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Curry schools, governments brace for PERS hike

Public employers in Curry County will have to find more money — as much as $870 million — to pay for retirement benefits in the 2017-2018 budget, it was determined recently.

“Everyone’s worried about that,” said Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman. “Who’s going to pay for that? It’s a huge question cities and counties are going to be wrestling with.”

The state Supreme Court ruling affects every public entity: counties, cities, schools, fire departments and others.

The court earlier this month overturned reform measures from 2013 that froze retirement cost of living expenses benefits to public employees.

It’s legally and financially complex, but the upshot is that cities, counties and schools will have to pay, beginning July 1, 2017, about 18 to 20 percent more in back benefits and cost-of-living increases to their employees.

And that will hit many cities, counties, schools and fire districts hard.

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Update on Harbor sinkhole and Highway 101 closure

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Highway 101 is closed due to a widening sinkhole and nearby landslide Friday.
 
VIDEO: Harbor Sinkhole, Friday, Jan. 29, 2016
 

 The stretch of Highway 101 closed due to a massive sinkhole in Harbor might open to two lanes within a week, but complete repairs aren’t expected until at least March, ODOT spokesman Jared Castle said early Friday morning.

Detour signs lead southbound drivers to Lower Harbor Road from the ramp at the south end of Chetco River Bridge. Northbound drivers are being diverted west onto Benham Lane, then to Oceanview and Lower Harbor Road to skirt the local disaster.

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Widening sinkhole in Harbor forces closure of Highway 101

UPDATE: 7 p.m. — Highway 101 in Harbor will be closed at 9 p.m. Thursday — or earlier — because a widening sinkhole is threatening to undermine all four lanes, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Jared Castle.

Southbound motorists will be diverted to Lower Harbor Road at the south end of the Chetco River bridge, and northbound drivers at Benham Lane in Harbor to the port. The detour will be in place for at least a week, Castle said.

Meanwhile, Shopping Center Avenue, which runs parallel to the highway on the west side, is closed after a landslide about 50 feet from the sinkhole collapsed the entire road earlier this afternoon. The slide broke a local water main and is within 30 feet of the Rice Bowl restaurant to the south and and Hearing Health Care to the north.

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Slide closes Shopping Center Avenue

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A landslide took out a section of Shopping Center Avenue on Thursday afternoon. Photo by David Allen.

Oregon Department of Transportation workers scrambled Thursday afternoon after a slide on Shopping Center Avenue took out a section of pavement, while across Highway 101, another sinkhole developed.

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Triglia appointed to city council

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Dennis Triglia

The Brookings City Council appointed Dennis Triglia to serve the remaining three years of Kelly McClain’s Position 4 seat. McClain returned to Arizona late last year.

Triglia was one of seven applicants — a number that impressed the council and Judge Richard Harper when Triglia took his oath of office.

“I have never seen this many applications,” said Councilor Jake Pieper. “Eight years ago, when I applied, they had to take me. I was the only one.”

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Scam targets renters

The Gold Beach Police Department is warning people of a scam victimizing potential renters in the Gold Beach area, Chief Dixon Andrews announced on Monday.

The scam started when a person contacted the KGBR radio station by email, and asked if they could advertise a home for rent in Gold Beach. The person, who identified himself as “Jeff Rowland,” asked interested parties to contact him by email.

Claiming to be a missionary, Rowland said he owned a home in Gold Beach but worked out of the area, and wanted to rent his home out. He asked interested parties to wire him various amounts for the rental and deposit, ranging from $650 to $1,350.

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Officials agree on psychiatric hold policy

Patients being assessed for their mental health can be held up to five days — not 30 — in Curry General Hospital’s “hold room,” but must be transported somewhere else when that time is up.

The consensus isn’t the greatest, but it’s a start, agreed law enforcement, hospital officials, mental health and addiction advocates at a meeting last week in Gold Beach.

The hold room has been a problem for all involved for months, with patients endlessly waiting for space to become available in a psychiatric hospital; interfering with work, doctors and patients in the adjacent emergency room operations; being released just to be rearrested for petty crimes and causing havoc for citizens and law enforcement while they’re out.

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Brookings council OKs Lone Ranch extension

The Brookings City Council granted Rio Tinto Borax a 12-year extension on its master plan for the Lone Ranch development north of town, which has been more than a decade in the making — and whose momentum collapsed in the Great Recession.

The city planning commission approved the extension at its last meeting, agreeing with the developer that the Great Recession of 2008, the lack of local economic growth in the recovery since, and Brookings’ slow growth rate combine to make a poor time to break ground on project as large as Lone Ranch.

The project, originally approved in 2004, is proposed to include 540 single-family homes, 150 townhomes, a 2.4-acre convenience and commercial area and the 10-acre site on which Southwest Oregon Community College has since been built.

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Sinkhole a headache for ODOT crews

While hundreds of people participated in the Sinkhole-de-Mayo party above-ground at the Fireside Diner in Harbor Thursday night, water continued to flow into the 25-foot sinkhole from upstream, overflowing the gaping hole in the parking lot there.

Oregon Department of Transportation workers had minimal success last week in trying to unclog an almost 100-year-old pipe in which asphalt and other debris is trapped. Almost-constant rain since early December has kept the hole filled with water, despite efforts to pump it out.

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No disaster funds for Brookings

Thirteen cities will divvy up $1 billion from President Obama’s National Disaster Resiliency Competition — but Brookings is not one of them, it was announced Thursday.

Brookings was one of two cities in Oregon — the other being Reedsport — that made the final round of the competition. Analysts who evaluated the applicants’ goals gave Brookings a high score — leading many to think it stood a good chance of winning.

“That means we won’t get our $6-some-odd million for our emergency room in Brookings,” said Mayor Ron Hedenskog. “That means we can’t help Harbor solve their water problems.” 

“It’s very disappointing, said Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman who, with his staff spent “hours, after-hours and weekends” — including seminars in Seattle and Denver — compiling data and tailoring it to the competition. “Maybe they determined the need in these locations was greater; that’s kind of what competition is.”

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