Klamath Basin News, Thursday, 11/18 – Wilsonart Manufacturing Opens Production in Klamath, Will Hire About 50 Workers

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The latest and most comprehensive coverage of local News, Sports, Business, and Community News stories in the Klamath Basin, Southern Oregon and around the state of Oregon from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM / 102.5FM, The Herald & News, and BasinLife.com, and powered by Mick Insuranceyour local health and Medicare agents.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53. Light winds becoming south 8 to 13 mph in the afternoon. Overnight a 40% chance of showers with a low around 39.

FridayA 30 percent chance of showers. Snow level 5700 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 49.
Saturday Mostly sunny, with a high near 51.
Sunday Sunny, with a high near 53.

Today’s Headlines

A new Wilsonart manufacturing facility is now operating in Klamath Falls, adding jobs and momentum to the local economy.

Randy Cox, CEO of Klamath County Economic Development Agency, said the company plans to hire 50 employees to work at the new plant located at 5959 Wesgo Drive. Cox said Wilsonart is on track to reach that number in early 2022.

The factory will primarily produce thermally-fused laminate. Andrew Stork, project manager for Klamath County Economic Development Agency, said the Wilsonart facility fits easily into the current Klamath Falls industrial economy.   That major manufacturers like Wilsonart find Klamath an attractive place to build a new facility is a sign of the industry’s resilience in the area.

Cox said having railroad access from the facility, and being located halfway between Portland and San Francisco, provides access to a number of markets. If the facility continues to grow, Wilsonart estimates it could eventually employ as many as 130 people in Klamath County.

Looking for an outdoor experience to celebrate the holidays? How about cutting down your own Christmas tree? Christmas tree permits for the Bureau of Land Management Klamath Falls Field Office can be purchased online starting Nov. 22. Permits cost $5 per tree with a limit of 2 trees per household.

Go to forestproducts.blm.gov, select Oregon and “Klamath Falls Field Office” from the drop-down menu, and follow the prompts. A permit, stipulations, and a map will be emailed to you following purchase.

Though some restrictions may apply, Christmas tree cutting is permitted on most BLM-administered lands within the Klamath Falls Field Office. Maps of cutting areas are available with permits.

Before you head out to find your perfect tree, review the details below to have the best experience.

• You must have a valid permit to cut and/or remove trees from BLM-managed public lands. Check with your local BLM field office as cutting areas, guidelines and restrictions vary. Tag prices and restrictions are different for trees cut on U.S. Forest Service land.

• No topping of trees.

• Cut below lowest live limb. Leave stumps no higher than six inches.

• Avoid damage to other trees.

• Drive only on existing roads. Don’t block traffic when you park. Comply with road closures.

• Do not trespass on or through private land.

• Stay on designated roads and respect private land. Some tree cutting areas may be inaccessible after a snowfall — early-season cutting is advisable.

• Be safe and prepared. Check road and weather conditions before heading out.

• Please dispose of trees properly. Consider composting or using it as firewood if those are options available to you.

Keep in mind that hunting seasons can be open during these times, so wearing brighter colors may be advisable.

Cascade Health Alliance members who are Sky Lakes Medical Center patients will get greater access to convenient care through a new grant from the Federal Communications Commission’s pilot telehealth access program.

This initiative provides up to $100 million in funds to help eligible healthcare providers cover the costs of providing connected care services.

Sky Lakes Medical Center was awarded nearly $194,000 for telehealth care initiatives and the total project budget is $227,850. Funds for the project will be used to help treat chronically ill patients, those with long-term conditions, high-risk pregnancies, mental health conditions and opioid dependency. Key benefactors of these services are patients with low-income in rural and in underserved areas.

The Ross Ragland Theater and Klamath Snowflake Festival announce that the 2021 Annual Gingerbread House Competition will be taking place at the Ragland this December.

Open to individuals of all ages, participants have the chance to win gift cards from businesses around the Basin as well as tickets to our showing of the Balshoi Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker (December 21st at 7PM).

