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Police tackle questions about legal marijuana

Curry County residents filled the Southwestern Oregon Community College meeting room Thursday night to hear from law enforcement officials about the impending legalization of recreational marijuana.

Discussing the legalization of marijuana, which will take effect July 1, were three members of local law enforcement agencies: Curry County Sheriff’s Lt. Mick Espinoza, Brookings Police Department Sgt. Kelby McCrae, and Sgt. Joel Hensley with the Curry County Sheriff’s Department.

The officers answered questions from the audience about how the legalization of the drug would affect citizens, as well as addressing things that would stay the same.

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Brookings K-9 retires

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Kalmiopsis Elementary School students say goodbye to K-9 Officer Charger on Monday, the dog’s last day of working as a drug-sniffing canine after seven years.

Brookings K-9 officer Charger raced around the third grade classroom Monday, greeting students as they cheered “Charger!” and “Good dog!” and reached out to pet him.

It was the last day on the job for Charger, who is retiring after serving the Brookings Police Department for seven years as a drug-detector.

His handler, Officer Dustin Watson, along with several other police officers, brought Charger to teacher Ken Olsen’s class at Kalmiopisis Elementary to visit with students one last time —  and for a special cake decorated with photos of the canine.

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Veteran suicides spur local action

Curry County loses, on average, three or four veterans a year — to suicide.

According to Jim Newman, an Associate Vietnam Veteran of America member, the statistics alone are startling.

Veterans constitute 8.7 percent of Oregon’s population (about 331,000), but account for about 23 percent of its suicide deaths. Suicide is the leading cause of death among veterans ages 45 or younger. For males ages 18-24 years, the rate of suicide among veterans was eight times that of non-veterans: 130 per 100,000 population compared to 15 per 100,000 among non-veterans.

And there are more veterans per capita — 2,998 — in Curry County than anywhere else in Oregon.

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Plans for Brookings Octoberfest underway

Oompah! Oompah!

Brookings might be the venue for a resurrected Oktoberfest if the city council approves the recommendation from the Tourism Promotion and Advisory Committee (TPAC) to provide funds for the event.

TPAC members voted unanimously to fund $3,500 to Alex Carr Fredericks of Chetco Brewing Company to start up an Oktoberfest event in October.

“It’s amazing what has happened the last four years in the Brookings beer scene,” said organizer Raymond Ross, owner of Vista Pub. “We have four breweries in a 25-mile (radius). And then you add in all those from Eureka to Astoria. Everyone’s excited about the (microbrewing) culture.”

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Ospreys return to Brookings nest site

People driving and walking on the Chetco River bridge were pleased to welcome back residents they thought they’d seen the last of — ospreys.

Residents were worried the popular birds wouldn’t return this spring after a winter storm destroyed their nest, and part of dead tree on which it perched, near the south end of the bridge.

But several people have reported seeing several osprey flying around the area where the nest was, suggesting they birds are attempting to rebuild their home.

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Sheriff, Huxley clash

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Tom Huxley/John Ward

Growing tension between Curry County Commissioner Tom Huxley and Sheriff John Ward exploded this week, with Huxley accusing Ward of unethical behavior and Ward accusing Huxley of dirty politics.

The trigger was a letter to the editor that was published in the April 11 Curry Coastal Pilot. 

In his letter, Brookings resident Ed Ajimine expressed his distrust of Ward’s ability to spend public funds, based on the hiring and subsequent “promotion of” and “pay raises” for then-Sheriff’s deputy and now Lt. Mick Espinoza. 

Espinoza resigned from his last job, as a deputy for the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, during an internal investigation. Also, he was charged with and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence prior to starting the job in Curry County. Both former Sheriff John Bishop, who hired Espinoza, and Ward have expressed their confidence in Espinoza’s abilities to do his job. 

Ward believes that Huxley played a part in the crafting of Ajimine’s letter to undermine public support of the sheriff’s law levy on the May 19 ballot. 

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Eat Fresh and drink Local

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Ann Moore of Brandy Peak Distillery serves Nichole Cuoco a blackberry liqueur made at the facility.

Dairy farmers, cheese makers, produce growers, restaurant owners, brewmeisters and others gathered at Brandy Peak Distillery northeast of Brookings Tuesday night to share in the bounty of local food.

It’s the second part of a project initiated by Travel Oregon to grow experiential culinary and agriculture-based vacations — whether it be learning how to milk a goat, a family outing to pick blueberries or a “treasure hunt” for ingredients to make a fresh dinner culled from local farms.

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Wide open salmon season

The Pacific Fisheries Management Coalition announced Wednesday that the Wild Rivers Coast will have a 130-day salmon fishing season — and it’s good news for anglers and business owners alike.

 Starting on May 1 and ending Sept. 7, the season is about twice as long as a typical season of 60-75 days, according to Port Commissioner Jim Relaford. The estimates are focused on Chinook salmon.

“The returning fish (numbers) going into the rivers last year were much higher than forecast,” Relaford said. “The rivers are healthy and are being managed properly.”

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$1 million in timber funds for Curry County

Curry County has again secured a two-year Secure Rural Schools extension, which many in its county government are saying is a double-edged sword.

According to Gil Riddell, policy director with the Association of Oregon Counties, House Resolution 2, attached to the so-called Dr. Fix bill addressing how Medicare is paid to physicians, brings payments back to what they were in 2011.

O&C funds to the Curry County general fund should total about $1.1 million. 

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Agency mulls scenic designation for Chetco River

On Tuesday night, the Harbor Fire Hall was the site of a packed meeting to discuss designating a portion of the Chetco River as a State Scenic Waterway.  

The area in question runs from Loeb State Park to the Steel Bridge.

Several citizens attending the meeting were there out of concern that the designation of part of the river as a State Scenic Waterway would limit recreational activities on the river, such as camping. Before the meeting began, Chris Havel of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department addressed the crowd to assuage some of their concerns:

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