Klamath Basin News, Friday, Feb. 3 – KCSD Happy With High School Graduation Rates in Klamath County

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Friday, February 3, 2023

Klamath Basin Weather

Tonight Mostly cloudy, with a low around 30. Southwest wind 6 to 10 mph becoming southeast after midnight.

Saturday A 30% chance of rain after 4pm. Snow level 4200 feet rising to 5500 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 47. South wind 10 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Overnight, a chance of rain before 10pm, then rain and snow. Snow level 4700 feet. Low around 31. Gusty 14-20 mph winds at times. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
Sunday Rain and snow showers likely before 7am, then snow showers likely between 7am and 10am, then a chance of rain at times, with a high near 41. Gusty winds as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
Monday Mostly sunny, with a high near 44.
Tuesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 47.

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Today’s Headlines

Four high schools in the Klamath County School District boasted graduation rates above 93 percent in 2022 and two of those — Lost River Junior/Senior High School and Chiloquin Junior/Senior High School — had perfect graduation rates of 100 percent.

For Lost River Junior/Senior High School, it was the fourth year in a row that the school graduated 100% of its cohort on time. Lost River Principal Angie Wallin credited the community as well as teachers and students.

The other two KCSD schools with above 93% graduation rates were Henley High School at 97.01% and Mazama High School at 93.53%.

Overall, the county school district’s four-year on-time graduation rate of 80.40% represents a 2.41 percentage point increase from 2021, and comes in less than 1 percentage point below the state average of 81.3, according to data released Jan. 26 by the Oregon Department of Education. KCSD’s overall rate includes Falcon Heights, an alternative high school for students who are behind on credits and at risk of dropping out.

Bonanza Junior/Senior High School’s 86.11% rate, though down from the past two years, was still nearly 5 percentage points above the state average. Gilchrist Junior/Senior High School at 88.89% remained steady from 2021. Small schools often see large rate changes because one student can represent 3-8 percentage points.

Falcon Heights Alternative School saw an 11 percentage point increase in its on-time graduation rate in 2022, jumping from 32.46% in 2021 to 43.48% in 2022. Falcon Heights’ four-year completer rate, which includes students who earn GEDs, was 55.07%.

KCSD Superintendent Glen Szymoniak said he is proud of the success of the district’s 2022 graduates. However, the goal remains to provide the support and opportunities needed so every student can graduate.

Graduation rates released Thursday, Jan. 26 from the Oregon Department of Education showed the Klamath Falls City Schools avoided the COVID-19 drop.

During the pandemic, the state of Oregon’s four-year cohort graduation rate went from 82.63 percent in 2020 down to 80.63 percent in 2021.

Klamath Falls City Schools, however, increased from 73.25 percent in 2020 to 73.63 percent in 2021.

Klamath Learning Center showed the most improvement from the year before, and climbed in a major way by more than doubling its graduate rate.

KLC ended with a 27.03 percent four-year cohort graduation rate in 2021, and improved to 47.19 percent after the 2022 school year. Klamath Union High School’s four-year cohort graduation rate finished at 89.74 percent in 2022, which had the school sit at 91.43 percent the year before. Klamath Union has been above 90 percent since 2017.

EagleRidge High School had an 84.21 percent graduation rate this past year after its graduation rate was at 89.83 percent last year.

KFCS five-year cohort completer rate is at 81.59 percent.

Good news for downtown Klamath Falls this week. The Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA) publicly announced that Common Block Brewing Company will be expanding into Klamath Falls this year, taking over the former Creamery building for their new location. According to KCEDA, the development will soon begin renovations, with the goal to be fully operational by this summer.

Common Block Brewing Company is an indoor-outdoor restaurant and brewery located in ‘The Commons’ of downtown Medford. The family-friendly brewpub serves lunch, dinner, appetizers, dessert, and brews, with a focus on having each of their locations be a gathering place which centers around building community, sharing ideas, crafting good beer, and enjoying fresh food. Additionally, the brewery is popularly recognized for being a frequent event destination.