The exhibit will open on the afternoon of the Mazama Winter Concert, November 30th. The houses will remain on display through December 20th.

Those interested in viewing the entries can do so by going to our box office during normal hours, 12PM to 5PM Monday through Friday. To gain entry to the Ragland lobby please stop by our box office and our attendant will allow entry.  

Judging will take place on December 20th from 2PM to 4PM and will be closed to the public. Winners of all categories will be announced during our award ceremony on the 20th  from 4:30PM – 5:30PM after the judges have finished making their decisions. Hot cocoa and cookies will be provided.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon reports 996 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 19 new deaths

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (7), Benton (17), Clackamas (118), Clatsop (3), Columbia (18), Coos (25), Crook (29), Curry (4), Deschutes (93), Douglas (35), Gilliam (2), Grant (1), Hood River (16), Jackson (72), Jefferson (8), Josephine (26), Klamath (31), Lake (6), Lane (56), Lincoln (18), Linn (41), Malheur (6), Marion (82), Morrow (6), Multnomah (107), Polk (29), Tillamook (5), Umatilla (10), Union (4), Wallowa (1), Wasco (12), Washington (80), Wheeler (4) and Yamhill (24).

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 427, which is 25 fewer than yesterday. There are 100 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is eight fewer than yesterday.

There are 66 available adult ICU beds out of 687 total (10% availability) and 246 available adult non-ICU beds out of 4,101 (6% availability). 

The lack of substitute teachers, on top of regular staff shortages schools are experiencing, has prompted action at the state level to help local school districts draw more people into the pool.

The Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission made a temporary rule last month loosening the requirements for people to be a substitute teacher in the state.

The temporary rule allows people to get an emergency substitute license with the sponsorship of a district. The license is similar to a standard substitute license; however, this license can be granted to people who do not have a bachelor’s degree and is only valid within the sponsoring school district for the remainder of this school year or six months (whichever is later), according to the rule.

The sponsoring school district has to provide these substitutes with enhanced support and administrative supervision. Additionally, people with this type of license can only fill absences for “single assignments that will not be longer than 10 consecutive days,” according to commission documents.

Oregon has experienced a substantial decrease in the number of individuals holding substitute licenses since the pandemic began, according to Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

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Student demonstrators and adult counter-protesters clashed outside Grants Pass High School in Oregon during a student-led walkout against the reinstatement of two educators who expressed public support for educational policies that favor a student’s biological sex over their gender identity, authorities said.

Students left class Tuesday to protest a Nov. 9 school board vote to reinstate former North Middle School assistant principal Rachel Damiano and former science teacher Katie Medart.

Several adults from religious groups showed up to demonstrate against the students and between 200 to 300 people wound up outside the high school, the Mail Tribune reported.

Police detained several people, including a student who they said spit on a counter-protester and a teen who tried to intervene in another student’s arrest. The movement’s website says it believes school bathrooms and locker rooms should be assigned based on students’ biological sex and not their gender identity.

The teachers also don’t want to teachers to be required to use a student’s preferred transgender pronouns.

Oregon Could Eliminate Quarantines for Students with ‘Test-To-Stay’ Program

K-12 schools should soon all but eliminate the need to quarantine students who’ve been exposed to COVID-19, the director of the Oregon Department of Education said Wednesday.

Director Colt Gill said he hopes the state will be able to implement a “test-to-stay” program by the end of November. That means unvaccinated students, who have been required to stay home from school for seven to 14 days because they’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, will instead be allowed to attend school in person as long as they test negative.

The tests will be paid for by the state, using federal coronavirus relief money, and free to students. Students will be tested immediately after it’s determined they have been exposed, then a second time near or at the seven-day mark, Gill said.

In testing students just twice during a week-long span, Oregon’s programs would differ dramatically from many others in the U.S., where students are swabbed a minimum of every other day using rapid tests. In Georgia, exposed students are tested daily for seven days. In Massachusetts, it’s every day for at least five days. But Washington only requires two tests over seven days.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the test-to-stay model as “a promising practice,” it hasn’t endorsed it or recommended how frequently students should be tested and over what period of time.

