Willamette Valley News, Friday 1/13 – Explosion and Structure Fire From Illegal Hash Oil Operation Near Lowell, Eugene Resident Wins $1 Million Prize, as Mega Millions Jackpot Soars to $1.35 Billion

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

Friday, January 13, 2023

Willamette Valley Weather

Explosion and Structure Fire From Illegal Butane Hash Oil Operation Near Lowell

On 01/12/2023 the Lane County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of multiple explosions at a property in the 38000 blk of Place Rd. near Lowell.

Upon arrival, it was discovered that a shop on the back of the property was engulfed in flames. Responding firefighters were able to extinguish the fire prior to it spreading to neighboring properties and surrounding forest land.

Evidence at the scene indicated that the shop was being used as a Butane Hash Oil processing site. Investigators from the Lane County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on the property this afternoon. Substantial quantities of marijuana and equipment used to manufacture Butane Hash Oil were located at the property.

The property owner, 51-year-old Danny Billows Jr. is facing charges including Unlawful Manufacture Marijuana and Reckless Endangering.

Clandestine labs such as these pose an extreme hazard to the communities in which they operate. Misuse of hazardous chemicals not only carry the risk of explosion but poison the environment when not properly maintained and disposed. Had an explosion of this magnitude occurred during dry weather, the spread of fire would likely cause catastrophic impacts to the community.

Investigators from the Oregon State Fire Marshall’s Office and Lane County Land Management Division are additionally investigating this case.

Eugene Resident Wins $1 Million Prize, as Mega Millions Jackpot Soars to $1.35 Billion

Record breaking jackpots also drive ticket sales for Oregon retailers.

Salem, Ore. –  The Eugene winner of Tuesday’s $1 million Mega Millions ticket claimed their prize Wednesday after matching five of the six numbers drawn. Zehao C. purchased the ticket at the Jackson’s Food Store at 274 Coburg Road in Eugene on Monday. 

Since no one has won the Mega Millions jackpot since October 14, 2022, the prize for Friday’s drawing climbs to an estimated $1.35 billion. It’s the second-largest Mega Millions jackpot in history. 

Record-breaking jackpots also drive ticket sales for Oregon retailers, which result in added commissions. In this case, the Eugene retailer will receive a $10,000 bonus for selling the $1 million winning ticket.  

Since Saturday, when the Mega Millions jackpot reached $1 billion, the Oregon Lottery has sold over $3.89 million in tickets. Approximately a third of those sales will be returned to state beneficiaries to support economic development, education, veteran services and more. 

Mega Millions is a multi-state jackpot operated by 45 states, plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

The Oregon Lottery recommends that you always sign the back of your winning ticket to ensure you can claim your prize. In the event of winning a jackpot, players should consult with a trusted financial planner or similar professional to develop a plan for their winnings. Players also have a year to claim their prize. 

Since the Oregon Lottery began selling tickets on April 25, 1985, it has earned nearly $15 billion for economic development, public education, outdoor school, state parks, veteran services, and watershed enhancements. For more information on the Oregon Lottery visit www.oregonlottery.org

Nominate an Oregon Regional Teacher of the Year!

The Oregon Department of Education, in partnership with the Oregon Lottery, is pleased to announce the continuation of Oregon Regional Teacher of the Year to honor exemplary educators in every region of the state!

• Nominations are open statewide through February 28, 2023.
• Teachers will submit their applications by March 31, 2023.
• Oregon Education Service Districts will select a winner from their region.
• Regional Teachers of the Year will be honored across the state in September 2023!
• In October 2023 one of the Regional Teachers of the Year will be named the 2023-24 Oregon Teacher of the Year and will be eligible to apply for the honor of the National Teacher of the Year!

Regional Teachers of the Year will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and will be celebrated across the state. The 2023-24 Oregon Teacher of the Year will receive a $10,000 cash prize (with a matching $5,000 going to their school) and serve as a spokesperson and representative for all Oregon teachers. Anyone can nominate a teacher! All Oregonians are encouraged to nominate their favorite teacher today at: oregonteacheroftheyear.org

ODOT Seeks Feedback On Potential Impacts To Perkins Peninsula Park and Fern Ridge Wildlife Area Along Hwy 126 Widening Project

Oregon Department of Transportation is inviting the public to learn about potential impacts to the Perkins Peninsula Park and the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area. — OR 126: Veneta to Eugene NEPA Study

Project area map

As part of completing the environmental studies for the OR Hwy 126 Veneta to Eugene Widening Study, ODOT has evaluated the impacts to the parks in the project area and are asking for public feedback or comments.

