Year in Review: February

*The JoCo BCC sent a letter to The Conservation Fund laying out terms for the organization’s purchase of a beloved 320-acre parcel of forestland in Williams known as Pipe Fork Creek. A contentious saga had surrounded the property in recent years as an outcry from locals followed news that the county planned to auction it off, probably to a logging company for clearcut. This backlash was enough to make the board reverse course.
*Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc. presented before the Josephine County Board of Commissioners Wednesday, Feb. 1, where the board indicated they were considering pulling their funding of the organization in order to secure more money for law enforcement. The commissioners added they felt SOREDI puts a greater focus on assisting Jackson County businesses than Josephine County businesses. SOREDI Executive Director Colleen Padilla was confident her organization would get by without the county’s financial support.
*Joseph LaRue, the former Grants Pass business owner of Pawsitive K9 Solutions who was charged with multiple felony counts of animal abuse, animal neglect, theft and marijuana-related crimes, swapped out his private attorney for a public defender at a Feb. 2 court hearing. In prior weeks, LaRue’s former lawyer, Michael J. Buseman made several pivotal motions, including to lessen the amount of charges facing his client and dividing the court proceedings into multiple trials. LaRue’s partner Danielle Brown-LaRue was still at large.
*The amazing Kennedy Murray, 8, from Cave Junction became the youngest author to have a book published in the Josephine County Library system. She read her short story “The Beach Day” that included her own watercolor art at the Illinois Valley Library’s storytime Saturday, Feb. 4.
*Discussion at the Feb. 1 Three Rivers School District Board of Directors’ meeting centered on the district’s four charter schools – Sunny Wolf, Woodland, Southern Oregon Success Academy and the new Illinois Valley-set Kalmiopsis Community Arts High School, which operates out of Rusk Ranch. Besides sharing information about these schools’ philosophies and achievements, the board also decided not to sell Woodland property it was expected to ask to buy at neighboring Hidden Valley High School. TRSD Superintendent Dave Valenzuela said he believes said property would be ideal for the potential future construction or relocation of a school.
*Evergreen Elementary School held its third annual Read-A-Thon from Feb. 27 to March 13. Friends and family could make donations toward the student of their choice, as well as offer words of encouragement through the dashboard feature of the platform. Whether it’s $10 or $100, any donation amount was welcome. In their first year, the fundraiser made approximately $5,000.
*The search for the remains of Toby Eugene Anderson, a 16-year-old boy who disappeared from Selma, Oregon, in November 1986, was postponed after the owner of the location where the remains are believed to be revoked permission for the search. Anderson’s family believe he was killed by his uncle, a convicted sex offender with whom Anderson was living at the time of his disappearance. They hoped a search of the property would yield proof that Anderson was murdered.
*A missed filing deadline prevented Josephine County’s moratorium on new hemp growth licensing from being extended for the year 2023. The county commissioners had voted in November for this extension. JoCo Cannabis Advisory Panel Chair Amanda Metzler warned of a “disaster on the horizon” without the moratorium in place. “Without the continuation of the hemp moratorium, we are back to 2020 with the floodgates open again and hemp permits allowing the cover for illegal grows. The thought of this sent shivers down my spine and it should yours as well.” JoCo Board Chair Herman Baertschiger added he was “very disturbed” by the hemp situation.
*On Feb. 8, the JoCo Commissioners approved the 2022/23 supplemental budget, which notably accounted for the IMEG law enforcement grant being larger than expected. “This adds one school resource officer, a patrol deputy for marijuana enforcement positions to the Sheriff’s Office, a full time position in the District Attorney’s Office, a full time position in community development, and two positions in our legal office,” explained JoCo Finance Director Sandy Novak.