Rogue Valley News, Tuesday 1/24 – Rural Metro Fire Issues Warning After Several Fires Caused By Extension Cords, Ashland Mayor Announces Resignation

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2023 

Rogue Valley Weather

AIR STAGNATION ADVISORY
ISSUED: 12:11 AM JAN. 24, 2023 – NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
…AIR STAGNATION ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON PST FRIDAY… * WHAT…Stagnant air is expected which will lead to deteriorating air quality. * WHERE…Valleys of Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, and Lake counties in Oregon, and Siskiyou and Modoc counties in California. * WHEN…From 4 PM this afternoon to noon PST Friday. * IMPACTS…Air stagnation is likely to result in diminishing air quality with time, especially in and near areas with significant sources of air pollution. Diminished air quality is likely to cause health issues for people with respiratory problems if precautions are not taken. * View the hazard area in detail at https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/map/?wfo=mfr

Rural Metro Fire Issues Warning After Several Fires Caused By Extension Cords

Several weekend fires are bringing an advisory from Rural Metro Fire (RMF) in Josephine County.

It says a fire destroyed a shop and pickup early this morning in the 200 block of Teel Lane in the New Hope area southwest of Grants Pass.  It says though no injuries were reported, the fire is one of three fires in three days involving extension cords running to vehicles.

The Office of State Fire Marshal is leading the investigation into its cause.

RMF says the Office of State Fire Marshal concluded the cause of this morning’s fire was related to an electrical issue involving an extension cord ran from the shop out to a pickup truck to power a “block heater” used to keep diesel engines warm during cold temperatures. RMF says it remains unclear as to whether the extension cord or block heater failed first.

RMF says today’s fire was the third fire in four days involving a power supply cord used to run electrical components in a mobile vehicle, after two RVs were damaged January 20.  A similar incident occurred in the Grants Pass area February 22, 2022.

RMF says firefighters urge anyone running an electrical supply cord from a building to anything outside, including vehicles, to heed the following safety measures: 

  • Do not use extension cords as permanent wiring.
  • Do not run cords across driveways where they can ran over and become damaged internally.
  • Ensure the property amperage is used if supplying power to RV’s. 
  • Park vehicle that are plugged in at least 10′ from anything it could spread to if ignited (buildings, other vehicles, etc).
  • If supplying power to a movable vehicle, manually unplug before moving.  Do not move the vehicle deliberately to force the cord to disconnect.
  • If running cord from an interior outlet, try to use Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) outlets.

Ashland Mayor Announces Her Resignation

Ashland’s Mayor Julie Akins announced her resignation, effective Friday, January 27th. After serving two years as Mayor and two years as a city councilor, Akins says “it’s time.”

In a letter Akins sent out she stated how proud she is of everything she accomplished as Mayor. “Creating the Social Equity and Racial Justice Committee, changing the focus to housing, funding emergency shelter for vulnerable populations, moving our community through the pandemic and the Almeda fire.” As well as working towards a sustainable budget and setting an agenda of transparency.

“I’ve been honored to serve the people of Ashland as your elected mayor, an honor afforded few, and I have appreciated the support of the people. But it’s important to admit when it’s time and for me it’s time,” says Akins.

She goes on to say that she’s looking forward to spending more time with her family. She thanks her husband, Leo, for sacrificing so much for her to do this kind of volunteerism in the Ashland Community.

She ended her statement by saying “To the people of Ashland: You will see me around and my heart remains open to you.”

According to Ashland’s City Manager, Joseph Lessard the council has 60 days to fill this position. During the next city council meeting they will discuss how they would like to move forward. Generally, the city will do an application process and submit those names who applied to the city council for consideration.

“Until the position is filled, we have a position called the chair of the city council and they step-in in the absence of the mayor. Council member Tonya Graham will step up into that role until the election takes place by the council,” says Lessard.

Akins last day in office is Friday, January 27th, 2023 at the close of business.

ODOT is Hosting a Project Open House on Thursday, January 26th for Scenic Avenue at Hwy 99 Improvements

The intersection of Scenic Avenue and Highway 99 is going to be improved this summer season.  The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is hosting a Project Open House on Thursday, January 26, 2023 from 4:30-6:00PM at the Fire District #3 Scenic Avenue Fire Station (1909 Scenic Avenue in Central Point).  The public is invited to attend.

The planned project for summer 2023 construction includes new traffic signals, ADA curb ramps and an upgraded railroad crossing.

Once construction begins in the spring, be sure to use caution in the work area and find alternate routes if possible to avoid any delays.  Safety is a priority, even during construction, so minimizing traffic in the project area is a real win-win.

More information can be found at ODOT’s project website.

Southern Oregon Awarded Over $5.5 Million For Safer School Routes

Oregon Department of Transportation announced the latest round of Safe Routes to School grant funding of the $32.4 million in grant money awarded,  over $5.5 million is slated for communities in Southern Oregon.

Oregon’s Safe Routes to School programs aim to improve walking and biking routes to schools in Oregon through improvement projects and educational outreach.

In Jackson County, Medford will be seeing $2 million for sidewalk improvements around schools. Josephine County will be getting around $550,000 for enhanced crosswalks near Williams Elementary School. 

