*NOAA data revealed that winter’s precipitation levels helped much of the west cope with years-long drought conditions. NOAA reported that the western half of Josephine County was no longer in drought conditions and the east side of JoCo was designated as “abnormally dry.” Rainfall in December and January was caused by atmospheric rivers off the Pacific Ocean.
*The Community Wildfire Defense Grant program, part of President Biden’s $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, brought $113,744 in federal funds to address wildfire fuels reduction. Illinois Valley Soil and Water Conservation District administered the funds, while the work itself was supervised by the Illinois Valley Fire Resiliency Oversight Group.
*Parents of Illinois Valley High School took to the pages of social media April 3 to voice their discontent over the new bathrooms at the school. The disgruntled individuals feared the school district was caving to “woke” ideology encouraging transgender inclusion. School officials insisted the conversion to single-stall toilet rooms connected to a larger room with sinks addressed a variety of issues, including bullying, vandalism and vaping. TRSD Superintendent Dave Valenzuela reported at the school district meeting later in April that the bathroom renovations would be completed at six schools by mid-August.
*An agreement was reached between WaterWatch of Oregon and Q Bar X Ranch, providing for the removal of Pomeroy Dam. The dam had been a focus of fish restoration efforts as it spans the entire reach of the river, creates warmer water temperatures, and does not provide for safe passage of migrating salmon.
*Journalism and local news were the topics of the presentation planned by Oregon Heritage Commissioner Maureen Flanagan Battistella, MLS from Southern Oregon University at the Illinois Valley Library Branch Saturday, April 1. Battistella had been working on digitizing the historical archives of the Illinois Valley News and Grants Pass Daily Courier with the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program. Speakers at the event included I.V. High School alumnus and “recovering journalist” Paul Fattig; Phillip Allison, station manager of KXCJ Community Radio; and Daniel Mancuso, current owner and publisher of the I.V. News.
*Kevin O’Brien, executive director of the Illinois Valley Watershed Council said 2022 was a “historic year” for the watershed during a presentation to the Josephine County Commissioners March 29. O’Brien said that the I.V. Watershed Council and I.V. Soil and Water Conservation District, which presented to the commissioners later in the meeting, “successfully reorganized at the governance level.”
*On March 30, the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office received a missing persons report regarding 25-year-old Aleah Aaron of Cave Junction, whose body was soon located in a shallow grave. Shortly thereafter, 35-year-old Thomas Roberts Fuerte of O’Brien was arrested at his home and detained in the Josephine County Jail on charges stemming from the investigation. Aaron’s friends held a celebration of life for her April 6 at McGrew’s.
*The new nonprofit 501(c) 3 Illinois Valley Living Solutions began planning a transitional housing facility in the city of Cave Junction. The site for the village was purchased at Kerby Ave. between Schumacher and Watkins streets. Planned features of I.V. HOPE Village included a community center built that will have bathrooms, showers, laundry room, a community kitchen and offices for supportive services. There will be 16 tiny housing units in the village that will have a bed, small dresser and an electric outlet.
*Three Rivers School District held “The Data Academy” during their April 5 special work session, which delved into the impact professional learning communities have on local education. PLCs are comprised of students, teachers and other education specialists who meet regularly to review student success data and link this data to strategies and philosophies. TRSD Superintendent Dave Valenzuela said, “We are a PLC district. We live and breathe this operation… (it’s) pivotal to us achieving or supporting that core value.”
*The commissioners discussed planned efforts by local church-involved individuals to construct workforce housing on county-owned property in Grants Pass they would soon sell at their April 5 meeting. Board Chair Herman Baertschiger was furious about how this plan was covered by the Daily Courier newspaper: “We just get tore up in the newspaper. We got a local rag newspaper that can never say anything positive about the county commissioners.”
*Southern Oregon Sanitation community and government affairs manager Nick Fahey informed the CJ Council April 10 that SOS needed to raise their rates by 12%. Fahey elaborated that over the course of 2022, inflation caused the company’s expenses to increase significantly and that in order to keep up with the rising costs of garbage and recycling, SOS must increase their prices to maintain the status quo.
*The Southern Oregon Guild of Artists and Artisans collaborated with Bridgeview Winery to hold their first “Art in the Vineyard” exhibit April 15,, featuring the works of local artist Sheila Mason. Many curious community members attended the event, perusing the artwork while enjoying appetizers and beverages.
*The I.V. Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Travel Oregon, Main Street Cave Junction, and a local steering committee held a community forum Tuesday, April 26 at Wild River Brewing and Pizza. A Downtown Development Workshop wa held the following day Wednesday, April 26 at the Guild Gallery and Arts Center in Kerby. All community stakeholders were invited, including local leaders, public officials, tourism organizations, land managers, regulatory agencies, economic development organizations, main street businesses, restaurants, lodging property owners, and more.
*The commissioners proclaimed the month of April 2023 Child Abuse Prevention Month in Josephine County. The Juvenile Justice Department had recently broken ground on the new Children’s Advocacy Center site on the corner of 5th St and A St in Grants Pass. The proclamation read in part, ““Effective child abuse prevention programs succeed because of community partnerships created among families, social agencies, schools, businesses, law enforcement agencies, faith-based organizations and other child serving agencies.”
*By a 2-1 vote, the county failed to amend its code violation report policy. It would have increased the amount of anonymous reports needed for code enforcement to investigate alleged wrongdoing from two to three complainants and required all three to be from landowners living within a half mile of the violation. Board Chair Baertschiger voted yes while Commissioner DeYoung and West voted no.
*JoCo Emergency Management Director Emily Ring resigned and took a position in another county. The commissioners considered making Sheriff Daniel the head of emergency management but ultimately merged the emergency management and I.T. departments, hiring a new director who would oversee both.
*A poetry workshop was held at the library in Cave Junction Saturday, April 22. Local poet Lisa Baldwin utilized this event to introduce community members to her “philosophy of poetry,” and teach participants about an ancient form of poetry called pantoum.
*The Gambler 500, an event designed to appeal to those who love unusual vehicles and want to help clean up our public lands, came to Cave Junction from Friday, May 5, to Sunday, May 7. Event organizer Lou Peterson said the idea is simple- community members modify their “best junker car” with the goal of taking the vehicle on a planned route through the wilderness to pick up trash.
*Sequoia Consulting was hired as the county’s broadband consultant April 19. JoCo I.T. Director John McCafferty said the county is using $80,000 of its remaining American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund one year of consulting work.