KCEDA CEO Randy Cox, added, “Having that operation active is critical to our downtown commerce. The building is undoubtedly a major asset to the Main Street experience Klamath Falls can offer and having a well-established company like Common Block Brewing take it over is just another sign of how the area economy is making positive strides.”

Speaking on behalf of Common Block, Rachel Koning, talked about the company’s excitement to add a Klamath Falls location and why the 2-story, 7,500 sq. ft. building is ideal for their business. Koning stated, “We’re excited to become part of the Klamath Falls downtown. The Creamery building has a similar layout to our Medford location with brewery space and ample outdoor seating, and we look forward to highlighting many of the unique characteristics that make it a very special building.”

Running Y Resort Owner and Developer, Bill Lynch, commented on the recent news, discussing what value he has recently seen in the Klamath Falls economy, adding, “We wanted to save the building and have it contribute to a more vibrant downtown. Klamath Falls has continued to attract new investment over the past few years, and I believe it is because developers outside the region are seeing what I’m seeing – it is a market on the verge of exploding.” Project partner on the new development, Scott Siracusa, added to Lynch’s comments, saying, “We are invested in improving the community and see this project to be a positive addition to all the good things happening in Klamath Falls right now.”

Common Block is estimated to be adding 35 new jobs to the area.

Expanded mental health services are in the works in Klamath County.

The Board of Commissioners says its transferred land to Klamath Basin Behavioral Health. It plans to build a mental health residential treatment facility on Washburn Way.

KBBH says the new facility will double its current capacity for people needing mental health services.

County Commissioner Kelley Minty says she views the project as a huge benefit to the community in the future.

KBBH is currently in negotiations with an architectural firm for new facility planning.

At the meeting Klamath County Public Works Director Jeremy Morris spoke regarding an increase to weed control fees which would need to be approved. Morris said the last time fees rose was six or seven years ago and the reason for the increase now is that the “cost of labor has risen by 10 percent.”

The board opened this matter for public discussion and Rita Vinning shared her opposition to the entire idea of spraying noxious weeds. Vinning presented claims of the weed spray causing illness in people and animals. Vinning did not provide evidence proving the weed spray is the source of the man’s lymphoma or the source of the tumors she claimed to have seen on deer.  Vinning proposed that the Klamath County Weed Control department find something else to use, but she did not offer an alternative.

The commissioners approved the expenditure of $132.05 to the Weed Control Operating Budget.

Morris spoke to the commissioners about two massive road projects set to take place this summer on Westside Road and Clover Creek Road. Both will be receiving chip seal treatment. The projects were granted to the county from the U.S. Department of Transportation back in 2018 when the county applied for grants through the Federal Land Access Program.

Morris explained that the delay in completion came from the time it took the Department of Transportation to process agreements as well as necessary biological assessments that needed to be conducted.

KCSD looking for Crystal Apple Award Nominees

Do you know a Klamath County School District teacher or staff member who makes an extra effort to inspire and help students? If so, consider nominating them for a Crystal Apple Award. The Crystal Apple is given to KCSD staff who go above and beyond for students of all backgrounds and abilities. A nominee can be a teacher, a counselor or a classified employee who has been with the district for at least three years.

Community members are encouraged to submit nominations. The Crystal Apple Gala will be April 25 at the Ross Ragland Theater. “This is an excellent opportunity for people to recognize and thank those special educators who make a positive impact on the lives of our students,” said KCSD Superintendent Glen Szymoniak.

You can fill out and submit the nomination form online, or fill out the hard copy of the form from the KCSD website and submit it directly.

Late Klamath Falls couple Pat and Terry Boyer provide generous financial support to Oregon Tech students

Oregon Institute of Technology is honored to announce a generous gift from the Boyer Living Trust to support student-athlete scholarships and enhance funding of low-interest student loans through the Boyer Loan Fund at Oregon Tech.

In the late 1940s, Patricia “Pat” and Terence “Terry” Boyer moved to Klamath Falls and became local business owners and dedicated community advocates. During their 61-year marriage before Terry’s passing in 2010, the Boyers built the Klamath Falls KOA (Kampgrounds of America) and several other businesses, traveled abroad, and volunteered at various organizations in the Klamath Basin. In the decade after Terry’s passing, Pat continued the couple’s dedication to the Klamath Basin before she passed in 2020.

