Willamette Valley News, Monday 4/15 – South Eugene Robotics Team Heading to World Championships, Eugene Named Among Best Places To Live In U.S. by Money Magazine & Other Local and Statewide News…

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, April 15, 2024

Willamette Valley Weather

South Eugene Robotics Team Heading to World Championships

The South Eugene Robotics team, or SERT, is ranked No. 1 in the Pacific Northwest. Now they’re heading to the World Championships in Houston, Texas.

University of Oregon Professor Paul Dassonville is a SERT mentor. He said being No. 1 in the Pacific Northwest is a pretty big deal. They made an excellent showing at the Northwest District competition earlier this month.

“We won two of our events. Which was the first time we’ve ever done that, he said. “Last year was the first time we won any event. It’s been great to see the team as the older students on the team pass on their knowledge and skills to the younger members of the team, and it’s just snowballed.”

Dassonville said the team works together to build robots that race and perform other skills tests.

SERT will compete with 600 robotics teams from around the world at the 4-day competition that begins Wednesday, April 17.

Dassonville said when they’re not in competition season, the team does community outreach and service. He said the SERT team is raising money to help cover their travel costs for the World competition.

The Go Fund Me, and other ways to donate or support the team, can be found at SERT’s website, sert2521.org (SOURCE)

Eugene Named Among Best Places To Live In U.S. by Money Magazine

Are you a resident of Camas or Eugene? If so, congratulations, you’re in one of the best places to live in America.

Overview of Eugene Oregon

That’s according to a 2024 list by personal finance website Money, which considered basic livability factors like affordability, good schools and strong job markets, as well as “places with a palpable spirit, nurtured and sustained by engaged citizens and receptive public officials.” https://money.com/best-places-to-live/

The unranked list of 50 places includes big cities such as Atlanta and Detroit alongside small hamlets such as Media, Pennsylvania. It features only the two cities in Oregon and Washington, though Boise and Sacramento are in there, too. Camas was featured in the “Best Kept Secrets” category, while Eugene was included in “Not Just College Towns.”

Camas, on the Washington side of the Columbia River just east of Vancouver, is still centered on a paper mill that was built in 1883 and today is operated by Georgia Pacific. The charming downtown is home to a number of locally owned shops and restaurants, with a surprisingly robust trail network nearby.

The town’s location near the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge offers easy access to natural attractions such as the Cape Horn Lookout, Beacon Rock State Park and the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Money hailed the town for its “big commitment to revitalize its downtown while paying homage to its historic past,” highlighting work by the Downtown Camas Association following the 2008 recession.

“Today, the tree-lined streets of downtown Camas form a vibrant, walkable community that’s teeming with life,” Money said in its writeup. “You can find locals dining outdoors at Natalia’s Cafe, an old school diner famous for its home-cooked breakfast, sipping merlot at Camas Cellars and perusing the ever-changing art at the Attic Gallery.”

Eugene, meanwhile, was celebrated as “a haven for free spirits and creative minds” with “an eclectic counterculture that thrives right alongside its academic scene.” That’s a pretty fair assessment given the two things that come top of mind when talking about Eugene: the University of Oregon and the Oregon Country Fair.

Money highlighted the Hult Center for the Performing Arts alongside eclectic dance club The Big Dirty and nonprofit venue the WOW Hall, while shouting out the town’s visual arts scene and street murals. And while the writeup conspicuously omitted the Oregon Country Fair (cowards!), it did include the Oregon Truffle Festival, Oregon Festival of American Music and the Oregon Asian Celebration.

It’s true, there are a lot of things to do in Eugene, from local trails to museums and wildlife preserves. The city also has a robust dining scene and, like many places in Oregon, is renowned for its craft breweries and tap houses. There are also a number of scenic day trips you can take from the city, another factor that apparently helped it land on Money’s 2024 list.

“Outside the city, this corner of the Willamette Valley provides quick access to hot springs, waterfalls, beaches and forests — all of which make the perfect backdrop for a weekend adventure,” Money wrote – though it is worth noting that’s true of nearly every city in the Pacific Northwest. (SOURCE)

Artists wanted for Cultural Currents public art installations

Cultural Currents Jose Trejo Maya

Applications are now open for artists specializing in sculpture, 2D art and digital projection

City of Eugene Cultural Services and Lane Arts Council are seeking several artists to create sculptures, 2D artwork and projection installations for Arts Week in September. This project is supported by Cultural Currents, an ongoing collaborative public art initiative to strengthen multicultural hubs, programming and experiences in Eugene. 

Cultural Currents started in 2023 thanks to funding from the Our Town grant by The National Endowment for the Arts. Through this initiative, artists, artist collectives and arts organizations are invited to create temporary public art installations that advance representation and narratives for groups that have historically been excluded, misrepresented and/or marginalized. Artists of all abilities, as well as artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latin American, LGTBQIA+ and those with intersecting identities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Five artists will be selected and will each receive a stipend ranging from $1,500-$2,000. This call is open to all artists 18 years of age or older with a relationship to the community, culture and/or region of Eugene, Kalapuya Ilihi or the Southern Willamette Valley. Youth under the age of 18 may apply in partnership with an older mentor. Deadline for submissions is May 20. The Cultural Currents Advisory Committee will select finalists in June with installations occurring in mid-September.

To learn more or to apply, visit the call to artists page at www.eugene-or.gov/5070/Cultural-Currents-Call-to-Artists.

Cultural Services provides year-round programming to promote public art and cultural events throughout Eugene. The team utilizes responsible and catalytic leadership to support the public’s vision for a thriving arts and cultural sector that contributes to the community’s social and economic wellbeing.

The City of Eugene Facing a $11-15 Million Funding Shortfall

The City of Eugene is facing a $11-15 million funding shortfall. Eugene is not alone. Other cities in Oregon — such as Salem, Bend and Corvallis, to name a few — are facing similar deficits. 

