Klamath Basin News, Thursday, 12/23 – Two Men in Dairy, Oregon Arrested for Growing 1200 Illegal Pot Plants, with Felony Charges Now Pending

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Thursday, December 23, 2021

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Today’s Headlines

Peter Michael Shepherd

A former narcotics detective and current reserve officer for the Malin Police Department was arrested Tuesday after a drug task force found roughly 1,200 illegal marijuana plants growing on his property outside Dairy

Peter Michael Shepherd, 63, who goes by the name Mike Shepherd, faces felony charges of unlawful manufacture of marijuana and “engaging in a financial transaction in property derived from unlawful activity,” according to Klamath County District Attorney Eve Costello.

Eric Smith, 41, who allegedly leased Shepherd’s property to grow the drug without permits, was also arrested Tuesday afternoon at the Malin City Hall by the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office. Smith faces the same charges as Shepherd. 

Shepherd has a long career in local law enforcement. He ran for Klamath County Sheriff in 2012 and worked as a civilian at Kingsley Field until 2016 in the information protection and human resource divisions. He also worked for the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office from 1990 to 2004 as a marine deputy, patrol officer, civil deputy and narcotics detective, among other positions. Since 2007, he has worked part-time for the Malin Police Department.

A conviction on both of the Class C felonies could result in a total of ten years in prison, a fine up to $250,000, or both.

Oregon’s Congressional delegation has secured another $10 million in federal aid for the Klamath Project.

Though irrigators would rather have water for Christmas, the money is still a welcome gift. This appropriation, secured by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Representative Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), is in addition to the $30 million in financial assistance already directed to project producers this summer.

It comes through a $210 million supplemental appropriations package awarded to the Bureau of Reclamation by recent government funding legislation.

Paul Simmons, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said the latest money will likely help fund the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency if it operates in 2022. The KPDRA has already begun issuing checks to eligible project producers that didn’t irrigate land in 2021, so irrigators won’t see those amounts increase thanks to the new pot of money. But Simmons said this may be the first time the KPDRA is heading into irrigation season with money already in the bank. The KPDRA is currently entitled to a separate $10 million fund each year thanks to federal authorizations, but it cannot access the money without a yearly appropriation from Congress.

Reclamation’s spending plan for its latest windfall essentially unlocked a $10 million advance for drought relief.

Oregon hospitals are anticipating a hospitalization surge as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly, including locally operated Sky Lakes Medical Center.

As noted in President Joe Biden’s announcement Tuesday, vaccinated Americans are being given the “OK” by the administration to move forward with their holiday plans, while unvaccinated Americans are being warned that they are at a high risk of infection if they choose to interact in close proximity with others during the holidays. Local hospitals are aware that the Omicron variant is spreading and are preparing for a surge.

Sky Lakes Medical Center’s Public Information Officer, Thomas Hottman says the latest data is being closely monitored. He adds the number of positive test results is also creeping up Hottman says at the same time, recently, there has been an increase in hospitalizations unrelated to Covid-19 illness, but professional medical staff are being trusted to handle the demand of patients while caring for their personal health as well.

The Salvation Army distribution center in Klamath Falls was bustling Wednesday with the happy shuffle of dozens of community members distributing and receiving donated toys and food.

A line of folks waiting to receive bags of toys, boxes of food or both made footprints through the light accumulation of snow in the parking lot.

Those receiving the donated items entered one half of the distribution center to pick up toys, if they signed up for it, and then proceeded to the other side to get a box of food containing two whole chickens, a bag of potatoes, bread rolls and a multitude of dry goods.

The local Salvation Army — celebrating its 100th Christmas in Klamath Falls — prepped about 475 boxes of food and about 1,700 toys, potentially much more, said Jeff Mueller, a case worker with the organization. The toys were collected via giving trees throughout town while money for the food was sourced throughout the community.

Meantime, United Way officials on Tuesday announced that the organization has raised $409,700 — or 82% — of its $501,000 Community Campaign goal as 2021 comes to a close.

“This is crunch time for all nonprofit organizations and institutions trying to raise funds for their program services. It’s an especially critical time for our local United Way because the health and welfare of thousands of local citizens young and elderly will directly be impacted by the success of our campaign,” said Leroy Cabral, United Way executive director.

