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VA town hall

The Veterans Administration will hold a town hall meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the new VA Clinic on Railroad Street.

Roseburg VA Healthcare Director Doug Paxton will be on hand to answer veterans’ questions and address concerns about healthcare in Brookings or Roseburg. In the past, many have complained about long travel times to Roseburg for simple procedures, calls that haven’t been returned, the doctor turnover at regional and local clinics and other frustrations.

The Brookings clinic is getting two new, full-time, permanent primary care physicians from Salem in December. Since the clinic opened in September, it has been short-staffed, and one full-time physician left in October, leaving a traveling, part-time physician to serve the needs of the veteran community.

The new 7,920-square-foot facility features numerous patients rooms, more mental health and telehealth opportunities. Ultimately, there will be two primary-care teams, each comprised of a provider, an RN, an LPN and a medical support assistant in charge of scheduling.

The quarterly town hall meetings have often attracted standing-room-only crowds at the Best Western in Harbor.

An average physician can have an annual caseload of 1,200 patients, and about 1,800 veterans are signed up for services in Curry County.

And the Roseburg office, with its $130 million budget, has spent $65 million in the past few years building inpatient psychiatric, drug and alcohol, and dementia units in its region. It hired 180 staff for its Eugene clinic alone.

At a town hall meeting in August 2016, Paxton agreed that working within the confines of government is challenging and frustrating.

“I have to work within the confines of government, which I hate,” Paxton said. “We live in a bureaucracy; I can’t just wave a magic wand.”

Curry County has more veterans per capita than any other county in Oregon, with more than 2,880 in a population of about 23,000.

A second town hall will be held in North Bend Nov. 30.

Azalea trees

Trees cut down along Lundeen Lane along the east edge of Azalea Park will be replaced by deciduous trees and shrubs that are slated to arrive in town next week, said Brookings Parks and Planning Manager Tony Baron.

Thirty-seven trees were removed last year by Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative because they threatened the high voltage power lines that also run down that street. When the trees were cut, most were found to be infested with conk, a disease that strikes older Douglas fir trees.

That prompted an investigation into the health of the rest of the trees in Azalea Park, a tree-cutting plan, an outrage on social media, a moratorium on the planned felling and a raft of new analyses.

The Lundeen tree planting is part of a plan to restore and improve the area with foliage featuring a variety of color and echoing the character of the trees on the other side of the street.

“This is not just a tree-replanting project,” Baron said. “It’s part of a multi-use trail extension project, funded in part by a $10,000 Oregon Parks and Recreation grant.”

Funding for the trail project was approved in June 2016 and the work must be completed by Oct. 31, 2018.

“We received money from the removal of the fir trees ($14,500, from South Coast Lumber) and combined that with state grant money to fund the project,” Baron said, noting that the overall project has been delayed due to other park improvement projects with tighter deadlines, including Kidtown repairs and swing replacement, Chetco Point Park improvements and Azalea Park ballfield projects.

The overall project includes replanting the area with shorter trees, including thundercloud flowering plum, red maple and encore azaleas.

“We have ordered 30 trees, 16 of which will be planted in this area,” Baron said. “The remaining 14 trees will be planted in other areas of the park. This is the first of several tree orders we intend to place over the next couple of years.”

Not quite the safest

The Port of Brookings Harbor has always touted itself as being the safest port in the state.

Ends up, it’s not … quite accurate, and port officials are leaning toward discontinuing using the terminology when talking with ship pilots and other customers.

According to information researched by port staff, Master Chief Petty Officer Kirk McKay of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Chetco River was asked about the term “harbor of safe refuge,” and said, to his knowledge, it depends on the vessel in question and the weather at the time.

The majority of bars on the Oregon Coast face west, while the local bar faces south. When factoring in prevailing weather, the bar is indeed generally the “safest,” considering that it is passable more than others.

McKay then referred questions to the Portland station, where Lt. Commander Laura Springs of the Waterways Management Division of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit said, “it really doesn’t mean much.”

For example, the Port of Brookings Harbor is not deep enough for many ships to consider a harbor of safe refuge.

The Oregon Public Ports Association said they were not familiar with the term or any related regulations, the report reads.

“So, it seems we can conclude that it would be inaccurate to refer to our port as a “harbor of safe refuge’ because it depends entirely on a particular vessel,” the report reads. “It would be accurate to say that, due to the orientation of our bar, with the slight protection of Chetco Point, it is more passable than other Oregon bars.”

Another reason staff recommends port officials steer away from referring to the port as a safe harbor is because customers are calling asking for the company Safe Harbor Marinas, the largest owner of operator of marinas in the nation.