Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final piece of a four-part series that has been published daily through today.
James Mansanti first learned about welding in a friend’s garage, where a parent let him lay down a bead.
It didn’t seem to be a career path at first, but rather a skill that might come in useful sometime later in life. So when Mansanti started classes at Umpqua Community College, his focus wasn’t on welding.
“I just thought that I should at least know how to do it,” Mansanti said about signing up for his first welding class at UCC in spring 2015.
But, as it turns out, welding was a career path for Mansanti.
He is now the swing-shift lead at North River Boats in Green and welding is a big part of his job duties, as is supervising.
“If people need help they can ask me,” Mansanti said, adding that the skills he learned in college have helped him get this far in his career.
He also benefited from the contacts made in college, because he heard about an opening at North River Boats from a classmate.
Although high school graduates are able to get jobs easier upon completion of CTE courses and obtaining certificates, there are many college opportunities as well.
“Our purpose is to offer pathways and programs that prepare students for success in post-secondary education, a career and/or entering the services, whichever their choice is,” Roseburg High School Assistant Principal Brett Steinacher said.
Each high school CTE teacher works closely with a community college nearby that offers the programs being taught. For many in Douglas County, that means Umpqua Community College.
UCC offers applied associates of science degrees — which allow students to enter the workforce with a two-year associate of science degrees — which can transfer to four-year college.
“Sometimes you’ll hear the comment, ‘Well, college isn’t for everybody, so there’s CTE education,’” UCC Dean of Career and Technical Education Jason Aase said. “No, CTE is college level, and it’s important that we elevate that.”
Students can also complete shorter term certificate programs, which are awarded for occupational content only and are state approved, or participate in a career-pathways program.
At Umpqua Community College, CTE provides training in a variety of occupations, such as applied science and technology (automotive technology, computer information systems, engineering technology, and welding), apprenticeships (electricians, industrial mechanics, millwright, machinist, pipe fitter), business administration, community and workforce training (truck driving), health science (dental, nursing), humanities (public relations), occupational skulls training, public safety, social and behavioral sciences (education, human services, paralegal studies) and the Southern Oregon Wine Institute.
UCC looks at its programs several times a year with the help of advisory boards. This board is made up of employers, employees, high school instructors and community members who look at what is currently offered at the college and what technology is available. Members of the board then make suggestions on classes that should be offered or are no longer relevant in the industry.
“(Our courses) have to align with business and industry needs so our graduates can find jobs,” UCC Director of Applied Science and Technology Clay Baumgartner said. “We focus on Douglas County, but the skills can work anywhere in the country.”
Orenco Senior Vice President Jeff Ball said his interactions with UCC advisory boards were informal. He added that drafting and engineering skills are important, but what’s critical is finding employees who can communicate effectively.
“Communication is very important to us,” Ball said. “We need welders, electricians, carpenters, but we often can train in-house. It’s just as important to know how to communicate.”
The Sutherlin-based wastewater collection and treatment firm has had a hard time filling a technical sales representative, someone who can explain the technical parts but also sell and market it to outside sources.
Ball also said an IT-position and graphic-designer position remained open for an extended amount of time. “I was shocked to see how hard it was to find someone to fill those positions,” he said.
Jim Baird of Roseburg Urban Sanitary Authority (RUSA) is on the advisory boards and has also hired quite a few graduates over the years, as well as providing internship opportunities for the students.
John Bastianelli grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, spent seven years in the Army and now works for RUSA. He stayed on after his internship.
He decided to make Roseburg home after he got out of the Army and attended UCC, where he used his G.I. Bill to get an education. While at UCC, he learned about an internship at RUSA and decided to take the opportunity to get hands on experience.
“I use all the programs I learned. The textbook education vs. practical application are always going to be a learning curve on the job,” Bastianelli, now a UCC graduate, said. “I had a summer internship here at RUSA and no one ever asked me to leave, so it ended up being a year-long internship and they hired me upon graduation.
“I value my internship above any classroom education.”
