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Riverfront Park path construction begins

Construction is underway to reconstruct and widen a nearly half-mile section of the Riverfront Park multi-use path.

K&B Quality Excavating has until the end of June to finish widening the path from 6.5 feet to 10 feet but Parks and Recreation Program Manager Kris Ammerman said the company is ahead of schedule.

“Widening it to 10 feet allows for much more room for trail users to pass each other which again lends itself to a safer and more comfortable trail experience,” Ammerman said. “We have renovated many other sections of the path system and have widened them all to 10 feet which is our minimum standard per the 2008 Parks Master Plan.”

The city repaved and widened a 1,100-foot section of the trail just to the west in 2017 using grant money. The city also renovated a third stretch of the trail from the YMCA parking lot to the park maintenance shop in 2016.

The City of Roseburg awarded the contract on April 7 to K&B for the reconstruction not to exceed $129,398. THe project includes taking out tree roots, removing several trees and repaving about 2,000 square feet of asphalt.

The total cost of the project will be $158,072, including $37,768 from the city Bike Trail Fund.

The section runs through the disc golf course in the northeast corner of the park.

The project was delayed after the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office was concerned a change in the original realignment plan would disturb culturally-significant Native American sites in the area. The city decided to keep the original plan to avoid additional expenses for further archeological investigations.

Ammerman said the public feedback has been positive so far about the project.

“I have heard nothing but positive comments about the project,” Ammerman said. “People that frequent the trail system have expressed gratitude for the sections that have already been done and are excited that this section is getting its turn. They recognize the improvement that it will be and although there is a temporary inconvenience during construction the finished product will be well worth it.”


Douglas_county_government
Douglas County Budget Committee approves $164 million budget for 2019-20

The Douglas County Budget Committee on Friday approved the Fiscal Year 2019-20 county government budget, which calls for $164 million in expenditures.

The budget isn’t final yet and still has to receive formal approval from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. Since three of the Budget Committee members are county commissioners, though, the final budget usually doesn’t change much between the Budget Committee’s decision and the budget’s July 1 start date.

The $164 million figure is up $19 million over the previous year’s budget. The bulk of that increase, more than $13 million, is due to capital expenditures on equipment and construction projects, most notably in parks, solid waste and public works budgets. Those are generally, partially or entirely funded through state and federal grants and pass-through dollars, so there’s additional expense, but also additional revenue, to match.

Overall personnel costs are also up even though the budget included cuts of 14.75 positions. Wages and benefits for county’s 524.62 remaining employees will rise by $1.2 million to $54.2 million next year, largely due to increases in public employee retirement system, or PERS, benefits.

This budget will dip into the general fund reserves to the tune of $9.2 million, dropping the reserves to $41.8 million. General funds are dollars without strings attached that help pay for the district attorney, human resources and an array of other departmental budgets. Historically, these funds have primarily come from federal timber harvests and, more recently, from safety net payments. The amount of money going into the fund from the federal government has declined, and so far safety net payments have not been approved for Fiscal Year 2019-20.

“The current rate of use of general fund reserves is not sustainable,” Chief Financial Officer Jessica Hansen told the committee Thursday. “In the near future, if federal funding issues are not resolved, the county will need to find an alternative way to fund services and/or reduce or eliminate many services.”

The following are some highlights from departmental budgets the committee approved Friday after two days of budget hearings:

SHERIFF: The committee decided Thursday that public safety will cut nine positions, five from the Douglas County sheriff’s enforcement budget and four from corrections. Many, but not all, of the positions are currently vacant. The public safety budget will be $24.2 million next year, and facing both cuts and the threat of future cuts ahead as the county’s general fund dwindles, Sheriff John Hanlin said he would throw his support behind passage of a public safety levy.

Hanlin had originally been asked to cut 10 positions, and pleaded with the committee Thursday to add some back. In the end, a detective analyst was the lone position restored prior to the budget’s passage. More in-depth coverage of the sheriff’s budget discussions appeared in Friday’s News-Review and is posted online.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Prior to approval of his budget Friday, Douglas County District Attorney Rick Wesenberg thanked the commissioners for what he said was their unwavering support for preserving public safety.

“Just as the sheriff continues to offer 24/7 patrol, and just as he continues to operate our jail at capacity, so too are my dedicated prosecutors able to seek justice for the people of Douglas County,” he said.

Wesenberg said his budget was almost the same as the previous year’s. It drops a victim assistance coordinator position whose grant funding ended, and adds a half-time legal assistant position. He said the legal assistant position was needed because of an unfunded mandate from the state legislature that grand jury proceedings be recorded and those recordings be made available to defendants.

JUVENILE DEPARTMENT: The $6.3 million Juvenile Department budget will take $1.2 million from the general fund next year, $441,000 more than in 2018-19. The department lost revenue when it dropped some contracts with the state to provide detention services, but still has a contract with DHS to house foster youth in multiple shelter facilities. Commissioner Tim Freeman, a member of the budget committee, said at one time the county anticipated making the juvenile department self-sufficient. Legislative changes, however, have made that unlikely. There are still empty beds and the county will look for ways to fill them, Freeman said.