The Boyers were avid Oregon Tech athletics fans and held season tickets for Oregon Tech basketball. Terry rarely missed a game, even if he had to catch it on the radio. Funded by the Boyer estate, two student-athlete scholarships established in 2022 display the Boyers’ commitment to Oregon Tech athletics and their gratitude for career paths in healthcare. The Terry L. Boyer Endowed Sports Scholarship and Patricia E. Boyer Endowed Sports Scholarship will be awarded each year to financially needy student-athletes pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a health-related program at Oregon Tech.

Additionally, the Boyers established the Boyer Loan Fund at Oregon Tech in 1987, with contributions throughout the years, culminating with their legacy gift through the Boyer Living Trust. Oregon Tech’s Financial Aid Office offers the Boyer Loan Fund to students at a low-interest rate and reasonable repayment terms, aiding Oregon Tech students in graduating with lower debt.

“We are privileged to be recipients of the Boyers’ support and generosity, and we are honored to facilitate the couple’s long-term philanthropic goals, through the legacy of their estate gift, to Oregon Tech students,” said Oregon Tech Foundation Executive Director Dr. Ken Fincher.

The scholarships and loan fund give preference to students from Klamath County, increasing the university’s ability to recruit local students and providing broader access to educational opportunities. In addition to Oregon Tech, the Boyers were financial supporters of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Oregon Health & Science University, Salvation Army, Sky Lakes Medical Center, and University of Oregon.

The 2023-24 Oregon Tech Foundation scholarship application is currently open. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2023, at 5:00 pm at www.oit.edu/college-costs/scholarships/all-students/otf. Boyer Loan information is available by contacting the Financial Aid office at 541-885-1280.

The scholarship committee for the Klamath County Ousley Scholarship Fund recently announced applications for the 2023-24 academic year are now available.

Applications for both new and renewing applicants as well as scholarship requirements and information are available at the fund’s website at www.OusleyEdFund.org.

Students must have graduated from a high school in Klamath County or received a G.E.D. by July 1, 2023, and may elect to attend any private non-profit or public college, university, community college, or vocational or technical school in the United States.

Recipients of the scholarships must enroll as a full-time student and maintain full-time status to receive scholarship funding. Graduate students also are eligible to apply.

Students must have a good scholastic record and demonstrate some need for financial assistance. In the 15 years since the inception of the scholarship committee, the fund has awarded more than $2.5 million to Klamath County graduates.

The fund and committee annually distribute approximately 90 scholarships, averaging $2,000 per scholarship for the academic year.

The scholarship committee will consider completed applications with all required attachments that are postmarked by the March 15 deadline. Scholarship award recipients will be notified by June 15.

For further information, contact Committee Chair Bonnie Lam by phone at 541-850-5966 or email the fund at OusleyEdFund@aol.com.

Every day, organizations across the Klamath area are putting their hearts into projects and programs to nurture our local communities and care for the environment. These efforts weave together to create a stronger, more resilient future for the region. 

Klamath Falls City Schools is getting new technology to protect students.  It said it is getting an A.I based gun detection video analytics platform.

ZeroEyes, the creator of the platform, announced this new technology will be used in addition to the existing security cameras on K.F.C.S campuses. This system will identify guns and send alerts to safety personnel and law enforcement within 3 to 5 seconds.

The district serves 7 schools and they all will have this new technology installed once its tested.

ZeroEyes was founded by a group of former navy seals and technology experts. According to the company the technology only detects guns. It doesn’t perform facial recognition, record and store or share personal data like videos or images.

Kids in grades K-8 can develop STEM skills with a series of four hands-on robotics workshops at the downtown Klamath County Library, led by an Oregon Tech assistant professor.

The workshops will run from 3:30 pm to 5 pm on Mondays, from February 13th through March 13th.  (Note there will be no workshop on February 20th, as the library will be closed for Presidents’ Day.)

