County to replace Selmac water plant

It was the rare Josephine County Commissioners’ meeting that needed letters A all the way through H to denote matters on the agenda, with administrative action items numbering a whopping eight items.
The April 26 weekly business session was held at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
Items 2A and 2B related to rate increases for trash disposal companies Southern Oregon Sanitation and Republic Services, respectively (SOS story on bottom of A-1) while Item 2C was facts and findings related to a property line adjustment in Grants Pass.
Item 2D was a grant agreement between the county and Three Rivers School District for tobacco education and cessation services. According to the agreement, the commissioners had already signed off on TRSD’s proposal for the Treatment Services Request for Proposals for Tobacco Education and Cessation Services. The contract entails the county providing the school district with $100,000, and expires June 30 of this year. TRSD Superintendent Dave Valenzuela, JoCo Juvenile Justice Director Jim Goodwin and JoCo Prevention and Treatment Services Manager Shawn Martinez had provided their signatures on the grant agreement; it awaited the commissioners’ signatures.
Board Chair Herman Baertschiger said the county is using pass-through dollars from the state to fulfill the grant.
Moving on, Items 2E and 2F both concerned county parks. The former was a $100,025 contract with 541 Water, Inc. to replace one of the two existing water treatment plants at Lake Selmac.
JoCo Recreation Director Tamara Martin explained, “This is a project that was started with our predecessor for a new water treatment plant for Lake Selmac. It serves that campground there and it has been in disrepair for quite some time and we have managed to repair it along the way to keep it going and functioning and safer for our recreational users but it has come time to go ahead and make that replacement, so that’s what this contract is reflecting.”
Before moving onto 2F, Baertschiger wanted to clarify, “For the folks in the audience, the reason we’re not asking a lot of questions is these issues have already been through our workshops so we’re already abreast of what’s going on in these issues.”
Item 2F was another contract worth $100,025, this time with CPI Acquisitions, LLC to execute ADA campsite upgrades at Indian Mary Park.
Director Martin called Indian Mary “a fantastic park” and said, “This is our effort to really bring up our parks to the standard for the rest of the industry for our ADA needs so what we are doing is on style of campsites – for example: tents, water-only, water-electric, and sewer – we’re doing two fully ADA campsites for style and so the contract before you is part of this work. It is granted and there’s some grant money in there that is involved in this project as well as the one previously I mentioned as well as it was budgeted within our property reserves, so this is something that again has been worked on for quite some time and we’re just now ready to break ground and get it started.”
Item 2G was an intergovernmental agreement with the Oregon Judicial Department for courthouse improvements. Board Chair Baertschiger remarked, “For anybody that has been around the back side of the courthouse we’re doing some construction on the second floor, remodeling and adding another courtroom.”

Finally, Item 2H was approval of the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund Loan Award using state lottery dollars for the Dimmick Campus Cleanup Project.

Baertschiger said that many Grants Pass residents know the Dimmick Campus more commonly as the “hospitals on the hill.” The award funds the demolition and cleanup of these closed down buildings.

“The idea moving forward is to pay for this loan when we dispose of the properties,” Baertschiger said, adding, “It’s a very, very attractive loan with some very low interest. So we were thankful that we got that.”

Three community members spoke during requests and comments from citizens, starting with meeting frequenter Victor Zaitsev, who said he was not getting public notices via email despite signing up for this service and complained that some speakers at meetings are inaudible in the recordings he watches. He also expressed confusion as to where video recordings of weekly business sessions are being uploaded. The county switched back to YouTube a couple months ago, having previously been posting directly to their website after YouTube began removing their videos due to COVID-19 vaccine misinformation being spread.

Zaitsev also weighed in on the notion of workforce housing being erected in Josephine County: “In order to incentivize and facilitate the creation of such housing, roadblocks need to be removed. The overly complex and impossible-to-understand-and-navigate path to comply with development and construction codes must be simplified and streamlined. The costs are outrageous.”

He added, “In the past the county has chosen not to enforce gun law legislation from Salem. Why won’t you do the same with land development rules to help with local housing needs?”

Toward the end of his time, Zaitsev called schools “overfunded, administratively overstaffed and underperforming,” which provided the perfect segue for another meeting frequenter, Judy Ahrens’, frequent attacks on the modern education system.

Ahrens brought to the board’s attention a bill in the Oregon Legislature related to the transgender community that “breaks my heart” because “this transgender movement is moving faster than we want,” adding, “It’s so serious what we’re doing to these little children’s bodies.”

She added that she heard on an “American Family Radio program” that transgender individuals will be “patients for life” and have an increased suicide risk, “so it’s really sad.”

Ahrens expressed her nostalgia for the 1950s when she claimed there was “family unity” and “we were all sitting at the dinner table.” She concluded by saying “the left’s agenda is going to destroy our country.”

The last speaker introduced himself as Mr. Smith and volunteered himself for several county positions, including emergency management coordinator, I.T. director and administrative liaison. Smith also wanted to bring to the board’s attention a comet that allegedly struck the earth 10 years ago and “contains a very dense, heavy helium and it creates toxic vapors and it’s possibly on the sphere of a dangerous public occurrence.”

Therefore, Smith petitioned the board to send a probe into “an air window” in the Milky Way Galaxy in case the comet should ever come back.

Commissioner Dan DeYoung simply replied to Smith’s proposal, “I’m speechless today,” while Commissioner John West said Smith gave him “some things to digest.”

Moving onto matters that take place on earth rather than other parts of the galaxy, West chimed into the school debate by saying, “Our problem with our schools is in Salem. It’s the poor legislators we have up there… I’ll leave it up to you what you think of the school boards.”

After the board collectively approved Items 2A through 2H with a unanimous vote of 3-0, Board Chair Baertschiger adjourned the meeting at 9:30 a.m. sharp.