Willamette Valley News, Monday 5/8 – Fire at Eugene Target Store on W 11th, Five-Year Parks Levy Totaling Over $26.5 Million On Eugene Ballot

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

Monday, May 8, 2023

Willamette Valley Weather

Eugene Springfield Fire Responds to Fire at Eugene Target Store on W 11th

Eugene Springfield Fire responded to a reported fire alarm at Target 4575 W 11th Ave in Eugene.  Arriving firefighters found smoke in the back storage area with an alarm sounding and evacuation underway.

The crew called for a full first alarm bringing additional fire crews and command staff to the scene to support evacuation and fire operations.

The fire was located in a rubbish compactor that firefighters were able to move away from the building.  There were no injuries reported.

There was no significant damage to the structure, but crews remained on the scene for some time to check for sure extension, evacuate smoke and prevent further damage to the building or its inventory. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.  

A Five-Year Parks Levy Totaling Over $26.5 Million On Eugene Ballot

In less than two weeks, Eugene voters will be asked whether to approve a five-year parks levy totaling over $26.5 million.

Ballot Measure 20-343 will appear in Eugene’s special election on May 16. The measure authorizes a five-year levy for parks and recreation funding.

According to the City of Eugene, the levy will continue “core services” provided under the last parks levy from 2018, while increasing funding for additional services. Services like park safety and security provided by park ambassadors and Eugene Police park resource officers; cleanup efforts of graffiti and other park rule violations; and general park maintenance like trash pickup and fixing park infrastructure.

Terry Smith, board president of the Eugene Parks Foundation, said the levy is crucial to supporting the city’s parks.

“The parks levy pays for one quarter of the budget to maintain and operate Eugene’s park system, including the things that the Parks Foundation builds and constructs in the parks,” he said.

If passed, the city said the average taxpayer would pay $67 a year over the levy’s five-year period. The levy tax rate is estimated to be 26 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value. The levy is an average increase of $26 a year over the 2018 parks levy, the city said in a mailer sent out to residents.

Smith said maintaining parks is crucial to keeping available an important public system.

“They’re the places we come together with our friends and family and our communities and get to see each other and get to be outside and recreate — that’s what they’re for,” he said.

Back in February, the Eugene City Council voted five to one to refer the parks levy to voters. The lone holdout was Councilmember Mike Clark. At the council’s February 13 work session, Clark said the council’s decision to increase the levy to $26.5 million from the 2018 level of $15.7 million will not be well received by voters.

“I believe that this measure had a chance at the ballot if the amount of money we asked for had not changed,” he said at the meeting.

He also tied things back to the controversial natural gas ban pushed through by the council without having voters weigh in.

“I think, frankly, with last week’s refusal to allow people to vote on the ban on gas infrastructure, I really will be radically surprised if this passes,” Clark said in February.

LCSO CASE #23-2400 — Fatal Vehicle Crash

On 05/04/2023 at about 8:23pm deputies from the Lane County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of a single vehicle crash on Peninsula Rd. near Big Fall Creek Rd.  A passenger in the vehicle was found to be deceased and the driver had fled on foot.  Initial investigation reveals that a silver Nissan Pathfinder left the roadway and struck a utility pole. 

Deputies, along with assistance from the Oregon State Police searched for the driver and he was located a short distance away.   The driver was also found to have been injured and he was transported to an area hospital.

Intoxication is being investigated as a possible factor in the crash.  Additional details will be released as they become available. 

Lane County voters: remember to sign the return envelope and return your ballots early

Voters are urged to return their ballots as early as possible to ensure they are received at Lane County Elections by the 8:00 p.m. deadline on Tuesday, May 16. 

In order to be counted, ballots must be received at Lane County Elections by:

  • Regular mail. Ballots must be postmarked no later than May 16, 2023 and received no later than May 23, 2023 to be counted.
  • A 24/7 ballot drop box.
  • Lane County Elections. Ballots can be turned in directly to the Lane County Elections Office during business hours.

“Oregon has made great strides toward ensuring that all eligible voters have the opportunity to return their ballots in a way that is most convenient for them,” said Lane County Clerk Dena Dawson. “That said, it is still critical for voters to be aware of the ballot return deadlines and make a plan to ensure their ballots are received in time so their votes can be counted.”

Voters must also remember to sign their ballot return envelopes before mailing or returning their completed ballot to Lane County Elections.

The signature is a security measure used to verify identity. Election workers who have received training in handwriting analysis compare it to signatures in the voter registration record. A ballot may only be counted if the signatures match.