Why is this happening, despite our best efforts? There are many factors, but the key reason is our dependence on property taxes and limitations placed on the system. Unless alternative funding is secured in the coming year, many services that our community depends on are at risk.  

A text box of information about Oregon measures 5 and 50.

Massive reduction in revenue — In Eugene, property taxes make up 71% of General Fund revenues which are not restricted and can be used to pay for any service. The General Fund currently pays for services such as police, fire, library, parks, recreation, planning, community development, facility maintenance and municipal court.  

Oregon Measures 5 and 50, both passed by voters in the 1990s, imposed limitations on property taxes that have led to lower revenues for municipalities across the state.  Even though Eugene has continuously made reductions and efficiencies (over $45 million in Eugene’s General Fund reductions since 2009), other sources haven’t been identified to fill the funding gap.  

Prior to the passage of the two measures, Oregon had a levy-based system where a taxing district submitted their levy as a dollar amount. The levy was divided by real market value (RMV) of properties in the district to arrive at the tax rate. Under this methodology, the full market value of the property was taxable and districts were limited to no more than a 6% increase unless approved by voters.  

Measure 50 transformed the system from a levy-based system to a primarily rate-based system: 

  • Established a permanent rate for each tax jurisdiction that cannot be changed 
  • Established the concept of assessed value (AV) 
    • Set existing properties at a reduced value based on real market value at that point in time; 
    • Capped future assessed value growth to 3%; 
    • Established the concept of the changed property ratio to set assed value for new construction. 

In today’s world, as real market value grows at a higher pace than assessed value, the changed property ratio decreases impacting the initial assessed value for new construction coming on the tax rolls. As a result, it takes more new construction to generate the same amount of tax revenue.   

  • As an example, two new student housing apartment complexes that came on the tax roll in 2023 both had real market values of nearly $90 million. However, because of the changed property ratio set in Measure 50, their assessed value was limited to only $36 million. That means Eugene will receive revenue based on only 40% of the units in the building. 

Since the two measures went into effect, statewide property tax growth has been nearly cut in half, from 9% pre-passage to an average of about 5% since 2000. While this may benefit property owners, the result of the system is that the City’s ability to maintain service levels is deteriorating.  (READ MORE)

Lane County Storm Drain Cleaning Assistance Program accepting business signups through May

After launching last fall, Lane County’s Storm Water Management Program is back and accepting business applicants. 

This voluntary program allows businesses in Lane County to help maintain storm drains for a reduced flat fee of $65 per drain. Last fall, nearly 100 businesses from across Lane County signed up to participate in the program, which Lane County coordinates in partnership with Stormwater Protection Systems (SPS).

Lane County-based businesses can sign up each fall and spring in anticipation of heavy rainfall and more water entering the storm drain systems. To register a company for the fall program, visit LaneCountyOR.gov/SCAP and sign up by May 31.

Storm water often drains directly into rivers and streams without treatment, resulting in pollutants from parking lots and roadways contributing to water quality issues. Storm drain cleaning and maintenance are vital in ensuring clean waterways by removing contaminants like heavy metals, oil, pesticides, and fertilizers while reducing parking lot flooding.

“We all have a vested interest in keeping our community’s waterways clean,” said Lane County Waste Reduction Supervisor Angie Marzano. “This is a low-cost, high-impact way for businesses to make a real difference in those efforts while meeting their responsibilities.”

Businesses are responsible for cleaning and maintaining privately owned storm drains in their parking lots. The program aims to make this service more affordable and encourage biannual cleanings.

The $65 per drain fee covers debris removal from standard parking lot drains, power washing in and around the drain, and disposal of all contaminated sediment. The program does not cover additional fees for jetting, repair, or oversized storm drains. 

Interested businesses can register or get more information at LaneCountyOR.gov/SCAP or email SCAP@ LaneCountyOR.gov.

CAHOOTS and HOOTS Workers Rally for Wage Increase and Other Contract Issues

It has been more than a year since White Bird Clinic and its unionized crisis workers began negotiations and they still haven’t reached an agreement on a new contract.

CAHOOTS and HOOTS workers held a rally in downtown Eugene Frida calling for better pay and a speedy resolution at the bargaining table. They said their programs are losing staff and having trouble replacing them.

“Our wages are no longer competitive. They are no longer in line with industry standards,” said crisis worker Ashley Cakebread. “As a result, we are struggling to provide the high quality services that we want to offer to the community.”

The starting rate for CAHOOTS and HOOTS is $18 per hour, according to the workers. They say this has been stagnant since 2018, even as inflation has pushed up the cost of living in Eugene.

Crisis worker Berkley Carnine said some staff members have been forced to leave for better paying jobs, despite going through hundreds of hours of training with CAHOOTS.

“It’s incredible the amount of energy we put in, and skills that people develop,” said Carnine, “and then they can’t stay because they can’t afford to live in this town, pay all their bills, and work this job.”

With the resulting staffing shortages, crisis worker Chelsea Swift said it’s often impossible for remaining workers to take time off, even directly after they’ve experienced a traumatic event on the job.

The programs’ workers voted to join the Teamsters Local 206 in 2022. Collective bargaining on this contract began over 13 months ago.

“[The process] being so slow and drawn out has been demoralizing, and it feels we’re supposed to give up on some things that just get across the finish line,” Carnine told KLCC at Friday’s rally. “We’re here to say, no, we’re holding true to what we know we need.”

The workers’ bargaining unit is seeking a starting wage of $25 per hour. Swift said this would reflect the pay of Community Resource Officers, who have similar duties.

Right now, Cakebread said she’s making $19.31 per hour, despite working at White Bird for nearly ten years and helping to found the HOOTS program.