Students in the various courses also have internships or apprenticeships in their respective field of study.
“It’s a good stepping stone,” Mansanti said of UCC. “You learn all the basics and how all the tools work, but you get to know so much more when you’re actually in the industry.”
UCC’s forestry program next year is looking to add a course on renewable materials to keep up with trends in the industry.
Some instructors have noticed that students who were exposed to the topics in high school have an increased knowledge and interest coming into the program.
“Adding more CTE programs at high schools has made a noticeable and significant improvement to the level of knowledge for incoming students,” Baumgartner said. “Not only are more high schools adding CTE programs, the programs are incorporating advanced technologies in CAD, manufacturing, wood products, computers, etc.”
Sandra Angeli-Gade, UCC human services program director and assistant professor, said she hopes high schools start introducing students to psychology and sociology and introduce students to volunteer opportunities.
UCC Department Chair of Social and Behavioral Science Crystal Sullivan said she hopes high school teachers will “provide students with the realistic expectation that school is supposed to be challenging and push them harder to learn and grow.”
Another thing community colleges took part in this year is a national CTE signing day, which saw 20 students sign letters of intent to enroll in one of UCC’s career-focus programs.
Baumgartner speculated that adding CTE programs and exposing students to technology and career-based learning could increase the retention rate.
“Nationwide, the year-to-year retention rate for incoming community college students is approximately 40%,” he said. “As high schools continue to add more CTE programs, I expect the retention rate at UCC to improve significantly, and ultimately be in the range of 60 to 80%.”
Former Douglas County Sheriff Norm Neal was remembered as a dedicated public servant at a memorial service Saturday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
Neal, who served as Douglas County Sheriff from 1981-89, and worked in law enforcement in the county for 52 years, died on Feb. 27 at the age of 83.
The Douglas County Inter-Agency Honor Guard performed full law enforcement honors, that included Taps, a ceremonial volley and bagpipes by Heidi Wood of the Military Honors by the Pipes. Nearly 300 people attended the event at the Community Conference Hall.
Monty Neal, Norm Neal’s son and an Oregon State Trooper for 23 years, said his dad was relentless when he was pursuing something.
“It was his drive to be excellent in everything he did, I know he was proud of me in a lot of ways, but also a little upset that I didn’t have that same drive, and he kept trying to push me,” Monty Neal said. “I think he had a liking for people, there was nobody he was afraid to talk to.”
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin joined the sheriff’s office shortly after Neal retired.
“Sheriff Neal was one of a kind, he was a giant in our profession,” Hanlin said. “He was a cop’s cop, he always looked professional and took pride in wearing the uniform.”
During her remarks, Becky Mathis-Willis described a particularly precarious rescue of one man who had a fortuitous meeting with Norm Neal.
That man would eventually become her husband, Rich Willis.
Rich Willis said he fell about 100 feet off a cliff while hiking south of Glide and broke his back, cracked his skull and had several life-threatening injuries. Norm Neal hiked into the remote area with other SAR personnel and camped out for the night with the injured hiker to give him aid until they could carry him out the next morning.
“Norm spent the night there and kept me alive, I really should have died, but he was determined,” Willis said.
Willis was transported out the next morning and taken to the hospital, and miraculously survived. He has now been married 41 years, has four children, 13 grandchildren and a great grandchild.
Douglas County Emergency Management director Wayne Stinson recalled how Neal supported search and rescue.
“I think he pushed so hard because he had a real desire to return people to their families,” Stinson said. “I think he really understood how important it was to bring closure to families, and he pushed the bounds real hard to ensure we would do everything we could do to recover people.”
Norm Neal served in the U.S. Air Force for four years and at age 21, he joined the Roseburg Police Department and was a rural fire department volunteer at the same time.
He was a first responder during the Roseburg Blast of 1959, where a truck carrying explosives blew up and leveled eight city blocks.
Neal became a deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in 1963 and helped establish the local search and rescue program. He was a founding member of the Sheriff’s dive team.