Cecily Heiner, an assistant professor of computer science at Oregon Tech, will show participants how to program the Finch Robot – a slightly-larger-than-palm-size device that resembles a miniature waffle iron on wheels – to do tasks like drawing, navigation, music, “jousting” against other robots and more. We’ll have a different activity each week!

Registration required, but you can sign up for any (or all!) workshops with one registration. To sign up, visit the downtown library’s Youth Services desk or head to tinyurl.com/libraryRobotics2023 to fill out a brief survey.

Heiner teaches software engineering and data science at Oregon Tech. She has also trained hundreds of K12 teachers in computer-related education. She loves working on projects to help teachers and students learn computing, and her work has been supported by Microsoft, Google, and state and federal grants from the National Science Foundation. She has done several projects with Finch Robot creator Birdbrain Technologies – who generously provided a grant for this workshop series – and previously published a paper about her work with the Finch.

Longtime employee Sherry Preston retires from Pacific Crest FCU

Pacific Crest Federal Credit Union in Klamath Falls is saying a fond farewell to longtime employee Sherry Preston.  Preston retired from her role as the Home Equity Loan Specialist in late January.  During her 28 years of service Preston held many positions and gained a reputation for “doing right” by her members.

“I have learned so much from working here,” said Preston.  “Every day I learn something new, even while I’ve been training my replacement.”

She says the scariest part of the job was her first day, “But,” she adds, “it’s a great place to work.  The support you get from the rest of the staff is great.  I’ve been so happy here.”

Supervisor Luke Daniels says, “Sherry has a passion for helping members.  I’m going to miss her and the dedication she brought everyday”

While reminiscing about all the fun times Preston said, “I remember the very first float we decided to do in the [Snowflake] Parade.  Oh, what a task that was!  We had a gooseneck trailer…and we won first place in the parade for that.  It was our first time entering and we were just so proud.”

Pacific Crest CEO, Chad Olney, says, “Our team is going to miss Sherry, she’s been an integral part of Pacific Crest for a very long time.  She truly embodies the mission of Pacific Crest and works hard for our members every day.”

During retirement Preston has plans to finish a home remodel and travel while visiting grandkids.  Sandi Coffman and a new team member, James Korth, will be filling Preston’s role and are available for members seeking Home Loans or a Home Equity Line of Credit.

Klamath Community College announced the creation of a new cosmetology program.

KCC reportedly started the Cosmetology Associate of Applied Science Degree program to prepare students for careers in cosmetology and barbering. KCC said the coursework combines technical cosmetology instruction with classes to prepare students for running their own businesses.

As the first Oregon community college to offer this program, KCC will have advanced technology and curriculum and will be led by former College of Cosmetology instructors. Students can enroll in a two-year degree or a one-year certificate program.

Scholarships are available through Beauty Changes Lives, KCC Foundation Education Access and Opportunity, and through federal Pell grants.

For more information, visit http://www.klamathcc.edu.

The Pacific Power Foundation, a nonprofit arm of Pacific Power, is donating more than $164,000 in new grant funding across the three states it serves to support organizations committed to community enhancement and environmental respect.

From improving access to affordable housing and workforce training to restoring watersheds and caring for neighborhood trees that bring environmental benefits to urban areas, this round of grants will underwrite a wide range of efforts that meet critical needs and improve local livability. 

This round of grants, focused on community enhancement and environmental respect, is one of the four grant cycles offered by the foundation annually.

 Two grants totaling $5,000 were given to local organizations in the Klamath Falls area:

The Assistance League of Klamath Basin for Operation School Bell which provides new jackets and clothing for school children in need, and the Town of Lakeview for a large art mural installation at the town park. 

The Pacific Power Foundation is part of the PacifiCorp Foundation, one of the largest utility-endowed foundations in the United States. The foundation was created by PacifiCorp, an electric utility serving 2 million customers in six Western states as Rocky Mountain Power (Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho) and Pacific Power (Oregon, Washington, and California). 

