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 Insurance, your local health and Medicare agents.
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Klamath Basin Weather
Today Rain likely much of the day with a temperature around 53. Southwest wind 10 to 17 mph. Overnight, a 40% chance of showers, with a low of 41.
Friday A chance of rain before 11am, then showers likely after 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 61. Overnight a good chance of rain showers and some thunder is also possible, with a low around 36.
Saturday A chance of rain and snow showers before 8am, then a chance of rain showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 52. Chance of precipitation is 40%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.Overnight, mostly cloudy, with a low around 29.
Sunday Snow showers likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 46.
KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. – A change of command will take place May 15, 1 p.m. at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore. Colonel Lee Bouma, who has nearly 25 years of military experience, will take command of the 173rd Fighter Wing during an official change of command ceremony.
Bouma has a wide range of experience to include four years as an enlisted F-16 crew chief until he commissioned into the Montana National Guard in 2002. He has been a member or the Oregon Air National Guard since 2015.
Bouma is currently serving as the 173rd Maintenance Group Commander, and has previously held numerous positions in the 173rd Fighter Wing, including Maintenance Squadron Commander, Mission Support Group Deputy Commander, and 114th Fighter Squadron Chief of Standards and Evaluation.
“Col Bouma’s leadership, capabilities and diverse experiences…make him the absolute right choice to lead the ‘Land of No Slack’ at this critical time,” said Brig. Gen. Donna Prigmore, Oregon Air National Guard commander.
“In addition to his history with the 173rd Fighter Wing, Col. Bouma gained invaluable conversion experiences—one related to a transition from F-16s to F-15s, and the other from F-15s to C-130Hs—during his time with the Montana ANG. Clearly his conversion experience and leadership acumen is what we need at this time as we prepare the wing for the F-15EX.”
Bouma will replace Col. Jeff Edwards, who has commanded the wing since 2019.
When the Klamath Falls City Council renamed Kit Carson Park to Eulalona Park on April 4, it had a two-pronged effect.
The new name honored an Indigenous village, and it also distanced itself from Kit Carson, the famous frontiersman linked with the genocide of Indigenous people.
The city council voted on the name change unanimously, and despite the presence of a public forum, no citizens protested the decision, either in person or by phone.
In an address urging adoption of the Eulalona name, councilman Phil Studenberg said, “I just think it’s appropriate in light of the history of Kit Carson, to honor our Native people, and to honor them with a park.”
According to Klamath Falls Museums director Todd Kepple who serves on the city park advisory board, the name was approved by the Klamath Tribes, clearing the way for the park’s new designation.
Still, public sentiment towards shedding the Kit Carson name is mixed. Commenters spoke out against a proposed name change in February when Klamath Alerts asked the public to submit new potential names.
Since then, dissenters have persisted, taking numerous forms. A one-star review of the park on Google reviews even links critical race theory with the decision to change the name. Public Information Officer Kristina Mainwaring of the city says The City Council followed its policy in renaming a park and followed that process leading up to and including the name change to Eulalona Park.
Around the state of Oregon
The report, published last week, said that at 23% of expenses, health care is the single biggest household expenditure for Oregonians, followed by housing, utilities and fuel. Insurance premiums and deductibles, which consumers have to pay before their plans kick in, account for part of the cost. The report is the first of its kind in Oregon and is part of the state’s efforts to curb skyrocketing health care costs. Such expenses affect hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, causing households to skimp on other expenses and drain savings, with some going into debt and bankruptcy. Insurance premiums and deductibles, which consumers have to pay before their plans kick in, account for part of the cost. Premiums are so high in Oregon that for households on company plans they are approaching the average cost of a new compact car – $21,000.
The surfer who died after he was trapped underwater for several minutes at the Bend Whitewater Park on Saturday was 17-year-old Ben Murphy of Bend, according to a family statement posted on social media. Murphy spent six minutes underwater at the standing wave as friends and other surfers flung themselves into the water in an attempt to free him from the underwater panels that make the wave. Murphy was pulled from the water downstream, given CPR and rushed to St. Charles Bend, where he died, according to the statement posted on Facebook. The incident is the first fatality at the Bend Whitewater Park, which opened in 2015. At least six fatalities have been reported at standing wave features on other rivers in the U.S. and Canada in recent years, according to data compiled by Surf Anywhere, a firm that designs river waves. The Whitewater Park is manipulated in real time by adjusting 26 air bladders which are permanently affixed to the river bed. The park, operated by Bend Park & Recreation District, has been closed to surfers since the accident.