The impacts are outlined in the 4(f) de minimis memos prepared by the project team. Please review and let us know if you have questions or comments on our findings.

The public comment period is open now until January 31, 2023 for the following areas:

ODOT says they are exploring options to improve the safety and mobility on OR 126 between Veneta and Eugene. 

This effort is part of an National Environmental Policy Act study. As part of the study, we are looking at the impacts of the recommended solutions from the 2013 Fern Ridge Corridor Plan and how to balance them with the potential benefits to the community. 

Visit the project webpage to learn more!

Oregon, IRS to start processing tax returns January 23

The Oregon Department of Revenue will begin processing 2022 state income tax returns on January 23, 2023, the same day the IRS will begin processing federal returns. Although some taxpayers have already submitted their returns, processing doesn’t start until the tax season officially begins.

Returns will be processed in the order they are received. However, as in years past, the department won’t be issuing personal income tax refunds until after February 15.

A refund hold is part of the department’s tax fraud prevention efforts and allows for confirmation that the amounts claimed on tax returns match what employers report on Forms W-2 and 1099. Once the department begins processing returns, filers can check Where’s My Refund? on Revenue Online see the status of their refund.

E-filing is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their refund. On average, taxpayers who e-file their returns and request their refund via direct deposit receive their refund sooner than those who file paper returns and request paper refund checks.

The department reminds taxpayers that taking a few easy steps in the next few weeks can make preparing their 2022 tax return easier in 2023.

Free and reduced-cost filing options.
Several free or low-cost preparation options for both federal and Oregon tax returns are available for taxpayers who meet the qualifications.

Free tax preparation services are available for low- to moderate-income taxpayers through AARP and CASH Oregon. United Way also offers free tax help through their MyFreeTaxes program. Visit the Department of Revenue website to take advantage of the software and free offers and get more information about free tax preparation services.

Forms and copies of past returns
Taxpayers can order copies of past returns, letters, or other correspondence—from 2015 to current—through their Revenue Online account. They can also order and pay for these, or older documents, over the phone at 800-356-4222.

Anyone who needs a personal income tax return booklet can download and print it from the department’s website at www.oregon.gov/dor/forms They can also order a copy online, by calling 503-378-4988 or 800-356-4222, or by mailing their request—along with their name, phone number, and mailing address to the address below.

Forms
Oregon Department of Revenue
PO Box 14999
Salem, OR 97309-0990

Through Revenue Online, individuals can view letters sent to them by the department, initiate appeals, make payments, and submit questions. Visit Revenue Online on the Revenue website at www.oregon.gov/dor to learn more.

To check the status of your refund, or make payments, visit Revenue’s website. You can also call 800-356-4222 toll-free from an Oregon prefix (English or Spanish) or 503-378-4988 in Salem and outside Oregon. For TTY (hearing or speech impaired), we accept all relay calls.

Limited Time To Apply For Business Funding Grants To Assist Small Businesses Affected By COVID-19

Business Oregon has partnered with the CCD Business Development Corporation to offer $3 million in CDBG-CV Statewide Small Business and Microenterprise Grant Assistance (SBMA).

The program is funded with federal grant funds from the Oregon Community Development Block Grant program CARES Act funding for communities affected by COVID-19.

SBMA grants will be awarded between $2,500 – $30,000 per business. Microenterprises whose owner meets who meet low- and moderate-income (LMI) criteria can qualify for up to $10,000 in grant funding. Small businesses can qualify for $2,500 per LMI employee retained up to $30,000 in funding.

Eligibility Requirements: A microenterprise (five or fewer employees) or small business (more than five employees) that:

  • Was in business prior to March 8, 2019
  • Can document COVID-19 impact (lost revenue, mandated closures, workforce issues, supply complications, etc.)
  • Was generally stable/strong prior to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Has an owner and/or employees who meet low- and moderate-income (LMI) criteria

Limited time — The program will launch 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 23, and will close at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27. Applications for this grant program will be processed on a lottery basis.

At the time of application closure, all submitted applications will be randomized and processed. To register and apply, visit www.ccdbusiness.org/oregonsbma.