Hunter Communications announced Monday, Jan. 30 that construction is now underway on a new 100% fiber optic broadband network that will bring its fiber to the home internet service to more than 1,100 locations in Chiloquin.

Founded in Medford in 1994, Hunter Communications provides fiber optic broadband internet, fixed wireless services, voice services and managed IT to business and residential customers throughout Oregon and Northern California.

Those products now include 2.5Gbps symmetrical download and upload speeds for Hunter’s residential service, making it the only provider in its territory to offer the fastest internet speed available and the future standard for smart homes, gaming, telehealth, entertainment, and working from home.

The need for fast, reliable internet continues to grow among consumers nationwide, according to the latest OpenVault Broadband Insights (OBVI) report. Telehealth services, for example, have nearly doubled from 37% in 2021 to 67% in 2022, with 90% of Americans aged 70 years or older using telehealth. More than 80% of American households have 200 Mbps of higher download speeds and use at least one streaming service.

Network construction to approximately 800 of the 1,100 Chiloquin locations is funded through the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction in which Hunter was awarded $19.2 million to bring high speed fixed broadband service to rural homes and small businesses that lack it.

The RDOF Phase I auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in rural America and target areas lacking fixed broadband service that meets the Commission’s minimum standards with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps. Chiloquin is the first of 14 Oregon and northern California communities where Hunter will use the funding.

From Mike Stafford, Oregon Tech Sports Writer 2/3/2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Arizona Christian erased a 5-0 sixth inning deficit, as a Neeley Bell grand slam tied the score, with a Brenna Henry sacrifice fly in the eighth lifting the Firestorm to a 6-5 win over Oregon Tech in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Arizona Christian erased a 5-0 sixth inning deficit, as a Neeley Bell grand slam tied the score, with a Brenna Henry sacrifice fly in the eighth lifting the Firestorm to a 6-5 win over Oregon Tech in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

Freshman Addison Kachnik was 2-for-4 with two RBI for the Lady Owls in the loss…

LINCOLN, Calif. – Jessup University scored the final 10 runs of the contest in the Game 1 win over Oregon Tech… Korrey Siracusa finished 3-for-5 with two RBI in his Hustlin’ Owls debut…Game 2 to follow, box attached…

LINCOLN, Calif. – Jessup University scored the final 10 runs of the contest in the Game 1 win over Oregon Tech… Korrey Siracusa finished 3-for-5 with two RBI in his Hustlin’ Owls debut…

Around the state of Oregon

Governor Tina Kotek to host demobilization ceremony on Saturday to welcome home Citizen-Soldiers from Poland

What: Oregon Governor Tina Kotek, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden along with Maj. Gen. Michael E. Stencel, Adjutant General, Oregon, are scheduled to serve as the official hosts for a demobilization ceremony welcoming home more than 120 members of the Oregon Army National Guard Charlie Company, 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment.

The event is to acknowledge the unit’s efforts supporting United States NATO Allies while building readiness and enhancing bonds with partner nations as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve in Poland.  It is also to recognize the sacrifice and support from loved ones, family, friends, co-workers, and employers, which make the mission a success.

The unit was mobilized for this deployment in early January of 2022. The event will be livestreamed via YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/live/ubB_dHG1nBs?feature=share

For more information on Atlantic resolve click here:https://www.europeafrica.army.mil/AtlanticResolve/

When:  Saturday, February 4, at 10:00 a.m. 

Country music sensation and 8-time Grammy Award winner, Carrie Underwood, is set to perform in the Rogue Valley on Father’s Day this summer at the first ever Rogue Music Festival, presented by the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe.

Eric Church will start things off Friday, June 16, with Underwood headlining and closing out the inaugural 2023 festival Saturday, June 17.

The Jackson County Fairgrounds and the Expo said, “She will certainly be the most incredible signature ending leaving our guests with the anticipation for 2024. There couldn’t be a better artist under the sun to bless our crowd with her amazing talent here in Central Point, Oregon, for our founding year of Rogue Music Fest.”

Nine artists will perform at the Rogue Music Festival. The Expo will announce those names at a later date. The concert is Father’s Day weekend June 16 and 17, 2023.

