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Roseburg school board agrees to put bond levy on May 2020 ballot

The Roseburg School Board unanimously agreed to place a bond levy on the May 2020 ballot during Wednesday’s meeting.

The school district will now start the process of polling voters, starting community discussions and working toward a plan to present to voters.

A grant request, which was dependent on the school district going for a bond levy, will be sent off Thursday. Requests for quotes to marketing and polling firms will also be sent off this week.

Board Chair Joe Garcia noted the district had been perpetually upgrading buildings and it was time to do something drastic.

Cooperative Strategies, a firm that specializes in creating complete financial and demographic planning for education, completed a number of assessments to create a long-range facilities plan. The firm identified nearly $37 million of needed facility repairs and $17.5 million of needed educational adequacy improvements.

“The current portfolio of schools is aging and many facilities will undoubtedly require replacements in the coming decade or two,” according to the recommendations from Cooperative Strategies.

Taxpayers within the boundaries of the school district currently pay 54 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value on a bond that will expire in December 2020. According to rough estimates by Chief Operations Officer Cheryl Northam, a $1.54 tax per $1,000 in assessed property value would equate to a $110 million bond for the district, where a $150 million bond would cost taxpayers approximately $2.10 per $1,000 in assessed property value. Those numbers are rough estimates and could vary based on a number of factors, including bond credit rating, Northam said.

The board will use community input to determine the amount of the bond, as well as the desired upgrades.

No decisions were made regarding what upgrades the bond levy would pay for, although several options were discussed including consolidating the middle schools, building new schools or continuing to repair all the schools within the district.

Garcia said he wanted to make a big move with the bond. “I’m kind of tired of settling for things,” he said.

“It’s about creating that desire and that energy for folk to feel like they’re making a connection with the community through the school system,” Garcia said. “We have to find what is going to unite and rally and inspire the community. I think, if we simply go for $37 million without really doing something to inspire the public and community, I think we’re doing a great disservice and selling ourselves short and selling the community short.”

Garcia said building two middle schools would cost $88 million, while combining them could be just north of $60 million.

The school district has three properties in Roseburg where it could build another school.

“If I had my way, I’d replace them all,” director Micki Hall said about the buildings. “We can’t make them into 21st century schools.”

On average buildings in the district were built in the 1950s.

“I believe it takes a village to raise a child. I think we need as many voters in this community to vote,” director Rodney Cotton said. “I’m a believer if we present to our voters what we need they trust us and they would believe us.”

Superintendent Jared Cordon said he hopes to have the students’ views represented on the long-term facilities plan and as the district moves forward in pursuing the bond.

Charles Lee abstained from the vote, but was present for the discussion.

Grants awarded from fish derby to enhance fisheries in Douglas County

Eleven grants from the Umpqua Fishery Enhancement Derby have been awarded to Douglas County groups to assist with fishery enhancement, restoration and educational projects in the Umpqua Basin.

The recipients of funds from the 27th annual derby were announced this week by the derby steering committee.

The 2019 derby, held in February, raised more than $100,000 to invest in projects that aid fisheries in the Umpqua Basin, and $64,767 was awarded to applicants this week.

The largest award, $15,000 went to the Rock Creek Fish Hatchery in Idleyld Park for a hatchhouse upgrade.

The Elk Creek Watershed received $12,000 for restoration projects on Jack Creek and Hardscrabble Creek.

The Gardiner-Reedsport-Winchester Bay STEP (Salmon Trout Enhancement Program) in western Douglas County was awarded $8,000 for an auto-start backup generator and propane tank.

The Smith River Watershed Council got $7,000 for Big Creek Instream Restoration Phase III and a $6,000 grant for Halfway Creek Instream Restoration.

Eastwood Elementary School in Roseburg, which operates a small fish hatchery, at the school was awarded a $3,000 grant to help repair the hatchery equipment that was damaged during the high water in Deer Creek last winter.

Eastwood fifth grade teacher Camron Pope, who conducts the salmon hatchery project at the school, said the grant will allow them to make some upgrades to the acclimation site and their tanks.

“The derby and the Umpqua Fishers Association are really good to us and we really appreciate what they do for our kids and for us here at Eastwood,” Pope said. “We’re kind of repaying that by educating the kids about the fish and cycles and rearing the fish down here.”

Dave Loomis of the derby board said the board felt that was a good project to support because it teaches the students a lot about the fish.

“That was a good one because the students feed the fish all the time and keep track of them,” he said.

Other grants went to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for “A Nose for Fish,” a fish study on the South Umpqua River; Oregon State Police for a life preserver giveaway; and Project Healing Waters for a pontoon boat for disabled veterans. The Umpqua Fishermen’s Association got a pair of grants for winter steelhead acclimation and to help Barrett Creek winter steelhead.

The derby has contributed more than $1.64 million in matching funds toward hundreds of fishery projects in the Umpqua Basin in the past 27 years.

Urine trouble if you use deer attractants in 2020

Attention hunting enthusiasts: the use of urine-based deer attractants will be illegal effective January 2020 in an effort to stifle the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer, elk, caribou and moose populations.

House Bill 2294, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Brad Witt and Republican Rep. David Brock Smith, passed in June in a near-unanimous vote to ban the sale and possession of deer attractants in the state.

The disease is most commonly spread through the animals coming in contact with contaminated urine. Deer attractants, commonly used in hunting to mask the scent of a human, contain deer urine.

“(The disease) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease and once contracted, it’s not that the animal might die — the animal will die,” Witt said. “It often takes up to two years for that animal to literally waste away, chronic wasting, before it does die.”

The disease has reached national concern after it has spread to 26 states and four Canadian provinces.

Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the disease has been around for more than 50 years and its origins are unknown.

“It has wildlife biologists across North America extremely concerned. It’s basically untreatable,” Dennehy said. “We’re still learning about CWD, but basically any state that has it has really not been able to get rid of it.”

Umpqua Survival Store Manager Carlos Ortegon said his store sells cervid attractants.

“Obviously I don’t like anything that takes away what people can and can’t do when they are hunting or shooting or any of that kind of stuff. But I don’t think it’ll grossly affect business, it’s not a huge seller,” Ortegon said. “There are people that use it, it makes it a little harder for them when they’re hunting.”

He said other options for hunters looking to mask their scent include scent reducing soaps, clothing and laundry detergent. These options are typically more expensive, which is why deer attractant is the more common mask.

The state has taken action to limit the spread for many years, passing laws that require hunters that go out of state to have their game tested for CWD upon arrival in Oregon and requiring roadkill be tested for CWD.

The most recent addition to these policies, HB 2294, comes from recommendations from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which represent North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, Dennehy said.

“The large problem is that there is no way presently to certify the cervid urine as being CWD-free,” Witt said. “Absent a way to do that, the only recourse was to ban the urine altogether.”

The bill had near-unanimous support. Rep. Mike Nearman was the only lawmaker who voted against the bill.

“I’m very concerned about the spread of CWD, but I think that the scientific knowledge about the spread of CWD is very weak. I get skeptical of government solutions based on less than solid knowledge,” Nearman said in an email.

“Our effort is to attempt to, the best we can, prevent the introduction of that disease here in Oregon,” Witt said.