Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 4/17 – Join the Downtown Medford Community Clean Up Event Today & Other Local and Statewide News…

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

Wednesday,  April 17, 2024

Rogue Valley Weather

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Join the Downtown Medford Community Clean Up Event Today

Wednesday 4/17 at 6:30 p.m., community members plan to come together to help clean up some downtown areas.Downtown Medford community clean up event | Top Stories ...

“Angels From the Community For the Community ” is inviting residents to gather at Alba Park for an opportunity to help clean up a two-block radius.

 

City of Medford  —  

Exciting news! 🤩 The City is developing its Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan, and we want to hear from you!
📢 Share your thoughts and ideas to shape the future of our community spaces and recreational opportunities. Participate in our survey and join us at the open house event on 𝗦𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗮𝘆, 𝗔𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗹 𝟮𝟭 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝟭-𝟯 𝗣𝗠 𝗮𝘁 𝗥𝗼𝗴𝘂𝗲 𝗫.
Together, let’s create a vibrant future for Medford! 🙌 More details: medfordoregon.gov/parksplan

Superhero Run-Hearts With A Mission

We are so honored that Griffin Creek Coffee Roasters is donating a portion of their sales of 15th Anniversary Beans and Hardware through the end of June to FOTAS!
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And, looks like we might have a new dog walking volunteer, as well! Yay!
Please support these folks and their amazing coffee!

May be an image of ‎3 people, road and ‎text that says '‎Work Zones are temporary. Actions behind the wheel can last forever. 1ン 02 者 . Ow 75 160 200- 220- كل রতয়্ত NWŻÄW https://www.nwzaw.org/ 2024 National Work Zone Awareness Week April 15-19, 2024‎'‎‎

Britt Music & Arts Festival is excited to announce the next slate of 12 Britt Presents shows for the 2024 summer season.Britt Music and Arts Festival 2020 Postponements - Britt Music & Arts Festival

With more announcements to come, this group of shows features a wide array of musical artists, including country legend Willie Nelson. Britt-newcomers will include Shaggy, Dirty Heads, Walker Hayes, Paul Cauthen, Classic Albums Live: Fleetwood Mac “Rumors”, and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening. Britt favorites returning to the stage include reggae rock bands Iration & Pepper with special guests DENM and Artikal Sound System, American jam band Umphrey’s McGee, world famous Cuban ensemble Buena Vista Social Orchestra, pop icons Colbie Caillat & Gavin DeGraw, jazz and funk fusion artist Trombone Shorty, and reggae band SOJA. The community is also invited to the hill for a night of laughter with Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood: Asking for Trouble. But it doesn’t end there; throughout the next month, Britt will continue to announce more shows for the 2024 Britt Presents season!

“We are thrilled about this upcoming season,” said President & CEO Abby McKee. “We are proud to have something for everyone every year, and this year is no exception. As a nonprofit, Britt exists to serve our Southern Oregon community with world-class performances. Our lineup this year includes not only names everyone will know and love, but also newcomers to the Britt stage. There are more surprises in store, and we can’t wait to see everyone on the hill this summer!”

With this announcement, there will be a Member pre-sale before tickets go on sale to the general public at 10:00 AM on Friday, April 26. Memberships are available for sale with ticket orders on the dates below.

  • April 8-18: Orders are processed according to level of membership:
  • April 8: Clef Club ($750) and above Members may submit orders at 10:00 AM PT
  • April 22: Donor ($300) Member Online Only orders at 10:00 AM PT
  • April 24: Patron ($150) & Senior Patron ($65) Online Member Only orders at 10:00 AM PT
  • April 26: General public sales begin  at 10:00 AM PT

Tickets for many Britt shows are already on sale, including Pink Martini featuring China Forbes, The Infamous Stringdusters and Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Jason Mraz & The Superband, The Dead South, Nickel Creek and Andrew Bird, The California Honeydrops with special guest Shook Twins, Ziggy Marley, Randy Houser, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Chris Young, and Chris Isaak. Britt is also selling tickets to its “Wildflowers In Full Bloom” Garden Party fundraiser, as well as the folk legend Judy Collins concert where she will be accompanied by the Britt Festival Orchestra. Britt Festival Orchestra concerts are also available for sale, including the two-night run of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in Concert with the orchestra playing the score live-to-picture. All tickets are available at brittfest.org. Fans are urged to visit the website directly to ensure that their tickets are valid and the best possible price.

Additional Britt Presents show announcements will occur in the coming weeks. In response to patron feedback, Britt is announcing shows as they are confirmed with bands. Tickets and more information can be found at brittfest.org, or from the Box Office at 541-773-6077 or in person at 216 W. Main St., Medford, Oregon.

