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Elections
Recount called in Douglas County assessor race

The Oregon Secretary of State has called for a recount in the election for Douglas County assessor.

The move followed a challenge by candidate Dean Tucker, who had lost the election to Heather Coffel by a slim margin of 126 votes, according to June 2 certified results from the Douglas County Clerk’s Office.

Tucker received 11,171 votes, or 49.62 percent and Coffel 11,297 votes, or 50.18 percent, according to that count.

The Douglas County Clerk’s Office will conduct the recount beginning 1 p.m. Wednesday at the clerk’s office in Room 124 of the Douglas County Courthouse in Roseburg. Four boards of two people each of different parties will be chosen by Douglas County Clerk Patricia Hitt to perform the recount.

The winner will take over for current Assessor Roger Hartman in January, after Hartman chose not run for re-election. The position is nonpartisan. Tucker is a longtime appraiser in the assessor’s office, and Coffel has been an appraiser both for the county government and for a private firm.

The two coworkers ran an amicable campaign. Coffel collected more than $8,000 in campaign donations, while Tucker chose to spend $4,000, mostly out of his own pocket. He said he wouldn’t accept contributions from property owners in the county.


Roseburg
Roseburg splashpad is finally open

As summer weather appears to have finally made its entrance to central Douglas County on Monday, the opening of the newly constructed Fir Grove Park Playground & SplashPad couldn’t have come any too soon.

Dozens of youngsters who began summer vacation last week were on hand for the grand opening for the park, which features a new playground on one side, and colorful and creative water structures on the other side.

Janel Dickenson brought her grandson to try it out.

“I think it’s going to be fabulous to have it here for the kids for the summertime,” Dickenson said. “I think it’s going to be used a lot, this is going to be really nice.”

“It’s fantastic for the community, it’s a great place for the kids to hang out in the summer,” said Melody Schwegel, who brought her 8-year-old daughter, Lucy. “They can cool off in the heat and I love the fencing around it to give them some security, this is wonderful.”

“I love it and I can walk on water,” Lucy said. “It’s kind of like a swimming pool but funner.”

The water splashpad, or sprayground, as it is also called, operates with a recirculating water system similar to a swimming pool and it will be open through the summer months.

The project was made possible by a grant of $305,000 from the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, which the city received in the fall of 2015. Another $218,715 came from the City Park Improvement Fund. The Roseburg Morning Rotary Club raised $111,000, and most of the rest of the funding came from local contributors.

The total cost of the project with the playground and the splashpad was $709,000.

Leila Heislein, who was recognized by Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich for her $50,000 donation to the project, has served on the Roseburg City Parks Commission for 26 years has been a big supporter of the project.

“My youngest daughter lost her best friend in the North Umpqua River and she won’t go near a river any more, and I think we need a safe environment for kids to enjoy the water in the summer.”

Rich told a crowd of about 60 people gathered for the ribbon cutting to officially open the park, that it was a long time coming but it was worth it. He applauded the fundraising efforts that made the project possible.

“We got the money in 2017, but the bids were too high, so we needed to rework the project to fund this with the dollars that we had,”Rich said. “We redid the project and awarded it in November 2017, then started construction and here we are today.”

The construction was done by Classic Design and Construction, whose bid was $357,789.

City Manager Lance Colley said it’s an efficient system and won’t require any additional city staff to run it.

The splashpad will open each year on Memorial Day and stay open through through Labor Day if the weather allows. The hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

Editor’s note: Dan Bain is a member of the morning Roseburg Rotary Club.


Veterans
Veteran Dodie Blessing remembered for humbly making life better for countless others

About 100 veterans and other well-wishers turned out to the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex on Monday to mourn the passing and celebrate the life of a woman who has been described as a pillar of the veteran community.

Dodie Blessing was a past president and founding member of the Douglas County Veterans Forum, and helped organize a number of local veterans groups and events. She had served in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps and later became a nurse and women veterans’ coordinator at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Veteran leader Dodie Blessing remembered for touching many lives

Dodie Blessing was a leader in the local veteran community and a retired Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center nurse who dedicated her life to helping others. Friends said she was full of compassion, but also wouldn’t back down from a fight, especially when it came to championing the rights of local veterans. In 2016, she was recognized for her many years of service with the Outstanding Oregon Women Veterans of the Year award.

In 2016, she received the Oregon Woman Veteran of the Year award.

On Monday, she received a military memorial, with an eight bells ceremony, a three gun salute, Taps, and a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace. A flag was presented to her surviving family members.

Navy Chaplain Jim Little, also a past Douglas County Veterans Forum president, officiated at the memorial. He quoted from Micah 6:8.

“What does God require of a man or a woman, but to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God,” Little said. “In my mind and heart, this is Dodie.”

Blessing treated veterans justly, and was a founder of the local American Women Veterans Association chapter, recognized for their red coats, he said.

“If we had any kind of event going on, I was so pleased to say, ‘Here come the redcoats,’” Little said.

Little said Blessing was a mainstay, organizing the Veterans Day Parade for 12 years.

“I used to tease Dodie that she did it when we had covered wagons,” he said.

Many groups depended on her, he said.

She demonstrated her mercy by treating wounded soldiers and veterans as a nurse, and by starting Douglas County Cancer Services, he said. The organization offers wigs, prosthetics, travel expenses and other needs for cancer patients.

“Countless people have a better life because of her. It was always Dodie who encouraged others to take the high road, to help others as the Bible says,” he said.

She did all that humbly, never seeking recognition despite having every right to “brag to the heavens” about her accomplishments, he said. And she did it all with a smile everyone will miss.

Jackie Sartain, director of the District 12 Honor Guard from Roseburg VFW Post No. 2468, said when Blessing heard the call of her country, she answered. He said she was a selfless defender of her country and her flag.

Mike Eakin, past commander of VFW Post No. 2468, said Blessing’s passing was a reminder of the frailty of human life.

“Our fellow veteran is in the hands of our Heavenly Father, and God giveth his beloved sleep. She will be laid to rest, but let us cherish her virtues and learn to imitate them,” he said.


Drought
Gov. declares drought emergency in Douglas County

Douglas became the first county west of the Cascades declared under a drought emergency after an executive order signed by Gov. Kate Brown Thursday.

Baker County was also declared under a drought emergency last week following low rainfall and snowpack levels across the state.

“All signs point to another record-breaking drought and wildfire season for Oregon,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “That means we must continue our urgent work to build communities that are ready for the challenges of climate change. I have directed state agencies stand ready to help and work with local communities to provide assistance.”

Earlier this month, Douglas County Commissioners declared a drought emergency citing, in part, low water levels at the Galesville and Berry Creek Dams.

In an earlier interview with The News-Review, Douglas Forest Protective Association spokesman Kyle Reed said this year’s fire season isn’t looking positive; the region is 12 inches behind on rainfall, and didn’t get the same snowpack it had last year.

The National Weather Service in Medford reports Douglas County is expected to receive above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall over the summer months.

Drought emergencies are already in effect in Klamath, Grant, Harney and Lake counties.