Technical assistance is available to assist with completing the application process. You may use Google Translate on the application registration and program webpages for non-English languages or please contact CCD Business Development Corporation at 1-888-263-0971 or oregonsbma@ccdbusiness.com for additional assistance.

Video tutorials for both small business and microenterprise applications, including helpful tips, are also available. The link to the YouTube playlist for the video tutorials can be found at on the CCD’s website.

Business Oregon, in partnership with CCD Business Development Corporation, will be hosting two virtual Q&A meetings about this grant opportunity on Friday, January 13 at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Register for the virtual Q&A meetings using this online form.

The SBMA grant award selections are expected in February 2023 and the funding is expected to be distributed to selected grantees in March 2023.

For more information, visit https://www.oregon.gov/biz/programs/SBMA/Pages/default.aspx

Hwy 101 Landslide Update – Hope To Have One Lane Open Today

State transportation officials hope to open one lane of U.S. 101 on Friday after the landslide early Monday led to a multi-day closure, but heavy rains in the forecast could disrupt their plans and leave residents of Oregon’s south coast further isolated.

The landslide happened around 3 a.m. Monday 12 miles south of Port Orford and caused a 200-yard section of the highway to collapse 15 feet and slide 12 feet west, the Oregon Department of Transportation said.

A contractor on Thursday was using rock and gravel to build a temporary lane through the collapsed section. If it opens, travelers should expect delays and slower speeds in that lane, the transportation department said.

“We’re hopeful the weather cooperates and we can get the temporary lane finished and open by Friday afternoon,” said Glen Pederson, the department’s district manager. “We know how critical U.S. 101 is for access to local essential services, and we thank south coast residents for their patience this week.”

Ongoing storms have drenched California and the southwest corner of Oregon over the past two weeks, cutting off power, flooding communities and prompting evacuations.

The National Weather Service issued a high surf warning for the southern Oregon coast on Thursday. Dangerously large waves of up to 35 feet are expected to smash into the shoreline until Friday morning, inundating beaches and creating life-threatening surf conditions, the weather service said.

The slide forced the shutdown of several miles of Highway 101 north and south of the slide early Monday.

Matt Noble, communications manager for ODOT, says a contractor is on the scene with staging equipment and materials for building a temporary lane through the collapsed area.

However, Noble says a forecast of steady rain over the coming days could destabilize the slope further, potentially causing the slide to shift again.

ODOT has implemented new drainage features near the slide to drain the anticipated rainwater. Noble says it’s unclear how these features will impact the road.

ODOT does not have a timeline for when the road will reopen. http://tripcheck.com

Medford Mail Tribune Ends All Operations Today

The Mail Tribune of Medford will shut down all news operations after more than a century of publishing under that name. Marking the end of an era, Medford’s longstanding local newspaper is ending all operations this week.  The Mail Tribune says its last edition will occur today… Friday, the 13th.

The Mail Tribune scaled back its printed newspapers in the past few years, reducing its size and its number of printed editions.  The paper stopped producing a print edition in September but lived on in a digital format.  The Tribune started in 1906 and merged with the Metro Mail in 1909 to form the Mail Tribune.

Those moves precede Wednesday’s announcement, as follows from its website this afternoon:

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce that as of Jan. 13, 2023, the Mail Tribune will cease all operations.

This was a difficult business decision; the shuttering of this institution is a real loss for all constituents in Southern Oregon.

Unfortunately, industry-wide reductions, and in some cases complete elimination of national advertising spends for newspapers (digital or printed editions), coupled with rising costs of content and the difficulty of hiring staff and managers have made continuing the Mail Tribune unsustainable.

The last published issue will be Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. Refunds due for unused portions of paid subscriptions will be issued within 60 days. We will be reaching out to our advertisers and vendors within the next couple of weeks.

Sincerely,

Steven Saslow

CEO | Publisher”

OHA– Prevention steps helped limit respiratory virus spread during holidays

But state official says hospitals still strained from high COVID-19, flu activity

PORTLAND, Ore. — Respiratory virus prevention steps such as masking and avoiding gatherings helped limit RSV, COVID-19 and influenza transmission over the holidays, but the state health officer and epidemiologist says Oregon isn’t out of the woods yet.

“While overall respiratory virus activity in our communities remains high and our hospital systems are still under extraordinary pressure, with some operating near, at or even above 100% capacity, we are seeing some improvements in respiratory virus hospitalizations,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., of Oregon Health Authority (OHA). “Unfortunately, our hospitals are not yet able to resume normal workflows.”