Tickets are on sale now at Sherm’s Food 4 Less, Expo Box Office, and online at www.RogueMusicFest.com.

Fraud Targeting Oregon EBT Recipients Is Likely To Get Worse

More than 700,000 Oregonians, or one is six residents, receive SNAP benefits, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. SNAP is a need-based program that gives low-income families and individuals help to buy food using government issued Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.

In October, the USDA issued a nationwide warning about SNAP fraud in which thieves use “card skimming” to steal SNAP benefits.

Last year, the Oregon DHS Fraud Investigation Unit received roughly 55 complaints about EBT card skimming, although the actual number of occurrences is likely much higher, explained an agency spokesperson.

“Unfortunately, ODHS does not currently track complaints or rates of fraud specifically related to EBT card skimming,” said Jake Sunderland, Oregon DHS spokesperson. “Moving forward, ODHS will be closely tracking and monitoring EBT card skimmer fraud so that we can better track the impact this has on EBT card holders in Oregon.”

Haywood Talcove of LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ Government Group warns the problem will only get worse.

“It is about to take off like a rocket ship,” said Talcove.

Talcove estimates food stamp fraud in Oregon likely amounts to $40 million dollars a month. His estimate is based on state numbers compared with national data — where reports of scammers ripping off SNAP benefits is through the roof, Talcove said.

The security expert also pointed to recent chatter on the dark web, which included screen shots and videos where criminals appeared to be bragging about SNAP fraud.

No system for reimbursement — Crooks often skim EBT cards and pin numbers by secretly installing a device on ATM readers that records the information when cards are swiped through, then create fake cards and drain accounts.

“What the criminals have figured out is that they don’t get caught and government never runs out of money. They just print more,” said Talcove.

The security expert warned EBT fraud has many of the same characteristics as unemployment fraud — which cost the government billions of dollars in losses during the pandemic. International and domestic crime rings took advantage of old, outdated systems to rip off unemployment checks.

“It’s the same players,” warned Talcove. “The same organized criminal groups are now attacking the food stamp program.”

Congress is reacting to the problem. In December, Congress approved the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act that allows SNAP recipients to be reimbursed for stolen benefits.

“Oregonians counting on electronic benefit transfers to feed their families must be able to use the cards providing those resources free of fear that fraudsters are ripping them off,” said Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, through a spokesperson.

The problem is Oregon, like most states, hasn’t implemented the changes yet allowing EBT fraud victims to be reimbursed for their losses.  

“ODHS is currently waiting for federal guidance on how this replacement process will work. We will be sharing more information about this once we are able to replace stolen SNAP benefits,” explained Jake Sunderland.

“That’s a great afterthought,” said Jones, the fraud victim. “You’re going to put all this money back on my card, but in this moment — where am I going to get that $500 from? Is it going to come out of my PGE bill for the month? Gas for my car? Medications for my children or myself?”

Congress also told the UDSA to provide guidance to states on additional fraud protection. Currently, EBT cardholders don’t have access to the same security technology as everybody else using U.S. banking system. Suspicious, out-of-state purchases seem to go unnoticed, and EBT cards don’t have a chip to avoid skimming. They just have the old magnetic stripe, making them ripe for fraud.

“This is millions, and millions, and millions of dollars nationwide of our taxpayers’ money that is getting taken. And you can’t pay for a little chip card?” asked Jones.

USDA spokesperson Julie Yee explained that the agency will “promulgate regulations through notice-and-comment rulemaking” to require states to take extra security measures. USDA did not provide a timeline for when the changes might happen.

“Protecting SNAP benefits is something that USDA takes very seriously. We will continue to do everything in our power to combat SNAP fraud,” wrote Yee.

Advocates applaud Congress but admit the changes must come quickly. Low-income families are literally being robbed of their food money.

“States should be moving on this now, today, last year. That cannot be stated strongly enough” said Victoria Negus of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. The non-profit filed a class-action lawsuit in Massachusetts on behalf of EBT recipients who had benefits stolen.

