Klamath Basin News, Monday, 1/31 – Oregon Tech Puts Pause On New Dormitory Construction Due to Growing Costs

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Monday, January 31, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Mostly sunny, with a high near 42. Overnight clear with a low around 18. North wind 3 to 7 mph.


Tuesday Sunny, with a high near 39. Overnight low around 17.
Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 40.
Thursday Sunny, with a high near 48.
Friday Sunny, with a high near 51.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 51

Today’s Headlines

Oregon Tech will have to press pause on its plans to construct a new dormitory at the university’s Klamath Falls campus, officials said Thursday.

Last April, OIT’s Board of Trustees approved plans that called for a new $55 million, 750- to 850-bed facility to meet the needs of a growing university that was coming close to maxing out its current on-campus housing.

Then, over the summer, the state legislature approved $55.6 million in bonds for use for the project. However, rising construction costs over the past year coupled with a decline this past fall in tuition revenue and an expected decline in future state appropriations makes the proposed student housing project financially untenable — as it was “originally envisioned,” John Harman, OIT’s vice president for finance and administration, told the university’s Board of Trustees during their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday.

Harman told the board that they would put the project on pause for now and take time to better evaluate the current situation and come to the board’s next meeting in April with more project options. In the project planning phase that took place this fall, Harman said architects who responded to their request for proposals said that rising construction costs would make the building they were looking to construct cost closer to $70-80 million.

Oregon reports 7,222 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 19 new deaths

PORTLAND, Ore. — There are 19 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 6,086 the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported today. OHA reported 7,222 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 620,652.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (32), Benton (172), Clackamas (584), Clatsop (50), Columbia (110), Coos (115), Crook (62), Curry (39), Deschutes (401), Douglas (191), Gilliam (3), Grant (15), Harney (27), Hood River (37), Jackson (359), Jefferson (35), Josephine (128), Klamath (191), Lake (6), Lane (734), Lincoln (88), Linn (331), Malheur (92), Marion (809), Morrow (15), Multnomah (927), Polk (164), Sherman (1), Tillamook (28), Umatilla (162), Union (76), Wallowa (8), Wasco (85), Washington (938), Yamhill (207).

Health officials say Oregon hospitals are near their COVID-19 breaking point as the state is expected to reach peak hospitalizations in coming weeks. Fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant, hospitalizations could soon surpass the pandemic high, officials said Friday. As of Thursday there were 1,130 coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

The record is 1,178, from Sept. 1. In addition, last week health officials reported that Oregon surpassed 6,000 coronavirus-related deaths. Nearly 75% of adults in Oregon are fully vaccinated, however, less than half have received their booster shot.

A report released by the Oregon Health Authority on Wednesday shows that more than 70% of COVID-19 cases last week were among unvaccinated people. Breakthrough cases — fully vaccinated people who test positive for the coronavirus — accounted for about 29% of last week’s cases.

The Oregon Health Authority says it expects to file “permanent” rules on Friday for mask requirements in K-12 schools, as well as vaccination requirements for educators and staff. Friday’s announcement does not include the statewide indoor mask mandate.

State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said in a briefing that officials are still going over public comments before proceeding, which will most likely happen in the next week or two. Permanent rules can be repealed by state agencies, which happened in 2021 before the Delta variant began to surge. By definition, temporary rules are only valid for 180 days. The statewide indoor mask mandate, a temporary rule, is currently set to expire February 8.

Health officials say Oregon hospitals are near their COVID-19 breaking point as the state is expected to reach peak hospitalizations in coming weeks. Fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant, hospitalizations could soon surpass the pandemic high, officials said Friday.

As of last Thursday there were 1,130 coronavirus-related hospitalizations. The record is 1,178, from Sept. 1. In addition, last week health officials reported that Oregon surpassed 6,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

Nearly 75% of adults in Oregon are fully vaccinated, however, less than half have received their booster shot. A report released by the Oregon Health Authority on Wednesday shows that more than 70% of COVID-19 cases last week were among unvaccinated people. Breakthrough cases — fully vaccinated people who test positive for the coronavirus — accounted for about 29% of last week’s cases.