The man accused of starting a second fire on September 8, 2020, will stand trial next week. Michael Jarrod Bakkela was arrested in Phoenix while the Almeda Fire was underway. He is not charged with starting the initial fire, but rather a second fire he is accused of starting in Phoenix. Bakkela is charged with two counts of Arson in the First Degree, 15 counts of Criminal Mischief in the First Degree, 14 counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person, one count of Unlawful Possession of Methamphetamine, and seven counts of Animal Abuse in the First Degree. Late last month, Bakkela’s attorney requested a change of venue for the trial. On April 27, 2022, Melissa E. LeRitz, Deputy District Attorney for Jackson County, filed a response to Bakkela’s request for a change of venue. Indicating that Bakkela’s attorney cited social media posts as the reason a change of venue was warranted. Yesterday, Judge Laura Cromwell denied the request for the change of venue. The trial is scheduled to begin Monday, May 9, 2021.
Homicide in Merlin
On Tuesday, April 26, 2022 at approximately 10:27 PM, Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Troopers from Oregon State Police along with AMR and Rural Metro Fire Department personnel responded to the 100 block of Ward Road in Merlin, Oregon for a report of a shooting. Once on scene deputies found a male in the driveway with an apparent gunshot wound. CPR was administered first by deputies then by medical personnel. The male succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Sheriff’s Office Detectives were assisted by Detectives from the Oregon State Police, Grants Pass Police Department and personnel from the Oregon State Police Crime Lab. Investigators believe this is an isolated incident and at no time was there a perceived threat to the community in relation to this incident. This case is still under investigation and further details are not currently available. Josephine Co. Sheriff’s Office
Fatal Motor Vehicle Crash in Cave Junction
On May 4, 2022, at 8:39 AM, Deputies from the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office along with personnel from Illinois Valley Fire, Oregon State Police and AMR, were dispatched to Laurel Road and Walters Drive in Cave Junction for a two-vehicle head on collision crash.
Upon arrival, Deputies found two vehicles in the roadway. Terry Lawson, 67 of Grants Pass was driving northbound on Laurel Road when the vehicle driven by Michael Gilles St-Onge, 52 of Cave Junction crossed into Lawson’s lane. The two vehicles collided head-on, blocking both lanes.
Lawson was not seriously injured in the crash. St-Onge was pronounced deceased at the scene. Next of kin has been notified. Josephine Co. Sheriff’s Office
Groundbreaking Ceremony For New Apartment Complex In Downtown Medford
City leaders and local property investors held a ceremony in Medford for the groundbreaking of an apartment complex set to add 62 new housing units to the heart of downtown.
Officials with the city of Medford along with the Downtown Medford Association, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency (MURA), and local property owner Laz Ayala came together for the first step of what they are calling Genesis Project, which will be located on 8th and Holly Street.
“This project will indeed make a large impact and it is our hope that it will inspire further residential housing projects in the downtown area and throughout the city,” Tim D’Alessandro, the Chair of the MURA board.
Once the 62-unit complex is built, it will offer a mix of studios, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom apartments.
“We are proud to work with the leaders of the Genesis Project, Laz Ayala, and Dr. Patrick Denard, who are passionate about creating a vibrant downtown Medford to the creation of housing for moderate to middle-income households,” D’Alessandro said.
Ayala said the effort has been “focused on is building these units to meet the needs of those folks making 80-120% annual median income (AMI), which by definition by our own city’s and county’s definition, is affordable.” 80-120% is approximate $35,200-$52,800 annually.
Ayala explained that once the building is complete, it will be designed like a horseshoe with the main entrance on Holly Street and a parking entrance off of the alleyway on 8th Street. He said it will also include three electric vehicle charging stations for tenants.
This is not Ayala’s first downtown project. Previously he purchased the historic Acme Suites off of West Main, as well as invested in several murals throughout the area.
Renatta Tellez, the executive director of Downtown Medford Association said the project is a step in the right direction for the future of the city.
“Revitalization means reinvesting in the existing community and we are grateful to have such a long-standing quality partnership with Laz Ayala who shares our values and hopes for an improved downtown, increasing economic mobility, strengthening our communities, and lifting the local economy that is revitalization,” Tellez said.
Adroit Construction Company Inc. was chosen to be the general contractor for the project. The project received $1.2 million from MURA and will be using tax benefits from the Opportunity Zone Program. The program is a federal economic tax incentive for developers to invest in low-income communities. The Genesis Project apartment complex is set to be completed in the Fall of 2023.
