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Douglas County among slowest growing counties in the state, census data reveals

Douglas County is one of the 10 slowest growing counties in Oregon.

Yoncalla and Canyonville are two of the 13 cities across the state that have lost population since 2010.

Those are among the population changes revealed in 2020 Census figures that will be considered when legislators begin redrawing the boundary lines for state legislative and congressional districts over the next two months.

The data, shared by the nonpartisan Redistricting Data Hub last week, showed that Douglas County ranked as the seventh slowest growing county, by percentage. Over the decade, it grew just 3.28% and now has 3,534 more people for a total of 111,201.

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman said he’s not surprised the county is one of the slowest growing in the state.

He attributes that to federal timber harvesting policy and a lack of buildable lands.

“With the federal government continuing to not let us manage timber, that’s what we do here. Over half of the county is owned and managed timberland of the federal government, so I would not expect for us to grow much here,” he said.

He also cited the county commissioners’ recent effort to allow development of 20-acre parcels in rural areas, a move that’s been blocked by the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

“The land’s constrained. Any attempt to change that has been met with appeals to LUBA,” he said.

Freeman said he doesn’t think the county’s slow growth will have a significant impact on where the new district boundaries are drawn, though.

Right now, seven state legislators represent portions of Douglas County and six of them are Republicans, he said.

“I’m not predicting that to change,” he said.

Freeman served in the legislature during the redistricting process after the 2010 Census. At the time, he successfully argued that Winston should be included with cities like Roseburg and Myrtle Creek in District 2, rather than in the coastal state House District 1. He made the case that Winston had more in common with District 2’s cities.

That’s called a community of interest, and it’s that factor, along with things like county lines and other geographic boundaries, that are supposed to be considered when the legislature draws its new maps.

Freeman said he hopes the Democratic majority won’t use gerrymandering to create districts that favor their party instead.

He’s not convinced that the bipartisan House Special Committee on Redistricting ensures fairness to Republicans, though. If Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on new district boundaries it’s Democratic Secretary of State Shemia Fagan who will draw the map.

Newly appointed Interim Rep. Christine Goodwin said she’s encouraging her constituents to testify at upcoming hearings about where the district boundaries should be drawn.

The nearest hearings are scheduled on Sept. 9. There’s one at 10:30 a.m. that day in Medford, and one at 5:30 p.m. that day in Eugene. The exact locations have not yet been announced.

She also said voters can create their own maps to show legislators where they think boundaries should go.

Information on the hearings and links to the mapping program are at oregonlegislature.gov/redistricting.

According to the data released last week, Canyonville had the second-biggest percentage drop in population of any Oregon city, losing 12.95% of its population over the decade.

The city lost 244 people since the 2010 Census and now has a population of 1,649.

Canyonville City Administrator Janelle Evans said she was surprised by the census findings.

“It seems to me like property’s selling like crazy around here, so it seems weird to me,” she said.

She thinks the data may have been skewed because it was collected during the pandemic.

“I’m guessing they probably had a really difficult time getting responses,” she said.

Yoncalla lost just 26 people over the same decade, dropping to a population of 1,021. That represents a slight drop of 2.48% since 2010, placing the city eighth on the list for percentage lost.

Yoncalla City Administrator Rhonda Rasmussen said people move in and out of the city all the time. It’s a bedroom community for cities north and south of town.

The city of Millersburg in Linn County was the fastest growing city. It increased 119.64% over the period, leaving it with a total population of 2,919 in 2020.

Portland, Bend, Salem and Eugene gained the most individual people over the decade, but all had more modest growth by percentage than Millersburg.

The fastest-growing county statewide was Deschutes, which increased by 25.69% and now has a population of 198,253.

Grant County ranked at the bottom of the list, and was the only county listed as losing population. It dropped by 212 people and 2.85%.

Former Umpqua Community College president Joe Olson dies at 67

Former Umpqua Community College President Dr. Joseph “Joe” Olson is remembered as kindhearted and someone who could connect with people on all levels.

Olson was the president of UCC from 2011 until 2015 and had spent the last three years in Palm Springs, California, after selling his home in Sutherlin. He died of natural causes on May 18 at his home four days short of his 68th birthday.

Olson’s former wife, Michelle Harding, who now lives in Yakima, Washington, said Olson was a first-generation college student who worked his way through school.

“He was very, very invested in the lives of others and making them better,” Harding said.

Olson started his career in law enforcement and was a Boston police officer. Then he went to work for a police department in St. Petersburg, Florida, for a short time. He decided to go into education and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Suffolk University in Massachusetts and has a doctorate in education from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.

Olson started his community college career at North Shore Community College in Massachusetts and served in other community colleges for over 25 years, in all four corners of the country. He was Vice President for Student and Administrative Services at Adirondack Community College in New York. Then he worked as Dean of Students at Catawba Valley Community College in North Carolina. He went to Lamar University-Orange in Texas as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and he was president of Jefferson Community College in Watertown, New York, where he also worked closely with the U.S. Army at Fort Drum.

Just before taking the job at UCC on May 1, 2011, he spent four years as Vice President for Military, Community, and Economic Development at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree, Caifornia.