“I have been waiting for a wage increase for six years,” said Cakebread. “I would really like to know that my work is valued, that my experience is valued, that the 60 to 80 hour weeks that I have put into White Bird matter.”

Additionally, the workers are asking for assurance that CAHOOTS vans will be adequately staffed in the future, and are also seeking more worker benefits.

“We want to provide high quality, consistent services. We want to be there when you call, and we want to be there quickly,” said Cakebread. “And in order to do that, we need to be supported by our leadership.”

White Bird Clinic responded to KLCC with an emailed statement attributed to Executive Director Jeremy Gates. In it, Gates said leadership will continue to negotiate in good faith, and is confident about reaching a deal.

“The bargaining process requires us to keep much of the details at the table rather than in the public, but it’s important to note that we fully support our employees’ right to organize and negotiate,” wrote Gates. “Union organizing can be a catalyst for positive change.” (SOURCE)

Support CAHOOTS and HOOTS Workers Win a Fair First Contract NOW — PETITION

Did you know the $18/hr starting wage for CAHOOTS and HOOTS workers hasn’t changed since 2018? Sign this letter of support to help CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets) and HOOTS (Helping Out Our Teens in Schools) unionized workers win their first fair union contract with White Bird Clinic.

CAHOOTS medics and crisis workers have been proudly supporting their fellow community members on the streets and in the houses, schools, businesses, shelters, hospitals and healthcare offices of every neighborhood in Eugene since 1989. CAHOOTS later expanded service into Springfield in 2015 and soon founded its sister program HOOTS in 2017. These programs provide free crisis intervention, mental health and medical aid to whoever is in need (for CAHOOTS that’s an average of 20,000+ calls a year; HOOTS provides 28 clinics in 12 high schools). 

Today, their workers need your support. Show your commitment to sustaining workers and protecting the integrity of the CAHOOTS model that has been called “the gold standard”* for alternative response models nationally. Sign here to ensure crisis workers and medics who are dedicating their lives towards helping others win a living wage. Learn more about our campaign

https://www.change.org/p/support-cahoots-and-hoots-workers-win-a-fair-first-contract-now

Lane County mowers are gearing up and need roadsides clear of obstructions, including signs

Drivers on rural County-maintained roads will see mowers clearing the road rights-of-way of grass and brush beginning this month. 

“Mowing helps us reduce fire danger and make sure that drivers have clear lines of sight on County roads,” said Chad McBride, Lane County vegetation supervisor. “It’s really helpful when people keep things like fences and signs out of the right-of-way. They slow us down, damage our equipment, generate complaints about the cluttered landscape, and don’t belong there in the first place.”

In the coming weeks, County staff will remove any signs in the rights-of-way in preparation for mowing.

“During big election years, the number of signs placed illegally alongside roads explodes and it makes it more difficult to mow roadsides efficiently,” said McBride. “This year, we’ll do a sweep ahead of the mowers to remove signs.”

Property owners can help prepare by ensuring they have not placed anything in the mower’s path in the road right-of-way.

  • Political and other signs. No political signs, business signs or other types of signs belong in the road right-of-way. Signs may be removed and stored for 30 days at Lane County Public Works before being destroyed. Signs placed near a rural road must be on private property and behind any utility facilities (poles, closures, etc.) or sidewalks.
  • Rocks. Rocks over 3 inches in diameter and other fixed objects must be removed from the right-of-way.
  • Fencing. Derelict fencing can be both a hazard and a high-cost obstacle for mowers. Fencing that has fallen into the road right-of-way can become entangled in the equipment, or can make it impossible to clear the affected area of grass and brush.
  • Ornamental vegetation or other plantings. Plants in the right-of-way, especially those that grow large and aggressively, will be removed. Plants in the right-of-way will be mown to the lowest level practical in order to provide the longest-lasting effect.

By keeping items out of the right-of-way, residents can avoid unnecessary expense and hassle, save taxpayer money by saving Public Works personnel from having to remove signs and other items, and help protect neighbors and visitors from accidents.

In rural areas, the road right-of-way is typically from the pavement to the fence or private property line (anywhere the maintenance vehicles would drive). In the unincorporated parts of Eugene or Springfield, the right-of-way is the planting area between the sidewalk and curb.

Drivers are allowed to pass the mowers on the left when it is safe to do so but oncoming traffic takes precedence. 

Trauma Intervention Programs of Lane County Needs Volunteers

Trauma Intervention Programs of Lane County (TIP) is actively recruiting for volunteers. TIP volunteers are called by law enforcement, fire, medical and hospital personnel to respond to scenes of sudden or unexpected death (natural, homicide, suicide, accidental, infant) industrial accidents, sexual assaults, overdoses, violent crime and other traumatic incidents to provide immediate emotional and practical support to families, friends, witnesses and survivors. By ensuring those who are emotionally traumatized in emergencies receive the immediate assistance they need, TIP volunteers make an invaluable contribution to the health and well-being of Lane County. 

TIP wants volunteers of all different backgrounds who can pass a background check and are interested in helping provide needed support alongside first responders. For those interested in becoming a volunteer, TIP is holding a series of spring training opportunities dubbed the TIP Training Academy. The Academy is held at Eugene Police Department, located at 300 Country Club Road in Eugene. A full list of Academy training times is available below, or on the TIP website, www.tiplanecounty.org

For more information or to sign-up for an Academy training time, please contact Bridget Byfield, Director, TIP of Lane County at bridget@tiplanecounty.org or 541-286-6416.

TIP Spring Training Academy

The Academy is held at Eugene Police Dept.

