The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
Willamette Valley Weather
Today– Patchy fog before noon, then patchy fog after 4pm. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 41. Light and variable wind becoming northeast around 5 mph in the afternoon.
Thanksgiving Day– Partly sunny, with a high near 57. Light south wind.
Friday– Rain, mainly before 10am. High near 53. South wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.
Saturday– A 30 percent chance of rain, mainly before 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 57.
Sunday– A slight chance of rain. Partly sunny, with a high near 56.
Interim Springfield Police Chief Shares Departmental Changes
Former Portland Police Assistant Chief Andrew Shearer became Springfield’s Interim Police Chief six months ago.
He started after the resignation of Chief Rick Lewis – and during heavy scrutiny of the department. So what changes has Shearer made?
The Springfield Police Department has been involved in a number of controversies in recent years, but 6 months after a Shearer was sworn in, has anything changed
“I think its been going really well,” he tells us. “Those 6 months have been all about reform. A big one is the implementation of the body cam project that rolled out literally my first week here, and we’ve had it in place ever since then.”
In an effort by SPD to build transparency and accountability, cameras can now be found on officers and in police vehicles.
Shearer says changes have also been made in response to a multimillion-dollar settlement with the family of Stacy Kenny, a woman who was fatally shot by police during a 2019 traffic stop. The settlement includes 33 recommendations for changes to department policy.
“To date, we’ve implemented almost all of the ones that directly apply to Springfield PD,” Shearer says. “We’ve made changes to policy; we’ve made changes to procedure; we’ve made changes to training.”
One of the biggest has been the implementation of a Force Review Committee – which convenes after deadly uses of force.
“Did we follow policy? Did we follow training? Are there any potential policy violations? What are some lessons that we can learn from this incident?”
But – from a lawsuit over how an officer treated a noose in a Springfield neighborhood to an investigation into former Chief Lewis, the Kenny lawsuit isn’t the only concerning incident surrounding SPD.
The chief was asked if he feels the department has been able to regain some of the trust that was lost.
“I think the people of SPD have been working very hard to regain community trust. I’ve been working very hard to regain community trust. The profession today is very challenging, I think, in more ways than it ever has been in the past.” Shearer says the police department is taking substantive and deliberative steps to regain Springfield’s trust.
Going forward, Shearer hopes to start additional training for officers and he’s also been ramping up recruitment efforts.
Right now the department has 7 officer vacancies. Shearer says that’s because of both the nationwide labor shortage and the attitude toward police officers in recent years.
The New Arc Park In Springfield Begins To Take Shape
Cranes hoisted poles into place Tuesday for the amphitheater at the new Arc Park taking shape in Springfield.
“I feel really proud to just be part of what I really consider a unique project, but really a community asset,” said Michael Soraci, architect of the Arc Park stage and part of a team of design professionals who have worked on the project.
“There’s a lot of inclusive play in this area and in Oregon. I don’t think it’s quite to the level we’re going to have at Arc Park,” said John Schmidt, principal landscape architect. He credited the “vision and stamina” of the Arc of Lane County for bringing the plan to reality.
The park started in 2008 as an idea with parents and kids. “That sketch actually turned into construction plans we have today,” Schmidt said.
The amphitheater stage will be a unique, fully accessible two-story structure. A band could perform on the lower level while actors put on a play on the second story, for example. The upper level will also offer a view of the hills.
“What evolved was this Northwest theme for Arc Park,” Schmidt said. “It turned into a treehouse.” To bring that vision to life, crews set four 16-inch Douglas-fir posts in the ground.
Expect Busy Roads over Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend
If your holiday travel plans this year include heading over the mountains make sure to use extra caution and watch out for changing weather. We always need to be especially alert when traveling over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. But wet weather and the potential for snow at higher elevations this year could spell problems.
AAA Oregon/Idaho projects 652,000 Oregonians will hit the road over the Thanksgiving holiday this year, an increase over 2020 and close to 2019 pre-pandemic levels. That’s a lot of vehicles on the road, especially on the busy
holiday weekend travel days Wednesday and Sunday.
Holiday travelers on Interstate 84 should expect rolling slowdowns Wednesday in both directions between Cascade Locks and Memaloose State Park, east of Mosier, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. These slowdowns create 20-minute windows with no traffic during rock blasting for the new 655-foot Mitchell Point Tunnel. The Wednesday work is the only scheduled slowdown during the Thanksgiving weekend.
