Willamette Valley News, Tuesday 1/11 – City Closes Homeless Camp at 13th & Chambers and Relocates it to Hwy 99, Walterville Elementary School Most Likely Closed Rest of Year

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Today– Cloudy, with a high near 59. South wind 3 to 6 mph.

Wednesday– A 10 percent chance of rain after 4pm. Patchy fog before 8am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 51. South wind 3 to 5 mph.

Thursday– A chance of rain before 10am, then a chance of showers after 10am. Patchy fog before 10am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 52. South southwest wind 3 to 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Friday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 51.

Saturday– Partly sunny, with a high near 51.

City Closes Homeless Camp at 13th & Chambers and Relocates it to Hwy 99

After severe winter weather, the City of Eugene says the temporary homeless camp on 13th and Chambers will be relocated to an indoor building at the dawn-to-dawn site on Highway 99 in north Eugene.

The City says after recent storms, people simply can’t live at the 13th and Chambers homeless camp because of standing water and mud. So, the City is working with homeless individuals to relocate tents to the drier area on Highway 99.

The City says the hoop building will be heated and campers will have access to food, showers and laundry. Each occupant will be provided with a new sleeping bag and tent with standing room.

“These things don’t happen overnight,” explains City of Eugene spokesperson Kelly McIver. “This was something we were able to come up with St. Vincent de Paul. It’s not an opportunity that’s always there because of how that building has been used in the past. But also, the availability of the partnership between the City and St. Vincent de Paul.”

McIver says the safe sleep site at 410 Garfield Street is in its final stages of preparation and will be ready to receive occupants in the next several weeks. Starting January 18, the homeless camp on 13th and Chambers will be closed to everyone. McIver says people there at the site will need to complete their transition to a new location by that date.

Walterville Elementary School Most Likely Closed Rest of Year Due to Building Being Flooded

Because of serious flooding that happened at Walterville Elementary School in Springfieldt he night of Jan. 5 and day of Jan. 6, the district does not anticipate returning to the school building for the rest of the school year. School Principal Nicki Gorham shared the news with families in an email Monday.

“I am confident that this news comes as much of a shock to you as it did to me,” Gorham wrote. “After meeting with our district leaders and the restoration experts, I can share that it is a decision that was made with the health and safety of our students and staff at the heart.”

Last week, Lane County was experiencing heavy rain and a flood watch. On Wednesday night, Potter Creek, which runs behind Walterville Elementary, breached its banks and flooded the school with several inches of water in the halls and classrooms. At that point, the Springfield School District was forced to cancel the school’s classes for the remainder of the week, with the promise of an update Monday.

“The contamination level of the water that entered our building on Thursday, coupled with the porous nature of our well-loved building is resulting in clean up that will take many months,” Gorham said in the email. “It will however, mean that our community will retain this beloved building and that when reoccupied we will be assured that it is safe and healthy for all.”

Starting Tuesday, the school will be transitioning to an online teaching and learning model, similar to when buildings were closed last school year. District and school staff will be meeting students through Google meet online in the short term, while they discuss options for a return to in-person learning.

“Everyone, here on the Walterville team, and our district are committed to finding solutions to bring students together in-person for the best educational experience,” Gorham said. “In the coming weeks, we will be evaluating alternative learning options that allow for in-person education for all Walterville students.”

Police Still Seeking Suspect in Armed Robbery Last Seen In West Eugene

Eugene Police are looking for an armed robbery suspect last seen in west Eugene Sunday afternoon. Police said they responded to an armed robbery at Diamond Deli on the 700 block of Danebo Avenue around 3 p.m.

They said upon arrival they contacted the store manager who was working at the time. The store manager reportedly told officers the suspect is a white man in his early 20’s, around 5’6″ and 120 pounds. He was seen wearing a black beanie, blue face mask, black hoodie, white shirt, blue jeans, and white and black sneakers.

