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
Friday, March 17, 2023
Rogue Valley Weather
Grants Pass Police and Fire Participate in “Believe In Heroes” Program
Riverside Elementary School 2nd graders put on their “Believe In Heroes” program. Riverside invited local First Responders and recognized us for the work we do in our community. Select second-grade students interviewed a member from each- Grants Pass Police, Grants Pass Fire Rescue, and American Medical Response.
The performance included songs and other speaking parts as well. After the program, the 2nd grade classes got to check out the emergency vehicles and speak with the representatives from each agency. We were honored by the number of first responders who came- more than 30 between the morning and evening. This is an annual program that Riverside started in 2019.
Vicki Van Manen said “The reason behind this program is two-fold: to honor some of the members of our community who keep us safe on a daily basis; and to bring in these first responders to meet our students so they can interact and be more comfortable with them if the kids/families are ever put in a situation where that trust is needed.”
Violent Offender Task Force Tracks Down Utah Child Sodomy Suspect in Jackson County
JCSO Case 23-1476 – ROGUE RIVER, OR – The Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force (PNVOTF) along with Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) detectives, tracked down and arrested a Utah man wanted on felony child sex crimes Tuesday afternoon in rural Rogue River.
The suspect, Joel Daniel Pedrizetti, 43, was wanted on four felony counts of first-degree sodomy upon a child that occurred in the Utah area. He is now lodged in the Jackson County Jail awaiting extradition back to Utah.
The felony warrant came from the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake. PNVOTF arrested Pedrizzetti without incident at a residence in the 10000 to 11000 block of East Evans Creek Road in rural Rogue River.
PNVOTF includes personnel from the United States Marshals Service, JCSO, and Central Point Police Department. The task force specializes in locating and arresting fugitives wanted for offenses including, but not limited to, murder, assault, sex crimes, failure to register as a sex offender, firearm violations, and probation violations.
3/16/2023 Illinois Valley Fire District – Vehicle Accident in O’Brien
3/16/2023 18:34:16; TA1 – Traffic Accident; 36917 REDWOOD HWY, OBrien;
Illinois Valley Fire District, AMR-Josephine County, ODOT, and Oregon State Police, responded to a vehicle vs. school bus.
Units arrived on scene, and found that there was one vehicle with major damage, with one person extricated and flown by Mercy Flights Inc, from the airport with life-threatening injuries.
The bus had major front end damage as well, and there were two children from onboard, transported by AMR to Three Rivers for further evaluation with non life-threatening injuries.
Rural Metro Fire – Josephine County, was requested and covered the fire district.
Scene has been turned over to OSP for investigation and portions of Redwood Hwy will be closed for unknown amount of time.
Three southern Oregon towns mark milestones as Tree City USA communities
Three Oregon communities in Josephine and Jackson counties mark significant milestones as Tree City USA communities this year. ODF administers the Tree City USA program in Oregon for the national Arbor Day Foundation. ODF Community Assistance Forester Brittany Oxford explains that cities and towns need to meet four criteria to become a Tree City USA:
- Maintain a tree board or department
- Have a community tree ordinance
- Spend at least $2 per capita on urban forestry
- Celebrate Arbor Day
Rogue River in southern Oregon has maintained its designation for 40 years, according to Oxford. “Right behind them is Grants Pass, which has now had Tree City USA status for 35 years, and Central Point for 10 years.”
Oxford said cities benefit from sustained support of their urban forestry programs. “Trees are a long-term investment. Keeping engaged with maintenance and replacement tree plantings can help a community increase its tree canopy and keep that urban forest healthy, helping make that community more climate resilient,” she said.
Oxford said Grants Pass was also honored as Oregon Tree City of the Year back in 2020.
“All three communities have really gone the extra mile, planting peace trees in recent years that were grown from seeds of trees that survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima in 1945,” she said. “These communities pulled out all the stops for those community-building plantings. Central Point actually has two peace trees.”