Olson served on boards for the UCC Foundation, Whipple Foundation Fund, Douglas County Early Learning Hub, and Winston Area Community Partnership.

Olson had a long tradition of service to his community and worked to create safe houses for victims of domestic violence, programs to assist at-risk youth, extensive Chamber of Commerce work, and many other community projects.

Information released from Umpqua Community College indicated that Olson “dramatically enhanced campus climate and collegiality, re-infused community to the campus and region, and identified new funding sources.”

Dan Yoder, who was the Director of IT at the college during Olson’s tenure, said Olson did a lot to bring people together on some contentious issues.

“He was always able to speak with people at their level, and with respect, and I think that tremendously healed some of the issues that UCC had prior to his arrival,” Yoder said. “He had just a vast array of experiences that allowed him to have a deep perspective of the potential opportunities for success and pitfalls, and I think for a good part of his time at UCC, he provided very able leadership.”

Harding said Olson really liked the people at Umpqua Community College.

“He really did value the people that he worked with, and he felt like the community was very invested in education, and I think that was probably his most driving force,” she said.

Olson was a marathon runner and completed 12 races including the Boston Marathon a couple of times. He was a life-long baseball fan and growing up in Boston, he was a die-hard Red Sox fan. He was thrilled to see baseball come back to Umpqua Community College.

“He wanted to bring baseball back to UCC so bad, but there just wasn’t sufficient buy-in by the board at that time,” Yoder said. “He would always check and see how the UCC baseball team was doing.”

“He was a great guy,” Harding said. “He was able to make connections between different people that were very insightful. ... He was very personable, very friendly and very interested in people.”

Olson had one son, Riley, from a previous marriage, but he passed away about six years ago at the age of 21, from a skiing accident.

Harding said Olson had requested his ashes be sent back to Boston where he grew up and where all of his remaining relatives and friends live. No memorial services have been planned.

Sobering center in Roseburg finally opens

The long-awaited sobering center, which is intended as a safe alternative to jail or the hospital for severely inebriated individuals, has finally opened at 251 NE Patterson St., off of Diamond Lake Boulevard and about 3 miles east of downtown.

The center opened Friday and has had about a half-dozen individuals taken there so far, said Jerry O’Sullivan, chief of regional business operations at Adapt, which runs the center.

The Roseburg center is modeled after a similar one that has been in operation in Grants Pass for about four years. It currently has eight cells but has room to add more if it is determined they are needed. The 8-foot-by-10-foot cells are sparse but sturdy — each contains a sink and toilet unit as well as a mattress. They are made from metal and reinforced with plywood.

There is a ventilation system that circulates the air in the cells and slats in the metal doors to provide drinks or snacks and allow the staff to take the individual’s vital signs. There is also a surveillance camera in the rooms and a narrow window in the doors, looking out into a hallway.

“The idea is that they are able to safely rest without falling,” O’Sullivan said.

Plans for the Sobering center have been in the works for several years. The center is intended to ease crowding at the jail and get people with alcohol and substance abuse problems — especially those who are picked up by police repeatedly for public intoxication — services such as counseling.

The center is also intended to provide a safe place to sober up, help first-time offenders avoid a criminal record and offer peer counseling and referrals for treatment.

Reducing the burden on the local hospital is especially critical now, with the explosion of COVID-19 cases recently, said Adapt CEO Dr. Gregory Brigham.

“The opening of this facility during the tragic spike in COVID infections is fortunate as it will provide much-needed relief to (CHI Mercy Medical Center) where some of these individuals would go if the sobering center were not available,” Brigham said.

The trained staff conducts intake examinations to make sure the person is healthy enough to spend time alone in the cell. The staff also conducts reviews to assess the needs of the individuals brought in and try and find them resources to help, such as drug, alcohol or mental health counseling.

Those taken to the center can stay up to 24 hours. Transportation back to their homes will be provided if necessary, O’Sullivan said.

“We don’t want to be a burden on the neighborhood,” he said.

The scope and design of the sobering center has changed a couple of times, largely due to concerns over cost, O’Sullivan said.

Adapt purchased the site at 3005 NE Diamond Lake Blvd. and initially planned to put the center in an abandoned warehouse there. But the costs of converting the warehouse penciled out too high, O’Sullivan said, so the agency looked for alternatives.

Adapt considered building a center, but that also was deemed too expensive, he said. Adapt finally settled on using converted shipping containers purchased from a company in Oregon City.

Each shipping container is 8-feet-by-40-feet. In addition to the cells, there is a small reception area, a laundry room, a staff bathroom and one for those taken to the center that includes a shower, and office space.

The center received $500,000 in grants from the state, and also has financial commitments from Roseburg, Sutherlin, Myrtle Creek and Winston. Additionally, Umpqua Health Alliance provided $100,000 toward construction and more for operating costs. Douglas County has also provided funding.

Adapt said it anticipates the annual costs for operating the sobering center will be about $350,000.

“We are grateful for the community support that made the sobering center possible,” Brigham said. “This center will provide an opportunity for persons with addictions to begin a recovery process, and will improve the safety and quality of life for the individuals served and for our entire community.”