According to police, the manager said the suspect demanded cash and threatened the manager with a firearm. The suspect then reportedly took an undisclosed amount of money from the cash register and left the scene on foot.

Police said there is no ongoing threat to the community. They are working on recovering surveillance footage from the scene. Anyone with information can call 541-682-5111.

Oregon Records More Than 18,500 New COVID-19 Cases Over Weekend and 18 new deaths

PORTLAND, Ore. — There are 18 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,779, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

OHA reported 18,538 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 478,203.

The 18 new deaths and 18,538 new cases reported today include data recorded by counties for the three-day period between Jan. 7 and Jan. 9.

The state has a positive test rate of just over 22% as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increased to 692, but hospitalizations were still about 40% below their peak during the summer surge of the delta variant.

Health officials diagnosed 47,272 coronavirus cases over the past week, three times as many as the previous week. Eighteen new deaths were announced Monday

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (28), Benton (600), Clackamas (1926), Clatsop (95), Columbia (146), Coos (214), Crook (73), Curry (91), Deschutes (1337), Douglas (136), Grant (8), Harney (5), Hood River (86), Jackson (898), Jefferson (181), Josephine (202), Klamath (84), Lake (1), Lane (1367), Lincoln (67), Linn (448), Malheur (33), Marion (1366), Morrow (46), Multnomah (4393), Polk (267), Sherman (1), Tillamook (53), Umatilla (214), Union (102), Wallowa (10), Wasco (25), Washington (3781) and Yamhill (254).

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 692, which is 33 more than yesterday. There are 138 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is 11 more than yesterday. Locally Klamath County reported 84 new cases, Lakeview just 1 and Jackson County reported a whopping 898 new cases.

Daily testing numbers reach near an all time high

COVID-19 testing is in high demand, and OHA is recording a high volume of tests being performed. The number of COVID-19 tests reported for Jan. 7, at 51,996, is the third highest single daily count reported statewide during the pandemic.

For anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested regardless of your vaccination status.  You should stay home and away from others while you wait for the results of your COVID-19 test. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should also seek testing regardless of vaccination status. Fully vaccinated people should be tested five to seven days after their last exposure. People who are not fully vaccinated should get tested when they find out they are a close contact. If their test result is negative, they should get tested again five to seven days after their last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop. Learn more here.

The Conquer Covid in Klamath campaign announces its Grand Prize winner as well as its Runner Up prize winners.

Traci Reed of Klamath Falls was the Grand Prize winner of her choice of a new Dodge Ram Truck or new Dodge Durango SUV. Leticia McGonigle of Midland was the first runner-up and won a new Hot Tub. Douglas Anderson of
Klamath Falls was the second runner-up and won $5,000 toward a dream vacation. Essie Krueger of Klamath Falls was the third runner-up and won $3,000

The Conquer Covid in Klamath Campaign has now officially ended and we would like to thank everyone that entered. Covid vaccine clinics continue to offer the Covid vaccine at no charge to area residents. Log on to Klamath County Public Health for a list of available locations.

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Oregon Housing Agency Says Changes Made In Process After Rental Assistance Checks Debacle

Oregon Housing and Community Services says it has given out more than $222 million in federal rental assistance, but housing providers say some of the checks they have received cannot be cashed. One housing provider says they are getting checks with the agency’s name on it, but the owner’s name and the property listed are incorrect. So the check can’t be cashed.

“It’s emotional for our owners because they’re losing money, especially for our small owners where they just own one or two houses; they rely on that to pay their mortgage,” says an accounting manager for a Central Oregon housing provider.

As an account manager, she oversees assistance checks that come in from OHCS. She first noticed an issue months ago, before she received any checks in the mail.

“We are getting emails for other properties, other tenants that are not ours,” she said. “I wrote them back, letting them know this is not our tenants.”

But despite emailing and calling Public Partnership LLC, PPL, the third-party vendor OHCS hired to make the process of getting checks out to people in need easier, she still received eight checks with the wrong information. The checks range in value from $4,000 to $11,000. The most recent wrong check was dated Dec. 15.