 

Ashland Family YMCA, Oregon  
📢WE ARE HIRING!
Be part of a community, not just a workplace🫶
🌟FULL TIME
* Preschool Teacher
* Member Services Shift Lead
🌟SEASONAL
* YMCA Camp DeBoer Kitchen Manager
* YMCA Camp DeBoer Kitchen Assistant and Housekeeping
* YMCA Camp DeBoer Cabin Counselor
* Day Camp Counselor at the Y
* Sports Day Camp Counselor at the Y
🌟PART TIME
* Lifeguards (we will certify you!)
* Swim Lesson Instructors
👉Employment includes a FREE Membership!
For more information, and to apply:

 

Efforts to Locate Glide Teacher Rachel Merchant-Ly Continue

𝐈𝐃𝐋𝐄𝐘𝐋𝐃 𝐏𝐀𝐑𝐊, 𝐎𝐫𝐞. – Search and Rescue efforts continue in the search for Rachel Merchant-Ly, a Glide Elementary kindergarten teacher whose vehicle was found crashed in the North Umpqua River. Merchant-Ly was reported missing on Thursday, February 29th when she didn’t arrive at school.

A Douglas County Sheriff’s deputy located signs of a motor vehicle crash near milepost 41 on Highway 138E. On Friday, March 1, 2024, Merchant-Ly’s vehicle was recovered from the North Umpqua River, but she was not found inside.

Since that time, nearly 300 hours volunteer hours of searching has taken place. Douglas County Search and Rescue has been using various methods of searching to include drone, ground and K9. The Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol has conducted water searches as well. Volunteers have searched along the riverbank from the crash site to Idleyld Park Trading Post; approximately 21 miles. “We all want to find Mrs. Merchant-Ly and return her to her family,” Sheriff John Hanlin said. “Our deputies are in constant communication with her family and providing them with updates as to our efforts. We will continue searching and using all means necessary to accomplish our mission,” Hanlin added.

In addition to the efforts of DCSO and Search and Rescue volunteers, several community members have been actively looking for Merchant-Ly. “We are aware of rafting guides and groups of rafters who have been launching all in an attempt to assist in finding her. We have also been contacting community members who are walking along the North Umpqua Trail and the highway,” Hanlin said. “As always this community steps forward to care for each other.” As the weather turns more springlike, the Sheriff’s Office encourages those recreating around the area to be aware Merchant-Ly is still missing and to report anything which may assist in concluding this missing person case.

 

David Grubbs’ Murder Investigation Remains Active

Community still looking for answers in violent 2011 murder of David Grubbs on Ashland, Oregon bike path The Ashland Police Department’s investigation into the murder of David Grubbs on November 19, 2011 remains open and active. Recently two new detectives have been assigned to look into new leads that have come in.

This case remains important to David’s family, the community, and the Ashland Police Department. As detectives continue to pursue these new leads, anyone with additional information is encouraged to reach out to the Ashland Police Department at 541-488-2211. The reward for information leading to an arrest on this case remains at over $21,000.

Fauna Frey, 45, disappeared in Oregon on a road trip, June 29, 2020, following her brother’s death  —

https://original.newsbreak.com/@ada-e-1668135/3304227455096-fauna-frey-45-disappeared-in-oregon-on-a-road-trip-june-29-2020-following-her-brother-s-death

PART 2 – Newsweek Podcast Focusing on The Disappearance of Fauna Frey From Lane County

Here One Minute, Gone the Next —– PART 2 – Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel joins investigative journalist Alex Rogue to speak with Here One Minute, Gone the Next about the disappearance of Fauna Frey, the growing friction between citizen investigators and law enforcement, and the lack of resources in missing persons cases. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-disappearance-of-fauna-frey-pt2-feat-sheriff/id1707094441?i=1000630100040 PART 1 – John Frey joins Newsweek to discuss exclusive details about the case of his missing daughter that until now have been unavailable to the general public. READ MORE HERE: https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-what-happened-fauna-frey-new-clues-uncovered-1827197?fbclid=IwAR3Z3Glru5lIgqiYXbs_nA1Fj8JuCIzM11OHSVHfwIucfq2f_G5y9y5bnmQ If you have any information on the whereabouts of Fauna Frey, call the anonymous tip line at 541-539-5638 or email FindFaunaFrey@gmail.com.