Other cities marking milestone years include:
- Madras – 30 years
- Coburg, Seaside and Wilsonville – 25 years
- Bend, Klamath Falls – 20 years
- Cannon Beach, Dallas, Gresham and Lincoln City – 15 years
- Hillsboro and Umatilla – 5 years
“Although it’s only been a Tree City for five years, Hillsboro has already earned two growth awards for improving and enlarging their urban forestry program, including one this year,” said Oxford.
Pacific Power announces grants to support Rogue Valley arts and cultural organizations
Funding helps organizations deliver creative education and enrichment in the local community
MEDFORD, OR — Arts and cultural organizations play an essential role in maintaining healthy and resilient communities. To support their vital work, the Pacific Power Foundation is donating more than $164,000 in new grant funding across the three states it serves.
The grants will help fund projects ranging from Shakespeare performances with American Sign Language interpretation to free music events, and from programming that engages diverse youth in public art projects to museums that share regional cultural history.
“These groups foster creative expression, inspire young minds, nurture well-being, and help us look at the world in new ways,” said Cooper Whitman, Pacific Power regional business manager. “We’re honored to support the incredible work they are doing.”
This recent round of grants focused on art and culture is one of the foundation’s four annual grant cycles.
The following seven grants totaling $24,500 were given to local organizations supporting communities in the Rogue Valley:
Collaborative Theatre Project for Spanish-English bilingual programming for young adults and youth, and a new puppetry program that provides participants with freedom of expression to present their stories.
Illinois Valley Community Development Organization (IVCanDo) for a botanical restoration and wheelchair trail project at the Rough and Ready Botanical Area, including a wheelchair-accessible trail, benches for resting spots and interpretive signage.
Illinois Valley Little League to help install a digital scoreboard for the community’s only Little League field.
Josephine County Foundation for Project SMART (Students, Music, Art, Recording and Theater) through which K-12 teachers in Josephine County and Rogue River can apply for funding for special projects.
OCPA (Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts) for planning and staging two theater camps in partnership with Collaborative Theatre Project Kids, which provides Spanish-English bilingual programming.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival for American Sign Language interpreters to support audience members as part of its series of Fourth Friday Weekend ASL+ Performances.
Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon to support the organization’s 35th anniversary season, including music education, performances and complimentary tickets for audience members in need.
About the Pacific Power Foundation:
The Pacific Power Foundation is part of the PacifiCorp Foundation, one of the largest utility-endowed foundations in the United States. The foundation was created by PacifiCorp, an electric utility serving 2 million customers in six Western states as Rocky Mountain Power (Utah, Wyoming and Idaho) and Pacific Power (Oregon, Washington and California). The foundation’s mission, through charitable investments, is to support the growth and vitality of the communities served by Rocky Mountain Power and Pacific Power. Since its establishment in 1988, the PacifiCorp Foundation has awarded more than $60 million to nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net/foundation.
Study Finds Lack Of Nursing Teachers Causing Nurse Shortage in Oregon
The Oregon Longitudinal Data Collaborative (OLDC) is pleased to announce a newly published study: “Postsecondary Healthcare Education Shortage in Oregon,” a statewide analysis of the nursing education shortage that is impacting every region of Oregon. According to the study, more than 6,800 qualified nursing student applications were submitted to Oregon postsecondary institutions in 2020, yet only 23 percent were accepted. At the same time, Oregon ranks 47th in graduates per capita from registered nursing programs. This study examines the causes of the postsecondary education bottleneck which is limiting institutions of higher education from providing enough capacity to meet student and job market demand for registered nurses and makes recommendations for policymakers to address these issues. Read the full analysis here or the Summary of Findings and Recommendations here.
Barbara Holtry, interim executive director of the Oregon State Board of Nursing says, “This report confirms what has been known in nursing circles for decades; that there is a nursing faculty shortage in Oregon, that nurses avoid teaching because they can earn more in other nursing roles, and that student cohorts could be larger if only there were more faculty to support them.”