Lauren Dressen, the lead of the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program, OERAP, has known about problems like this for months and says they have made changes in the last few weeks to keep it from happening.

Until recently, landlords wouldn’t get contacted until right before a check was sent out. Now, Dressen and her team have made changes so that landlords are alerted right away and can make necessary changes in the beginning. They also have to verify information throughout the process now.

“We have implemented a new, a tighter process in the actual system of how the landlord information is verified. In the past, it was on paper in our manual, something that we did a lot of training on, that you have to verify landlord information. Now, we have made a change in the system where they actually have to do that before they can move an application forward,” said Dressen. “We have heard some reports that checks have gone to incorrect landlords. We are really hoping that with this process being a lot tighter and really being in line with OHCS’ process and procedure, not letting there be any loopholes around that, that we will see this decrease a lot.”

Dressen says the changes were implemented a couple of weeks ago. But she is confident this change will fix the issue people are experiencing.

“I will say, we can’t say 100% that this will never happen again. PPL isn’t the only entity that is still cutting checks at this point. We are doing everything at this point to put guardrails on this process, to ensure to the best of our ability, that we have taken a continuous improvement approach to this program. We are trying to listen to what our customers are saying,” Dressen said.

Oregon Department of Transportation’s Strategic Action Plan To Focus on Safety

Safety is vital to every transportation program and project – and a key part of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Strategic Action Plan. Much of the estimated $1.2 billion in additional transportation funding on its way to Oregon from the recently passed federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will focus on safety.

This new funding will reinforce existing efforts and add new ones to improve safety for all of us as we travel around our communities and our state – whether we are walking, biking, driving or taking public transit. The act reinforces existing federal transportation safety programs and introduces two more urgent safety needs:
 One is to prevent death and injury from crashes involving motor vehicles striking other vehicles and individuals stopped at the roadside – this aligns with Oregon’s “Move over” law and other efforts to improve the safety of our emergency responders on the roads.

 The other is to educate the public on law enforcement practices during traffic stops and to train law enforcement on improving the safety of interactions with the public during traffic stops. This includes reducing racial profiling in traffic stops and aligns with ODOT’s goal of improving equity in Oregon’s transportation system.

Much of the additional funds for safety will support our All Roads Transportation Safety program, which uses data and national research to select the best projects that will effectively reduce the most fatal and serious injury crashes on all roads in Oregon.

Merkley Cancels Remote Town Hall Today

A remote town hall scheduled for Tuesday by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has been delayed and will instead be held Tuesday, Feb. 1. According to Merkley, the rescheduled event is due to a “sudden change in his schedule.”

According to Merkley, will update constituents on his work, answer questions and invite suggestions about how to tackle the challenges facing Oregon and America. The remote and telephone event will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Ground Beef RECALL due to Possible E. Coli Contamination

Interstate Meat Dist. Inc., an Oregon business, is recalling approximately 28,356 pounds of ground beef products due to the possibility they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced yesterday.

The raw, ground beef items were produced on Dec. 20, 2021, and bear establishment number “EST. 965” inside the USDA mark of inspection or printed next to the time stamp and use or freeze by date. These items were shipped to retail locations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.  

Products subject to the recall are all packaged in tubes known as “chubs.” Sold at Walmart, Winco, Albertsons, Krogers, and FredMeyer.

The recall is the result of product that was purchased and analyzed by a third-party laboratory that tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. FSIS determined the results were actionable.

Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a healthcare provider. E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2–8 days (3–4 days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ refrigerators or freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

Dole is recalling some of its bagged salads, including salad greens distributed in Oregon and Washington, due to concerns over listeria contamination.

The voluntary recall includes Dole-branded and private-label salads processed at its Soledad, California, site and containing iceberg lettuce, the Food and Drug Administration notice said.