If you forget to sign the envelope or your signature does not match, you will receive a notice from Lane County Elections advising you of the issue and how to fix or “cure” it. You have until the 21st day after the election to cure your signature issue and have your ballot counted.

What can you do to ensure your signature matches?

  1. Sign your natural signature. If you don’t usually sign with a middle initial don’t sign your ballot envelope with it. Election workers are trained to look for specific characteristics within each signature. If you think your signature has changed significantly, contact Lane County Elections.
  2. Don’t sign another person’s name. Even if someone gives you permission to sign, or you have power of attorney, it is against the law in Oregon to sign another person’s name on a return envelope. It’s forgery.
  3. Request help if you have difficulty signing.  If it is difficult for you to sign, on either a temporary or permanent basis, you can complete a signature attestation form and return it to Lane County Elections along with a new voter registration form.  Completing these forms will allow you to use a signature stamp or other indicator that represents your signature.
  4. Correct a mistake if you accidentally sign your name on someone in your household’s envelope. If you and another person in your household sign each other’s return ballot envelopes, simply place a line through the incorrect signatures and sign the correct envelopes.

Voters with questions can email elections@lanecountyor.gov or call 541-682-4234.

About the Lane County Elections Office:

The Elections Office, located at 275 W. 10th Avenue in Eugene, is responsible for conducting elections in Lane County.  The Elections Office manages voter registration, the processing of mail ballots, recruitment and training of election workers, and certification of elections.

Lane County Elections launches new ballot return dashboard

The Lane County Elections Office is offering voters a way to track ballot returns in Lane County. The new dashboard allows viewers to see how and where ballots were returned, how many have been returned, and how many ballots have signature challenges. Results will be published every few days, after ballots have gone through the full signature verification process.  

“We are very excited to introduce this new tracking tool to Lane County voters. It is the perfect complement to our 24/7 livestream, 8-Step Ballot Processing Guide, and tentative ballot processing schedule” said Lane County Clerk Dena Dawson. “Transparency is important to us and the ability for voters to see how elections are conducted, including ballot return data, will help build trust and get more people engaged in the democratic process.”

The dashboard can be viewed by visiting www.LaneCountyOR.gov/elections and selecting the “Ballot Returns Dashboard” button. The button appears on the right side of the screen on computers; those using mobile devices will need to scroll down. 

Voters with questions can email elections@lanecountyor.gov or call 541-682-4234.

About the Lane County Elections Office:

The Elections Office, located at 275 W. 10th Avenue in Eugene, is responsible for conducting elections in Lane County.  The elections office manages voter registration, the processing of mail ballots, recruitment and training of election workers, and certification of elections.

Oregon Department of Human Services recovers unused Pandemic-EBT benefits issued to ineligible students

  • ODHS has recovered $1.32 million of unused Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) benefits that were mistakenly issued to ineligible students.
  • $1.46 million of P-EB food benefits were mistakenly issued to approximately 3,700 students in Oregon. 
  • No one that used these mistakenly issued food benefits will be penalized. 

(Salem) – The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) has recovered $1.32 million of unused Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) benefits that were mistakenly issued to approximately 3,700 students in Oregon.

In total, $1.46 million of P-EBT food benefits were mistakenly issued. No one who used these mistakenly issued food benefits will be penalized. 

The agency is working in partnership with the school districts and the Oregon Department of Education to notify families. Notices will be mailed to impacted households as quickly as possible. 

“We know that this can be confusing for families right now,” said Claire Seguin (she/her), interim director of the ODHS Self-Sufficiency Programs. “Families who were mistakenly issued these food benefits were told that they were eligible for the program and entitled to use the benefits to buy food for the students and children in their households. We apologize for any confusion this has caused. We want to assure anyone who has already used these mistakenly issued food benefits that they will not be penalized in any way.” 

The mistakenly issued benefits are a result of an error made by Oregon’s P-EBT vendor that caused benefits to be incorrectly issued to some of the same students who incorrectly received benefits in 2021EditSign.

Who is eligible for P-EBT food benefits

Children are eligible for Summer 2022 P-EBT if they:

  • Were eligible to receive free or reduced-price National School Lunch Program meals or attended a Community Eligibility Provision school​ during school year 2021-2022.
  • Were age 5 or younger and enrolled in SNAP during the summer 2022 months.                               

These additional food benefits are part of the P-EBT program, a temporary COVID-19 response program meant to provide additional food support for children whose access to adequate and quality food received through school programs may have been impacted by COVID-19.