The researchers found that there are more than enough qualified applicants to Oregon’s nursing education programs to meet job demand in the state. However, in a survey of Oregon’s healthcare education programs, the researchers found that significant barriers have prevented registered nursing programs from expanding to accept more qualified students, including: difficulty hiring and retaining faculty, limited clinical placement opportunities, and fiscal challenges including costs to update and expand their facilities. Further investigation revealed that Oregon has one of the largest salary gaps nationally between nursing faculty and registered nurses. Analysis showed that states like Oregon with a higher nursing faculty salary gap graduate fewer students per capita. The survey also found that 95 percent of nursing programs were denied one or more attempts to establish a clinical placement between 2016-2020.
Based on the findings in the study, the OLDC developed recommendations which are detailed in the summary here and include: establishing a state workgroup to address nurse faculty salary, establishing a statewide centralized clinical placement system, addressing needs for program expansion including facility and equipment needs and expanded access to bachelor programs, and conducting additional research to identify additional support for students.
“This study is a great example of the value that comes from sharing data with the Oregon Longitudinal Data Collaborative and other partner agencies. It sheds light on the complex challenges contributing to the shortage of health care workers and points to some possible policy solutions,” said Acting Oregon Employment Department Director David Gerstenfeld. “These collaborations help Oregon businesses and workforces compete, thrive, and flourish in our ever-changing labor market. Together, we can serve Oregonians better than we ever could on our own.”
This is the first comprehensive report of the OLDC, a program governed by multiple agencies, that looks at the intersections of K-12, postsecondary education, workforce training, and employment to examine how these sectors influence and impact each other. The OLDC, located in the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, is working to tackle topics like nursing education that require integrated data and analysis from multiple sectors: K-12 education, postsecondary education, licensing, workforce, and more.
Ben Cannon, executive director of HECC says, “This study provides an in-depth analysis of a critical and complicated issue we face, and concrete actions for Oregon policy makers and institutions to consider to help more Oregon students enter rewarding, well-paying careers, and to help Oregon communities that are in such need of quality healthcare workers. I’m pleased that we can benefit from the rigorous research of the OLDC and all the partners they have worked with.”
The study was created over the course of the last year through analysis of data from the OLDC Statewide Longitudinal Data System with additional data provided by Oregon State Board of Nursing, Oregon Employment Department, Oregon Health Authority, and surveys to the Oregon healthcare education programs. The OLDC thanks the many college and university deans and their program staff, the Oregon State Board of Nursing, HECC program staff, OHA, and the research directors from the HECC, OED, ODE for their involvement during the research process. Source: Oregon Longitudinal Data Collaborative
Oregon DEQ to temporarily suspend Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as of May 1
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality today announced it will temporarily suspend the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as of May 1, 2023. Projections show the program will be oversubscribed in late spring 2023. Program rules require DEQ to suspend rebates once funds are depleted.
“DEQ has one of the most generous EV rebate programs in the country. It has been extremely successful, and 2023 rebate applications are coming in at our highest rate yet. People are choosing electric vehicles and rebates are instrumental in lowering the costs to Oregonians.” said Oregon DEQ Director Leah Feldon.
The program receives funds annually from the state’s Vehicle Privilege Tax . It covers all program costs, including rebates, program administration and community engagement. The Oregon Department of Revenue projects the program will receive about $14 million for 2023. Also, it was able to carry over approximately $3.5 million due to a one-time allotment of $15 million last year. Therefore, the 2023 budget was $17.5 million, with $15.5 million available for rebates. DEQ expects the fund to be depleted in the next few months, based on volume of EV sales.
If you buy or lease an eligible battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or zero-emission motorcycle before May 1, you may still apply for a rebate . DEQ has created an Available Rebate Funding web page so applicants can see how much money is left for 2023. Once funds are depleted, eligible applications will go on a waiting list, to be paid once DEQ receives its next allotment in early 2024.
Electric vehicles purchased or leased after April 30, 2023, will not receive state rebates, but can still qualify for federal tax credits . They will not be placed on a waiting list for rebates at a later time.
“Other states look to the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as a model. That’s because we understand transitioning to electric vehicles is an important part of the state’s overall climate plan to reduce emissions, promote cleaner air and improve public health,” said Director Feldon.
A variety of state agencies and public electric utilities offer savings on EV purchases or charging infrastructure. The Go Electric Oregon website lists available incentives and provides helpful information for potential electric vehicle buyers and lessees.
