Klamath Basin News, Monday, 1/10 – City of Klamath Falls Narrows Search of New City Manager

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Mostly sunny, with a high near 41. Overnight patchy freezing fog after 11pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 29. Light northeast wind.

Tuesday Partly sunny, with a high near 44. Light northeast wind. Overnight low of 24.
Wednesday Partly sunny, with a high near 42.
Thursday Mostly sunny, with a high near 45.
Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 42.
Saturday Mostly sunny, with a high near 43.

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Hiway 97 at GreenSprings Dr. (Bi-pass)
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Hiway 97 at Chemult   
Hiway 140 at  Bly
Hiway 97 at LaPine

Today’s Headlines

Oregon reports 10,451 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 33 new deaths

There are 33 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,761, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported 10,451 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 459,700.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (27), Benton (301), Clackamas (1,132), Clatsop (55), Columbia (66), Coos (127), Crook (35), Curry (23), Deschutes (940), Douglas (103), Gilliam (3), Grant (9), Harney (5), Hood River (1), Jackson (291), Jefferson (63), Josephine (96), Klamath (63), Lake (6), Lane (578), Lincoln (42), Linn (237), Malheur (40), Marion (1,286), Morrow (24), Multnomah (2,380), Polk (183), Sherman (2), Tillamook (19), Umatilla (170), Union (12), Wallowa (5), Wasco (26), Washington (1,891) and Yamhill (210).

The City of Klamath Falls has narrowed the search for the next city manager to four candidates.

The finalists are scheduled to interview with city council on Thursday, Jan. 20. The finalists are Deidre Andrus, Dave Strahl, Jonathan Teichert and Mark Wood.

The public will have the opportunity to meet the candidates on Wednesday, Jan. 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the 9th Street Venue, 829 Klamath Ave.

City councilors will also have their chance to pepper the candidates. City councilor Phil Studenberg said that he’s looking for a city manager who has the ability to bring economic development to the city, as well as the ability to address issues of equity in the community.

Councilor Todd Andres said he would like to see someone with a strong financial background who knows how to operate and manage budgets in the city manager seat. Andres also said he is looking for someone who can communicate and work well with the range of city departments and is capable of working with organizations outside the city, such as the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, the Klamath County Economic Development Association and the Klamath Falls Downtown Association.

Kelly Minty Morris

A local economic summit at the Ross Ragland Theater will draw economic experts from both the area and from around the region to discuss economic conditions in Klamath County

The event will be hosted by both Klamath County Economic Development Association and the chair of the Klamath County board of commissioners, Kelley Minty Morris. 

The event will feature economists from the region who will discuss different local industry positions and how the Basin economy is set to fare in 2022. They will then field questions regarding the economic future of the area, according to Andrew Stork, operations manager for KCEDA.

Speakers include Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, David Runberg, a regional economist, and Alison Smith of the Southern Oregon Economic Development District.

Lehner and Runberg will both discuss the economic and employment forecasts for Klamath County and Smith will discuss the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on business in the Klamath community.

Following the presentations, there will be a panel discussion featuring six local business leaders followed by a Q&A session, said Kendra Santiago, project manager for KCEDA.

With the Modoc Nation’s recent purchase of an overgrazed ranch near Sheepy Ridge, bison may be headed to the Klamath Basin — along with, tribal leadership hopes, cultural healing.

The 496-member tribe, based in Miami, Okla., includes the descendants of 155 Modocs who the U.S. government transported on cattle cars from Fort Klamath to Oklahoma after the Modoc War in 1873.

Recently, the tribe has purchased several properties in the Tulelake area, intending to develop a presence on lands they were forcibly removed from. During the last three years, the tribe purchased two adjacent properties at the foot of Barntop Mountain, in the sagebrush uplands that separate Lower Klamath Lake from Tule Lake. The tribe intends to restore these ecosystems, which have been overgrazed for decades after nearby hunting lodges began leasing land to ranchers.

Ken Sandusky, the Modoc Nation’s newly-appointed resource and development director, said the area has a deeper meaning, too. During the Modoc War, when the two massive lakes blocked most overland travel between Linkville and the Lava Beds, wagons could only carry supplies to the U.S. Army through this corridor. The tribe hopes to work with both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on restoration efforts — both on the property and the adjacent public lands.

The bison would come multiple years down the road, after the land has had a chance to regroup. And the tribe hopes to manage them in a way that will further ecosystem recovery

Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) announced the nomination of 15 Oregon students for acceptance to United States service academies for the 2022-2023 school year, including two from Klamath County.

They Klamath County nominees are Andrew Edwards and Elijah Jennings. Andrew is the son of Jeffrey and Teresa Edwards of Klamath Falls, currently attending Henley High School. Andrew was nominated to the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Naval Academy.

Elijah Jennings is the son of Jason and Lesli Jennings of Klamath Falls, currently attending Mazama High School. Elijah was nominated to the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Naval Academy.