Help Find Fauna Frey #FindFaunaFrey FACEBOOK GROUP

 

Make an appointment now to help save lives during National Volunteer Month

American Red Cross Home

 Spring into action: Give blood or platelets with the Red Cross 

Make an appointment now to help save lives during National Volunteer Month

During National Volunteer Month in April, the American Red Cross asks donors to help protect the blood supply by making and keeping blood or platelet donation appointments in the weeks ahead. Donors of all blood types – especially type O blood donors and those giving platelets – are needed now to keep the blood supply strong enough to support critical patient care this spring.

The Red Cross depends on thousands of volunteer blood donors to collect about 12,000 blood donations every single day. With no substitute for blood and no way to manufacture it, volunteer donors are essential in transfusion care. Blood drives and donation centers also depend on the generosity and valuable time of those who make it possible for the Red Cross to help people in need.

Spring into action – book a time to give lifesaving blood or platelets now by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App. Those who come to give April 8-28, 2024, will receive a $10 e-gift card to a merchant of choice, plus be automatically entered to win a $7,000 gift card. There will be two lucky winners. See RedCrossBlood.org/Spring for details.

Visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter your zip code to find additional blood donation opportunities near you.

How to donate blood — Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

Amplify your impact − volunteer!  — Another way to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross is to become a volunteer blood donor ambassador at Red Cross blood drives. Blood donor ambassadors help greet, check in and thank blood donors to ensure they have a positive donation experience.

Volunteers can also serve as transportation specialists, playing a vital role in ensuring lifesaving blood products are delivered to nearby hospitals. For more information and to apply for either position, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood and is the primary blood supplier to 65 hospitals throughout Washington and Oregon; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or follow us on social media. American Red Cross – Cascades Region

 

UPDATE: Demonstrators Block I-5 in Eugene

Similar demonstrations were held around the country

UPDATE — A very large response from law enforcement was reported Monday near Eugene, as  I-5 was described as chaotic after a group people representing Free Palestine Eugene walked onto the freeway and completely blocked traffic just south of Beltline, according to law enforcement.

Protesters chanted, locked arms in solidarity with gas masks, masks, and signs, while waving the Palestine flag. Authorities say the group used several vehicles to block the freeway before bringing dozens of protesters down onto the freeway from the Harlow Road bridge.

One protester explained why they blocked I-5, saying it was important for them to join a global movement to disrupt America’s economy and the United States’ continual aid to Israel.

As a result of Monday morning’s demonstration, 52 people were arrested for disorderly conduct. Two individuals were additionally charged with conspiracy and theft 2. All suspects are in custody at the Lane County Jail. Six vehicles were towed from the scene.

Monday’s incident required a significant law enforcement response. Responding agencies included:

  • Eugene Police Department – 31 officers; 1 transport van
  • Springfield Police Department – 22 officers; 1 transport van
  • Lane County Sheriff’s Office – 20 deputies; 2 jail vans
  • Oregon State Police – 48 troopers
  • Oregon Department of Transportation Incident Response – 6 personnel
  • Springfield Fire Department and Eugene Fire Department

OSP would like to thank area law enforcement agencies for their partnership and response to this incident.

_______________________________________________________________________________

LANE COUNTY, Ore. 15 April 2024 – At approximately 10:00 a.m., Oregon State Troopers responded to I-5 southbound at milepost 194 in Eugene to reports of protesters blocking the interstate. Protesters blocked all southbound traffic lanes near the Barlow Bridge.

Throughout the incident, demonstrators were given continuous lawful orders to disperse before dozens of people were arrested for disorderly conduct. At least one individual was discovered to be in possession of a firearm.

The interstate traffic was stopped for approximately 45 minutes. Southbound lanes are now open; however, law enforcement remains on the scene while observers continue to gather along the highway.

Oregon State Police supports an individual’s right to lawfully protest and express concerns over world events. However, today’s actions put Oregon’s motorists in danger as well as the protestors who blocked the roadway.

Supporting Families to Prevent Child Abuse Moves Forward in Oregon

(Salem) – This year’s Child Abuse Prevention Month theme, Doing Things Differently: Moving from the Challenge to the Change, emphasizes the importance of innovative prevention-based approaches to supporting children and families. The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) is committed to advancing programs that address poverty and other challenges families face that could put children at risk.

As Governor Tina Kotek’s proclamation states, “Child abuse is a preventable public health issue, and Oregon’s children and families deserve intentional, sustainable investments in their health and wellbeing.”

Prevention-based approaches link families in Oregon to voluntary assistance programs from community organizations and ODHS such as food benefits, cash assistance and services for domestic violence survivors. The goal of prevention is to keep children safe by providing support that stabilizes families and prevents unnecessary child welfare involvement.

