Rogue Valley News, Monday 1/23 – Jackson County Sheriff Search and Rescue Trains for Mass Casualty Incident Response, EO Media Announces They Will Replace Medford Newspaper

The latest news stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from the digital home of Southern Oregon, Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Monday, January 23, 2023 

Rogue Valley Weather

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Trains for Mass Casualty Incident Response

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (SAR) hosted a mass casualty incident training Saturday morning. The course prepped local first responders in triage medicine and mass casualty incident response.

This event is part of ongoing medical training and preparation for local first responders. Many agencies participated including SAR personnel from Jackson, Josephine, and Douglas counties as well as Jackson County Emergency Management and Fire District 3. Jackson County Emergency Medical Services Supervising Physician Alicia Bond and FD3 Firefighter/Paramedic Alex Cummings instructed the course.

EO Media Announces They Will Replace Medford Newspaper

EO Media Group announced Friday, Jan. 20, the company’s plans to open a new publication in Medford on the heels of the closure of the century-old Medford Mail Tribune.

The paper, which will be called The Tribune, will focus on publishing news online that will be curated for print editions three times a week. EO Media Group Chief Operating Officer Heidi Wright said the company plans to launch the publication in the next two weeks.

“I know that the market is vibrant, it is a community, it is a strong community, and I think it fits very well with the purpose that EO Media has with community journalism,” Wright said.

The Mail Tribune, one of the state’s oldest newspapers and the state’s first to win a Pulitzer Prize, ceased online publication permanently on Jan. 13 after ending its print product in the fall. The closure left the Medford area without a local news outlet and was followed by the closure.

An editor has yet to be identified for the new publication, though Wright said the company hopes to bring someone on board to lead the team who is familiar with the Medford and Jackson County communities.

In addition to core advertising and publishing staff, the company plans to hire a newsroom of 14 people to start the newspaper, including seven reporters.

“That’s what it means to be a community newspaper,” Wright said.

EO made a similar move into a new community in 2019 when the company purchased The Bulletin in a bankruptcy auction with the help of $1.4 million from local investors. Plans for opening The Tribune don’t currently involve outside investors, according to Wright, who is also the publisher of The Bulletin.

“We’ve done it, we know how to do it, and the family is in this for the right reasons,” Wright said of expanding into new communities, referring to the Forrester-Brown family that owns the company.

Though EO Media isn’t purchasing or taking over the now-closed Mail Tribune, Wright said the company hopes to attract subscribers who are now without a local newspaper. Subscriptions will be available in two ways, with a base fee covering the cost of newsgathering and content production, and an additional fee for printing and delivery for subscribers who wish to receive printed editions.

EO Media’s expansion into Southern Oregon could also include a partnership with Ashland News, a nonprofit news organization that launched last year to cover the Ashland and Talent communities.

“Medford will have a distribution and support network on the business side that would improve our distribution and logistical support,” said Bert Etling, executive editor of Ashland News. “It could be a good compliment, and I look forward to having further discussions.”

Etling said the Mail Tribune’s closure was a surprise to many in Southern Oregon.

“When that announcement went out (last week), it was kind of like all the air went out of the room,” Etlingsaid. “It was kind of breathtaking, literally.”

He said Ashland News has seen a 10% increase in newsletter subscribers in the days since the paper’s closure.

“People are hungry for news and people are hungry for nonpartisan, well-reported, contextual journalism,” Etling said.

Grants Pass Police Arrest Suspect Who Set Fire to Lincoln Elementary School

On January 14, 2023, at 1:38 AM, Grants Pass Police and Grants Pass Fire and Rescue responded to Lincoln Elementary School regarding a fire alarm. The first arriving police officer located four outdoor propane heaters active and set on high. Two of the heaters were against a wooden wall of the school and had caused the wall to ignite. The police officer immediately extinguished the flames with a fire extinguisher to prevent further damage. Grants Pass Fire and Rescue arrived shortly after to ensure the fire had not spread further.