In Klamath County, Merrill will be seeing approximately $1.4 million for sidewalks and signs, and Chiloquin will be receiving nearly $1.6 million for sidewalks and bike lanes.

On January 25th, Medford Transportation Commission will be voting on updating outlining capital improvements over the next six years. https://www.medfordoregon.gov/files/assets/public/public-works/engineering/documents/agendas-amp-minutes/1-25-23-transportation-commission-meeting-agenda-packet_rev1.pdf

Proposed for the 2023-2025 budget are three Safe Routes to School projects, which include sidewalk and crosswalk improvements around Jefferson, Kennedy, and Howard Elementary schools.  

The $2 million in grant money is not included in the 2023-2025 proposed budget but is planned for a future cycle.

According to ODOT, all the awardees are Title 1 schools — schools where 40 percent or more of the student population is considered low-income. 

Oregon Plans To Increase Fees To Ease Public Defender Crisis

Officials have approved a plan for spending $10 million of emergency funding to address Oregon’s public defender crisis, which has left hundreds of people languishing in jails or in the community awaiting legal representation.

Oregon differs from other states in that it relies entirely on contracts with public defenders rather than keeping them on staff. The agency currently has about 100 firms on contract.

Last month, the Joint Legislative Emergency Board allocated $10 million to help the state hire more public defenders. It asked the Office of Public Defense Services to come up with a plan, and in recent weeks, the agency and the commission that oversees it have been discussing the details.

Officials recently finalized the plan and will present it to the state Legislature at the end of the month. It includes increasing the hourly fees paid to public defenders, paying $15,000 to retain public defenders that currently contract with the state and adopting a program to pay lawyers to represent people charged with misdemeanors.

Oregon’s public defender crisis has dragged on for years, and the situation is more urgent than ever. According to the Oregon Judicial Department , about 80 people are in custody awaiting representation and more than 600 are in the community awaiting a lawyer to handle their case.

The lack of public defenders has forced judges to dismiss hundreds of cases, prosecutors say, to avoid denying defendants their constitutional right to representation. The Sixth Amendment requires the state to provide legal representation to those who can’t afford a lawyer.

According to Oregon’s public defense agency, violating the constitutional right to legal counsel and a speedy trial has serious consequences, including wrongful convictions, threats to public safety, and an increase in the number of cases returning to trial years after a conviction.

Until July 2022, attorneys who contracted with the agency made $105 per hour for murder cases. Since then, the agency bumped up the rate to $158 per hour for attorneys taking on cases of people in custody. Now, the agency will implement a tiered hourly rate, ranging from $125 to $200 depending upon the seriousness of the case, regardless of whether or not the person is in custody. The new increased rate is roughly a quarter of a district attorney’s hourly rate.

The retention incentive program will dole out $15,000 over the course of five months, contingent on the attorney reporting back to the agency with data regarding how they are spending their time and money. The remaining budget will be put towards strategic reserves and a program that supervises attorneys outside of public defense who are willing to offer up their services.

A recent study showed that Oregon needs roughly 1,300 more full-time attorneys – or roughly three times the number it currently has – to represent everyone charged with a crime who cannot afford a lawyer.

The lack of public defenders has prompted judges to dismiss cases, including nearly 300 in Multnomah County alone between February and October last year, according to the county’s district attorney, Mike Schmidt. Many were accused of low-level crimes but some involved assaults and personal violence.

Small Sinkhole Discovered at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area

PACIFIC CITY, Ore— A small sinkhole measuring 20-feet wide and 15-feet deep was discovered at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area Sunday in the lower northwest corner of the dune.

Oregon Park and Recreation Department staff were alerted to the presence of the sinkhole Sunday morning and cordoned off the area for safety. We ask that visitors respect this barrier and all park safety barriers. Also, please keep pets on leashes and children away from the edges. 

“The cape is a dynamic environment. Please be aware of your surroundings, stay clear of any dangerous areas, including this one,” said Park Manager Jason Elkins. 

 “Obviously people are curious and may want to see if for themselves,” he said, “but we ask that you respect the barriers that are in place and observe from a distance.”

Cape Kiwanda is a rarity for the Oregon Coast: a sandstone outcropping. Sandstone is naturally much weaker and prone to sudden changes compared with hardier rock like basalt. While any natural area carries risk, enjoying Cape Kiwanda safely requires visitors to pay special attention.

Even though the spot is marked with barriers, this hole could change at any moment, and others could appear. If you see something that concerns you, leave the area and report it to Cape Lookout State Park staff at 503-842-4981. In an emergency, call 911.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is looking into possible causes of the sinkhole, and we are continuing to monitor the situation. We will share additional details as they become available. 

Fourth Dead Whale Found On Oregon Coast – Officials Say Deaths Are Unrelated

A dead whale washed ashore along the Oregon coast for the fourth time in less than two weeks.

The Seaside Aquarium reports a gray whale was found in a remote area at Cannon Beach. Aquarium officials say the whale had been dead for at least a month before it came ashore.