To expand the agency’s child abuse prevention efforts, ODHS is working with the Doris Duke Foundation to establish the Opt-in for Families initiative in Oregon which will be supported by a $9 million investment by the foundation. The grant will help develop and test a pilot program serving families who have been the subject of reports to the ODHS Child Abuse Hotline but whose circumstances are not considered child abuse as defined in Oregon statute. Opt-in for Families will refer these families to voluntary programs for economic and other supports, evaluating their effectiveness in improving child safety and family stability. Similar programs that support families’ economic stability are being piloted in Klamath Falls and are being introduced throughout the state.

As a result of these and other efforts, the number of children in foster care in Klamath County has dropped by 60 percent with a 72 percent drop in Tribal children in the system.

April also marks the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline’s (ORCAH) fifth anniversary. ODHS centralized ORCAH in 2019 to change the former model of localized child abuse reporting, multiple hotline numbers and lack of operational coordination to an updated model based on national best practices. The new model has improved child safety, screening consistency and coordination with law enforcement, as well as employee retention.

With centralization of the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline, wait times to report abuse reduced by an average of one minute, 59 seconds, down from the 2022 average wait time of two minutes, 42 seconds. The hotline team answered 6 percent more calls compared with 2022. Timely answering of calls ensures rapid response and Child Protective Services assessment to ensure child safety. Other key improvements related to child safety are detailed in the recent 2023 ORCAH annual report.

In addition to centralizing the hotline, ODHS initiatives to prevent and address child abuse include family coaching programs and improved tracking of caseload ratios to ensure caseworkers have adequate time to connect families to prevention-related services. For more information on 2023 work to support children in families in Oregon, see the Oregon Child Welfare Assessment Findings Report published by Public Knowledge.

Oregon needs everyone to contribute to preventing child abuse. Children and families are stronger when communities come together to support them before they reach crisis.

“As individuals and as a community, we play a part in preventing child abuse. We encourage everyone to make a commitment this month to learn new ways to strengthen child and family well-being,” ODHS Child Welfare Director Aprille Flint-Gerner said. “Together, we can make a difference.”

In recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month, ODHS asks everyone in Oregon to be aware of help available to families to meet their basic needs which is critical in preventing conditions that can result in child abuse. This includes sharing information about food banks, unemployment benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) availability, and educational resources. ODHS values its collaboration with community organizations to prevent child abuse and ensure families in Oregon know about the resources available to help them.

If you suspect a child is being abused, please contact the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline by calling 1-855-503-SAFE (7233). The Oregon Child Abuse Hotline receives calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

More information for resources and support:

  • To learn more about food resources including SNAP visit NeedFood.Oregon.gov.
  • 211info.org (also by dialing 211) offers connection to local and regional resources for food banks, housing assistance, and mental health services.
  • Lines for Life, a nonprofit dedicated to substance abuse and suicide prevention: call or text 988.
  • Friends and neighbors can help break the social isolation some parents may experience or encourage parents to seek support when needed by calling the Oregon parent helpline: 971-221-5180.
  • Oregon Child Abuse Solutions: https://oregoncas.org/
  • Prevent Child Abuse Oregon: https://preventchildabuseoregon.org/
  • Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries: https://www.oregonreliefnurseries.org/

Other resources

About the Oregon Department of Human Services

The mission of ODHS is to help Oregonians in their own communities achieve well-being and independence through opportunities that protect, empower, respect choice and preserve dignity.

Oregon Colleges Responding To FAFSA Delays

Public universities and colleges across Oregon are extending enrollment deadlines after a series of federal student aid delays led to fewer high school students filling out the application.

Why it matters: Holdups with the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process means some students face the possibility of having to choose a college without knowing whether they’ll be able to afford it.

By the numbers: As of April 5, only 25% of Oregon high school seniors had completed the application, down 33% compared to last year, according to the National College Attainment Network.

  • The number of high school seniors at David Douglas, Portland’s largest public school, who’d completed their FAFSA was down 34% from 2023, per NCAN.

Flashback: The new version of the form was supposed to streamline the notoriously difficult process and expand aid eligibility — but its rollout has been problematic.

  • The application opened on Dec. 3o, three months later than in prior years.
  • The new system was marred with technical glitches and a flawed inflation calculator incorrectly lowered the amount of awarded aid for many families — an error that has since been adjusted.

The latest: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent a letter to governors last month, asking them to adjust state financial aid deadlines, budget for potential state grant aid increases and ensure relevant agencies can process aid efficiently.

Threat level: The problems have led to delays in processing financial aid offers, complicating college decisions for families.

  • High school seniors usually receive acceptance letters and financial aid offers by mid-April.
  • But far fewer applications have been turned in than in previous years, leaving college administrators scrambling to assemble aid packages before the start of the school year.