300 Country Club Road, Eugene

Friday………..April 12…………….6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Saturday…….April 13…………….9:00 am – 03:00 pm

Career Fair Invitation at Emerald’s Home Games

You’re invited to table at our Region’s next Career Fair. We are hosting two career fairs at Emeralds home games on Wednesday, April 17th, and Sunday, August 18th at PK Park in Eugene. Parking and game tickets will be FREE to anyone who mentions the Career Highlight Night at the Box Office. To reserve a space is $300 for one of the days or both days for $400. To register please visit the event page: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/career-highlight-night-tickets-863277545377

To logon to iMatchSkills click the iMatchSkills link on www.Employment.Oregon.gov. You may call your local WorkSource Oregon Employment Department office at (541) 686-7601 for further assistance. TTY/TDD – dial 7-1-1 toll free relay service access free online relay service at: https://www.sprintip.com. Llame al 7-1-1 para asistencia gratuita TTY/TDD para personas con dificultades auditivas. Obtenga acceso gratis en Internet por medio del siguiente sitio: https://www.sprintip.com.

WorkSource Oregon is an equal opportunity employer/program. Auxiliary aids and services, alternate formats and language services are available to individuals with disabilities and limited English proficiency free of cost upon request. WorkSource Oregon es un programa que respeta la igualdad de oportunidades. Disponemos de servicios o ayudas auxiliares, formatos alternos y asistencia de idiomas para personas con discapacidades o conocimiento limitado del inglés, a pedido y sin costo.

LCOG Senior & Disability Services requests community input for future planning

EUGENE, Oregon – Senior & Disability Services, a division of Lane Council of Governments (LCOG), is collecting information to learn about the needs of people with disabilities, older adults, and their caregivers. The survey is available online and in hard copy at all S&DS offices. It will remain open through June 12, 2024.  

Link to survey: http://tinyurl.com/SDS2024CommunityNeeds  

The information gathered through this survey will be used by LCOG Senior & Disability Services to identify gaps, leverage resources, and prioritize services. The strategic plan that will be created to meet the needs identified in this survey will be called the 2025-2029 Senior & Disability Services Area Plan. It is a requirement under the Older Americans Act (OAA).

The OAA stipulates that a multi-year, comprehensive Area Plan be developed for each planning and service area. The Community Needs Assessment, along with various data from the US Census, focus groups, current service levels, and information from key stakeholders helps inform specific service goals and objectives for the next four years.  

Community members who need to take this survey in another language or need any other accommodation or assistance, please call 541-682-4512.

Senior & Disability Services is the designated Area Agency on Aging for Lane County, Oregon and provides services, information, and assistance to Lane County’s older adult population, adults with physical disabilities, and their caregivers. To learn more about Senior & Disability Services, please visit their website at www.lcog.org/sdslane.  

MORE INFO: https://www.lcog.org/sdslane/page/senior-disability-services-seeks-input-future-planning

Road Construction: Green Hill Road

Road Name: Green Hill Road 
Location: Green Hill Road Bridge – #039C51 (South of Barger Drive over Amazon Creek) 
Begin Construction: Milepost 3
End Construction: Milepost 3.5
Dates and times: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, April 11 to June 30, 2024 
Reason for construction: Bridge rail repairs. There will be one lane closure and traffic will be controlled by flaggers. 
Alternate routes: Royal Avenue, Barger Drive, and Bodenhamer Road 

Lane County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue now recruiting youth volunteers!

We are looking for teens 14 and up (by June 1st) who have positive attitudes and want to serve their community. Volunteers must be willing to respond any time day or night, often in bad weather and extreme conditions. Teens who attend our SAR academy will become Oregon State SAR Certified, and receive training in medical care, orienteering, outdoor survival, and other important skills.

Learn more at our open house on Tuesday, April 9th at 6:00 p.m. in Harris Hall, 125 E 8th Ave., Eugene. We will hold an additional open house on April 25th as well. Questions? Need more info? Email our team at LCSOsar@lanecountyor.gov.

Become a temporary election worker and help democracy thrive

The Lane County Elections Office is hiring temporary election workers to assist with the May 21, 2024 Primary Election. 

“Temporary election workers are critical to the success of elections,” said County Clerk Dena Dawson. “We want to build a more diverse pool of people that is representative of our community. Retirees are always welcome, but so are students, stay-at-home parents, gig workers, and anyone who just wants to learn more about elections or earn a few bucks.”

Available positions include customer service, data entry, ballot processing, and ballot collection. Some positions require a few weeks of availability and others only require a few days, or even just one night. Lane County does not use volunteers to conduct elections; all temporary election worker positions are paid. 

Temporary election workers are hired before each election cycle. Another round of hiring will begin in August for the November 5 Presidential Election. 

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

American Red Cross Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today is Tax Day; File a return or extension by midnight

Salem, OR—Midnight tonight, April 15, 2024, is the deadline to file tax year 2023 state and federal personal income tax returns and the Oregon Department of Revenue wants to remind taxpayers of the tools available to make the experience easier for both those who haven’t yet filed their 2023 return and those who have.

Through April 14, Revenue has processed 1.67 million of an expected 2.2 million returns and issued nearly 1.4 million refunds.

Free filing options

Revenue reminds those who haven’t yet filed, that filing electronically is the fastest way for taxpayers to get their refund. Oregon Free Fillable Forms performs basic calculations and is ideal for taxpayers who don’t need help preparing their returns and want the convenience of filing electronically. The IRS offers a similar option for filing federal taxes electronically.

New this year, the department is also offering Direct File Oregon, which allows taxpayers to file their Form OR-40 through Revenue Online. Direct File Oregon is not currently linked with the IRS Direct File. Taxpayers will need to file a separate federal return with the IRS before filing an Oregon return with Direct File Oregon through Revenue Online.

Information about other available free tax preparation tax preparation software is available on the Revenue website, along with a list of organizations providing free or reduced cost assistance.

What’s My Kicker? calculator

In 2024 Oregon is returning $5.61 billion in surplus revenue to taxpayers in the form of a “kicker” tax credit. Taxpayers will receive their kicker as part of their refund, or the kicker can reduce the tax they owe.