In a post on Friday, Sky Lakes Medical Center said they are currently using both COVID-19 isolation units yet remain at active status.  

The large number of positive COVID-19 tests in the last few weeks are starting to catch up with them, Sky Lakes says they know everyone is tired. “We are tired of everything the pandemic has taken from us. We have lost friends and loved ones to this virus. We have lost time and opportunities. But this is not the time to give up and pretend the pandemic has gone away. The pandemic will continue to take from us if we allow COVID-19 to spread unchallenged in our community. The longer we allow COVID-19 to spread, the longer we are going to lose what is important to us. Please follow COVID-19 safety precautions and get vaccinated”.  

If you need a refresher on COVID-19 safety precautions or have questions on vaccination., visit their COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions page at skylakes.org/faq/

With $162 million headed to the Klamath Basin in the next five years for ecosystem restoration projects, money may no longer be the limiting factor in the push to make life easier for endangered species in the watershed.

But the real hurdle, according to many people in the local restoration community, will be finding projects to spend all this money on.

Particularly along the tributaries to Upper Klamath Lake, there are plenty of levees to be removed, springs to be reconnected, willows to be planted and pastures to be fenced — but not enough private landowners ready to take on those projects.

That’s not necessarily because farmers and ranchers in the Upper Klamath Basin don’t want to restore their lands and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. Many find potential projects too overwhelming or may not know how to get started on them.

But thanks to the recent funding, there are now perhaps more resources than ever to help get projects off the ground. All a landowner has to do is ask.

A Klamath Falls man was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison after being found guilty of multiple sex crimes against a child.

Henry Alog Antonio was sentenced Jan. 11 by Judge Alycia Kersey for a total of 500 months in the Oregon Department of Corrections. A jury had previously found Antonio guilty on four counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration and four counts of first-degree sex abuse.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Cole Chase persuaded the jury that Antonio had sexually abused one of his children over a period of years. A secret indictment field with the Klamath County Circuit Court showed Antonio touched the victim — who at the time was younger than twelve years old — in a sexual manner on or between May 2016 and May 2018.

Klamath County District Attorney, Eve Costello, thanked the jury members for their service in a statement released Friday. The Oregon Department of Corrections calculates Antonio’s earliest possible release date to be November 20, 2062. Antonio would then be required to register as a sex offender and will be on probation for the remainder of his post-prison life.

This Sky Lakes Foundation Scholarship applications are now open. Students need to fill out one application to apply for five scholarships. This year, letters of recommendation are not needed to complete the application; Instead, applicants are asked to provide information for three references, much like you might do for a job application.  

The foundation provides information on scholarship requirements, the application for all five, and tips on how to successfully apply at skylakes.org/foundation/scholarships/.These scholarships are easy to apply for, we encourage students in college or getting ready to go to college to check them out and apply.

Around the state of Oregon

The Oregon Health Authority says it expects to file “permanent” rules on Friday for mask requirements in K-12 schools, as well as vaccination requirements for educators and staff.

Friday’s announcement does not include the statewide indoor mask mandate. State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said in a briefing that officials are still going over public comments before proceeding, which will most likely happen in the next week or two. Permanent rules can be repealed by state agencies, which happened in 2021 before the Delta variant began to surge. By definition, temporary rules are only valid for 180 days.

The statewide indoor mask mandate, a temporary rule, is currently set to expire February 8.

Oregon State Parks Saw More Than 3 Million Campers For The First Time In 2021

Oregon state park campgrounds were packed in 2021, as locals and tourists alike left the comforts of their homes to sleep under the stars, among evergreen forests and beside the gentle roar of the ocean.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department reported a total 3,026,756 camper nights last year, far outpacing the pandemic-impaired numbers from 2020, and eclipsing the 3 million mark for the first time, the department said.