If you have any questions about the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program suspension, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality — The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality protects human health and the environment by controlling air and water pollution, reducing the impacts of manufactured products and cleaning up contaminated properties. DEQ engages the public in decision-making and helps communities solve problems in ways that are economically and environmentally sustainable. https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=87788
Bend Snowboarder Killed In Avalanche At Paulina Peak
A Bend snowboarder killed in an avalanche at Paulina Peak Wednesday has been identified.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office says Erik Hefflefinger, 33, was snowboarding with friends when an avalanche swept him away and over a cliff at around 12:50 pm. His two friends, also from Bend and who had already made their descent when the avalanche happened, found him and immediately began CPR and other lifesaving measures.
DCSO says Oregon State Police responded to the incident after receiving two SOS notifications from the area, however they were unable to get to the scene because of snow conditions. Deschutes County Search and Rescue (SAR) deployed three volunteers using Airlink. When they got there around 4 p.m., DCSO said Hefflefinger’s pulse was faint, so they began life saving measures.
At 5 p.m., SAR determined Hefflefinger was beyond help and they stopped. DCSO said. They transported him to the 10-mile snow park, where he was then taken to the funeral home.
DCSO said it was determined that Hefflefinger possibly hit a tree when he was swept away. The three snowboarders used snowmobiles to approach the area and made a final approach on skis and snowboards.
The summit of Paulina Peak is 7,984 feet. It’s the highest point on the Newberry Volcano.
Earlier this month, experienced backcountry skier Aaron Griffith, of Bend, was killed by an avalanche while skiing with a friend at Black Crater, north of the Three Sisters.
DCSO said that prior to these two fatalities, it has been nine years since a fatality has been recorded directly due to an avalanche.
State Representatives Introduce Bill Reforming Drug Laws Measure 110
Monday Representative Lily Morgan, Republican of Grants Pass, and Representative E. Werner Reschke, Republican of Klamath Falls, announced the introduction of HB 3549. It would reform Oregon’s drug laws broken by Ballot Measure 110.
Measure 110 created a Class E Violation for hard drug possession in Oregon law. As of the end of February, law enforcement had issued 4,164 violations, nearly 20% of them coming from Josephine County alone. Only 34 individuals, less than 1%, have had a substance use assessment.
HB 3549’s tiered approach would keep Measure 110’s Class E Violation for the first offense with escalating accountability measures for subsequent offenses. The second offense would be a felony possession, with eligibility for conditional discharge. The third offense would be a felony charge with mandatory drug court.
The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Judiciary and is awaiting a public hearing.
Oregon is one of 20 states with so-called “red flag” gun laws, and Deschutes County continues to lead the state in using them to prevent harm.
The law allows for the temporary removal of someone’s firearms if a judge agrees they’re displaying clear signs of danger to themselves or others. Built into the system is the opportunity to contest the removal and automatic expiration after a year if an order isn’t extended with more evidence.
Experts say the laws allow for intervention before a person’s behavior turns dangerous. Since Oregon’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law took effect in 2018, Deschutes County has issued those orders more often than most other counties in the state, according to a review of judicial department data.
Jake Chandler, an investigator in the Deschutes County District Attorney’s office and former Bend Police officer, says the law took effect right at the time he and the department’s Community Response Team was responding to two tragic fatalities.
“(We looked) at those saying hey, what can we do on our team, on the mental health team, to make sure that doesn’t happen again, or do everything in our power to try to stop that from happening?” Chandler said. “So once we found the ERPOs being available to us, our team really started pushing that.”
Even several years into their existence, the protective orders remain at times a little-known tool for preventing deaths and injuries from firearms, as passage of the law came with little state support for public education around the orders and their use.
But “red flag” laws have gained national attention as investigators find missed warning signs left by the perpetrators of mass shootings.
“We all have been touched by violence in our community or nationally that people say ‘why didn’t somebody do something?’ when there were red flags,” said Kecia Weaver, a former Bend Police officer now working for the Sunriver Police Department. “This is a tool, a ‘something’ that myself or other lawful officers can do when we become alerted to some red flags by an individual’s statements or communication about what they might do to themselves or others.”
