Spring whale watch

The Spring Whale Watch Week event returns to the coast March 23-31 to celebrate the more than 20,000 gray whales expected to migrate north past Oregon over the next few months.

Volunteers from the Whale Watching Spoken Here program will be stationed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day at 24 sites along the coast, ready to help visitors spot the migrating mammals.

In Curry County, those sites will be at Cape Ferrelo and Harris Beach State Park, and volunteers will be available to answer questions and help people spot the giant animals.

Gray whales migrate north along the coast of the western U.S. annually during spring; they return to Alaskan waters after wintering in the warm lagoons off the coast of Baja, Mexico. Many gray whales will be accompanied by their new calves, born during the winter.

The first large groups of whales pass by Oregon in mid-March and the migratory stream typically continues into June.

For more information, visit https://whalespoken.wordpress.com or https://oregonstateparks.org.

Harbor water annexation

Every resident in Pelican Bay Heights — and 25.8 percent of those in the Harbor Water District — voted to annex the 33-home area into the water district in the March 12 special election.

All 33 residents in the neighborhood voted for the annexation. Of the 844 water district voters who cast ballots, 75 percent voted to allow Pelican Bay Heights to annex, and 211 voted against the measure.

There will be no additional cost for the neighborhood to link its system with that of Harbor Water’s, but residents were required to install two 10,000-gallon reservoirs and supporting infrastructure to do so.

Azalea Court lives on

Alice Farmer, who has coordinated the annual Azalea Festival Court and wants to retire after more than 25 years of doing so, has found someone to replace her, ensuring there will be a Azalea Queen and her princesses for the 80th annual event this Memorial Day.

The coronation of the queen wraps up a months-long event in which high school seniors attend classes and speak to organizations to earn money for a scholarship fund. The winner is crowned for the Azalea Festival.

Roll carts rolling out

Curry Transfer and Recycling will debut its full-sized recycling roll carts to customers in unincorporated areas of the county, recycling coordinator Candie Wilk told county commissioners Wednesday.

The carts replace the blue bins in which customers placed recyclables, and take up the same “footprint” of space in storage areas, she said. There is an additional $3.75 cost for the every-other-week service, even if customers opt out.

Five customers opted out in Brookings when the carts debuted there last year, and two later changed their minds.

Wilk said studies have shown that people recycle more — up to 200 pounds a year per household — when they have a larger container that’s easier to haul to the curb. Additionally, the carts, which are picked up by mechanical arms on the sides of recycling trucks, provide a safer working environment for CTR employees, and material doesn’t scatter in high winds.

“We’ve seen a huge (decrease) in Brookings in debris on a windy day; it’s been cut in half,” said spokesman Luke Pike. “It’s just not out there anymore.”

The company will advertise the news in the weeks prior to the blue bins being exchanged for carts. Ads will include announcements of the debut and what can and cannot be placed in the bins. That information and the pickup schedule will also be distributed.

Code enforcement way up

Curry County Code Enforcement Officer David Fortman has been a busy man.

Fortman has already worked on 43 cases since he was hired in September and is working on another 51 cases, Curry County Director of Operations Julie Schmelzer told Curry County commissioners Wednesday.

Among his duties are to respond to complaints about homes that have fallen into disrepair or are unsafe and might be attracting vermin, children or homeless people, creating unhealthful situations. He has also had to address abandoned RVs — and is trying to address a particularly contentious problem where someone is living in such a vehicle and the RV is leaking raw sewage, County Commissioner Sue Gold said in a report.

“People are seeing we’re going something, so people are complying,” she said about the efficacy of the program. “I’m pretty darn happy with what he’s doing in the time he has.”

Fortman was hired this year after Harbor citizens complained about four properties that were unsightly, filled with garbage or being used for shelter. One was a home that had burned and whose carcass was being used as a residence by a group of homeless people.

Of the cases he has been assigned, 55 were in South County, 25 in Central, 11 in the north end and three scattered to the east.

Paying claims

Curry County commissioners will consider at their Wednesday meeting whether to pay claims made against the county that its insurance company has declined to pay.

According to County Attorney John Huttl, there is a compelling reason to pay some of them anyway.

He cited a recent incident in which a citizen filed a claim against the county because a “natural event resulted in obstructions in the right of way.” The citizen cleared the blockage at their own expense, Huttl said.

“That relieved our roads department of the need to expend county resources,” he wrote in a memo to the board of commissioners. “Legally, the county was not obligated to pay (as there was no liability on the part of the county), so our insurer denied payment. But there were some overarching fairness reasons in the public interest to nevertheless pay the claim.”

Other jurisdictions have procedures in place to pay such claims, he noted, and working with Director of Operations Julie Schmelzer, he has borrowed a policy from another county to create an ordinance that would authorize paying such claims.

Paasch gets federal seat

Curry County Commissioner Christopher Paasch has been appointed to the National Veterans and Military Services Committee.

The first-time commissioner is a Marine, and has vowed to fight on behalf of veterans. He comes from a family of veterans, including two brothers and two sisters all of whom served in the Army.

“In Curry County we honor veterans, and I’m going to do my best to make sure our veterans’ needs are met,” Paasch said. (Veterans Service Officer) Tony (Voudy) has a done a great job, as have our enthusiastic volunteers, like Connie Hunter, but we can’t stop fighting for those that fought for our freedom.”

Voudy was noted last year for his work in getting “one-stop shopping” for veterans services. His offices is at 517 Railroad St. in Brookings.

Furlough hits unemployed

Curry County’s unemployment ticked up another notch in January, the state Employment Department announced, but it was likely due to the partial federal government shutdown that ended in January, 35 days after it started.

The shutdown was the longest in U.S. history.

Affected here were U.S. Coast Guardsmen at Chetco Station and U.S. Forest Service employees in Gold Beach.

“Since the partial government shutdown has ended and those workers are back on the job, look for a rebound in federal government jobs in the upcoming months,” said workforce analyst Sarah Cunningham.

Curry County still has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in Oregon, at 6.8 percent.

Max still missing

Max Greenfield has been missing for almost a year since he left Lucky 7 Casino in Smith River at 2 a.m. March 18, 2018, and there is a $5,000 reward leading to the location and recovery of the man.

No one has reported seeing him since, the family has noted, and they believe all the tips point toward murder. It is being treated as an active investigation.

Greenfield was last seen that night on video surveillance camera when he spoke with someone outside the casino. Both parties departed, with Greenfield appearing to head south toward U.S. 101.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call Jerrin Gill with the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office at 707-465-2468. This is an active homicide investigation.

There is a $5,000 reward for the exact location and recovery of Max.