In state park parlance a “camper night” is one camper spending one night at a campsite. A family of four spending two nights in a tent, for example, would equal eight camper nights.

And since virtually every campground saw a dip in numbers during statewide park closures in 2020, it’s more useful to compare the recent numbers to those in 2019, when state park campgrounds were in the midst of a huge surge in popularity.

Most of the growth in 2021 came on the Oregon coast, where there was a 9% increase in camper nights over 2019 – the only region in the state with an overall increase last year. More than a third of that increase came from the massive campground at Fort Stevens State Park outside Astoria, which alone saw 343,485 camper nights last year, far more than any other.

Parks department spokesman Chris Havel said the data show a continued trend of mid-week camping in the summer, as well as weekend and holiday camping in the fall, winter and spring. The numbers also continue a significant uptick in state park camping that began in 2012, a trend that park officials see as a win.

“Hooray for people continuing to realize enjoying the outdoors is good for body and mind, and good for both the individual and the community.” Havel said in an email Wednesday. “As people continue to look for places to experience in our centennial year, we hope they branch out to look for places new to you, and take the time to prepare well.”

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2022, marking the occasion with special events that might draw even more people to parks across the state. The centennial celebration of the National Park Service in 2016 led to record numbers of national park visitors that year.

At state park campgrounds on the Oregon coast, securing campsites might be competitive for the centennial this summer – at least if last year’s numbers are any indication. Almost every state park campground on the coast saw more camper nights in 2021 than in 2019, and while the most popular campgrounds got a little more popular, the biggest increases by percentage were at two of the smallest places: Umpqua Lighthouse and Humbug Mountain state parks

Smaller campgrounds in eastern, central and southern Oregon also saw big increases last year, continuing a trend from 2020 that saw more people looking for more remote getaways amid the pandemic. Some of the least-visited state park sites in recent years saw huge jumps in camper nights in 2021, including Red Bridge State Wayside and Hilgard Junction State Park outside La Grande, as well as the tiny, remote Minam State Recreation Area along the Wallowa River, which saw an eye-popping 254% increase last year, going from 5,498 camper nights in 2020 to 19,460 in 2021.

Willamette Valley campgrounds, meanwhile, saw their camper nights down compared to 2019, almost across the board. Increases at the popular L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, as well as the state park campgrounds of the Columbia River Gorge, were outweighed by decreases at places like Milo McIver, Willamette Mission and Detroit Lake state parks.

Some decreases were due not necessarily to unpopularity, but to campground closures that followed wildfires, windstorms and flooding – events that have become a more frequent threat to campers in recent years.

Money that has been earmarked for Oregon state park improvements will go to both adding new campsites and moving existing ones out of harm’s way, as campsites in some parks are currently threatened by eroding cliffs, rising rivers and wildfires. In 2021, the state Legislature approved a $50 million bond to upgrade Oregon’s state parks over the next two years, a plan that will include new campsites at some of the state’s busiest parks, in addition to infrastructure and other projects.

That may help alleviate crowds in the state’s busiest campgrounds, but not if crowds continue to grow apace, an issue the parks department said it is keeping an eye on.

“It’s a concern,” Havel said of the overcrowding at campgrounds. “Planning, designing, and building new sites takes a couple of years, in some cases more time than the three year limit on the bonds, so we’re still in pursuit of a long-term solution.”

Two People Killed In Plane Crash At Salem Airport

Two people died in a plane crash at Salem Municipal Airport on Saturday afternoon, according to police. 

Police identified the pair on Sunday as Daniel and Cynthia McKenna, ages 66 and 61, from Boring, Ore.

Around 3 p.m., Salem police and fire crews responded to the airport, also known as McNary Field, where an aircraft had crashed near the end of a runway. 