Products subject to the voluntary recall from the Soledad facility are identified by a product lot code beginning with the letter “B” and a “Best if Used By” date between Dec. 23, 2021, and Jan. 8, 2022. The product lot codes are located in the upper-right-hand corner of the package.

(Dole also recalled salads and salad mixes from its Springfield, Ohio, facility but those were not distributed in
Oregon or Washington, as the Soledad products were.).

Environmental Group Sues Federal Agency For Failing To Protect Humpback Whales From Deadly Fishing Gear

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the National Marine Fisheries Service Monday, accusing the agency of failing to protect endangered Pacific humpback whales from deadly entanglements in sablefish pot gear off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

Here’s the center’s news release on the lawsuit:

Monday’s lawsuit challenges the federal permit given to the fishery in December to kill and injure endangered humpback whales without any changes to avoid harming whales. Fishing gear entanglements are a leading threat to endangered humpbacks that migrate along the West Coast, where 48,521 square nautical miles were designated as critical habitat in April.

“These migrating whales shouldn’t have to dodge deadly commercial fishing gear, especially in national marine sanctuaries,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center attorney. “This is critical habitat for endangered humpbacks, but it’s full of long strings of fishing pots. It’s outrageous that the Fisheries Service rubber-stamped the status quo despite growing threats to these whales. Humpbacks are our magnificent, acrobatic neighbors, and we need to stop the increasing deaths in commercial fishing gear.”

As climate change alters migration patterns and availability of food for whales, it’s harder for endangered humpbacks to avoid commercial fishing gear. Until last month, the West Coast fisheries for the bottom-dwelling sablefish — also known as butterfish or black cod — had operated for five years without authorization to take whales under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

According to Fisheries Service estimates, the sablefish fishery on average kills or seriously injures about two humpback whales every year. The fishery uses 2-mile-long strings of 30 to 50 pots. Commercial fisheries in total entangle 25 humpback whales annually off the U.S. West Coast; more than half of the entanglements are not identified as being tied to a specific fishery.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, focuses on several deficiencies in the Fisheries Service’s analyses of the sablefish fishery’s impact. These include outdated humpback whale stock assessments, the failure to recognize the smallest humpback population — that winters in Central America — as distinct, and the failure to consider the Fisheries Service’s own analyses of the growing whale entanglement threat.

The Service found a 400% increase in humpback mortality and serious injury from human activities, including vessel strikes, since 2018 estimates.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a landmark law that recognized the “great international significance” of marine mammals, including their esthetic, recreational and economic importance. The law prohibits harming marine mammals except under specific circumstances. Commercial fisheries that occasionally or frequently kill or seriously injure endangered marine mammals must have only a negligible impact on the species or stock to get an incidental take permit.

To make fishing safer for whales and other imperiled animals, the Center proposed last month that the Fisheries Service require all fisheries that use pot gear to covert to new ropeless or “pop-up” gear within in the next five years. The petition requests that the agency prioritize the transition in national marine sanctuaries.

Most trap and pot fisheries use static vertical lines that can wrap around whales’ mouths, fins or tails, depleting their energy and drowning them as they drag the heavy traps. Pop-up traps use lift bags or buoys on coiled ropes triggered by remote or time-release sensors to float the traps to the surface, eliminating those static entangling lines.

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A 17-year-old was reported missing in Salem and detectives say the teen might be the victim of an online catfishing scheme.

Ezra Mayhugh, 17, was last seen on October 15, 2021 after being dropped off in downtown Salem by a friend, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. He was reported as a runaway the following day when he did not return home.

Investigators say he might be in Washington or California. They hope to reunite Ezra safely with family members.

He’s described as about 5-foot 11-inches tall, weighing 130 pounds, with blonde hair and brown eyes.

If you have had contact with Mayhugh since October 15 or have other helpful information on his whereabouts, the sheriff’s office asks you to contact Detective M.J. Sphoon at 503-588-6808 or to submit a tip by texting TIPMCSO and your tip to 847411.


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