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Year in Review: September

*Rain, cooler temperatures and higher humidity during the first week of September brought a substantial reprieve from the hazardous levels of smoke and immediate threat of wildfire. Highway 199 was reopened to all traffic Sept. 2, and O’Brien residents living south of Highway 199 milepost 38 finally got to go home on Sept. 2 after Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel reduced evacuation orders from Level 3 to Level 2.
*With the issues of homelessness and drug addiction growing in Southern Oregon and across the nation, a number of Josephine County residents have voiced their desire to see Measure 110 repealed at county meetings. In response, Commissioner DeYoung floated the idea of making JoCo a “dry county” for illegal drugs, despite the state law decriminalizing them.
*As of Sept. 10, 1,800 firefighters remained assigned to the Smith River Complex, as well as 52 crews, 10 helicopters, 87 fire trucks, 16 bulldozers, 29 water tenders, 19 masticators and two skid steers. The Josephine County Sheriff reduced evacuation recommendations from Level 2 to Level 1 – BE READY status for the communities of O’Brien, Takilma and for those living east of Highway 199 from mile post 39 to the OR/CAL border.
*A fuel mix-up wreaked havoc after a fuel vendor mistakenly filled fuel tenders at the Gasquet Base Camp with diesel instead of gasoline. Multiple reports came in regarding vehicle malfunctions. Of the 700 vehicles on the Smith River Complex, 42 were disabled, causing an “operational pause by all fire personnel on the fireline.”
*The county signed a memorandum of understanding with Southern Oregon Alliance for Providers and Physicians. According to JoCo Public Health Director Michael Weber, SOAPP is “looking to provide education and outreach to try and bring providers into our community. And the intent of it is to try and overcome a current significant gap that we have in staffing.”
*The CJ Council declared the building formerly housing Radio Shack a nuisance at their Sept. 11 meeting. In 2022, the property had been purchased by company CK Designs with the intent to turn it into a gas station and convenience store. Unfortunately, before progress could be made on this project, the building caught fire. The council chose to declare the property a nuisance, citing overgrowth, rubbish, and a “dangerous and derelict building” as their reasoning behind the decision.
*It was announced by the Oregon Housing & Community Services Team in Salem Sept. 12 that I.V. HOPE Village received $799,029 from House Bill 5019 that addressed “shelter funding.” It was also announced that UCAN will receive $1,239,691.05 with the goal of rehousing 31 households in Josephine County by June 30, 2025.
*Illinois River Valley Arts Council recreated the Gateway Project in honor of Cave Junction’s 75th anniversary as a promotion for the 2023 tourism season.The nonprofit invited 28 residents of varying backgrounds, from professional artist to young student, to decorate wooden garden gates. All gates were available for viewing from Selma to O’Brien and along Holland Loop.
*Public intoxication rules were updated in JoCo for the first time since 2000. Ordinance 2023-004 changed the title of Chapter 9.05 from Public Drinking to Public Intoxication, and expanded its scope from alcohol to all intoxicants, such as hard drugs like methamphetamine and heroin.
*JoCo Sheriff deputies were awarded medals for an act of valor at the Sept. 20 county meeting. Deputies Chris Watson, Tanner Cheryl, Gerald Baird, Sergeant Craig Ricker and Undersheriff Travis Snyder were involved in a firefight exactly one year before the meeting at the Manzanita rest area on Interstate 5 which ended with the gunman fatally wounded. A young woman who had been shot at the scene was given medical assistance and her life was saved.