Negus admits updating EBT cards is complicated. Unlike credit cards where an old card continues to work if a new card is issued, EBT cards are typically deactivated when a new card is issued. This could unintentionally cause recipients to lose access to their SNAP benefits.

Additionally, Negus explained there are only two vendors, FIS and Conduent, with contracts to provide EBT cards nationwide. States don’t have the ability to shop around looking for a vendor who can move quickly to replace outdated EBT cards with newer chip-embedded cards.

Despite these challenges, Negus argues states should be doing the legwork to prepare for replacement cards and exploring other options to prevent EBT fraud.

“I do think states have a role in driving the conversation forward with more urgency because they’re the ones stuck having to talk to families that can’t put food on the table,” said Negus.

Oregon DHS admits, like many other states, it is seeing a higher number of EBT cards skimming fraud cases than in prior years.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to protect people with EBT cards from fraud, and are researching and analyzing this issue, including consulting with our partners at the USDA to urgently identify new strategies we can use to protect EBT card holders in Oregon from card skimming fraud,” said Sunderland, the Oregon DHS spokesperson.

Until things change, there is no recourse for most victims of EBT fraud. The food stamp benefits are gone, they could be stolen again and their families need to eat.

Josephine County Grand Jury Indicts Accused Accomplice In Benjamin Foster Attempted Murder Case

A Sunny Valley woman has an indictment by a Josephine County Grand Jury yesterday. It accuses her of helping an attempted murder suspect by hiding him and helping him hide related criminal evidence.

A grand jury indicted 68-year-old Tina Marie Jones today for two felony counts of hindering prosecution.  It says she helped 36-year-old Benjamin Foster evade police who were searching for him as a suspect for attempted murder, kidnapping, and assault. 

It also says she helped Foster “suppress by an act of concealment, alteration or destruction, a vehicle, physical evidence which evidence might have aided in the discovery or apprehension of Benjamin Obadiah Foster.”

Grants Pass Police Department (GPPD) Chief Warren Hensman says Foster ended the police manhunt for him Tuesday night when he shot himself in the head while hiding beneath the house where he was accused of torturing and beating a woman there to the point of unconsciousness.  She had been discovered in that condition one week earlier.

Police say, and the Grand Jury reinforces, that Jones helped Foster during the two days following the victim discovery near Shane Way and Sun Glo Drive in Grants Pass, January 24-26, 2023.  Police say Jones gave Foster a ride to evade a police search for him after he drove a car considered crime evidence over an embankment.

Jones faces arraignment for two felony counts of hindering prosecution at her next court appearance.

Josephine County Sheriff and OSP Confirmed There Was A Double Homicide In Sunny Valley While Following A Tip To Find Foster

OSP investigators believe Benjamin Foster, the suspect wanted for attempted murder that happened in Grants Pass on January 24th, is responsible for the double homicide that happened in Sunny Valley Monday night.

The homicide was discovered Monday night by the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office at a home on the Sunny Valley Loop.

The victims were identified as Richard Lee Baron Jr. and Donald Owen Griffith, who both lived on the property.

Oregon State Police says multiple items were missing from the home, including a dog. The double homicide investigation is still ongoing.

OSP also reported that a cab picked up Foster Tuesday morning and he returned to the house on Sun Glo Drive in Grants Pass where the attempted murder and kidnapping originally took place.

Police and SWAT were immediately sent to the home and a shelter-in-place was issued for the surrounding area. Police say Foster shot himself under the home during the long standoff with police. Foster was still breathing when police were able to approach his body. They also state that when Foster arrived at the hospital, he was pronounced dead.

The investigation continues.

He left his victim for dead in Grants Pass but she managed to live and she is hanging on in critical condition. Please keep her in your prayers.

Recreational Crabbing Open Now Along Entire Oregon Coast

The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced recreational crabbing is open along the entire Oregon coast.

Recreational crabbing is now open from the Washington border to the California border. This includes the ocean, bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties.