Road Work this week on Interstate 5 south of Rogue River
ODOT crews will be crack-sealing the pavement on Interstate 5 this week between mile posts 45 and 48, just south of Rogue River. This work is weather-dependent through Friday, from 6 a.m. through 4 p.m.
Expect single lane traffic and short delays. Slow down and watch for crews in the work zone. ODOT: SW Oregon
Jason Renfro was sentenced to 90 months in prison today after pleading no contest yesterday to Manslaughter in the Second Degree and several other charges in the death of Ricky Ray Beer in December 2019.
Court documents indicate Renfro had previous arrests and convictions for driving under the influence of intoxicants. Court documents indicate he had unpaid fines for various convictions of more than $4,400
Oregon groups on both sides of the abortion fight are reacting to the leaked Supreme Court draft decision on Roe v. Wade.
Oregon Right to Life is cautiously optimistic. Executive Director Lois Anderson says she knows the decision isn’t final, while Anne Do, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of Oregon, says abortion remains legal here because of the 2017 Health Equity Act passed by the legislature.
Because of that protection, CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette Anne Udall expects to see a dramatic increase in women coming to Oregon seeking abortions. She says some estimate Oregon clinics will see a more than 230% increase in patients, Oregon Governor Kate Brown joined other Democrats speaking out against the direction the Supreme Court appears to be leaning.
She released a video statement Tuesday, saying in part, “Access to abortion is a basic and fundamental right, and is protected by state law in Oregon”.
The housing market continues to be tight in the area and the state of Oregon. The Federal raised interest rates again Wednesday as it attempts to cool high inflation, but the demand for housing has been slow to respond.
The pandemic brought record-low mortgage rates and overwhelming demand from people looking to move away from city centers and into homes with more space, which led to a market where the inventory of homes could not keep up with the interest from buyers.
As a result, the value of homes skyrocketed in communities across the country. As the economy reemerges from the pandemic and the Fed raises interest rates, mortgage rates have increased to over 5%. The uptick can raise the monthly payment for homebuyers by hundreds of dollars. While home purchases and mortgage applications are starting to dip from pandemic highs, the industry is still seeing strong interest.
OHA releases biweekly COVID-19 reports
The COVID-19 Biweekly Data Report, released today, shows an increase in cases and disease-related hospitalizations since the previous biweekly period. It shows a decrease in COVID-19-related deaths.
Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported 12,234 new cases of COVID-19 from April 18 to May 1, more than double the previous biweekly total of 5,980.
There were 218 new COVID-19-related hospitalizations during the biweekly period, up from 202 reported during the preceding two-week period.
“We are seeing cases and hospitalizations starting to increase and that was expected,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at OHA. “COVID-19 continues to be transmitted at high levels in Oregon. If you’re in large groups, sooner or later you’ll be exposed.”
There were 50 COVID-19-related deaths, much fewer than the 241 reported during the prior two weeks.
“If you’re vaccinated and boosted, you’re well protected against having a severe case. Get yourself vaccinated to protect yourself and your family with as much immunity as you can,” said Cieslak.
There were 173,792 tests for COVID-19 administered during the weeks of April 17 to April 30, with a test positivity rate of 7.7%.
Oregon Hospitals Backlogged With Non-COVID Patients
Staffing shortages, an influx of patients who delayed care during the pandemic, and patients awaiting discharge are all keeping beds full at Oregon hospitals
Many Oregon hospitals and patients are juggling the challenge of overcapacity, but this time not from COVID-19.
Many hospital systems face ongoing staffing shortages and an influx of patients who have delayed other care during the pandemic. Hundreds of patients statewide are in hospitals waiting to be discharged to lower levels of care, such as nursing homes, which also face severe staff shortages.
All of this means hospital beds remain occupied and unavailable for many incoming patients.
“Many days we’re at capacity,” said Dr. Renee Edwards, chief medical officer for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). She and several other hospital executives urged the public to seek lower levels of care consistently, before medical needs become critical.
“We’d rather you get the preventive care you need and the ongoing care you need to keep things from getting worse,” Edwards said.
“Preventive care is still really really important… Our patients are sicker,” agreed Dr. Melinda Muller, associate chief medical officer for Legacy Health. “There are things that we’re dealing with that if we had dealt with a little farther up stream, we might have prevented them from coming in.”