Visit pebt.oregon.gov for more information about the P-EBT program. 

Families with specific questions about their child’s eligibility or P-EBT card can contact the P-EBT Call Center at (844) ORE-PEBT or (844) 673-7328. The P-EBT Call Center is available Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific in English, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Somalian, Mandarin and Cantonese. Callers may also request a translator for additional languages.

P-EBT does not replace any child nutrition program already offered and families are encouraged to continue to participate in meal programs in their schools and communities.  

P-EBT food benefits are issued in addition to regular SNAP benefits. P-EBT benefits are not considered in a public charge test.

Resources to help meet basic needs

About SNAP

Administered by ODHS, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to approximately 1 million eligible, low-income families and individuals in Oregon, including many older adults and people with disabilities. Oregonians in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP, child care, cash assistance and Medicaid. Learn more at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits. For local resources in your area, such as food or shelter, please call 2-1-1 or reach out to the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) at 1-855-ORE-ADRC or 1-855-673-2372.

A bill that would allow Oregonians to pump their own gas anywhere in the state edged closer to passage this week with its second public hearing in the Legislature.

The Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment held a public hearing for House Bill 2426 on Tuesday, and mainly drew support – from lawmakers, gas station owners, industry lobbyists and individuals. The bill comes more than 70 years after restrictions were first enacted.

The proposal would allow all gas stations statewide to offer self-serve gas at all hours while requiring an attendant for anyone who might want to be served, including elderly people and those with disabilities. No more than half of a station’s pumps could be self-serve, prices at all pumps would have to be the same and signs would have to note the service level of pumps.

“One thing we want to do is reduce confusion,” said Mike Freese with the Oregon Fuels Association. 

The bill is backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers – Republican Rep. Shelly Boshart-Davis of Albany and House Democratic Leader Julie Fahey of Eugene are chief sponsors, along with Republican Sen. Daniel Bonham of The Dalles and Democratic Sen. Janeen Sollman of Hillsboro.

It passed the House on March 20, on a 47-10 vote, with bipartisan support and opposition.  

Opponents have voiced concerns about the bill having an adverse impact on vulnerable Oregonians who need assistance at the pump, while supporters said it would streamline Oregon’s patchwork of regulations that allow self-serve pumps in eastern Oregon at all times but limit them to nighttime service at the coast.

Sollman, chair of the energy committee, said the proposal also would give customers and owners a choice and help struggling stations that have had difficulty hiring attendants.

“We know that workforce shortages have caused issues for businesses and consumers alike, causing significant constraints and delays at fueling stations,” Sollman testified. “Some gas stations have had to close pumps down or even close for the day because of worker shortages. This bill will allow businesses to remain open and give Oregonians the opportunity of choice to pump their own gas, a concept that two-thirds of Oregonians support.”

2021 survey from DHM Research and the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center found that almost two-thirds of Oregonians supported changing the law to allow customers to pump their own gas.

Self-service gas is now offered across the country, with restrictions only in New Jersey and Oregon. The prohibition was enacted in 1951 in Oregon over safety and job concerns. A bill in 2015 allowed self serve in sparsely populated counties between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., with the time restrictions lifted for eastern Oregon stations in 2017. The nighttime rule remains for coastal stations.

During the pandemic, as workforce shortages spiked, Oregon’s fire marshal lifted the ban on self service several times during emergencies, including wildfires and heat waves. 

‘Competitive business’

Louis Hernandez, who owns gas stations in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, told the committee he had 27 employees before the pandemic and now has 14.

“At one of my stations, I have an employee who has been homeless for three years and I gave him a place to stay only because I knew that at least for the time that he was there, that that station was going to be open,” Hernandez testified. 

He said he pays $18 an hour and is competing with fast food companies that pay every other day. 

“It’s a competitive business especially in these counties where there are stations everywhere,” Hernandez said. “If someone doesn’t show up and I’m available, I’m going to go out there and do it.”

Shawn Miller of the Northwest Grocery Association said the bill would help retailers who are also struggling to hire staff and want to sell gas. He said association members have thousands of job openings statewide that have forced them to curtail gas service.

“Almost half of our stations are closed, Miller said, and we want to open them up.” 

Lawmakers also heard from an Oregon resident – Christian Steinbrecher.

“I’m not a lobbyist, and I don’t own a gas station. It’s time for me to join the rest of the country to allow self-service gas,” Steinbrecher said, noting he’s almost 70. 