Taxpayers, who have not filed their 2023 return, should not guess at their kicker amount. They can determine the amount of their kicker using the What’s My Kicker? calculator available on Revenue Online. To use the tool, taxpayers will need to enter their name, Social Security Number, and filing status for 2022 and 2023.

Where’s my refund? tool and video

Taxpayers wondering about the refund on their 2023 tax year return, can use the Oregon Department of Revenue’s Where’s My Refund? tool to check its status and, if they want more information, watch a video outlining the refund timelines to better understand the process.

Doug, the new virtual assistant

The agency’s new virtual assistant Doug is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on Revenue Online to answer general tax questions. 

Doug, an avatar Oregon fir tree, is located in the upper right hand corner of the Revenue Online homepage.  With just a few clicks of the keyboard, users will be able to access instant, helpful, insightful answers. It’s important to note that Doug does have some limitations. The virtual assistant is pre-programmed with answers to common questions, therefore, users with detailed questions pertaining to their unique circumstances are encouraged to consult their tax preparer or contact the department directly.

If you file a paper return

Taxpayers who haven’t yet filed their 2023 return and file a paper return should make sure it’s post-marked by today or place it in one of the drop boxes available on both the east and west sides of the Department of Revenue Building in Salem, or outside the DOR offices in Portland, Gresham, Eugene, Medford, and Bend.

DOR staff will be on hand in the atrium of the Salem headquarters building today until 5 PM to accept and stamp tax returns as having been filed timely.

Filing an extension. 

Individuals who are not able to file by midnight can file an extension directly with the Oregon Department of Revenue or with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If the IRS extension is granted, the Oregon extension is automatically granted. A timely filed extension moves the federal tax filing deadline and the Oregon filing deadline to October 15, 2024.

Taxpayers should only request an Oregon extension if they:

  • Don’t have a federal extension.
  • Owe Oregon taxes.
  • Can’t file your return by April 15, 2024.

Remember that having a filing extension is not an extension to pay any tax owed. Taxpayers who can’t pay the full amount they owe, should pay what they can to avoid late payment penalties.

First quarter 2024 estimated payments due today

Today is also the due date for first quarter estimated payments. In most cases, taxpayers must make estimated tax payments for tax year 2024 if they estimate their tax after withholding and credits (including refundable credits) will be $1,000 or more when they file their 2024 Oregon return. Taxpayers can make their payments on Revenue Online or mail their payment with a voucher. Taxpayers mailing their payment should mail it separately from their return or other correspondence. Oregon Estimated Income Tax Instructions, Publication OR-ESTIMATE, can be found on the Revenue website. 
 

Visit www.oregon.gov/dor to get tax forms, see a list of approved tax preparation software products, check the status of your refund, or make tax payments. For questions not answered on our website, call 800-356-4222 toll-free (English or Spanish) or 503-378-4988 or email questions.dor@oregon.gov. For TTY (hearing or speech impaired), we accept all relay calls. Due to the number of calls Revenue receives during tax season, you may experience extended wait times.

Governor Kotek announced Sunday that President Joe Biden approved a federal major disaster declaration for January’s winter weather emergency.

This declaration provides supplemental grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Public Assistance Program. This funding will go to state, local and tribal governments to assist in their storm recovery and response.

“I am grateful to President Biden for answering our call for help,” Gov. Kotek said in a statement. “This opportunity for federal assistance will make a significant difference across communities that are still grappling with significant damage from the storm.”

The declaration includes Benton, Clackamas, Coos, Hood River, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Multnomah, Sherman, Tillamook and Wasco Counties and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. More information about the emergency and the major disaster declaration can be found here

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

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

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

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

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

The public can register to attend .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governor Kotek Signs Property Tax Reset For 2020 Wildfire Victims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death Investigation in Newport, Oregon

On 04/13/2024, a hiker from the Newport area located human remains in a dispersed campsite just outside the city limits of Newport, OR. The hiker reported the incident to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies responded to the area and were directed to the campsite, which was located approximately 100 yards into thick foliage from the roadway.

The remains appeared to have been exposed to the environment for a prolonged period of time. Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Detectives conducted a death investigation before the Lincoln County Search and Rescue Team assisted in removing the remains. The remains have been tentatively identified but will undergo advanced testing to make a final determination. No identifying information is being released at this time. No suspicious circumstances have been determined and there is no concern for community safety.

If anyone has any information relating to this incident, please call the Sheriff’s Tip Line at 541-265-0669. Reference case number 24S-06357.

SOLVE’s Oregon Spring Cleanup began on Saturday April 13- Runs through April 20th — Volunteer Opportunities are Open for Registration

– The Oregon Spring Cleanup, presented by Portland General Electric, kicked off Saturday. From April 13 to April 22, more than 100 volunteer opportunities are open for registration in celebration of Earth Day. Families, community members, neighborhood associations, and environmental enthusiasts are invited to participate in the biggest event on SOLVE’s annual calendar. 

Everyone is invited to join SOLVE, event leaders, and partners from across the Pacific Northwest in a collective celebration of Earth Day. The SOLVE calendar showcases a variety of events throughout Oregon and SW Washington between April 13 and April 22, with the majority of events culminating on April 20. Diverse initiatives address specific environmental needs with opportunities ranging from beach cleanups to neighborhood and city litter pickups. Further activities include restoring natural habitats through native tree and shrub plantings, weed pulls, and mulching projects. Each project contributes to the enhancement of our shared surroundings.

With over 100 projects to choose from, the Oregon Spring Cleanup invites enthusiastic volunteers to contribute to a cleaner, greener, and brighter planet. Interested individuals can browse the map of projects to find events near them, learn about each opportunityand sign up for a meaningful contribution to the environment. Participating in the Oregon Spring Cleanup provides an excellent opportunity to bond with family members, coworkers, and neighbors, while collectively contributing to preserving some of Oregon’s most stunning locations.