Sidelinger, speaking during OHA’s monthly COVID-19 media briefing this morning, thanked people in Oregon for taking the advice of health experts who implored them to wear masks, keep their distance from others, avoid indoor gatherings, and get flu and COVID shots to reduce transmission during the holidays.

“I know many of you made the tough decision to postpone or limit that family get-together or forego that holiday concert or play,” he said. “Please know our public health and health care partners appreciate your sacrifice.”

A recording of the briefing is available via YouTube at this link, or by clicking on the image below. Sidelinger’s comments are available at this link.

thumnail

RSV- The situation with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, has improved the most. Sidelinger said the state is well past the peak of RSV in children, which happened Nov. 19, and hospitalizations are decreasing rapidly.

“This is very important for pediatric hospital capacity because RSV causes severe disease mostly in young children, although it can also affect the elderly,” he said.

Influenza- Influenza activity remains high in both adults and children, Sidelinger said. The state passed the peak of flu season in adults Dec. 3, but hospitalizations in children have plateaued and are only starting to drop. But the situation will continue to improve, he predicted.

“We believe that adult influenza will continue to decline and that cases among children will begin to decrease more rapidly soon as well,” he said.

COVID-19- COVID-19-related hospitalizations remain high following a rapid increase in November, but they dropped in the last week. However, the most recent forecast from Oregon Health & Science University’s Office of Advanced Analytics predicts a small increase in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations into February due to the highly contagious COVID-19 Omicron variant known as XBB.1.5.

“OHA and its health care and local public health partners are keeping an eye on the new XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant that is spreading rapidly in the northeastern United States as it outcompetes other variants,” Sidelinger said, adding that it’s “not yet widespread in Oregon.”

The best ways for people to protect themselves from all three circulating viruses continue to be getting a flu shot and COVID-19 booster – the booster is protective against XBB.1.5 – as well as “tried-and-true measures” that include wearing masks, limiting indoor gatherings, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands and staying home when sick.

“Every one of us has a role to play in slowing the spread of these viruses as we go through winter, and that will help our health care system ensure that hospital beds are available for those who need them most,” he said.

Mpox (monkeypox)

Sidelinger also provided an update on Oregon’s response to the mpox outbreak that began last summer. He said OHA will shift the frequency that it reports data on its mpox website from weekly to monthly after the number of cases dropped to fewer than five per month. He attributed the low case counts to the effectiveness of the Jynneos mpox vaccine and an emphasis on encouraging health care providers to integrate the vaccine into routine health maintenance for high-risk individuals.

“We are not quite ready to declare victory against mpox, as we expect to keep seeing a handful of cases over the coming months,” Sidelinger said. “But we are in a much better place than we were in August and October, and we will continue to work with our partners to promote testing and vaccination among those at risk for infection.”

OHA offers testing waivers for social workers

Oregon Health Authority is offering a new program to waive exam fees for individuals who take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) social work licensing exam.

The program is offered through an agreement with the Association of Social Work Boards, the primary examination agency. Only people approved by the Oregon State Board of Licensed Social Workers are eligible for the waiver.

The ASWB exam is required to gain licensure as a social worker in Oregon.

The purpose of the waiver is to remove barriers for qualified individuals as part of a larger effort to rebuild and retool a behavioral health workforce that was decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those registering to take the exam between Jan. 12, 2023, and Feb.  19, 2024, will have exam fees waived for all attempts.

The funding comes from $60 million allocated by the Oregon Legislature under House Bill 4071 (2022) to develop a diverse behavioral health workforce in licensed and non-licensed occupations through scholarships, loan repayment, professional development, other incentives, and peer workforce development.

The following social worker licensure tracks are covered by the program:

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • Licensed Master of Social Work
  • Baccalaureate Social Worker

The total program grant is up to $130,000 that will reimburse the $230 fee for the bachelor’s and master’s exam and $260 for the advanced generalist or clinical exam for all tests taken during the prescribed timeframe.

The waivers will be made automatically. Questions about the waiver program can be directed to: h.workforceinitiative@odhsoha.oregon.gov“>bh.workforceinitiative@odhsoha.oregon.gov.

Information about requirements to become eligible to take the exam can be found at the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers website: https://www.oregon.gov/blsw/pages/index.aspx.

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