A dead gray whale was found Jan. 11 on the central coast near Reedsport. Two days later, a sperm whale carcass washed ashore at Fort Stevens State Park on the northern coast. And then about 100 yards from there, a dead gray whale beached on Jan. 18.

In a Facebook post, the Seaside Aquarium said the four deaths are not connected and all appear to have died from different causes.

“When we experience weather patterns like we have in the past few weeks, coupled with strong westerly winds, dead marine mammals that have been floating offshore get pushed onto the beach,” aquarium officials wrote.

A crew investigated Monday and took measurements, but officials said the level of decomposition makes it difficult to determine the cause of death. A shark bite was found on the whale carcass but appeared to occur after its death.

Suspect Shot and Killed After Salem Police Respond to Armed Robbery

Salem police say a person suspected of armed robbery is dead after an exchange of gunfire Monday morning.

According to the Salem Police Department, officers responded to a reported armed robbery in progress at a Walmart on southeast Commercial Street at about 9 a.m. on January 23. Police said that as they arrived, the suspect moved to a nearby Planet Fitness and then to a nearby Napa Auto Parts Store. Officers said they confronted the suspect in the Napa parking lot, where gunshots were fired between officers and the suspect. Police said during this exchange, the suspect was struck and killed at the scene.

Salem police said no officers were harmed in the incident. SPD is not releasing the names of the suspect or the involved officers at this time. SPD said that under the Marion County Law Enforcement Officer Deadly Use of Force Plan, Oregon State Police will be conducting an investigation of the incident. Part of Commercial Street was closed off in both directions while law enforcement conducted an initial investigation of the scene.

SAIF’s new video series combines Oregon charm with workplace safety

SAIF visited workplaces across the state to create a new YouTube series, Oregon Odd Jobs. The series showcases uniquely Oregon jobs and how they’re done safely.  

“While safety is everyone’s responsibility, we all go about it differently depending on the job we do,” says SAIF safety consultant Dawn Jacobs. “Oregon Odd Jobs highlights the weird and wonderful while giving us a look at how Oregonians stay safe.” 

Among other things, the videos teach how these businesses find safety success as they combat complacency, stay alert to surrounding hazards, keep up with safety innovations, and put safety redundancies in place.  

The first three episodes feature Homestead Log Homes in Central Point, Oregon Potato Company in Boardman, and Oaks Park Amusement Park in Portland. Host Corey Jenkins, SAIF’s creative services supervisor, tries his hand at building log homes, grinding potatoes, and inspecting roller coasters.  

SAIF will publish new episodes every two weeks. Future episodes include wrangling llamas, blowing glass, and feeding sharks. 

Subscribe to SAIF’s YouTube page for future episodes and other safety-related videos

About SAIF 

SAIF is Oregon’s not-for-profit workers’ compensation insurance company. Since 1914, we’ve been taking care of injured workers, helping people get back to work, and striving to make Oregon the safest and healthiest place to work. For more information, visit the About SAIF page on saif.com.

Bill That Would Ban The Sale Of Kangaroo Parts Has Been Introduced In The Oregon Legislature

 A bill that would ban the sale of kangaroo parts has been introduced in the Oregon Legislature, taking aim at sports apparel manufacturers that use leather from the animals to make their products.

Soccer cleats are one of the only products made from kangaroo leather that are routinely sold in Oregon, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. The measure would impact Nike, which is based in Oregon and the state’s largest employer.

“It’s unconscionable that millions of native wild animals in Australia have been killed for the sake of high-end soccer cleats worn by a subset of elite soccer players,” Democratic Oregon Sen. Floyd Prozanski, who introduced the bill, said in a news release issued Monday by animal rights groups. “I understand this legislation may have financial impact on some Oregon shoe manufacturers, but in the balance Oregon should be standing on the humane side of this issue. There are other materials that can be used in making these high-end cleats.”

In the news release, the Center for a Humane Economy, Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Foundation welcomed the move.

“It’s time for these shoe manufacturers to evolve their business model to eliminate extreme animal cruelty in their product offerings,” said Rene Tatro, a board member of the Center for a Humane Economy.

Nike didn’t respond to OPB’s request for comment, but the company told ESPN last month that it uses kangaroo leather in a “small portion” of its soccer shoes and that it “works with leather suppliers that source animal skins from processors that use sound animal husbandry and humane treatment, whether farmed, domesticated, or wild managed.”

Oregon’s bill would make it a crime to buy, receive, sell, or commercially exchange “any product containing a part of a dead kangaroo.”

Lawmakers in Connecticut have introduced a similar bill this session. A federal ban on kangaroo products was proposed in the U.S. House in 2021, but was not approved.

The ban on “k-leather” would not be without precedent: California enacted a ban on kangaroo-based products in the 1970s.

The commercial harvest of kangaroos in Australia is legal. More than 1.3 million kangaroos were killed for commercial purposes in the country in 2021, OPB reported, citing the Australia Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. The agency said that number represents less than one-third of the “sustainable quota,” which is the amount it considers could be killed without putting any of the four main kangaroo species at risk.

The U.S. listed several types of kangaroo as “endangered” from the mid-’70s until the mid-’90s, but the animal is considered to have “recovered.”

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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