Witnesses told authorities the pilot was trying to land when the plane crashed, killing both people on board. It’s unclear who was flying the plane when it crashed. 

Police said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are handling the investigation.

Agriculture Bills Head to Legislature

Last week week the Oregon legislature published the set of bills that will be introduced for consideration in the upcoming short legislative session. In addition to monitoring a couple of major bills impacting timber (Private Forest Accord) and agriculture (overtime), OFS has identified several bills of interest to our membership and mission. The House Agriculture, Land Use and Water Committee has introduced a bill that would allow the agency to establish new pesticide license categories by rule rather than statute (HB 4062).

A couple of bills seek to provide preferential state support for organic production (SB 1532 and HB 4048). Other bills we will be tracking include one initiating a study and metrics for carbon sequestration on natural and working lands (SB 1534), and the Governor’s environmental justice bill (HB 4077), which would fund the development of an environmental justice mapping tool which would become part of the decision-making process for state agencies.

As noted, a major focus for legislators will be on HB 4002 and overtime for agricultural workers. Currently, advocates of the bill are insisting on phasing in a 40 hour threshold, and behind-the-scenes reports are that the Labor Commissioner, Val Hoyle indicates she will do the same in rulemaking in the coming months if the legislature doesn’t act. Ag organizations are working around the clock to express the potential devastating impacts to Oregon’s agricultural and rural economies.

Session starts next Tuesday (February 1st), and will move quickly towards the March 7th deadline for adjournment.

Dutch Bros co-founder Travis Boersma’s horse racing and gambling venture in Grants Pass is already facing headwinds, and two bills just introduced in the Oregon legislature seem tailor-made to blow it down.

The Flying Lark, Boersma’s brainchild, is an entertainment and dining complex now nearly completed next to Grants Pass Downs. Boersma has said that The Flying Lark is both legal and essential for horse racing’s survival in Oregon.

But it’s opposed by a half-dozen Tribes, who describe the business as a glorified private casino. At issue is The Flying Lark’s request to install historical horse racing (HHR) machines — something like a cross between a slot machine and a real horse race, where people wager on videos of past races.

Both bills introduced to the Oregon legislature were made at the request of the House Interim Committee on Rules for Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, and Klamath Tribes.

1st Month of Crab Season Surpasses All Last Year

By Oregon Small Business Association Foundation,The first month of the commercial Dungeness crab season in Oregon has surpassed the yield of the entire season last year.

The season opened on time Dec. 1 for the first time in seven years, despite worker shortages and rough weather, according to the Bandon Western World.

Already in one month, the fleet has caught 12.8 million pounds of Dungeness crab worth $63.3 million, nearly $3 million more than the entire harvest from December 2020 through August 2021, which totaled $60.6 million.

Officials estimate the Dungeness crab fishery brings $126.5 million into the Oregon economy each year.

The Jackson’ : Affordable Housing Option For Wildfire Survivors Grand Opening Today

Celebration of the community partnership providing Jackson County housing solutions

Survivors of the devastating 2020 wildfires will have a new place to call home when The Jackson opens its doors to new tenants on Monday, January 31, 2022.

Community partners will come together to celebrate with a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly renovated property that will provide a much-needed option for affordable housing. 

After wildfires destroyed thousands of homes throughout the state, Fortify Holdings partnered with the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), Rogue Community Health and ACCESS to support disaster housing efforts in Medford. 

“Hundreds of families displaced by the Almeda Fire and the pandemic are finding themselves in safe, temporary homes thanks to a creative partnership between Fortify Holdings, Oregon Department of Housing and Human Services, Rogue Community Health and other community organizations,” said Representative Pam Marsh, D – District 5.