The United Way of the Klamath Basin Community Campaign supports 16 local social service agencies that together provide services to an estimated 20,000 local people.

Contributions can be sent to United Way of the Klamath Basin at 136 N. Third Street in Klamath Falls, OR 97601.

Similar to Klamath County, a measure championed by the ‘Citizens for Greater Idaho’ group will appear on Douglas County ballots in May of 2022 after the County Clerk’s office verified that their petition had enough valid signatures.

According to the group, Douglas County Clerk Dan Loomis validated 3,003 signatures on the petition, certifying it as Measure 10-185 on the May ballot. If approved by the voters, Douglas County’s measure would amend a 1997 ordinance so that county funds could be used “to advocate, oppose, and provide information on Federal and State, and State of Idaho, legislation, regulations, and administrative rules that affect the county” — and subsequent, similar changes for County employees. Douglas County voters had a chance to vote on a non-binding measure on whether they’d like to pursue the “Greater Idaho” plan in November of 2020, and they soundly rejected the matter.

“Greater Idaho” president Mike McCarter downplayed the outcome on Wednesday as the result of limited funding and campaigning.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon reports 1,197 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 31 new deaths

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (11), Benton (19), Clackamas (120), Clatsop (9), Columbia (17), Coos (25), Crook (11), Curry (5), Deschutes (98), Douglas (27), Grant (9), Harney (3), Hood River (6), Jackson (73), Jefferson (6), Josephine (38), Klamath (18), Lake (2), Lane (106), Lincoln (4), Linn (52), Malheur (2), Marion (86), Morrow (8), Multnomah (253), Polk (22), Tillamook (6), Umatilla (13), Union (2), Wasco (4), Washington (122) and Yamhill (20).

OHA reported 5,589 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, Dec. 13, through Sunday, Dec. 19. That is a 10% increase from the previous week.

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 342, which is four more than yesterday. There are 87 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is two more than yesterday.

There are 59 available adult ICU beds out of 673 total (9% availability) and 269 available adult non-ICU beds out of 4,135 (7% availability).

Governor Kate Brown announced on Tuesday that she has extended her state of emergency declaration for the coronavirus, saying that it provides needed flexibility for facing an anticipated surge of the Omicron variant.

In a press conference with Governor Brown and state officials last week, OHSU lead data scientist Dr. Peter Graven predicted that the Omicron variant could surpass Delta in hospitalizations due to its apparent extreme transmissibility.

Brown’s office said that the emergency declaration provides the necessary framework to mobilize resources in the state’s COVID-19 response, allowing the deployment of medical providers to hospitals, providing flexibility around professional health licensing, and ensuring that Oregon can continue to access federal disaster relief funds.

The extended emergency declaration, Executive Order 21-36, will remain in effect until June 30 of 2022 unless extended or rescinded.

Brown rescinded a number of executive orders governing COVID-19 restrictions at the end of June this year, but left the emergency declaration in place. This was before the Delta variant surged over the summer.

A Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office jail deputy is pleading guilty to official misconduct for stealing blank vaccination cards.

Court records show 50-year-old Robert Haney was accused of stealing the cards in May and filling two of them out with false information. A search found the cards in his house. Haney will serve six month’s probation, resign from his position at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, lose his Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training certification and pay a 500-dollar fine.

Oregon State University says it will “likely” require students and employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the school has already mandated the initial doses of the vaccine. OSU says the booster requirement isn’t official, but urged students, faculty and staff to seek out the additional shot over the holiday break.

On Monday, the University of Oregon announced it will require booster doses for students and staff, but it did not set a deadline to comply. And the University of Washington says it will implement remote learning for the first week of the winter quarter in January because of growing concerns about the highly-contagious omicron variant.

Several other schools across the country are taking similar measures in the face of the highly-contagious variant, including DePaul, Harvard and Stanford universities.

Willamette University is moving most of its larger classes online to start next semester. University officials announced the move yesterday, citing ongoing concerns with the omicron variant for the change.

Willamette says most large classes will go online for at least the first two weeks to give students and staff time to test themselves for positive cases after traveling over winter break. Lab, studio and field-based classes will remain in person.

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