When The Oregonian/OregonLive asked Oregon Department of Education officials on Wednesday why they aren’t opting for more frequent testing, they couldn’t immediately provide an answer.

Gill announced the program’s rollout to a state legislative committee overseeing Oregon’s COVID-19 response.

It’s unclear if the program actually will begin by the end of the month. Officials with some of the largest districts in the state haven’t announced any plans to start test-to-stay programs in the next two weeks.

Officials at Portland Public Schools didn’t respond to a query Wednesday. Shellie Bailey-Shah, a Beaverton schools spokesperson, said the district’s test-to-stay start date will depend on test availability. Spokesperson Beth Graser said Hillsboro schools “stand ready to participate in programs that are made available to us” but she thinks districts need more information and direction from the state.

Gill told legislators that a lack of testing supplies has been holding back the program’s launch.

“Governor Brown, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Ed have been advocating with our federal partners to get an adequate supply and a stable supply of tests going forward,” Gill said. “We think we have that nearly in place.”

The new program would “reduce or nearly eliminate quarantines for students,” Gill said. Students would need parental permission to participate.

However, Gill stressed that the best solution for avoiding quarantines is getting vaccinated.

Students who are fully vaccinated but exposed to someone with COVID-19 can remain in school without testing or quarantining as long as they remain symptom-free. It’s worth noting that the CDC says vaccinated people who’ve been exposed should get tested five to seven days later, even if they exhibit no symptoms.

The requirement that unvaccinated students quarantine after exposure has caused major disruptions to the learning process this school year. Although state education officials didn’t respond Wednesday to provide a statewide figure, more than 3,300 students in Portland Public Schools have been directed to quarantine for periods of up to 10 days or more since the start of the academic year in September. However, that number could be an overcount because some of the 3,300 reported quarantines might be of students who were told to stay home multiple times.

There also have been a series of high profile quarantine incidents. In early September, between 40 to 50 students at both Duniway Elementary in Southeast Portland and Hallinan Elementary in Lake Oswego were forced to quarantine in separate incidents after riding school buses with someone who was infected. Later that month, 2,700-student Reynolds High School in Troutdale temporarily shutdown in-person learning after educators determined a third of students might have come into close contact with four contagious people. In September and October, a second grader in the North Clackamas School District missed out on a total of 16 days of school because he was exposed to different COVID-19 cases twice.

 Five members of a fishing boat crew are safe after being rescued by crews from the US Coast Guard when their vessel went down along the Oregon coast near Reedsport.

The USCG said that watchstanders in North Bend received a radio hail around 9 p.m. on Monday from the captain of the 67-foot fishing vessel Desire, out of Neah Bay, Washington.

The captain reported that his ship was taking on water, and his crew was preparing to abandon ship in a life raft. A radio beacon on the Desire was activated as it came into contact with the water, notifying Coast Guard watchstanders in the Seattle area. It was located about 20 miles offshore from the mouth of the Umpqua River.

Rescue helicopter crews from Coast Guard stations in both Newport and North Bend were scrambled in response, in addition to 47-foot motor lifeboats from the Siuslaw River and Umpqua River stations.

The helicopter crews found the survivors in their life raft around 9:30 p.m., sending down rescue swimmers to prepare the Desire‘s crew for hoisting up. While the Newport crew pulled up three of the survivors, the remaining two were rescued by the North Bend crew. The two motor lifeboat crews stayed on the scene to help.

Oregon pays more than $141 million in federal emergency rental assistance 

Nearly 21,000 households have received funds to pay rent 

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) and Local Program Administrators (LPAs) continue to make strong progress on processing applications for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP). 

As of today, OHCS and LPAs have paid $141.3 million in federal emergency rental assistance to 20,962 applicants, up from $130.6 million and 19,613 applicants last week. The agency is ranked 7th in the nation in the percentage of funds paid and obligated. 

