contact information

Oregon has received its first shipments of the experimental coronavirus drug remdesivir. (rem-desiv-ir.)  

The drug is being tested as a treatment for COVID-19 and is believed to help patients with severe symptoms recover faster.  The Oregon Health Authority has enough of the drug for 80 patients to receive a 10-day treatment course. There are currently 56 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Oregon.

On Tuesday, May 19, 2020 at approximately 4:15 P.M.,  Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel  responded to a two vehicle crash on Hwy 99E milepost 26 near Harrisburg, Oregon.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a Kia Rio was traveling southbound when it crossed into the northbound lanes and into the path of a northbound Chevrolet Silverado.

The operator of the Kia sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased.

The operator of the Chevrolet was transported to Riverbend hospital. The northbound lane of Hwy 99E was closed for about an hour and a half.

The Grants Pass Department of Public Safety would like to announce the opening of our Police and Fire/Rescue lobbies

Their new Police building is located at 726 NE 7th St.  The Police lobby hours are from 8 am through 11 pm daily.  Lobby hours for Fire Rescue, located at 800 East Park St., are from 8 am to 12 pm, and from 1 pm to 5 pm Monday through Friday.  The team will still be practicing social distancing within the public buildings.

Recreational crabbing will reopen to non-residents tomorrow, Wednesday, May 20 along most of the Oregon coast. Recreational clamming along the entire coast will remain closed to non-residents for now. 

Non-resident license holders will be allowed to participate in crabbing in Oregon bays and estuaries, and in Oregon ocean areas, that are south of Cape Falcon. Ocean areas north of Cape Falcon, as well as the Columbia River, will remain closed to non-resident crabbing for now.  

Coastal communities have begun to gradually reopen but communities and land managers are taking a phased approach. Clamming tends to draw many people to beaches on specific days when there is a minus tide, especially during the summer. With more potential for crowding at beach access sites, clamming and some crabbing on the North Coast remains closed to non-residents for now.

Crabber enthusiasts are also reminded to always check the Oregon Department of Agriculture shellfish safety page or call the safety hotline (1-800-448-2474​) before crabbing. ODA regularly tests crabs and other shellfish for toxins and closes areas when toxins are at a level that would make then unsafe for human consumption. Currently, there are no crabbing closures due to toxins in Oregon.

The latest State of Oregon Covid-19 News & Preparedness Information Here.

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