Surveillance video captured Quest Kellen Cougar Vanlohuizen, a 28-year-old male, moving the heaters and igniting them near the wooden wall. The video also showed Vanlohuizen ingesting suspected illicit drugs while in the same area. Vanlohuizen had fled the scene prior to the arrival of first responders.

This morning at 9:24 AM, a Grants Pass Police Detective observed Vanlohuizen at the Josephine County Courthouse and arrested the suspect with the assistance of patrol officers. Vanlohuizen was transported to the Josephine County Jail where he was lodged for Reckless Burning, Second Degree Criminal Mischief, and Third Degree Theft.

The Grants Pass Police Department would like to thank the community for their assistance in this case and encourage anyone seeing suspicious persons at our schools during late night hours to contact the police department.

BEWARE: New Local Phone Scam

(Please share with friends and family that may be vulnerable to such scams).

The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon has received reports that people purporting to be court staff have called members of the public and falsely claimed that their targets failed to respond to a jury summons or subpoena and owe a fine.

Please be advised that the staff of the District of Oregon will never call a member of the public to demand money. If you have any questions about whether a communication you receive about a federal jury summons in Oregon is legitimate, please call 503-326-8100 or e-mail pjury@ord.uscourts.gov, and the Jury Department will provide accurate information to you.

Study Shows Personal Income Is Among The Starkest Divisions Between Urban And Rural Oregon

Of the many divisions between urban and rural Oregon, personal income is among the starkest.

People living near Oregon’s biggest cities earn nearly twice as much as those living in remote, sparsely populated areas. That’s according to a new report from the Oregon Employment Department.

For example, Washington County residents earned $71,500 per capita during 2021, according to the analysis of the latest federal data by economist Molly Hendrickson. That’s the most of any county in Oregon and well above the statewide personal income level of $62,000 per capita.

Contrast that with Malheur County, which had Oregon’s lowest per capita income at $38,900.

Similar disparities exist across Oregon. The three counties in the Portland area all had per capita incomes over $70,000. The eight counties with incomes under $50,000 are mostly in eastern or southern Oregon.

There are many reasons incomes vary so dramatically. Oregon’s largest and most lucrative industries are in its big cities, which also have the highest cost of living. Some rural areas have struggled to overcome the decline of the state’s natural resources industries and attract new business and residents.

A key component of that trend is the aging populations in many of the counties with lower incomes. Many younger people leave smaller communities for higher wages in the cities, leaving behind a higher share of retirees who rely on Social Security and other government programs for a big part of their income.

Such “transfer payments” from the government, Hendrickson notes, are highest in Wheeler, Malheur and Jefferson counties – the three counties with Oregon’s lowest per capita income. Transfer payments also include Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance, though Hendrickson said the higher share of transfer payments in Oregon’s lower-income counties has more to do with age than dependence on government subsidies.

Overall, Oregon ranks 21st among states for personal income, which grew by 8.2% in 2021 – tied with Washington for the 10th fastest rate in the nation. COVID-19 provided a boost in personal income, according to Hendrickson, because of stimulus payments coupled with the boost that came from people returning to work as the pandemic eased.

State economists expect personal income growth will cool considerably in 2023, to 2.4%. That’s partly because well-off Oregonians boosted their incomes last year by cashing out investments after the stock market’s big run in 2020 and 2021, and partly because economists expect a “mild” recession this year.

USDA Puts Nearly $500 Million Toward West Coast Wildfire Prevention

Wildfires have been burning up the west coast with unprecedented frequency and intensity. Ongoing megadrought conditions have turned the major blazes from seasonal occurrences to year-round threats. NBC News now reports that the United States Government is now drastically ramping up efforts to protect vulnerable forests and at-risk communities from the devastating infernos.

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made a huge announcement. Approximately $490 million of government funding from the Inflation Reduction Act have been earmarked for projects to reduce wildfire risks. The states where those projects will take place are Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. This is on top of the $440 million in fire mitigation funding that was part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress.