As SOLVE anticipates another successful event, valued partner Portland General Electric, shares their commitment to the cause: ” PGE proudly supports SOLVE’s efforts to make our communities cleaner and greener. In 2023, our employees and their families volunteered with SOLVE for more than 220 hours. We’re excited to join community members again this Earth Day to help improve our beautiful state.” said Kristen Sheeran, Senior Director of Policy Planning and Sustainability, Portland General Electric.

Anyone who cannot attend an Oregon Spring Cleanup event this year can support SOLVE by individual giving. A donation of any size will help SOLVE host more events year after year and provide volunteers with free supplies, event leader training, and all the support they need to run a successful event.

For more information, please visit www.solveoregon.org/oregon-spring and be part of the collective effort to create a cleaner, greener planet.

Along with Portland General Electric, other event sponsors include Clean Water Services, AAA Oregon/Idaho, Fred Meyer, Metro, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, KOIN, The Standard, Swire Coca-Cola, Holman, Demarini-Wilson, TriMet, and PepsiCo.

About SOLVE 

SOLVE is a statewide non-profit organization that brings people together to improve our environment and build a legacy of stewardship. Since 1969, the organization has grown from a small, grassroots group to a national model for volunteer action. Today, SOLVE mobilizes and trains tens of thousands of volunteers of all ages across Oregon and Southwest Washington to clean and restore our neighborhoods and natural areas and to build a legacy of stewardship for our state. Visit solveoregon.org for more information. 

Ten million in grant dollars help to create resilience in Oregon communities

(Salem) – Forest fires, heat domes, landslides, floods, drought, pandemics — all natural disasters that kill thousands of people and destroy billions of dollars of property and habitat each year. That’s why it’s important that each community builds up its resilience to these hazards. 

Now, there is help for Oregon’s many communities. The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) Office of Resilience and Emergency Management (OREM) has a $10 million grant called the Resilience Hubs and Networks Grant to give out to eligible people and organizations. The funding comes from the 2023 Oregon Legislature to build resiliency within communities. 

“This grant money is part of a long-term goal of having our communities create resiliency so they can prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. With this grant a community can design what they need to be resilient,” Ed Flick, OREM Director said.

“Applicants could be just about anyone — schools, cities, counties, non-profits, Tribes — if they can show how the funding would benefit their community. We’d like to get grant dollars out to populations and areas of Oregon that are not as prepared for climate impacts. Many rural and frontier communities don’t have the tools and resources as larger cities,” Jenn Bosch, OREM Grants Program Administrator, said. 

“A Resilience Hub is a living, breathing part of the community already, such as a community center, a Boys and Girls Club, something that is part of their daily life, like a food bank. It’s place they would think to go to get help, such as shelter in an emergency. What they can apply for is very open,” Bosch said. 

The things people and groups could apply for includes almost anything that would build and strengthen the communities’ resilience, such as medical supplies, child care, emergency communications equipment, generators, training, water purification, vehicles and more. It also includes things communities can apply for called “typed packages.” These packages are those big containers often used for storage, called Conex boxes. OREM will pack the Conex containers with emergency supplies specific to sheltering in-place or enduring a disaster until further relief arrives, and OREM will deliver to that site. 

The network part of the grant is to help communities communicate and share resources more effectively. 

“The goal is to break down silos. Here’s an example of what this is – Government doesn’t generally set up shelters – it’s the churches, non-profits and community groups. But often they don’t know what the group down the street is doing. We’re asking them to work together to apply for the grant. Let’s say church is opening shelter but they don’t have food, but in working together with other community groups, they would then know the food bank might have food ready to supply to them,” Bosch said.  

Last July through December, Bosch with Spencer Karel, OREM Policy Chief, and partner in the grant process, traveled Oregon on a listening tour. They met in-person or virtually with more than 80 community groups, ODHS programs, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Energy and other state agencies. 

“We wanted to hear from them. It was an amazing opportunity to build the grant and really make it work for the communities. A Resiliency Hub in Grants Pass will look different than one in Wheeler, and those will also look different from one in Tillamook. We’re hopeful that the applications will reflect the broad need,” Bosch said. 

She stressed that applying for this grant is easy. The application is a like a survey that the applicant can fill in what they are requesting, with six essay questions. OREM is also partnering with Portland State University to assist applicants that need help completing their application. Information about this help can be found on the OREM website. 

“We want to make sure the people who generally don’t apply for or get grants feel like they have a fair opportunity to potentially receive a grant this time – small, rural, frontier areas especially,” she said. 

So far there are more than 65 applicants for the grant money. Applications close April 30. 

Just to sum up why this grant money to create resiliency is important for communities throughout Oregon, Bosch said, “It saves lives and saves money.” 

To learn more about the Resilience Hubs and Networks Grant and to find the application, visit: https://www.oregon.gov/odhs/emergency-management/Pages/resilience-grants.aspx.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House Bill 4156 is being signed into law by Governor Tina Kotek, modernizing Oregon’s Anti-Stalking law.

According to the Oregon Legislature, HB 4156 broadens the scope of the current stalking law, now covering electronic and internet harassment. This includes efforts to damage a victim’s identity and credit rating.

The law also increases the classification of Felony level stalking from a Class-C to a Class-B Felony, meaning an increase in prison time.

Oregon Representative Kevin Mannix wrote the original law back in 1995. He expressed is gratitude, saying “it is an honor to have been part of Oregon’s original anti-stalking law nearly 30 years ago, and now its modernization. I am confident that this legislation will help protect those who have become victims to stalking and ensure there are proper protections in place to get them the help they need.” This new law takes effect on July 1.