Zoom in: The University of Oregon pushed its date for students to accept offers from May 1 to June 1. Oregon State University moved its financial aid deadline from the end of February to May 1.

  • Portland State University’s deposit and decision deadline is in August, but the school may make adjustments over the summer if warranted, Elijah Herr, director of financial aid, told Axios.
  • As of last week, the number of filed FAFSAs that PSU had received was down 10-15% compared to 2023, Herr said.

What’s next: The deadline for the 2024-25 FAFSA is June 30, 2025, but Herr recommends that students file as soon as possible to have aid in place before fall. (SOURCE)

Oregon’s Next Minimum Wage Increase Takes Effect In July

Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries announced Tuesday that the minimum wage in the Portland area will rise to $15.95. In urban counties outside the Portland area, the minimum wage will be $14.70 an hour. And in rural counties, the minimum will be $13.70. The change takes effect July 1.

A 50-cent hike to Oregon’s minimum wage will bring baseline pay in the Portland area just to the doorstep of $16 an hour this summer.

Oregon has had a tiered minimum wage since 2017, when the state Legislature approved a series of minimum wage increases but kept the minimum lower in more rural parts of the state, reasoning that the cost of living was lower, too.

Since 2023, annual increases in the minimum wage have been tied to the rate of inflation. The Consumer Price Index, the inflation measure used to calculate the increase, rose 3.5% over the past year.

The increases announced Tuesday range from 2.9% for the Portland metro to 3.8% raise in rural areas. The average Oregon hourly wage is much higher than the minimum, $31.17 last year, according to the state employment department. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has scheduled an opportunity for public comments concerning the proposed merger of two major grocery store chains – Kroger and Albertsons.

This deal could impact more than 150 pharmacies in Oregon, accoring to a releas from the OHA

“The OHA is reviewing this planned transaction to understand how it might affect pharmacy services in Oregon,” a release from the OHA states.

OHA has convened a Community Review Board for this review. This board is hosting a public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 24.

The public hearing will: Provide information about the transaction and OHA’s review, Allow representatives from Kroger and Albertsons to provide testimony and answer questions, Allow members of the public to provide comments.

The public can register to attend .

Kroger and Albertsons are the nation’s two largest grocery chains. In Oregon, the two corporations operate 176 stores, serving nearly every community in the state. Kroger operates 51 Fred Meyer and 4 QFC stores, while Albertsons operates 96 Safeway and 25 Albertsons stores.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has joined the Federal Trade Commission and a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from across the nation in acting to block the proposed $24.6 billion Kroger-Albertsons grocery chain merger.

“If big grocery stores are allowed to reduce competition this way.” Rosenblum said, “They can charge higher prices for food for no good reason and reduce services, including in their pharmacies. They can also slow the growth of employees’ wages, or even reduce some of those wages. Working conditions and employee benefits can suffer, as well. In short, there’s no good for consumers or workers in this proposed merger — and lots of bad.”

Oregon Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission investigators found compelling evidence that direct, head-to-head competition between Kroger and Albertsons has forced the two chains to compete vigorously against one another — both on price and on the quality of goods and services offered at their stores, according to Rosenblum.

Oregon, the FTC, and the other AGs filed to enjoin the merger in U.S. District Court in Portland following a vote by FTC commissioners Feb. 26.

It is the result of thorough investigations by the FTC and the states into the proposed merger’s anticipated effects, Rosenbaum said in a statement.

“We are doing this to protect Oregon consumers and workers,” Rosenblum said. “We believe this proposed merger would hurt both, and we’re doing our part to prevent it from going forward.”

To learn more about the OHA public hearing, visit https://www.oregon.gov/oha/hpa/hp/pages/health-care-market-oversight.aspx

Email hcmo.info@oha.oregon.gov with any questions. Read More at http://tillamookheadlightherald.com

April 30th is the deadline for people registering to vote in Oregon for the first time or for those who wish to change party affiliation.

The upcoming May 21st election is a closed-party primary election for registered Democrats and Republicans.
That means that Democrats will be voting for Democrat and nonpartisan candidates and measures and Republicans will be voting for Republican and nonpartisan candidates and measures.

Non-affiliated and all other voters will be voting on nonpartisan candidates and measures.

Oregon Online Voter Registration: https://sos.oregon.gov/voting/Pages/registration.aspx?lang=en

State Fire Marshal handing out $6 million to help local agencies fight wildfires

About two-thirds of the fire departments across Oregon – all smaller agencies – received up to $35,000 to hire more firefighters during the season

As Oregon approaches this year’s wildfire season, state officials are distributing $6 million in grants to help local fire agencies bolster their resources.