The collective sum of funding is expected to help protect around 45 million acres. That according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. That acreage is broken down into 134 areas where wildfires are considered to pose a serious risk to communities and infrastructure. The USDA has identified as many as 250 of those areas across the western U.S. “We expect and anticipate that around 200 communities in the western U.S. will see a mitigated wildfire risk as a result,” Vilsack said Wednesday.

Ongoing Megadrought Making West More Susceptible To Infernos — While wildfires used to only be a concern during the warmest and dryest months. However, with current drought conditions still ongoing throughout much of the western U.S., wildfires have become a year-round threat. Research also predicts that climate change is only likely to increase both the frequency and intensity of these infernos.

USDA Focusing On Potential Wildfire Areas Near Infrastructure — The bulk of the work funded by the almost $500 million will focus on 11 different landscapes. Those areas were selected because of their proximity to neighborhoods, buildings, and infrastructure. Areas that include underserved communities, public water sources, and tribal lands will also be a major focus.

“We also factored into this determination the most current predictive science and research that will allow us to determine where risks are highest,” said Secretary Vilsack. “It’s not a matter of whether or not a forest will burn. It’s just a matter of when and where.”

A variety of techniques will be used to make the land hardier and more capable of withstanding threats from wildfires. Those methods include prescribed burns and thinning dense and dead strands of trees. A major priority will also be removing the buildup of leaves and branches on the ground that often fuel fires. Reforestation efforts are also a part of the plan.

“We know from science, we know from models, we know from input from those who live, work and raise their families in communities around these forests who understand and know the forest, that there are critical areas that need to be worked on,” Vilsack said. “And by working on them, essentially you create a circumstance that should there be a fire, you minimize the risk of the fire getting to a point where it risks communities or critical infrastructure.”

Oregon offers free electronic filing option for state income taxes

Salem, OR— All Oregon resident taxpayers preparing their own returns in 2023 can file electronically at no cost using one of Oregon’s free file options, the Oregon Department of Revenue announced today. The department will begin processing 2022 state income tax returns today, the same day the IRS will begin processing federal returns.

Free electronic filing options

Several free file options are available on the department’s website www.oregon.gov/dor. Free guided tax preparation is available from several companies for taxpayers that meet income requirements. Using links from the department’s website ensures that both taxpayers’ federal and state return will be filed for free.

Free fillable forms

Taxpayers that don’t meet the income requirements for guided preparation can file for free using Oregon Free Fillable Forms. Free Fillable Forms performs basic calculations and are ideal for taxpayers who don’t need help preparing their returns and want the convenience of filing electronically. A detailed series of steps for using free fillable forms are available on the agency’s electronic filing page. The IRS offers a similar option for filing federal taxes electronically.

Other free options

The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals. Low- to moderate-income taxpayers can also access preparation services through AARP and CASH Oregon. United Way also offers free tax help through their MyFreeTaxes program. More information on these options is available on the department’s website.

E-filing is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their refund. On average, taxpayers who e-file their returns and request their refund via direct deposit receive their refund 34 days sooner than taxpayers who mail their paper return and request paper refund checks.

Refunds will be issued starting February 15. A refund hold is part of the department’s tax fraud prevention efforts and allows for confirmation that the amounts claimed on tax returns matches what employers report on Forms W-2 and 1099.

To check the status of your refund or make payments, visit Revenue’s website. You can also call 800-356-4222 toll-free from an Oregon prefix (English or Spanish) or 503-378-4988 in Salem and outside Oregon. For TTY (hearing or speech impaired), we accept all relay calls.

Early Buzz Over New License Plate Design

There’s a possible new license plate in the works in the state of Oregon. It’s called ‘Pollinator Paradise‘. 

The plate features two of the state’s most iconic bees: the managed honey bee, and the wild yellow-faced bumble bee. 

There may already be a lot of ‘buzz’ with this new plate, but before production can start, the Oregon State University Horticulture Department must first sell 3,000 license plate vouchers. 

Proceeds then go towards documenting bee biodiversity in Oregon and research to keep honey bees healthy. 

You can learn more on the O.S.U. College of Agricultural Sciences website

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