“Waiting in line for attendants is a waste of time for me,” Steinbrecher said. “At this age, time is the one thing that you have less of.”

In written testimony, Barry O’Mahony of Bend said it takes 30 seconds more for an attendant to pump gas and take payment, leading to a “yearly waste of 300,000 hours that Oregonians could be using to do something different.”

But Matthew Koppenhaver, a gas station attendant in Baker City, said the bill would harm employment opportunities for teens. 

“Hiring 16- and 17-year-olds as fuel attendants provides young individuals the opportunity to learn work habits as they become adults,” Koppenhaver said in written testimony. He also cited safety concerns, saying attendants need to be on hand in the case of a fall or to prevent customers from smoking or vaping at the pump or leaving their vehicle unattended while filling up as they use the restroom or shop in the convenience store.

“I realize the current employment climate is creating a hardship for many retailers,” he said in written testimony, “but HB 2426-A is not the solution we need.”

The bill would have minimal fiscal impact, according to a legislative analysis. It awaits a vote in the Senate energy committee and if it passes would go to the Senate floor, potentially its last step before hitting Gov. Tina Kotek’s desk.  (SOURCE)

Republican State Senators Keep Up Walk Out

For the second day in a row, five Republican State Senators in Oregon failed to show up for the floor session preventing a quorum on Friday. They are the same Senators who prevented a quorum on Wednesday. Republicans say they’re opposed to bill summaries that aren’t written to an 8th grade level.

Democrats say Republicans want to prevent a vote on a bill that would protect reproductive and gender-affirming health care. Under a new law passed by voters last November, legislators who have 10 unexcused absences will be barred from running again.

Oregon State Fire Marshal announces wildfire grant recipients

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) announced the recipients of its competitive $18-million Community Wildfire Risk Reduction (CWRR) Grant. These funds will help communities across Oregon reach their goals of improving wildfire resiliency, using local programs and solutions.

In total, 106 organizations were offered grant funding, totaling $18 million. Projects receiving funding include community-wide wildfire defensible space programs, vegetation removal around buildings, community chipping programs, community education related to wildfire preparedness, equipment for vegetation removal, and staff to support these local efforts.

“This grant will allow communities to create proactive, local solutions to lessen the impacts of wildfire,” Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said. “We know that wildfire can happen anywhere in Oregon. Investing in communities in all areas of our state will bring much-needed community risk reduction and resiliency projects and programs to life.” 

The CWRR grant is funding local governments, special districts, structural fire service agencies, and non-governmental organizations to support wildfire risk reduction projects, equipment, and staff. In total, 161 entities applied to fund 269 projects totaling a requested $44.5 million, highlighting the need for these grants to support important work in communities across Oregon. 

“We are excited that Sumpter was awarded funding through this grant,” Matt Armstrong with the City of Sumpter said. “We are a small town with limited resources; it makes it difficult to fund initiatives focused on preventing wildland fires. The funds will go a long way toward building defensible spaces. We are truly grateful and are looking forward to working with the OSFM.”

Applicants were scored through a diverse scoring committee with representatives from the OSFM, other state government agencies, non-governmental organizations, fire service agencies, special districts, and emergency management. 

Projects were prioritized on:

  • Impact in high wildfire-risk regions 
  • Communities with high social vulnerability 
  • Those in and around the built environment 
  • Providing defensible space and community resiliency 
  • Protecting people and communities 
  • Geographically diverse projects to ensure all areas of the state have the resources to improve community wildfire risk reduction and better prepare communities

For a list of recipients, click here. To learn more about how the OSFM is helping Oregonians, visit the Success Stories section on our website.

Private and state partners announce completion of electric vehicle chargers in Oregon State Parks

Installations will improve zero-emission recreation 

SUBLIMITY, Ore.— The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), electric vehicle maker Rivian, nonprofit Adopt A Charger (AAC), and manufacturer Entec Polymers have unveiled four Rivian Waypoints Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) chargers at Silver Falls State Park. The chargers offer park visitors an historic opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while using zero-emission vehicles to reduce air pollution and protect Oregon’s natural beauty. 

In addition to Silver Falls, 17 other chargers have been installed among the following parks: 

  • Banks-Vernonia State Trail
  • L. L. Stub Stewart State Park
  • Cape Lookout State Park
  • William M. Tugman State Park
  • Prineville Reservoir State Park
  • The Cove Palisades State Park

Additional information about the OPRD program including charging station locations and charging etiquette is available on the department website.

