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Crosswalk being built after fatal accident

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has begun construction on a crosswalk on Chetco Avenue near Lucky Lane —  the result of citizens’ demands to make the area safer after a Brookings woman was killed there. 

Joyce Marie Betties, 73, was struck and killed by a car while crossing that section of highway last August. She was often seen walking up and down the street and frequenting Fred Meyer and the Chetco Activity Center to have lunch with friends.

Prior to the accident, ODOT and the city had been exploring placing a crosswalk in that area because of an increase in pedestrian and motor traffic there.

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College trying to improve grad rates

A recent state study shows only 24 percent of community college students at campuses throughout Oregon finish a degree or certificate within seven years — an alarmingly low rate, officials said.

And while Curry County’s Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) falls within the statewide average, college officials are taking steps to improve the completion rate for their students.

Factors that often impact students’ ability to complete a degree include financial difficulties, lack of transportation and juggling full-time jobs and family commitments.

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Conflict between Huxley, Weeks going to mediation

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County IT Director Todd Weeks, right, confers with his attorney, William F. Cloran, during Fridayís hearing with the Curry County Commissioners.

It was kumbaya all over again at the county offices Friday after the commissioners agreed to withdraw a proposed reprimand levied by Commissioner Tom Huxley against IT Director Todd Weeks, and to bring in an outside mediator or counselor to help the two resolve their differences.

Huxley has accused Weeks of insubordination. Weeks has accused Huxley of creating a hostile work environment.

“Once this is over, we should wipe the slate clean, open the lines of communication. …” said Commissioner Chair Susan Brown at the end of the quasi-judicial hearing Friday afternoon. “It doesn’t matter how we feel about each other; it’s about how we do our jobs.”

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Smoke from distant wildfire reaches Curry County

Curry County residents, particularly those in the Brookings and Harbor may smell or see smoke, the result of a wildfire burning in the wilderness north of Cave Junction. There is no threat to homes or property in Curry County, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

As of 4 p.m. today, firefighting resources were responding to the “Buckskin” Fire, located approximately six miles north of the California border, one mile outside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Airtanker 161 was dropping water on the estimated 50- to 75-acre blaze, which is actively burning and clearly visible from the town of Cave Junction, according to Forest Service spokewoman Virginia Gibbons.

Members of the Siskiyou Rappel crew were on the ground on scene and more rappellers were enroute. Helicopters are also enroute/on scene, as are smokejumpers from Redmond. Two hotshot crews currently assigned to other incidents on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest are being reassigned to the Buckskin Fire to help battle the blaze.

Other fires:

In the Gold Beach Ranger District, which includes the wilderness in eastern Curry County, firefighters were mopping up small wildfires started earlier this week by lightning strikes. None of the fires were near populated areas. Here is the latest information as of 4 p.m. today:

 

•The “Tom Fry” Fire (#355), located two miles SW of Agness, is four acres in size.  The retardant line held yesterday and firefighters have completed containment line. Steep, rugged, and remote terrain, coupled with heavy fuel loading, is impacting mop up efforts.

 

•Fire #346 is located near Hog Mountain. The fire is 2 acres in size and firefighters have completed a line around it.  Fire is in patrol status with one engine assigned.

New Starts

 

•Fire #372 Miller Fire, called in this morning, is reported to be 3.5 acres in size. One Forest Service engine, patrol unit, and 20-person initial attack hand crew, in addition to Coos Forest Protection Association resources, were responding. The fire is located near Elko Camp in the Hunter Creek area, is not threatening any structures, and is near to but not threatening South Coast Lumber lands.

 

•The North Smith Fire near Packsaddle Mountain is currently two acres in size. It is located near the SW corner of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness boundary. Four helitack crew members (Lakeview), a Forest engine and a 20-person initial attack hand crew was assigned.  


Oversight could jeopardize city water tank

County commissioners last week caught a small mistake in a letter the city of Brookings had written and were prepared to send to South Coast Lumber that could now jeopardize Brookings’ 500,000-gallon water tank at the airport — and that could have risked the county’s chances of obtaining future grants through the federal government.

That little omission was a cc: (carbon copy) to the FAA in a letter assuring South Coast Lumber and its subsidiary Chetco Resources that they can have uninhibited access to the road that wends behind the north end of the runway and onto their timber tracts to the east.

“South Coast and Chetco,” the letter reads, “shall continue to enjoy these longstanding, enforceable rights to use Airport Road without any additional limitation or restriction.”

It’s those last four words that would cause the FAA problems, possibly halting the project altogether.

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Storm heralds fire season

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A storm on Monday night produced multiple lightning strikes off the coast of Brookings at Harris Beach. Photo by Collin Winegarden

The fire season has officially begun, again a few days earlier than in years past and with lightning storms already striking and igniting forested areas in Curry County.

The lightning storm Monday night ignited one fire on U.S. Forest Service land northeast of Brookings, north and east of Bosley Butte, and another on Coos Forest Protective Association (CFPA) land in an area called the “Stackyards” off Carpenterville Road, which South Coast lumber employees had under control by Tuesday morning.

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Donations for fireworks show fall short

For the past four years, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 966 have coordinated the annual Fourth of July fireworks show at the Port of Brookings Harbor, collecting money from the community and hiring a company to handle the fireworks. 

This year, the VFW is having trouble collecting money and, with three weeks left before the holiday, is nowhere near meeting their monetary goal of $25,000, the cost of the show. 

The show will go on, said VFW Post Commander Rick Bremer, but the lack of funding this year could jeopardize future fireworks shows in Brookings.

“We’re not quite at 50 percent of what we need,” said Bremer. “It’s coming down to crunch time, and there’s no way we can make it with just what we’re collecting.”

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Effort to light bridge underway

Julie Schmelzer wants to light up … the bridge?

And hold a big party in celebration of it.

Schmelzer, Curry County’s economic development director, imagines shining lights on the 84-year-old Isaac Patterson span in Gold Beach, greeting visitors to town after a long drive down the lonely, dark coastal highway.

“We’re missing the boat by not doing this,” she said. “And I’m one of these people; I think outside the box. If we ever want to see that bridge lit again, what are we going to do? There’s always a way to fund it.”

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Schafer faces jury in swindling case

A 12-person jury Tuesday heard opening statements and witness accounts in the first day of the trial of Marlyn Schafer of Wedderburn, who is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the Gold Beach Senior Center, where she served as treasurer for six years.

The trial is slated for 10 days in district court in Gold Beach.

Schafer, a former Gold Beach city councilor and mayor, former Curry County commissioner, longtime treasurer of the Gold Beach Senior Center and secretary/treasurer of the Curry Health District, was indicted by a grand jury a year ago on charges of aggravated theft, or theft over $10,000, from the senior center in Gold Beach.

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Harris Beach State Park will be closed Sept. through May, 2016

The popular campground at Harris Beach State Park overlooking the ocean north of Brookings will be closed from Sept. 8, 2015 to May 25, 2016, while utility upgrades and a paving project are done, it was announced Tuesday. No reservations will be accepted for that time period.

For the most part, the day use area will remain open except for limited times during the project period.

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