Neal was the first sheriff in the county to successfully pass a public safety levy to fund the the Sheriff’s Office services during the county’s financial shortfalls in the 1980s.
After his retirement, Neal stayed active as a volunteer with the search and rescue program and was instrumental in establishing the 4x4 SAR Program and was one of the Snowcat operators.
Neal formally retired from his volunteer work with the SAR in 2015.
“For those of us touched by Sheriff Neal’s influence and inspiration, let us not forget it is our duty to carry on with his dedication and commitment to our community,” Hanlin said. “You may be gone but we will never forget.”
Public safety would lose 10 positions, including two sheriff’s patrol deputies, under the proposed fiscal year 2019-20 budget for Douglas County government.
The Douglas County Budget Committee will meet to consider the proposed budget in all-day sessions beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday and Friday at the Douglas County Courthouse. The 2019-20 budget calls for overall expenditures to increase from $144.6 million to $163.9 million, with $42.7 million in budgeted expenditures from the general fund.
It will draw down $9 million from the general fund reserve, though the loss to the reserve could be less if federal Secure Rural Schools payments were to be extended for another year. The budget anticipates about $42 million would be left in the reserves at the end of the year.
Most of the county departments have proposed budgets that will retain close to the same number of employees, with the net loss across all departments being 14.75 full time equivalents. The full time equivalent measure, or FTE, counts employees by the amount they work, so a half-time employee is 0.5 of an employee and a full-time employee is 1.
Even with the cuts, the overall cost of providing salary and benefits to the remaining employees will be more than was spent on personnel in the previous budget.
Public safety will absorb more than two-thirds of the position cuts. In addition to the two deputies, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office enforcement positions dropped would include a volunteer services coordinator, an investigations analyst and an accounting clerk. One of seven police records clerk positions would also be dropped. Four of the dropped positions would be from the corrections department, but the 9-1-1 staffing level would remain the same.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said he doesn’t anticipate many layoffs if the budget is approved as proposed. He said seven of the cuts, including the two patrol deputies, would be made by not filling positions that were funded in previous years but are currently vacant. They are positions he hoped to refill, though.
“It’s going to have a pretty significant impact on our ability to provide services,” he said.
Hanlin said he believes 24/7 deputy patrols can be maintained under the proposed budget, but it could take longer for deputies to respond to calls for assistance. If multiple employees were out on leave at the same time, even 24/7 service could be in question.
“We’re going to work extremely hard not to lose that, but we’re right at the breaking point,” Hanlin said.
He said ultimately, cuts could cost the county more money if it attempts to reduce staffing. Since he can’t put a lone deputy out during the graveyard shift without backup, short staffing could mean deputies have to be on call. If they’re called out, the cost to pay their overtime could actually increase expenditures rather than reducing them, Hanlin said.
He said he understands that the county is in financial trouble, and that was why county commissioners asked him to make cuts. However, he remains hopeful the commissioners and the other members of the Douglas County Budget Committee will add back in enough funding that he won’t have to cut the positions.
Hanlin said he will ask the budget committee to authorize additional funds for public safety beyond what’s in the proposed budget.
The proposed 2019-20 budget is organized differently from previous years.
While all money from property taxes is ordinarily entirely dumped into the public safety budget, this year’s budget moves the numbers around a bit. First, the taxes will be put into the general fund, then $8,872,629 will be transferred from there to the public safety budget.
The property tax amount budgeted in 2018-19 though, was $9.1 million and the 2019-20 budget anticipates that amount will increase to $10.1 million. So public safety will get most, but not all, of the taxes. Public safety also will receive a bit less in road funds that formerly paid for some deputies.
Hanlin said public safety can’t sustain much more in the way of cuts, and it may be time for county residents to start the discussion about a public safety levy. But he said he feels more education needs to be done first so voters will understand how public safety is funded and why property taxes aren’t enough to foot the bill for those services.
Hanlin said while paying for government programs like education and roads is important, public safety is the most critical.
“If you have no public safety, no law and order, I think the rest of it is a moot point,” he said.