Caroline Schulze and Thomas Dodgen, Civil Engineering students at Oregon Tech, were awarded scholarships from the Asphalt Pavement Association of Oregon Educational Foundation, a nonprofit trade organization representing the interests of the asphalt paving industry.

Schulze is on track to graduate in 2023 with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering. Originally from Loveland, Colo., she chose Oregon Tech’s engineering program because of the unique nature that prioritizes hands-on complex design skills and the importance of how humans and the natural environment interact with infrastructure.

Dodgen will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He shares that his small hometown of Adin, Calif., greatly values practicality, work ethic, and quality interactions.

Oregon Tech maintains a decades-long relationship with APAO and the Oregon asphalt pavements industry. APAO was instrumental in establishing the Oregon Tech Pavement Engineering Lab in Cornett Hall. Roger Lindgren, civil engineering department chair and professor, noted that several APAO members commented on the high-quality applications from Oregon Tech students and were impressed with the hands-on experiences students have in the lab.

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) will hold a remote and telephone town hall for constituents in Klamath County on Tuesday, Jan. 11.

The remote event starts at 4:30 p.m. Join on Zoom or by phone by dialing 669-254-5252. The meeting ID is 161 059 1430 and the passcode is 48852159.

According to Merkley, he will update constituents on his work, answer questions and invite suggestions about how to tackle the challenges facing Oregon and America.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon’s hospitals are expected to be overwhelmed by the end of this month even though the highly contagious Omicron variant tends to be less severe, said OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics director Dr. Peter Graven in a press briefing alongside state health and education officials on Friday.

With COVID-19 cases in the state skyrocketing this week, Dr. Graven said that his latest modeling shows a steep incline in hospitalized patients ahead, reaching an estimated 1,652 COVID-19 patients by the end of January — 30% higher than during the Delta variant peak. Omicron infections do tend to be less severe, Graven said, and hospital stays tend to be shorter. Nonetheless, Omicron’s sheer transmissibility means that a high number of more vulnerable people will require this level of care.

Vaccinations continue to be effective in preventing severe illness, but Graven acknowledged that Omicron is spreading rapidly among vaccinated people as well as the unvaccinated.

Oregon reported 10,451 new cases on Friday, breaking a single-day pandemic record for the fourth time this week, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger.

Despite COVID-19 transmission raging this week, with the 7-day average of new cases increasing 373% over the week prior, Dr. Sidelinger said that Oregon will embrace the CDC-recommended shortening of quarantine periods from 10 days to 5 after someone tests positive for COVID-19 for people without symptoms.

Social Card

Getting water to central Oregon farmers who need it most takes time and investment, mainly in the form of new pipelines that are replacing leaky canals.

But irrigation districts are also coming up with innovative ways to share water around the Deschutes Basin. The newest idea is a water bank pilot program which will provide a cash payment to central Oregon Irrigation District patrons who “volunteer not to use irrigation water for the 2022 irrigation season,” according to the Deschutes River Conservancy, which is facilitating the program.

The unused water will be sent to North Unit Irrigation District, a junior water rights holder that has experienced limited water resources during the current drought. Once in the hands of North Unit, the water will be added to the district’s overall supply for the summer of 2022. The program is potentially lucrative for landowners who don’t want to use their water rights — it’s free money for patrons who may not want to water their property or have no crops or livestock to water.

Task Force Raids Black-Market Marijuana Processing and Storage Facility, Seizes Nearly 2,500 Lbs. Processed Cannabis, $4k Cash, 20 Guns

Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET) detectives served a search warrant on a marijuana processing and storage facility Tuesday morning on the 3800 block of Dodge Road in White City.

The operation was the result of a month-long investigation and seized 2,424 lbs. of processed illegal marijuana, $4,100 in cash, and 20 firearms. The primary suspect in this investigation was on the property at the time of the raid, and criminal charges are pending through the Jackson County District Attorney’s office. 

While regulatory agencies investigate permitted cannabis operations, IMET is focusing on the black-market marijuana trade in the Rogue Valley. IMET is a multi-agency task force funded by a grant from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. The task force includes personnel from Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Medford Police Department, and the DA’s Office. 

Investigations are open and ongoing with detectives working additional leads. No further information is currently available for release. MPD Case #22-0113 Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office 

Five days left to enroll in health coverage for 2022, savings still available!: Deadline to enroll for 2022 health coverage through OregonHealthCare.gov is Jan. 15

OHIM logo

142,783 people in Oregon have enrolled in health coverage through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace as of Dec. 15, 2021.

There is still time to enroll if you have not yet taken action. The deadline to get health coverage with financial help is Jan. 15, 2022. 

The American Rescue Plan Act (2021) has made health insurance purchased through the Marketplace more affordable than ever. Individuals and families will pay only a certain percentage of their income on health insurance thanks to financial help available through OregonHealthCare.gov. 