If there’s snow, ODOT’s current staffing shortages mean we may need a little more time to clear roads. This is a continuation of a trend we saw last year. We’re working hard to fill vacant positions and will shift resources as
needed when we see significant snow on our roads.
Our crews will be on duty through the weekend to keep the roads safe and ready to clear problems as quickly as possible.
Here are some travel tips for the weekend.
- Know before you go. Visit com and find out conditions all along your route, start to finish.
- Remember that many Tripcheck cameras include temperature, elevation and other critical details about road conditions.
- Drive for conditions. Rain, snow, or extra traffic – slow down and give space for stopping time.
- Keep your vehicle in good operating shape, checking brakes, lights, tires and wipers regularly.
- Watch out for bicyclists and pedestrians. In wintry conditions, visibility drops.
- Pay attention to roadside message signs. They contain critical information about conditions on the road ahead.
- Use patience, wear your seat belt, pay attention to conditions and keep a sober driver behind the wheel to help ensure a safe arrival for holiday activities.
And remember that Oregon and Oregon State will play football in Eugene on Nov. 27, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Expect slow traffic along Interstate 5 Saturday in the Willamette Valley both before and after the 12:30 p.m. game.
TRIP CHECK: https://tripcheck.com
Oregon reports 869 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 51 new deaths
There are 51 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,066, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported at 12:01 a.m. today.
OHA reported 869 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 386,634.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (11), Benton (3), Clackamas (68), Clatsop (5), Columbia (10), Coos (22), Crook (16), Curry (6), Deschutes (58), Douglas (43), Grant (1), Hood River (11), Jackson (50), Jefferson (3), Josephine (16), Klamath (40), Lake (3), Lane (68), Lincoln (11), Linn (23), Malheur (6), Marion (105), Morrow (2), Multnomah (83), Polk (54), Sherman (2), Tillamook (5), Umatilla (15), Union (16), Wallowa (5), Wasco (7), Washington (71) and Yamhill (30).
Media briefing on COVID-19
OHA Director Patrick Allen; Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education; and Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon State Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist answered media questions and provided an update on the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic in Oregon.
Effective immediately, the Oregon Health Authority is lifting the outdoor mask mandate for outdoor settings.
Additionally, The Oregon Department of Education released the following information regarding a lessening of quarantine requirements from students.
The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced changes to Oregon’s COVID-19 prevention measures today: state health officials will lift outdoor mask requirements for large public gatherings and state education officials announced that an adequate and stable COVID-19 test kit supply has
been acquired for all public and private schools in the state to be able to implement test
to stay protocols.
Health officials at the Oregon Health Authority have lifted the requirement for outdoor mask-wearing in crowded settings, effective immediately. The rule was implemented in August at the onset of Oregon’s most recent surge. Health officials noted that the outdoor mask rule was among the actions the state took to combat Oregon’s most recent and deadly COVID-19 surge, which has been fueled by the spread of the Delta variant, largely among unvaccinated Oregonians.
The outdoor mask rule, a rule that requires people to wear masks indoors in public settings and a slow but steady rise in vaccination rates, have helped reduce transmission rates. Health
officials lifted the outdoor masks requirement in light of the overall progress Oregon has made to curb new infections and stabilize hospitalizations.
The Oregon Health Authority is offering to pay pharmacies $35 for each dose of COVID-19 vaccine they give, a move that possibly could help pharmacies hire employees to deal with the growing workload that has resulted in long lines across the state.
The program, which launched this month, also is intended to boost vaccination rates and to ensure that vaccines are available to all residents, said Rudy Owens, a public affairs specialist for the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
To qualify for the payments, pharmacies must meet certain standards for “vaccine equity,” including such things as
offering multilingual signing for COVID-19 vaccinations, “expanded vaccine-related counseling aimed at boosting vaccine confidence,” and “a plan for ongoing evaluation and continuous improvement to ensure equitable access,” according to a flyer from OHA. The agency’s other program more directly addresses the staffing shortages that have plagued pharmacies, as the state will pay temporary pharmacists to bolster workforces.