The orders are not cure-alls, Weaver notes, saying people could still find ways to be dangerous with an order applied to them, but that temporarily reducing access to firearms can still be an improvement.
Requests for orders can be filed only by certain people for certain reasons. Law enforcement, close family members and intimate partners can apply to have someone’s weapons removed with an order, but not friends, coworkers or acquaintances.
Those narrow rules are important for making sure orders are used only in serious situations, according to Kerry Spurgin, president of the Oregon Sports Shooting Association.
“The most important thing is we need to save lives and that person is given the opportunity to regain (their firearms),” Spurgin said. “But I rest on the fact that It starts with events that are defendable in front of a (judge), with the knowledge that there are second steps to regain.”
While certain family members can petition for an order, Chandler notes that asking law enforcement to do so is also an option to avoid direct confrontation if preferred.
The rules also mean clinicians like therapists or doctors — while they are mandatory reporters who have to report certain threats of violence — can’t directly petition for an order.
That can be reassuring for someone experiencing mental health challenges who might be afraid that being honest with a counselor could get their guns taken away, according to Donna-Marie Drucker, founder of the Oregon Firearms Safety Coalition, which provides suicide prevention training for gun clubs and ranges.
“Mostly my focus is letting people know that your clinician, your person at the VA, your primary care doctor cannot petition (for an order),” Drucker said. “You go and ask for help and nobody’s going to be taking away your guns.”
If an order is granted, a person has 24 hours to surrender their weapons to law enforcement, a firearms dealer or other specified people.
Since their inception, most of the state’s 500-plus granted “red flag” orders that have been granted have included concerns about a person’s risk of suicide.
Petitions are granted for a handful of other reasons, including if a person makes threats of violence, purchases a weapon for the purpose of committing violence, violates certain restraining orders or is convicted of certain crimes — and, most often, some combination of multiple reasons.
Still, not every petition is granted.
“I’ve only had one that was declined by the courts — which again is a great part of the process, because officers just apply for orders when they think it would be an appropriate and helpful tool,” Weaver said. “But ultimately it is up to a judge.”
In that specific case, the individual had been making threats toward family members, but the judge didn’t see enough evidence to issue an order.
“But a few days later the individual contacted law enforcement that they did not feel safe having access to firearms, and they felt that they could potentially be a danger to others,” Weaver said.
About 20% of ERPO petitions have been denied since the law took effect, most for the same reason that a judge didn’t find “clear and convincing evidence” that the person presented a risk of harm to themselves or others, or because they didn’t actually have access to a weapon, according to judicial department data.
“Many, many things you can’t enforce unless a bad act has occurred, and for community safety, we’re trying to avoid a bad act … while still respecting someone’s constitutional rights,” Weaver said. “So it’s not something that we take lightly, and it does have to have good foundational information.” (SOURCE)
Statewide Speed Related Fatal and Serious Injury Crashes up 67%, Local Law Enforcement Conducting Awareness Campaign
March is Speed Awareness Month, speeding is a dangerous and aggressive behavior that accounts for more than one-quarter of all traffic-related fatalities nationally. There are many reasons drivers choose to speed, but lateness, traffic, and a general disregard for others are the main culprits behind this risky behavior. Much like impaired driving, speeding is a selfish choice that can have deadly consequences for the driver.
Speed related fatal and serious injury crashes were up 67% statewide in 2021. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), 2021 represents a 32‐year high in traffic fatalities (599 total) and a 25‐year high in serious injuries (2498 total). Almost one‐third (29%) of the 2021 fatal and serious injury crashes were flagged as speed related. According to initial fatal crash notifications, ODOT anticipates these trends continued through 2022.
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies are teaming up to remind drivers to stop speeding and to help put an end to this risky driving behavior. We will be participating in this statewide speed awareness campaign for the entire month of March.
Note: Photos are from separate cases. Speed-Related Crash Photo: Vehicle suspected of reaching speeds around 100 mph before hitting the tree. Speeding Ticket Photo: Taken last month in Jackson County.