“Even if you think you make too much money, you should look into your health coverage options through the Marketplace,” says Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “Eligibility rules have changed and we have heard many people are surprised to see how much they can save on health coverage now.” 

Every Oregonian, whether uninsured, enrolled in COBRA, or enrolled directly through an insurance company, should look into Marketplace coverage, even if they were not previously eligible. More than 75 percent of people who signed up in 2021 received financial help for plans that include essential benefits such as doctor visits, prescriptions, emergency care, and mental health services.

  • A 40-something couple in the Portland area making $70,000 can get health coverage for as low as $300 per month.
  • A 26-year-old living in Eugene making $28,000 per year can get health coverage for as low as $1 per month.
  • Parents who are 30-something and have two children in La Grande earning $80,000 can get health coverage for as low as $145 per month.

Oregonians can preview plans and savings available to them by answering a few short questions at OregonHealthCare.gov. The website is also the best place to find a health insurance experts who can give one-on-one help with the application and enrollment process by phone, email, or in person. Visit OregonHealthCare.gov today to get started. 

The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of state government, helps people get health insurance when they do not have job-based coverage, and do not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan or another program. The Marketplace is the state-level partner to HealthCare.gov. For more information, go to OregonHealthCare.gov. — Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services

Nearly 32,000 Oregon households have received rental assistance relief due to hardship from pandemic 

State issues checks for more than $222 million in federal emergency rental assistance 

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) announced that as of Jan. 5, OHCS and local program administrators (LPAs) have paid $222.4 million in federal emergency rental assistance to 31,816 households through the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP). 

OERAP continues to be one of the nation’s top-performing programs and is ranked sixth in the nation in the percentage of federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds paid out and obligated, as tracked by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Emergency rental assistance for 2021

At the close of 2021, 31,264 Oregon families received federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program resources totaling more than $217 million in relief payments. Combined with $200 million in state funds allocated in late December of 2020, more than $411 million in rental assistance was distributed to Oregonians in need last year. Local program administrators paid out more than $10 million a week during the last five weeks of 2021, shattering previous records. For comparison, OHCS delivered $80 million for households in all of 2020.

U.S. Department of the Treasury informed OHCS late last week that due to high performance and demonstrated ongoing need, $1.1 million in additional rental assistance will be allocated to OHCS over the coming weeks. 

Progress and updated numbers  

Through its three-point plan, OHCS and its processing partner, Public Partnerships LLC (PPL), have made significant strides in the past several weeks to speed up application processing. Currently, 265 PPL staff are focusing on processing applications. In the past week alone, PPL processed 1,698 applications, far exceeding its target of 1,000. This is in addition to the applications processed by LPAs working across the state to finish paying out ERA 1 funds. 

To date, OHCS and LPAs: 

  • Paid $222,407,625 to landlords and tenants to help 31,816 Oregon households, close to 76% of ERA 1 and 2 funds. 
  • Currently reviewing for payment 5,693 applications.
  • Need applicant or landlord response for 12,803 applications.

Visit the OERAP dashboard for more data.  

Gov. Brown Appoints Policy Adviser To Oversee $5 Billion In Infrastructure Spending

Gov. Brown appointed one of her policy advisers to oversee the spending of more than $5 billion in federal infrastructure money in Oregon over the next five years, Brown announced Friday.

The White House earlier this week asked each state to appoint a high-level employee to coordinate with the federal government and various state and local agencies that stand to receive money for transportation, broadband and water needs under the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure law passed last fall.

Brown picked Leah Horner, who now works as her policy adviser on jobs and the economy and is her director of regional solutions.

“I have worked closely with Leah over the past several years, and I am confident she will be able to help implement the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law here in Oregon,” Brown said. “She brings strong strategic planning abilities, all done with a collaborative approach.”

Horner will convene a group, the state infrastructure cabinet, to coordinate agencies receiving federal funds, according to Brown’s office.

“This infrastructure bill gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not only invest in crucial needs for our communities, but to also assess investments with a racial justice lens,” Horner said in a statement. “I look forward to taking the Regional Solutions approach of streamlining government and removing barriers to get us to the outcomes Oregonians need.”

Horner has a master’s degree in economic development and entrepreneurship from the University of Houston, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Hawai’i, according to Brown’s office.

Oregon stands to receive about $5 billion in new federal money from the new law, including $3.4 billion for roads and highways, $268 million for bridges and $747 million for public transportation. The state will also receive $529 million for water infrastructure, $39 million to mitigate wildfires and $100 million to expand broadband access in rural areas.

It appears an outbreak of a dangerous fungal infection at Salem Health Hospital has been limited to three patients.

Candida auris is difficult to treat, and is resistant to some medications. Officials say no new patients have been found and there have been no new detections of the infection in the hospital. Salem Health continues to take several steps to reduce risk of transmission and they’re notifying secondary facilities that receive patients about the need to watch for the fungus.

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