The State Fire Marshal, which announced the grants, said that 191 agencies across the state received up to $35,000. That’s about two-thirds of the 306 fire agencies in Oregon.

All of the agencies were eligible to apply for a grant, but most of the recipients are in rural or coastal areas, from Ontario to Oakridge and Christmas Valley to Seaside. The departments in the state’s biggest cities, including Portland, Salem, Eugene, Medford and Bend, are not on the list, mainly because the grant’s purpose is to help smaller jurisdictions – those whose annual property tax income does not exceed $2 million – that often rely on volunteers, according to John Hendricks, a spokesman for the fire marshal.

The grants are designed to help smaller agencies, such as the Fossil and Heppner fire departments, staff up with firefighters to be able to mobilize quickly.

Hendricks said in an email that the grants often allow agencies to hire two to three extra firefighters.

“Every agency is different, so their request may be different,” Hendricks said. “Some agencies pay current volunteers to take a shift, others bring on seasonal staff. It really depends.”

Many recipients got the maximum, though a few were given much less. The smallest grant – $2,698 – went to Baker Rural Fire Protection District. Myrtle Creek Fire Department got $9,160, while Union Emergency Services received $9,463 and Corbett Fire District 24 received $12,315.

This is the third year in a row that the fire marshall has distributed money through the Wildfire Season Staffing Grant program, according to a news release. It said the grants last year – also $6 million  – allowed agencies to add more than 1,500 firefighters.

“These added resources allowed agencies to attack fires and keep them small and away from communities and added capacity to respond to other calls, ultimately saving lives,” the release said.

That help enabled the Cornelius Fire Department in the Portland area, for example, to dispatch two units to the scene of a brush fire last year within minutes. They quickly put it out, preventing the spread to nearby buildings.

In Jefferson County in central Oregon, funding helped the local fire department hire wildland firefighters who contained a high-risk brush fire last August to 1 acre, according to a report about last year’s grants. That fire had the potential to become big in a high-risk area, the fire chief said.

And in Sublimity in Marion County, the grant helped the local fire district add staff at the busiest time of the year, which it previously couldn’t do, the release said.

“This resulted in quicker responses with adequate staffing for not only our district, but our neighboring agencies,” Sublimity Fire District Chief Alan Hume said in the release. “Last year we had several fires in our area with the potential to develop into larger, extended duration fires. We were able, as (a) region, to keep those fires smaller.”

The grant is part of an initiative by the State Fire Marshal’s office, the Response Ready Oregon initiative, that’s designed to help modernize systems and technology, create mutual aid plans, hire coordinators and more. But that program lacks sustained funding, the release said.

The Oregon Legislature allocated $220 million for wildfires in 2021, but the Oregon Department of Forestry and State Fire Marshal’s Office received less than $90 million during the budget cycle that began last July and ends in mid-2025. Lawmakers had hoped this session to fill gaps in wildfire funding, with three bills to address landowner wildfire protection fees, home hardening, wildfire prevention and response and survivor compensation. But only one – on compensation – passed.

That prompted Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland and the author of one proposal to say legislators were “stumbling into the future” on wildfire funding. (SOURCE)

Oregon State Fire Marshal issues grants to boost staffing ahead of wildfire season

To boost the number of firefighters across Oregon before wildfire season, the Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) announced it has awarded $6 million in grants to 191 local fire agencies across the state.

The 2024 Wildfire Season Staffing Grant program is in its third year. Local agencies in the Oregon structural fire service were eligible to apply for up to $35,000. The funding will allow agencies to bring on additional firefighters or increase on-duty hours during the 2024 fire season. A list of agencies awarded funding can be found here.

The 2023 Wildfire Season Staffing Grant program was integral to the success in protecting communities, adding more than 1,500 paid firefighters to the Oregon fire service. These added resources allowed agencies to attack fires and keep them small and away from communities and added capacity to respond to other calls, ultimately saving lives. Read about the successes here.

“The staffing grant program has been a huge success for the Oregon fire service and our district,” Sublimity Fire District Chief Alan Hume said. “It allowed us to staff our station during the busiest time of the year, which we previously couldn’t do. This resulted in quicker responses with adequate staffing for not only our district, but our neighboring agencies. Last year we had several fires in our area with the potential to develop into larger, extended duration fires. We were able, as region, to keep those fires smaller.”

“This grant has provided us the ability to respond to all requests for emergency services, including automatic and mutual aid requests in our district,” Crooked River Ranch Rural Fire Protection District Chief Sean Hartley said. “This program is instrumental in keeping fires in our community small and allowed us to respond to multiple calls for service at the same time.”