Babies, baby chicks don’t mix: OHA article highlights Salmonella risks of backyard poultry for newborns

PORTLAND, Ore. — Outbreaks of Salmonella infection linked to backyard poultry have been well documented, but a recent Oregon public health investigation highlights the risks of home chicken flocks for newborn babies.

An Oregon Health Authority (OHA) report in today’s edition of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) details an investigation into a case of salmonellosis – the disease caused by Salmonella bacteria – in a newborn whose parents kept backyard poultry.

OHA and Crook County epidemiologists investigated the case as part of a routine, multi-state review of backyard poultry-associated salmonellosis outbreaks reported to CDC from across the country during 2023.

According to the report, the baby boy was born at a hospital about 150 miles away from his parents’ home. The newborn was discharged with his mother to a relative’s home the day after his birth, but four days later was readmitted to a second hospital with bloody stool and lethargy, prompting health care providers to collect a stool sample for analysis. The sample tested positive for a strain of Salmonella known as Thompson.

Neither parent had symptoms of salmonellosis, nor had they been diagnosed with the disease. However, the baby’s father, who tended the family’s backyard poultry at the family’s home 150 miles away, was present at the hospital during the child’s birth and stayed with the child and the child’s mother at the relative’s home when the baby fell ill.

The newborn had not traveled to the home where the backyard poultry were kept during the time between his birth and his hospital admission for his illness.

Nearly a month after the newborn was admitted to the hospital with salmonellosis symptoms, state and county epidemiologists collected environmental samples from the chicken bedding in the family’s backyard poultry coop, where the child’s father had previously had contact. Two of the samples matched the Salmonella Thompson strain found in the child.

Paul Cieslak, M.D., medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at OHA’s Public Health Division and co-author of the MMWR article, said epidemiologists don’t know the exact mechanism by which the newborn was exposed to the Salmonella Thompson strain. But it’s telling that the newborn’s family started keeping backyard poultry only about a month before the child’s birth.

“It’s possible one of the parents was shedding the organism even though they weren’t showing symptoms and exposed the baby during or after his birth,” Cieslak said. “The bacteria also could have been carried from the family home to the newborn on clothes, shoes or other belongings. Once it’s on surfaces, it can be transported and transmitted fairly easily.”

The case is a strong reminder about the importance of hygiene when tending backyard poultry, “especially when persons at risk for exposure are newborns and young infants whose intestinal flora and immune systems are still developing,” the article’s authors wrote. “In addition to adhering to recommended hygiene practices, families contemplating raising backyard poultry should consider the potential risk to newborns and young infants living in the household.”

The CDC has the following recommendations for backyard flock owners:

  • Always wash hands with soap and water immediately after touching backyard poultry, their eggs or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Consider having hand sanitizer at your coop.
  • Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry, and don’t eat or drink around them. This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick. Keep your backyard flock and supplies you use to care for them (such as feed containers and shoes you wear in the coop) outside of the house. You should also clean the supplies outside the house.
  • Always supervise children around backyard poultry and make sure they wash their hands properly Don’t let children younger than 5 touch chicks, ducklings or other backyard poultry. Young children are more likely to get sick from germs such as Salmonella.
  • Collect eggs often. Eggs that sit in the nest can become dirty or break. Throw away cracked eggs. Germs on the shell can more easily enter the egg through a cracked shell. Rub off dirt on eggs with fine sandpaper, a brush, or a cloth. Don’t wash eggs because colder water can pull germs into the egg. Refrigerate eggs to keep them fresh and slow the growth of germs. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm, and cook egg dishes to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill all germs.
  • Call your health care provider right away if you have any of these severe symptoms:
    • Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F.
    • Diarrhea for more than three days that is not improving.
    • Bloody diarrhea.
    • So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down.
    • Signs of dehydration, such as not peeing much, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up.

The article’s lead author was Stephen Ladd-Wilson, Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section, OHA. Other co-authors included Karen Yeargain, Crook County Health Department; Samuel Myoda, Ph.D., and Mansour Samadpour, Ph.D., Institute for Environmental Health Laboratories, Seattle; and Karim Morey, Oregon State Public Health Laboratory, OHA.

Merkley and Wyden Announce Over $90 Million Coming To Oregon For Drinking Water And Wastewater Advancements

Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced a total of $90,393,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is headed to Oregon to fund safe drinking water projects and strengthen wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, which will protect public health and treasured bodies of water across the state.

“Reliable access to clean water is essential for the health and safety of every community in Oregon,” said Merkley, Chair of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds this program. “These funds will help improve water infrastructure—a top concern I hear about in the town halls I hold in every corner of Oregon, especially from folks in our rural communities. I’ll continue to do all I can to ensure every community has reliable access to safe drinking water and water sanitation by addressing outdated water infrastructure here in Oregon and across the nation.”

“Every Oregonian turning on the tap and using water in any fashion throughout the day should be able to count on a safe and dependable supply,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified this federal investment to strengthen water infrastructure is coming to help our entire state, and I’ll keep battling to secure clean water for every community large and small in Oregon.”

Today’s major investments for Oregon are part of $8.5 billion nationally announced by the EPA from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 for states, Tribes, and territories through this year’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). 

Of the over $90 million Oregon is receiving, $53,079,000 is coming from the DWSRF to support the development of water treatment facilities and other projects necessary to ensuring clean and safe drinking water for communities around the state. The additional $37,314,000 from the CWSRF will fund critical wastewater projects identified by the state. 

For a full state-by-state breakdown of the national funding awards, click HERE.

Oregon Secretary of State releases 2024 Civic Engagement Toolkit

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

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

Download the 2024 Civic Engagement Toolkit here.