It is always recommended that crab be eviscerated and the guts removed prior to cooking, which includes the removal and discard of the viscera, internal organs, and gills. Toxins cannot be removed by cooking, freezing or any other treatment. ODA will continue to test for biotoxins in the coming weeks.

Because of Oregon’s precautionary management of biotoxins, the crab and shellfish products currently being sold in retail markets and restaurants are safe for consumers.

For more information call Oregon Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) shellfish biotoxin safety hotline at (800) 448-2474, the Food Safety Division at (503) 986-4720, or visit the ODA recreational shellfish biotoxin closures webpage.

BLM waives day use fees in observance of Washington’s Birthday

In honor of George Washington’s birthday and to increase recreational access to public land, the Bureau of Land Management is waiving recreation standard amenity and day-use fees for visitors on Feb. 20, 2023.

The BLM invites the public to visit the unique and diverse natural landscapes and visitor facilities on BLM-managed lands to celebrate the life of the first U.S. President George Washington.

This marks the second of the BLM’s fee-free days of 2023. Fee-free days refer to the waiver of standard amenity fees and day-use fees, such as visitor centers, picnic/day use areas, and National Conservation Lands units where fees are charged. Expanded amenity fees and other fees, like group day use, overnight camping, cabin rentals, and individual special recreation permits, will remain in effect unless the authorized officer determines it is appropriate to waive them.

BLM’s public lands offer spectacular beauty in the colder months. Find a map of BLM’s top recreation locations in the snow, rain, or ice here:

Winter recreation on public lands

Be prepared:

  • Know before you go. Check with local offices for current conditions, including closures and travel restrictions.
  • Make sure tires have adequate traction for road conditions.
  • Ensure that a friend or family member is aware of your adventure plans.
  • Ensure you have the 10 essentials before venturing out: navigation tools (map, GPS, personal locator beacon), headlampsun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen, especially against snow glare!), first aid kitknife/gear repair kitfire essentials (fire starter, matches, lighter, etc.), shelter (i.e., an emergency blanket that folds up extremely small), extra foodextra water (beyond the minimum expectation), and extra clothes (layer up!).

Recommendations on where to go with snow (NOTE: these locations may or may not have fees): 

  • Burns: Steens Mountain offers an array of winter recreation opportunities, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and skiing. Individual permits must be obtained through the Burns District Office.
  • Lakeview: Gerber Recreation Site is popular for ice fishing and open year-round for camping. The paved roads are not plowed but remain clear of snow most winters. Wood River Wetland offers hiking, dog walking, bird watching, hunting, and (when there’s enough snow) snowshoeing. Be aware that the parking area is not plowed in the winter, so parking is not always available.
  • Medford: Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are available at the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument and Table Mountain Winter Play Area.
  • Washington State: Split Rock Recreation Site at Palmer Lake offers ice fishing (or regular fishing if there is no ice). Visitors can also hike on the Similkameen Rail Trail from Oroville to the Enloe Dam or on the Cowiche Canyon Trail (where there is usually little to no snow). The Yakima River Canyon Recreation Site is a great location for winter camping. If winter is mild, the Juniper Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Area is a good option for recreation, and if the winter is cold, the Fishtrap Recreation Area offers ice fishing and cross-country skiing.

Recommendations on where to go with little to no snow (NOTE: these locations may or may not have fees):  

  • Northwest Oregon: The West Eugene Wetlands offer disc golf, the Sandy Ridge Trail System offers mountain biking, Shotgun Creek Recreation Site is open to off-highway vehicles, and the Wildwood Recreation Site has an underwater salmon viewing chamber.
  • Medford: Sites such as the Upper and Lower Table Rocks, Cathedral Hills, and Mountain of the Rogue offer winter hiking and tend to be free of snow.

In 2023, BLM will waive recreation standard amenity and day use fees for visitors on: 

  • January 16 (Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • February 20 (Washington’s Birthday)
  • June 19 (Juneteenth National Independence Day)
  • August 4 (Great American Outdoors Day)
  • September 23 (National Public Lands Day)
  • November 11 (Veterans Day)

For more information about the BLM’s recreation fee program, please visit https: //www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/permits-and-fees.

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