This 2024 Wildfire Season Staffing Grant program is part of a multi-pronged approach to combat wildfire in Oregon. Over the last three years, the OSFM has made strategic investments to modernize the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System and help communities become more wildfire adapted.

This grant is part of the OSFM’s Response Ready Oregon initiative. The OSFM is looking for sustained funding for this program and is exploring all options to continue this highly successful grant in 2025 and beyond.ABOUT RESPONSE READY OREGON The OSFM’s Response Ready Oregon initiative was created to help boost capacity and modernize wildfire response within the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System (OFMAS). The goal of Response Ready Oregon is to keep fires small and away from communities, reducing costly conflagrations.

Governor Kotek Signs Property Tax Reset For 2020 Wildfire Victims

Many of the Oregonians whose homes were destroyed in 2020 wildfires will soon be protected from potentially massive property tax increases after they rebuild if county leaders in their communities agree.

About 4,000 homes were destroyed in wildfires across the state in September 2020 — most of them in Santiam Canyon or Southern Oregon’s Jackson County. Already, thousands of those properties have been rebuilt — and many homeowners have faced an unwelcome surprise when taxes came due.

Under Oregon law, a home’s assessed value can go up by no more than 3% each year, except when there’s new construction or significant upgrades. That’s left people rebuilding from the 2020 wildfires facing thousands of dollars in higher yearly taxes.

Mia Mohr, a resident of Lyon in the Santiam Canyon whose house was destroyed by the fires, testified in support of the property tax reset during the recent legislative session.

“Victims of the 2020 wildfires, particularly those who could least afford to rebuild, have experienced many challenges and hardships since losing everything in the devastating wildfire,” she said in written testimony. “…I didn’t have the option to replace my home built in 1968 with a 1968-valued home. I could only replace it with a same square-foot new home.”

The unexpected property tax increase she and other community members have faced has been a significant burden, she said.

Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron told OPB that the tax reset approved in this year’s legislative session is part of an ongoing effort to respond to the financial and personal hardships people have faced since the September 2020 wildfires.

“One of the first things we realized, right after the wildfires, is that property tax statements were going out in September, October of 2020 — and people were going to get a property tax statement when they have no house,” he said.

Leaders in hard-hit counties set up programs that allowed people to reduce their tax bills if they’d lost their homes —but it was not an automatic process.

Then, as residents started to rebuild, many were shocked by their new property tax statements. “Their property tax statements would double or in some cases even triple,” Cameron said.

State Sen. Frank Girod, a Republican from Stayton, began pushing for a property tax reset in the 2023 legislative session, but it took until this year for it to pass as Senate Bill 1545.

The bill, which Gov. Tina Kotek signed into law this month, essentially resets the tax rate to 2020-21 levels for these homes, as long as they’re built to the same square footage as before the fire. Commissioners in the eight Oregon counties where the fires caused widespread damage will need to opt in for their constituents to receive these protections.

Cameron said he expects Marion County commissioners to approve the tax reset, and to work hard to communicate with eligible home owners about the program in affected communities. People will have to apply to qualify.

The property tax reset is temporary and limited. When houses are rebuilt larger than the home that was burned, that additional square footage will be assessed based on its value at the time of construction. When owners sell their rebuilt homes, those properties will be assessed based on market value at that time.

And only homes that are occupied full-time are eligible, which means people’s second homes around Detroit Lake are not qualified for the tax reset, Cameron said. “They will have to pay regular property taxes,” he said. “This is to encourage those who were living here to come back and rebuild. (SOURCE)

ODOT Reminding The Public That Political Signs Posted Incorrectly Will Be Removed

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) would like to remind the public that political signs posted incorrectly will be removed.

ODOT will remove improperly placed signs like the one above and hold them at the nearest ODOT maintenance yard. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

During election season ODOT tells us they receive complaints from the public and candidates regarding the improper placement of political signs on the state highway rights of way, where only official traffic control devices are allowed. Improperly placed signs can distract drivers and block road safety messages.

Wrongly placed signs will be taken down and held at a nearby ODOT district maintenance office for 30 days. To reclaim signs, go here to find the nearest ODOT maintenance office.

Signs are prohibited on trees, utility poles, fence posts and natural features within highway right-of-ways, ODOT tells us. They also are prohibited within view of a designated scenic area.

State highway width rights of way can vary considerably depending on the location. Check with your local ODOT district maintenance office to determine whether placing a sign is on private property or highway right of way. Local municipalities may also regulate the placement of political signs.