WHAT: Grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony

WHEN: Monday, January 31, 2022, 2:45 – 4:00 PM

WHERE: The Jackson, 518 N Riverside Ave, Medford, OR 97501

SPEAKERS:  Representative Pam Marsh, (D) District 5 – Southern Jackson County 

Sean Keys, Founder and Investor, Fortify Holdings

Ziad Elsahili, President, Fortify Holdings 

William North, CEO, Rogue Community Health

Edwin Flick, Director, Office of Resilience and Emergency Management, Oregon Department of Human Services
Caleb Yant, Deputy Director, Oregon Housing and Community Services

Carrie Borgen, ACCESS Executive Director

 In 2020, the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) stepped in to provide shelter and meals to survivors of the 2020 Labor Day wildfires. ODHS’ shelter support was intended to be short-term, but the severe lack of affordable housing meant a quick resolution for the wildfire survivors was not possible. That’s when ODHS approached Fortify Holdings to explore the option of converting hotels into short-term shelters and then, eventually, into rental apartments. Fortify accepted the challenge. 

“We are thrilled to be part of the solution here in Medford, particularly to be helping those impacted by wildfires,” said Ziad Elsahili, President of Fortify Holdings “We invested in Southern Oregon and purchased this hotel with the long-term vision for creating an apartment community and we’re excited about our public/private partnerships across the region that have enabled us to do just that.”

In February 2021, Fortify Holdings entered into a master lease agreement with Rogue Community Health, and together they partnered with ODHS, OHCS, and ACCESS. Fortify purchased the former Americas Best Value Inn/OYO, and, in less than a year, fully converted 84 units into apartments. Through this public/private partnership, the entire building has been reborn as The Jackson, and the new homes will be prioritized for wildfire survivors over the next month.

“Helping people recover from disasters requires more than just providing shelter and meals,” said ODHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht. “It takes our communities coming together to collaborate and work together to focus on the needs of the survivors to address the barriers they are experiencing to recovery. The public/private partnership is a model for other communities hard hit by disasters.” 

“The struggles that many families in this county have faced over the last two years cannot be understated. It has become a necessity that community organizations come together to offer support. As we open this property, our goal is to provide stability, comfort, and hope for those recovering from these devastating losses,” said William North, CEO Rogue Community Health.

“We are excited this project is providing new housing options to wildfire survivors in Jackson County,” said Caleb Yant, Deputy Director, at OHCS. “While we understand it’s been a long road and more still needs to be done, this opening represents another steppingstone to providing intermediate and long-term housing for those recovering from a natural disaster. We are proud to stand with our local partners as we welcome residents into The Jackson.”

Additionally, OHCS has committed rental assistance through the ACCESS Center for Community Resilience through June 30, 2023, for tenants who cannot afford the market rents. 

ACCESS, and its wildfire recovery-focused Center for Community Resilience (CCR), is working alongside state and local partners to provide housing case management, rental and utility assistance, educational opportunities, food assistance, and inter-agency referrals to fire-impacted households. 

“We are grateful for partnerships that help us to best serve our community,” said ACCESS Executive Director Carrie Borgen. “This statewide collaborative effort ensures that assistance for wildfire-impacted households is comprehensive and operates with long-term recovery goals in mind.”

“What happened in Medford is so unique, it’s truly been a highlight in my career,” said Sean Keys, Founder of Fortify Holdings. “Helping families in their crucial time of need has been incredibly satisfying to see. One of our missions is to transform lives, and this project will bring much-needed, high quality housing and medical services to hundreds of Medford residents.”

Wildfire survivors still in need of assistance may call the survivor phone line toll-free at 1-833-669-0554, visit ODHS’ web page for wildfire survivors or learn about other options on the state’s website at wildfire.oregon.gov.

Attempted Robbery at Former Medford Hemp Farm: Suspects On The Run

Attempted Armed Robbery Foiled At Former Medford Hemp Farm, Two Suspects Still On-The-RunJCSO Case 22-048701/28/22MEDFORD, Ore. –

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies responded to a trespassing and attempted burglary call at 1:15 a.m. on Friday at the 3600 block of Bellinger Lane in Medford. It was reported that several armed suspects arrived at the former hemp farm claiming to be law enforcement agents serving a warrant.

