Year in Review: March

*The Illinois Valley High School boys wrestling team generated headlines when they assisted motorists in distress during Portland, Oregon’s “storm of the century.” The team encountered heavy snow while en route to the state championship, which was postponed by one day to Friday, Feb. 24. They ended up taking home the first state championship in any sport for IVHS. Mike Miller, Micah Martinho, Ryon Martinho and Ryan Griffin earned state champ status, while head coach Jesse Clark was elected coach of the year by his peers.
*The JoCo Commissioners formally consolidated the Parks Department and Fairgrounds Department into the new Recreation Department at their Feb. 22 meeting. Tamra Martin was promoted from Fairgrounds director to the first Recreation director. The board order stated the merger would “improve customer service and access to services, connect centralized areas, and provide for administrative efficiency, as well as program and personnel management.”
*The county commissioners made the controversial decision to decline an opportunity for state funds to combat the rise of local homelessness. To receive these funds, a state of emergency would have to be declared. The commissioners did not want to hand over control of the situation to state officials, with Commissioner John West saying, “We have to be careful that as a board we don’t want to give away Josephine County’s rights to maybe the state or someone else that they come in and run things and then you’re going to be mad at us.”
*The JoCo Commissioners approved the purchase of six new Kaleidoscope transit shelters for the soon-to-be constructed transit hub in downtown Grants Pass at their March 1 meeting. The cost of both benches and shelters from Landscape Forms was $101,280, plus $7,500 in shipping & handling.
*On March 9, the CJ Council voted unanimously for Resolution 966, which requested the city be included in the state of Oregon’s declaration of emergency regarding homelessness. Mayor Meadow Martell explained about the resolution, “The City of Cave Junction joined with the City of Grants Pass to declare a homeless emergency in a last-ditch effort to join the Governor’s statewide emergency homelessness declaration. After Cave Junction submitted our declaration the Governor’s Office made it clear that the emergency declaration had to come from the county. Josephine County Commissioners refused and now Josephine County will get a smaller amount of funding for rural counties.”
*Three Rivers School District Superintendent Dave Valenzuela took the opportunity March 8, which was a snow day for all district students, to delve into how he and other administrators go about determining if a snow day needs to be called. He cited First Student drivers and data from high elevation roads where multiple students are known to live on.
*Pop-up public health Wednesdays starting in Cave Junction was a topic mentioned during the comments portion of the Cave Junction City Council meeting at City Hall March 13. Illinois Valley Wellness Resources Programs Director Laura Mancuso explained that the services and supplies provided will include COVID-19 vaccinations, food donated by Josephine County Food Bank, HIV testing, wound care kits, warm weather gear, socks, STD prevention kits, water and more.
*The CJ Council voted unanimously to pursue an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department grant to fund the creation of a master plan for the development of Old Stage Park. The park is currently undeveloped with one entry gate off Old Stage Road and a dirt road that leads to the East Fork of the Illinois River. There are no designated parking spaces, restrooms, overhead lighting poles or established walking trails.
*The Josephine County Commissioners’ plan to give the Sheriff’s Office $5.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act COVID relief dollars was discussed during their March 15 meeting. Without the ARPA funding, Commissioner DeYoung said, Sheriff Dave Daniel would have to cut back patrol deputies to four by June 30.
*The first county ordinance of 2023 was approved May 15, which rezoned a group of properties in Merlin owned by VonGottsegen Trust. Also at the meeting, a stormwater management memorandum was signed with the Fort Vannoy Irrigation District and a stormwater management intergovernmental agreement was amended between JoCo Public Works and the Grants Pass Irrigation District.
*Women’s Café held its 30th annual fundraiser for the Dome School March 25 in Takilma. The event brought sweet treats, meaningful art pieces, heartfelt performances and a sense of community to all in the audience. Event coordinator Deborah Murphy, instructor at RCC and local artist, introduced each person who took the stage and shared some of her own stories in between acts. She expressed her pride in the community and those who had shown up to support not only artists, but women.
*The commissioners updated the county’s media policy for the first time since 1998 at their March 22 meeting. The crux of the policy amendment was to encourage county department heads to coordinate press releases with the public information officer prior to their release to the media. “This policy will help us to have better and more accurate communications,” commented Human Resources Director J.J. Scofield.