Oregon State Parks annual parking permit $5 off in December
Spice up your holiday gift-giving this season by selecting from three new parking permit designs. The new permit hangtag designs feature the whimsical work of Portland artist El Tran. Holiday shoppers can buy the annual parking permits for only $25 each–that’s $5 off the regular price of $30, Dec. 1-31.
“Give the gift of unlimited access to Oregon’s state parks during our 100th anniversary in 2022,” said Lisa Sumption, director of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).
“The new permit designs showcase iconic park views, plants and animals, and the visitors who cherish state parks.”
Purchasing passes is easy–buy them online at store.oregonstateparks.org. Parking permits are also sold at some state park friends’ group stores and selected local businesses throughout the state. For a complete list of vendors, visit stateparks.oregon.gov.
Parking costs $5 a day at 25 Oregon state parks unless you have a 12- or 24-month parking permit or a same-day camping receipt. The 24-month pass is $50 and are also available at store.oregonstateparks.org. The permits are transferable from vehicle to vehicle.
Oregon State Parks are primarily funded by camping and day-use fees, the Oregon Lottery, and a portion of state recreational vehicle registrations. Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept.
State of Oregon to hold Hearing on Prescription Drug Prices Dec. 8
The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services will be hosting a public hearing on prescription drug prices on Wednesday, Dec. 8, from 1 to 3 p.m. via Zoom.
Oregonians are encouraged to participate in two ways.
- Make your voice heard. The department set up a brief survey – http://dcbspage.org/RxStories – for consumers to ask questions and share their stories about rising prescription drug prices. Drug prices play a major role in health care decisions of Oregonians and the cost of many prescription drugs have steadily increased in the past 10 years. The department wants to know what questions you have about the cost of prescription drugs and how has it affected you and your family.
- Tune in to the hearing. The Department of Consumer and Business Services will host the public hearing via Zoom: http://dcbspage.org/RXDRUGPRICEHEARING2021. There will be opportunities to provide public testimony during the hearing. There will be invited panels on these topics:
- Approval of Aduhelm for Alzheimer’s
- Patient assistance programs and co-pay accumulators
The Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act (ORS 646A.689) directed the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services to establish a transparency program to accept reports and disclose certain information from prescription drug manufacturers, health insurance carriers, and consumers on drug prices.
The goal of the program is to provide accountability for prescription drug pricing through the notice and disclosure of specific drug costs and price information from pharmaceutical manufacturers, health insurers, and consumers.
The Division of Financial Regulation is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit dfr.oregon.gov and dcbs.oregon.gov. Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services
CMS seeks public input on plan to expand Oregon Project Independence, create Family Caregiver Assistance Program
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is seeking public comment on an Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) application to apply for Medicaid funding to expand Oregon Project Independence and create a Family Caregiver Assistance Program. Both programs serve older adults and people with disabilities.
The application, which is being made through the Oregon Health Authority to CMS, is an 1115 demonstration waiver. The programs to be expanded and created are offered by the ODHS Office of Aging and People with Disabilities.
The federal comment period on the application extends through Dec. 16, 2021. To learn more about how to comment visit the CMS web page on the comment period.
Oregon has a track record of innovating programs to serve older adults and adults with disabilities, but gaps remain in Oregon’s system, especially for individuals with limited income. These Oregonians are at risk of requiring Medicaid when they need long-term care services and supports.
Nearly 800,000 Oregonians are age 65 and older. By 2030, this population is projected to increase by 25 percent. For those age 85 and older, and most at risk of needing Medicaid long-term care services and supports, the population is estimated to increase by 33 percent in the next 10 years, according to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.
The 1115 demonstration waiver would provide the following service expansions with Medicaid funding beginning in July 2022 for a five-year period:
• Oregon Project Independence would expand to serve 4,500 Oregonians, up from about 2,350 currently served. The federal matching funds will also permit local programs to serve additional younger adults with disabilities, whose participation has been limited to only one-third of Oregon counties.
Oregon Project Independence services include case management, in-home support and personal care services, adult day services, home delivered meals, assisted transportation, assistive technology, and other supports.
About $5 million in general funds that have been allocated by the Oregon Legislature for this program would not be matched. This ensures that the ODHS Office of Aging and People with Disabilities can continue to serve Oregonians who would not be eligible for the Medicaid-funded program introduced with the 1115 demonstration waiver.