Political signs are allowed on private property within view of state highways with the following restrictions:

  • Signs are limited to 12 square feet but can be up to 32 square feet with a variance from our Oregon Advertising Sign program
  • Signs cannot have flashing or intermittent lights, or animated or moving parts
  • Signs must not imitate official highway signs or devices
  • Signs are not allowed in scenic corridors
  • No payment or compensation of any kind can be exchanged for either the placement of or the message on temporary signs, including political signs, which are visible to a state highway

For more information go to ODOT’s Outdoor Advertising Sign Program.

Oregon Secretary of State releases 2024 Civic Engagement Toolkit

Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade released a civic engagement toolkit today, aimed at helping organizations do voter registration and voter turnout work in the 2024 elections.

The tools included in the 2024 toolkit are official, non-partisan, research-backed and free to use with or without attribution to our office.

Download the 2024 Civic Engagement Toolkit here.

Museum receives $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities award 

 

BEND, OR — The High Desert Museum will receive $500,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, one of 10 in the nation selected for funding for the exceedingly competitive Public Humanities Projects: Exhibition category, the agency announced Tuesday.

The funding will support the Museum’s revitalization of its permanent exhibition dedicated to the Indigenous cultures of the region. By Hand Through Memory opened in 1999, supported in part by NEH funding. Hand in hand with Native partners, the Museum has been working on a new version of the exhibition for several years.

This award is the second grant for the project: In 2019, NEH awarded the Museum $45,000 to support the planning of the renovation. The agency also awarded the Museum $500,000 in 2023 to support an associated expansion of the Museum, bringing the total commitment to the Museum’s future to $1,045,000.

“For more than four decades, the High Desert Museum has set the gold standard for showing and telling both Oregonians and visitors our state’s history,” U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said. “Indigenous history is essential to that mission, and I’m gratified this Central Oregon treasure has secured such a significant federal investment to enable it to update and expand the permanent exhibition devoted to Native perspectives and experiences.”

“We’re immensely grateful to NEH and Senators Wyden and Merkley for this transformational investment,” said High Desert Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “The revitalized exhibition will be centered in Native voices and knowledge, sharing the rich stories of Indigenous communities throughout the Plateau region. The NEH funding is vital for realizing our vision.”

The Museum is presently working on exhibition design with Ralph Appelbaum Associates, a firm that has handled museum projects ranging from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C. to the First

Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, an effort sharing the stories of the 39 Tribes in Oklahoma that opened in 2021.

The exhibition renovation is part of the long-term vision for the future of the Museum, which includes more capacity for educational programming, immersive experiences to bring visitors into the forest canopy, a permanent art exhibition space and a gathering space for Museum events. The Sisters-based Roundhouse Foundation helped launch work on this vision with a $6 million gift in 2021.

The Museum opened in 1982. Founder Donald M. Kerr envisioned the space as an immersive experience that highlights the wonder of the High Desert, often saying that its mission is to “wildly excite and responsibly teach.” He also intended for the Museum and its programs to spark dialogue and bring people together in conversations about what they want for the region’s future.

Today, the Museum shares up to nine rotating temporary exhibitions, serves more than 8,600 participants with school field trips, and provides free and reduced-price admissions to more than 25,000 visitors. It welcomed more than 216,000 visitors in 2023.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency that supports cultural institutions in their efforts to facilitate research and original scholarship, provides opportunities for lifelong learning, preserves and provides access to cultural and educational resources, and strengthens the institutional base of the humanities throughout the nation.

ABOUT THE MUSEUM:

The HIGH DESERT MUSEUM opened in Bend, Oregon in 1982. It brings together wildlife, cultures, art, history and the natural world to convey the wonder of North America’s High Desert. The Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian Affiliate, was the 2019 recipient of the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence and was a 2021 recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. To learn more, visit highdesertmuseum.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Oregon Offers Electric Car Rebates Again – Apply Now Until June 3rd

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Due to high demand and limited funding, OCVRP will be open for a short time in 2024. Vehicles must be purchased or leased between April 3, 2024, to June 3, 2024, to be eligible for a rebate.

Applicants have six months from their date of purchase or lease to apply. Low- and moderate-income households can prequalify for the $5,000 Charge Ahead rebate by completing the application now at https://apps.oregon.gov/DEQ/Voucher/apply.

Oregon to Honor Fallen Law Enforcement Officers May 7th, 2024

Every year, the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony honors the state’s law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This year’s ceremony will be held Tuesday, May 7 at 1 p.m. at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem.

The annual event commemorates the more than 190 fallen officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the state of Oregon since the 1860s. This includes law enforcement, corrections, and parole and probation officers from city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is proud to host the ceremony in partnership with the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Oregon Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation, and various statewide law enforcement associations.

 

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