Year in Review: January

*2022 ended with a record-breaking wind storm that left thousands in the Valley without power, some for days, and brought statewide reports of downed trees, collapsed roofs and downed power lines. Pacific Power spokesperson Drew Hanson said the areas in Oregon hardest hit Dec. 26 and 27 by “record-breaking high winds” included Coos Bay, Grants Pass, Medford and south through Cave Junction and into northern California, causing approximately 49,000 households to lose power.
*The PBS Terra program Weathered delved into the impending Cascadia megaquake, anticipated by experts to be the worst natural disaster in modern history, and why the duck, cover and hold on method might not always be the strategy to use. According to experts, if you find yourself in a stick-built single family home during the quake, ducking and covering is likely the way to go. However, non-ductile concrete buildings and unreinforced masonry buildings are likely to collapse during Cascadia, so occupants of these should evacuate immediately.
*Renovations to the Oregon Caves Chateau were delayed after the discovery of additional structural issues. This resulted in completion being pushed to summer 2024 under the best case scenario, but it could be as late as summer 2025. According to Oregon Caves Supervisor Jeremy Curtis, The Park Service brought in geo techs and some engineers, who found that the foundation was cracking and there was movement and significant damage that required seismic and structural upgrades.
*Commissioner John West began his tenure on the JoCo Board of Commissioners after being elected in the November 2022 election. At his first weekly business session Jan. 4, he voted with his fellow commissioners Herman Baertschiger and Dan DeYoung to authorize Emergency Management Director Emily Ring to pursue a grant from the Oregon State Fire Marshall for fire prevention programs. Ring planned to ask for about $270K over three years, covering green waste disposal, defensible space projects, public service announcements and brush mitigation, but the commissioners encouraged her to be more aggressive in her ask given the county’s high wildfire propensity.
*Several concerned citizens asked the JoCo commissioners what they plan to do to address homelessness at their Jan. 11 meeting. DeYoung said it would not be feasible to create any new programs to assist the homeless, adding, “Everywhere you turn, there is something to help the homeless out.” West said his priority is moving transients away from right of ways to eliminate safety hazards and prevent visitors from seeing blight. Baertschiger opined that nothing can be done to eliminate homelessness, as most transients choose to live how they do and cannot be compelled to live more conventional lifestyles.
*Also at the Jan. 11 commissioners’ meeting, three ODOT grants were approved to replace and improve bridges in Williams, Takilma and Wolf Creek. These projects ranged from $1.5 million to $3 million in expense. Emergency Management Director Emily Ring was authorized to renew a contract for a Firewise coordinator position.
*Three Rivers School District Superintendent Dave Valenzuela praised Lorna Byrne Middle School staff at the Dec. 14, 2022 TRSD board meeting. LBMS staff worked quickly to repair a burst pipe in the school’s ceiling the weekend after Thanksgiving. Their efforts prevented school from having to be canceled that Monday. Valenzuela also announced the formation of a committee to examine the impact switching to a four-day school week has on the district, which would operate over the following 18 months and report their findings to the board regularly.
*What would have otherwise been a mundane rezoning turned controversial when Cave Junction City Councilor Tina Casey Jones pointed out at the Jan. 9 council meeting that 435 Junction Ave. contains a World War I historical monument. Property owner Gary Price wanted to rezone the property from commercial to residential. The council agreed it should be designated multi-family, but the monument issue compelled them to continue the discussion to the next meeting.
*Whether it was a cost-savings decision as the Josephine County Commissioners attested to, or retribution against unfavorable press coverage as their detractors alleged, the county voted to switch from the Grants Pass Daily Courier to the Illinois Valley News for purposes of printing public notices. A crowd gathered at Anne G. Basker Auditorium Jan. 18 to weigh in on the change, with allegations that the commissioners were thin-skinned and vindictive. They defended their decision by pointing to cost savings that can benefit law enforcement, with Commissioner John West estimating that going from the Courier to I.V. News for public notices would lead to a 50% or greater cost reduction.
*The Three Rivers School District Board of Directors was showered with praise during School Board Appreciation Month, showcasing the many gifts and tributes they’d received at their Jan. 18 session. Lorna Byrne Middle School produced an appreciation video featuring staff members and students lip syncing and dancing to popular songs by artists including Shania Twain, Taylor Swift and Celine Dion. Superintendent Valenzuela updated the board on repairs to I.V. High School’s roof, the renovations of district restrooms and installation of vape sensors in restrooms.
*The Illinois Valley’s community radio station, KXCJ-LP, brought a new DJ aboard: Jeremy Schaum, whose on-air monikers will really give you something to ponder. Schaum hosts two shows: “Arcane Pulse” as Dr. Rock N’ Stein and “Creature from the Deep” as Captain Seafoam. Schaum had been a DJ since the previous spring after purchasing a place in Cave Junction and moving to the Valley from Grants Pass. “The surf genre is super fun and gets people moving and in these complicated times we live in it’s really great to still be able to just have fun listening to beach party music that is inviting to everyone,” said Schaum.