“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of Rivian, Adopt A Charger and Entec Polymers. These public-private partnerships allow for innovative projects that help improve state park infrastructure and achieve a shared vision for a cleaner, greener future,” said Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Director Lisa Sumption. 

Rivian, working through AAC, donated the installation design, construction costs and EV chargers placed in the parks. Fundraising by AAC brought plastics manufacturer Entec Polymers as a private donor to cover the cost of visitor charging electricity for a limited time.

The Level 2 chargers are compatible with all electric vehicles and are powered by 100% renewable energy via Rivian’s energy matching program. This collaborative effort extends the electric charging infrastructure grid to new areas for EV drivers to explore. The chargers will improve recreational access for all EV drivers, not just Rivian owners. 

“We’re proud to support the Oregon State Park mission to provide safe and equitable access to state parks with these electric vehicle chargers,” said Trent Warnke, senior director of Energy and Charging Solutions at Rivian. “Our Rivian Waypoints chargers are compatible with any EV and through our energy matching program, can provide zero-emission energy to any EV driver who might need it—peace of mind in terms of getting where you need to go whether that’s home or onto another one of Oregon’s beautiful state parks.”

Kitty Adams Hoksbergen, executive director of Adopt a Charger added, “the installation of EV charging stations at Oregon State Parks supports OPRD’s environmental stewardship by enabling zero emission travel to these popular destinations. It complements The Oregon Electric Byways and the West Coast Electric Highway, which provide the framework for EV tourism, by closing the gaps in the infrastructure. I am forever grateful to OPRD, Rivian, and Entec for recognizing the need to provide car charging at these parks to help give visitors the confidence to purchase a plug-in vehicle.”

“Entec Polymers is excited to partner with OPRD, Rivian, and Adopt a Charger to improve access to EV charging stations, and to offer visitors a sustainable transportation choice,” said Steve Tomaszewski, senior vice president and general manager of Entec Polymers. “We continue to work with our customers and partners to provide both innovative and environmentally friendly solutions, and to help make e-mobility safe and reliable.” 

The new state parks EV chargers join the nearly 1,700 public Level 2 chargers throughout Oregon. More public charging options will help convince more drivers to consider an EV for their next vehicle. Transitioning Oregon’s cars, trucks and SUVs to electric vehicles is part of the state’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

New Oregon Zoo Resident

The Oregon Zoo has a new resident. Harper is a seven-year-old female white-cheeked gibbon. She arrived this week to join the zoo’s male white-cheeked gibbon, named Duffy.

They live in the Red Ape Reserve, which is shared with the orangutan family. Harper was born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2015.

Her move here was recommended to improve the survival plan for gibbons. They are listed as critically endangered. Their numbers have dropped by at least 80-percent over the past 50 years.

Strange-Looking Fanged Fishes Found Along Oregon Beaches

Several scaleless fish with fanged jaws and huge eyes that can be found more than a mile deep in the ocean have washed up along a roughly 200-mile (322-kilometer) stretch of Oregon coastline, and it’s unclear why, scientists and experts said.

Within the last few weeks, several lancetfish have appeared on beaches from Nehalem, in northern Oregon, to Bandon, which is about 100 miles (161 kilometers) from the California border, Oregon State Parks said on Facebook. The agency asked beachgoers who see the fish to take photos and post them online, tagging the agency and the NOAA Fisheries West Coast region.

Lancetfish live mainly in tropical and subtropical waters but travel as far north as areas like Alaska’s Bering Sea to feed. Their slinky bodies include a “sail-like” fin, and their flesh is gelatinous — not generally something humans wish to eat, according to NOAA Fisheries.

Ben Frable, a fish scientist who manages the Marine Vertebrate Collection at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, said it’s not uncommon for lancetfish to wash up on beaches, particularly in California and Oregon and in other parts of the north Pacific. According to NOAA Fisheries, lancetfish can be more than 7 feet (2 meter) long and swim to depths of more than a mile beneath the surface of the sea.

It’s unclear what might be behind the deep-sea fish washing ashore, Frable said, calling it an area of “open research.” He added that it’s not clear if these incidents are happening more frequently or are just noticed more often in the social media age. Some have also hypothesized that such incidents could be related to weather or climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean, he said.

Frable encouraged people to report any sightings, saying it could provide useful information for researchers.

He also said that incidents like these provide an opportunity “to kind of highlight the true diversity of life on the planet and how there are things that you just don’t think about — but they’re out there. (SOURCE)

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