Efforts to Locate Glide Teacher Rachel Merchant-Ly Continue

𝐈𝐃𝐋𝐄𝐘𝐋𝐃 𝐏𝐀𝐑𝐊, 𝐎𝐫𝐞. – Search and Rescue efforts continue in the search for Rachel Merchant-Ly, a Glide Elementary kindergarten teacher whose vehicle was found crashed in the North Umpqua River.

Merchant-Ly was reported missing on Thursday, February 29th when she didn’t arrive at school. A Douglas County Sheriff’s deputy located signs of a motor vehicle crash near milepost 41 on Highway 138E.

On Friday, March 1, 2024, Merchant-Ly’s vehicle was recovered from the North Umpqua River, but she was not found inside.

Since that time, nearly 300 hours volunteer hours of searching has taken place. Douglas County Search and Rescue has been using various methods of searching to include drone, ground and K9. The Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol has conducted water searches as well. Volunteers have searched along the riverbank from the crash site to Idleyld Park Trading Post; approximately 21 miles.

“We all want to find Mrs. Merchant-Ly and return her to her family,” Sheriff John Hanlin said. “Our deputies are in constant communication with her family and providing them with updates as to our efforts. We will continue searching and using all means necessary to accomplish our mission,” Hanlin added.

In addition to the efforts of DCSO and Search and Rescue volunteers, several community members have been actively looking for Merchant-Ly.

“We are aware of rafting guides and groups of rafters who have been launching all in an attempt to assist in finding her. We have also been contacting community members who are walking along the North Umpqua Trail and the highway,” Hanlin said. “As always this community steps forward to care for each other.”

As the weather turns more springlike, the Sheriff’s Office encourages those recreating around the area to be aware Merchant-Ly is still missing and to report anything which may assist in concluding this missing person case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LCSO Case #24-1671 – Missing Person from west Eugene

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office is looking for 39-year-old Brian John Fierke.  He last had contact with his family on March 26th, 2024.  Deputies, detectives, and Sheriff’s Search & Rescue have searched extensively for Fierke without success.   

Fierke is described as a white male adult, standing approximately 6’4” tall and weighing about 185 pounds.  Fierke has brown hair and blue eyes.  He may have brown facial hair.  

Anyone with information about Fierke’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Lane County Sheriff’s Office at 541-682-4150, option 1, and reference LCSO Case #24-1671.

20240224ewextra-David-Bjorkman-Missing
May be an image of 1 person, dog and text that says 'MISSING TAMMY PITKIN, Oregon State LAST KNOWN TO BE: Albany, Oregon on 17 OCT 2022 Reported Missing 26 OCT 2022 VEHICLE LOCATED ON DEAD- END FOREST SVC ROAD OFF HWY 20, 30 mi EAST of SWEET HOME, OR, 29 OCT 2022. Physical: age 54, White female, 5'4" tall, 160 lbs, blonde hair, hazel eyes Possibly Accompanied by her 2 small dogs, Cope and Trooper white/brown dog multi smooth-haired Jack Russell terrier) 23 IFYOU HAVE TIPS OR HAVE Feb OR, TAMMY: PLEASE PHONE LINN COUNTY, OR County SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Linh 1-541-967-3911,or911 Locted'

Missing child alert — Jerrica Landin is still missing and is believed to be in danger

2023-12/973/168527/Jerrica_Landin_2.jpg

The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Child Welfare Division, asks the public to help find Jerrica Landin, age 17, a child in foster care who went missing from Portland, Oregon on Aug. 21. She is believed to be in danger.

ODHS asks the public for help in the effort to find Jerrica and to contact 911 or local law enforcement if they believe they see her.

Jerrica may be in Portland or Eugene in Oregon. She may also be in Washington in Vancouver, Seattle or the Tri Cities. 

Name: Jerrica Landin
Pronouns: She/her
Date of birth: Oct. 24, 2006
Height: 5-foot-6
Weight: 130 pounds
Hair: Reddish brown
Eye color: Brown
Other identifying information: Jerrica has a tattoo of a heart on her neck below her right ear. She often dyes her hair red, pink and purple. 
Portland Police Bureau Case #23-803125
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children #1489518

Sometimes when a child is missing, they may be in significant danger and ODHS may need to locate them to assess and support their safety. As ODHS works to do everything it can to find these missing children and assess their safety, media alerts will be issued in some circumstances when it is determined necessary. Sometimes, in these situations, a child may go missing repeatedly, resulting in more than one media alert for the same child.

Report child abuse to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline by calling 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).  This toll-free number allows you to report abuse of any child or adult to the Oregon Department of Human Services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. 

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

Here One Minute, Gone the Next —-– PART 2 – Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel joins investigative journalist Alex Rogue to speak with Here One Minute, Gone the Next about the disappearance of Fauna Frey, the growing friction between citizen investigators and law enforcement, and the lack of resources in missing persons cases. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-disappearance-of-fauna-frey-pt2-feat-sheriff/id1707094441?i=1000630100040

PART 1 – John Frey joins Newsweek to discuss exclusive details about the case of his missing daughter that until now have been unavailable to the general public.

READ MORE HERE: https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-what-happened-fauna-frey-new-clues-uncovered-1827197?fbclid=IwAR3Z3Glru5lIgqiYXbs_nA1Fj8JuCIzM11OHSVHfwIucfq2f_G5y9y5bnmQ

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Fauna Frey, call the anonymous tip line at 541-539-5638 or email FindFaunaFrey@gmail.com. — Help Find Fauna Frey #FindFaunaFrey FACEBOOK GROUP

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'MISSING TALYNN RYLIE MERTZ, 15 Talynn was last seen in Eugene, Oregon on June 2, 2023. Talynn is 5'3"- -5'4" and 170 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes. f/MissingNorthwest @MissingNW @MissingNW IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800-THE-LOST Eugene Police Department: 541-682-5111'
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1109674113319848

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