The property’s residents confronted the suspects and fired several shots as they fled. JCSO deputies contacted the suspected getaway driver, Derek Gargus, 36, leaving the property at a high rate of speed and he was taken into custody. Deputies discovered another suspect, Ryan Drennen, 44, hiding in a nearby pond.

Drennen was taken into custody and transported to an area hospital to be treated for hypothermia. Both suspects are lodged in the Jackson County Jail. Gargus was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. Drennen was charged with attempted first-degree robbery, trespassing while in possession of a firearm, and criminal impersonation of a peace officer.

Two additional suspects are still outstanding. If you have any information on the whereabouts of the two at-large suspects, call dispatch at (541) 776-7206 and reference JCSO case number 22-0487.

Missing and endangered 17-year-old Male in Medford area

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Missing and Endangered 17-year-old Male in Medford/Phoenix Area Jackson County Search and Rescue (SAR) has initiated a full callout for a missing and endangered 17-year-old male in downtown Medford and the Phoenix area.

Aiden Masone has been missing since 6 pm last night from the 4100 block of Cedar Lane, west of Phoenix. He is a white male, 5’10”, weighing 180 lbs., with brown hair, brown eyes with glasses, and a mole on his left cheek.

He was last seen wearing blue Carhartt pants, a tan quilted jacket, and black shoes with red, white and blue stripes.SAR has begun searching with ground and canine teams. If you see Aiden or have any knowledge of his whereabouts, call 911.

DUII, Assault III, Vehicle vs Pedestrian Josephine County

On January 29, 2022, at approximately 1100 hours, Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Land Management Ranger, Illinois Valley Fire and American Medical Response responded to a vehicle vs pedestrian crash on Holland Loop near Takilma Rd. The male pedestrian was transported by AMR to Three Rivers Medical Center for injuries sustained in the crash.

Upon investigation it was found that prior to the crash, Theresa Dugas had been in a verbal argument with the male pedestrian/victim.  The male pedestrian was walking home when Dugas struck him with her vehicle.  

Dugas was believed to be operating a motor vehicle upon a public roadway while under the influence of intoxicants. Dugas was lodged at the Josephine County Jail for DUII, Reckless Driving and Domestic Assault III.  

This case has been referred to the Josephine County District Attorney’s Office and further details will not be released.  

Fugitive Arrest in Josephine County

INCIDENT:  Fugitive Arrest

INCIDENT NUMBER: 2200207  

DETAILS:  

On January 28, 2022, Deputies obtained information that a wanted fugitive, Jason Taylor, was in a trailer in the 100 Block of Speaker Road Wolf Creek. Taylor had six confirmed warrants for his arrest. Three of the warrants were out of Douglas County, one warrant was out of the Oregon State Parole Board, and two warrants were out of Yolo and Siskiyou Counties in California. Some of the warrants dated back to 2014.

Taylor was taken into custody without incident and lodged at the Josephine County Jail on the above-mentioned warrants. 

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies responded to a trespassing and attempted burglary call at 1:15 a.m. on Friday at the 3600 block of Bellinger Lane in Medford.

It was reported that several armed suspects arrived at the former hemp farm claiming to be law enforcement agents serving a warrant. The property’s residents confronted the suspects and fired several shots as they fled. JCSO deputies contacted the suspected getaway driver, Derek Gargus, 36, leaving the property at a high rate of speed and he was taken into custody. Deputies discovered another suspect, Ryan Drennen, 44, hiding in a nearby pond. Drennen was taken into custody and transported to an area hospital to be treated for hypothermia. Both suspects are lodged in the Jackson County Jail. Gargus was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. Drennen was charged with attempted first-degree robbery, trespassing while in possession of a firearm, and criminal impersonation of a peace officer. Two additional suspects are still outstanding.

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