There are monies carried over from the previous budget for reopening the shuttered Pitchford Ranch, but plans to renovate it to house younger foster kids won’t go ahead, Juvenile Department Director Aric Fromdahl said. He said it would do the youth a service, but the current atmosphere in the state and the legislature aren’t favorable.

“I think that the politics and optics of doing that, we’ve decided would probably not be good at this time,” he said. He said others in the community are interested in pursuing what the county started. It might be reopened, but not by the county, he said.

SOLID WASTE: The Solid Waste Department is self-supporting through fees. Its 2019-20 budgeted expenditures increased by $1.9 million to $7.5 million. That’s partly due to the addition of two transfer station site attendants, bringing the number of attendants to 18 and the total number of solid waste employees to 33.25.

An even bigger factor is $1.5 million in planned capital expenditures, compared with $202,000 the previous year. In addition to pickup trucks, a leachate tanker and other equipment purchases the capital expenditures include $950,000 to be spent on storm water systems at the county’s transfer stations that will meet Department of Environmental Quality requirements.

PARKS: The Parks Department is also self-sufficient, and its $4.8 million budget calls for no money from the general fund in 2019-20. The budget is up about $2 million from the previous year and includes $2 million in capital expenses, mostly for parks improvement projects. Funds are included for rehabilitation of the Umpqua Dunes RV Park, previously known as Discovery Point. Also included is an expansion at the Half Moon Bay campground, a restroom restoration at River Forks Park and a restroom replacement at Ben Irving Reservoir in Tenmile. Most of the expense for the improvements comes from state grants.

PUBLIC WORKS: The $41 million Public Works budget is up $11.6 million from 2018. Nearly all of that increase is due to capital expenditures. New funding has also opened up for bridge repairs and replacements due to a change in federal law. Bridges budgeted for improvement include the Berry Creek, Soup Creek, Dancer Creek and Windy Creek bridges. The ongoing improvements to Old Highway 99 North in Winchester are budgeted for $8 million. Carnes Road improvements, slide repairs and pavement management also are budgeted, along with road maintenance equipment.

COMMISSIONERS: The county commissioners' office staff will drop from three commissioners and three assistants to three commissioners and two assistants.


Wildfires
Crews mop up Tiller Trail and Union Gap fires

Flames from the Tiller Trail Highway Fire appeared to be closing in on Tiller resident Paulette Fowler-Harris’ house Thursday.

“I would say the fire was within two city blocks of my home on two different sides,” Fowler-Harris said. “We were the closest house to the fire.”

As she watched the flames, fire crews told her to collect valuable belongings and be ready to evacuate at any time. But she never had to leave her house, which she has been living in for the past 23 years, she said.

Crews were able to secure a fire line preventing the advance of the fire before her house could be damaged.

“A big shout out to all these guys, man, they rocked yesterday,” Fowler-Harris said about the firefighters. “They hustled and got this fire put out, and I’ve never been so grateful in my life. They saved my home.”

Of the four wildfires keeping county firefighters busy Thursday, crews are still on the scene of the Tiller Trail Highway Fire and Union Gap Fire.

Firefighters assigned to the Tiller Trail Highway Fire worked throughout the day Friday, mopping up hot spots and patrolling fire lines. Crews focused their efforts on the first 50 to 75 feet around the perimeter of the fire, and condition reports from those on the scene were favorable.

According to the Douglas Forest Protective Association, smoke will be visible from the interior of the Tiller Trail Highway Fire for the next few days as crews mop up hot spots within the burned area.

The DFPA said firefighters on Friday were able to use GPS navigation to map the Tiller Trail Highway Fire, which measured 45 acres. The increase in fire size is due to more accurate mapping rather than additional fire growth.

Although the Tiller Trail Highway is open to traffic, motorists are asked to drive with caution through the area as firefighters and equipment may be working on or close to the roadway.

At the Union Gap Fire, the Incident Commander reported good progress was made on the fire. Crews started the day by improving containment lines down both flanks of the fire and then focused their efforts on mopping up hot spots within 50 feet of the fire line. Smoke will be visible from the interior of the fire for the next couple days as crews work their way into the middle of the fire, mopping up hot spots.

With the help of GPS, firefighters measured the Union Gap Fire on Friday at 18 acres.


Public_safety
Plane crashes at Roseburg airport

A Roseburg man was reportedly uninjured after his plane crashed into a grassy field on the southeast side of the Roseburg Municipal Airport Friday.

The plane, which crashed right before 2:30 p.m., was heavily damaged. The pilot, 63-year-old Malcolm Dayton of Roseburg, was uninjured and said his plane was already in contact with the ground and in the process of landing when a crosswind pushed his plane into the field.

A wheel on the plane broke off, causing the cockpit to smash into the ground.

Dayton said the plane was a 2019 experimental aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident, just as the two organizations do with any aircraft crash.

The airport remained open during the investigation, according to the Roseburg Police Department.