OHCS announced last week a pause in accepting new applications for the OERAP program for six weeks, starting on Dec. 1, at 11:59 p.m. Anyone who has fallen behind on rent or may get behind on December rent is encouraged to apply for emergency rental assistance right away, but before Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m. at oregonrentalassistance.org.

Progress and Updated Numbers  

Through its three-point plan, OHCS and its processing partner, Public Partnerships LLC (PPL), have made significant strides to drive rapid application processing in the past several weeks. Currently, 105 PPL staff are processing applications on behalf of counties with applications outside the 60-/90-day safe harbor period. In the past week, PPL processed close to 700 applications, exceeding their 500-application target. PPL is currently onboarding and training an additional 45 staff who will begin processing next week.

To date, OHCS and LPAs have: 

  • Paid $141,384,835 to landlords and tenants to help – over $20 million in the past two weeks alone – 20,962 Oregon households
  • Processed and obligated an additional $29.6 million in funds for 3,544 households.
  • Received more than $373.3 million in funding requests via applications. 
  • Received more than 49,939 completed applications.  

Visit the OERAP dashboard for more data.  

Joint Task Force Serves Search Warrant in Medford After Child Porn Uploaded From Local Apartment Complex

The Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team (SOCET) joint inter-agency task force served a search warrant Wednesday morning at an apartment complex on the 1600 block of Coker Butte Road in Medford.

Investigators discovered numerous images of child pornography were uploaded from a residence in the apartment complex. Investigators are interviewing possible witnesses and involved parties, and investigations are ongoing.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) tips started the investigation, which led to subpoenas, followed by the search warrant at the apartment. Digital devices were seized, and will be forensically examined by the Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force (SOHTCTF) for evidence of child exploitation.

The search warrant team consisted of personnel from Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO), Oregon State Police (OSP), Medford Police Department (MPD), Grants Pass Police Department (GPPD), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and high-tech crimes examiners. 

SOCET is a joint inter-agency task force that started in June of 2020 to combat child exploitation and human trafficking. The task force consists of investigators from JCSO, MPD, GPPD, OSP, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and HSI; as well as prosecutors from our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in Jackson and Josephine County. JCSO Case #21-2978 Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office

Portland, Oregon, is using its emergency water supply system rather than the Bull Run watershed after a toppled tree damaged a treatment plant east of the city.

The Portland Water Bureau said it began using safe-to-drink groundwater from the Columbia South Shore Well Field on Monday, when a windstorm sent a tall evergreen crashing into the bureau’s Lusted Hill facility in Gresham, according to reports.

The impact battered the roof and interior of the building and broke the facility’s corrosion treatment equipment, said bureau spokeswoman Jaymee Cuti. Cuti was unable to say how much it would cost to fix the damage and didn’t know when they would switch back over to Portland’s primary water supply, which is drawn from Bull Run Lake near Mt. Hood.

The city has switched to water from the Columbia South Shore Well Field 43 times since 1985, Willamette Week reported Monday. Water officials said climate change will likely increase Portland’s reliance on its emergency water supply system.

 A Springfield man is charged with a federal hate crime for using the internet to target and brutally assault a gay man because of his sexual orientation.

The U.S. Attorney for Oregon says an investigation found Daniel McGee used the app Grindr to meet a gay man online. On July 5th, he allegedly went to the man’s apartment and beat him with a wooden club. Investigators say McGee used the internet to plan the assault, buy the weapon, and get tips on how to avoid getting caught.

The victim suffered life-threatening injuries. McGee is being held until his next court appearance.

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A big lunar eclipse is coming Thursday night into Friday morning, but will Oregonians actually be able to see it? The forecast says… not likely.

Rain and clouds are expected to cover Oregon on Thursday night, as well as much of the Pacific Northwest, according to a forecast by the National Weather Service. That should obscure the partial lunar eclipse from view, as well as the tail end of the Leonid meteor shower that is coinciding with the eclipse. John Bumgardner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, said sky watchers could try to drive out to eastern Oregon, which tends to have clearer skies, but even there, chances would be slim.

The Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission approved an initial list of park capital improvement projects at its regular Nov. 17 meeting that will be funded by the issuance of general obligation bonds. The 2021 Oregon Legislature passed SB 5506 that approved the issuance of $50 million in general obligation bonds to fund the state park facility improvements.

“The legislature’s incredibly generous act allows us to make significant and much needed upgrades to facilities and infrastructure, as well as modernize and expand some campgrounds,” said Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). “This support for the park system’s future is especially meaningful as we commemorate our centennial in 2022 and our commitment to provide world-class park experiences.”

The agency will receive two disbursements of $25 million each, with the first occurring May 2022 and the second in March 2023. These funds must be spent within three years of payout. 

A summary of the project list shown below is broken into the two different project groups based on when they’re slated to start general bond funding. Cost estimates are provided as ranges as the agency continues to refine project work. Construction for the May 2022 projects are expected to begin in fall 2022. 

Initial Park Capital Improvement Project List

May 2022

  • Beverly Beach Parkwide Rehabilitation: Upgrade outdated electrical systems throughout the campground, as well as upgrade campsites. Current general obligation bond estimate $3-5 million. 
  • Champoeg State Heritage Area Camping Expansion: Add a new camping loop, riverside cabins, and restroom/shower building, as well as possible upgrades to the current drain field or develop an additional drain field and possible electrical and water systems upgrades.  Current general obligation bond estimate $3-5 million. 
  • Fort Stevens State Park Guard House Rehabilitation: Add a new roof and roof structure, repoint the bricks and replace windows and doors, as well as complete exterior access improvements, utilities and landscape improvements to stop water leaks in the basement, and upgrade water, sewer and electrical connections. Current general obligation bond estimate $1-3 million.
  • Fort Stevens State Park Utilities: Upgrade the utility services to four campground loops, including improving electrical, water, and wastewater utilities and wastewater lift stations. Replace a 1955 shower/restroom, upgrade other restrooms and replace the restroom at the Peter Iredale day-use area. Current general obligation bond estimate $6-8 million.
  • Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site Interpretive Center and Collections Building: Expand the park by acquiring city park property and construct new facilities to house a visitor/interpretive center and collections materials. Current general obligation bond estimate $3-5 million.
  • Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint Restroom and Parking Expansion: Construct a restroom building and expand parking at the Portland Women’s Forum. Initial design work is complete for both a restroom and 100-space parking lot that meets National Scenic Area requirements. Current general obligation bond estimate $2-4 million.
  • Silver Falls State Park Camping Expansion & North Falls Complex: Begin the north gateway development that includes a campground with restroom/shower facilities, a North Gateway Visitor Center, and a new North Canyon trailhead and parking lot. Infrastructure improvements such as water, electrical, and sewer systems included, as well as relocation of the current RV dump station. Current general obligation bond estimate $8-10 million.
  • Smith Rock State Park Visitor Center & Congestion: Build a new visitor center and restroom, as well as complete electrical upgrades, and make parking/traffic improvements to meet current and future visitor needs. Work to include some trail improvements. Current general obligation bond estimate $4-6 million.

March 2023

  • Cape Lookout State Park: Relocate A & B loops to higher ground, which includes new roads, new infrastructure and restroom/shower facilities. Remove facilities that are being lost to ocean erosion. Current general obligation bond estimate $8-10 million.
  • Milo McIver State Park: Add a second loop with restroom/shower facilities to the campground. Upgrade the park sewer and water systems. The current water system provides water to both the park and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish hatchery within the park. Current general obligation bond estimate $3-5 million.
  • Nehalem Bay State Park Parkwide Upgrade and Yurt Loop: Upgrade existing utilities in three loops. Add a new cabin loop, tent sites, and new campground restrooms within the campground. Add seasonal staff housing, upgrades to several day-use facilities. Current general obligation bond estimate $5-8 million.

Materials provided to the Commission on Nov. 17 are available on the agency website: https://www.oregon.gov/oprd/CAC/Pages/CAC-oprc.aspx

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