• A Family Caregiver Assistance Program would be created to support qualifying Oregonians, whose family members provide them with care in their own homes, through a combination of state and federal funds. Oregonians who receive this assistance would be eligible to receive services and supports totaling no more than $500 per month, with an annual increase for inflation.
Oregonians served by this program would be able to choose from a list of services including caregiver respite, adult day services, transportation, assistive technology, caregiver training and education, and other services that the consumer finds compatible with the caregiving relationship they have with their caregiver.
This program would not replace the Older Americans Act funded Family Caregiver services. Instead, it would build on that program to serve additional individuals.
Additional information about the application may be found on the ODHS 1115 Medicaid Demonstration Waiver webpage. Included on the page are fact sheets that provide more information on the hypothesis being tested, the methodology, and the projected cost savings. — Oregon Department of Human Services
Chiloquin Man Dies After Crashing into Cow
A Chiloquin man died Nov. 19 after crashing into a cow on Modoc Point road. David Eugene Pelton, 57, was driving about 12:30 a.m. when he struck the bovine in the roadway near the intersection of Modoc Point and Toqua roads, according to the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office. Pelton died at the scene. The crash remains under investigation, according to the sheriff’s office.
Police Officer and Suspect Shot in Gladstone
Authorities say a police officer and a suspect were shot in Clackamas County, Oregon. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office says both the officer, a Gladstone police sergeant, and the suspect were expected to survive. The shooting happened late Monday.
Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating, including the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, the Oregon State Police and the Gladstone and Happy Valley police departments.
State Report Finds Oregon’s Aging Workforce Trend Expected To Accelerate
An October report by the Oregon Employment Department found the share of aging workers age 55 and older has tripled across the state over the past three decades — while the total number of jobs grew only about 50%.
According to the report, these aging workers held slightly more than 10% of jobs in the state in 1992, but by 2019, that number increased to 24%. The report cited that the large Baby Boomer generation, now 55 and over, are more likely to continue in the labor force at that age than previous generations.
“It’s important to consider the implications for businesses’ future ability to find enough workers,” Gail Krumenauer, state employment economist and author of the report, told the Business Tribune. “We’re already in a situation, with an unemployment rate at 4.4%, that is really low by historical standards. Employers are currently having widespread difficulty finding all the workers that they’d like to hire or need to hire.”
Many of these aging workers do plan to retire within the next decade — retiring their skillsets and knowledge, as well — and business owners will need to replace them somehow.
“Even though we should see some of that current (hiring) difficulty get alleviated in the coming months, in the longer-term with more workers hoping to retire in the coming years, that’s going to create a different but ongoing source of difficulty for them to have enough available workforce,” Krumenauer said.
The report found this aging workforce trend can be expected to accelerate in the near future. It also found the pace of retirements will quicken in industries that have higher shares of aged workers. In Oregon, the healthcare industry has the most aged workers, the report found — and rural counties have even more aged workers.
Oregon Auctioning Off Contents Of Unclaimed Safe Deposit Boxes on Black Friday
The Oregon State Treasury hopes you’ll see what Oregonians have left inside their old safe deposit boxes this Black Friday.
The auction will feature 89 lots of unclaimed property, items once cherished but now unclaimed or forgotten. Included in the auction is a five-piece silver coin set featuring members of the Portland Trail Blazers’ 1990-91 team. There are also gold watches, silver bars, collectable stamps and graded baseball cards.
“We’ve had these for almost four years now and the banks had them for two to five years before they send them to us,” said Claudia Ciobanu, trust property director at the Oregon State Treasury. “So at some point it’s just unmanageable to hang on to all of them, but our preference is that we give the owners their contents intact.”
Past auctions have fetched $120,000. Money raised goes into the state’s Common School Fund. There, the principal amount from each sale is held for the rightful owners. Interest earned goes to Oregon’s K-12 public schools.
One thing the state will never sell or dispose of are military medals. Instead, they’ll post photos on the treasury’s website where people can search for them.
“We really hope that either the medal earners themselves or their families come forward and get those,” said Ciobanu.
Around $80 million in unclaimed funds are reported to the state every year. To see if any of it belongs to you, just go to treasury’s website and look up your name.