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Coos County Jail opens second pod, 98 beds now available

COQUILLE — The Coos County Jail is now housing twice the number of inmates since it opened a second jail pod at midnight Thursday.

Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni made the announcement Wednesday afternoon that starting midnight March 1, 2018, the Coos County Jail will be opening a second jail pod.

“We’re glad to be back to where we should be,” Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni said.

After years of being understaffed, the number of jail beds at the Sheriff’s disposal will go from 49 to 98.

The Sheriff’s office has suffered several hardships since its budget was cut back in 2007. The office lost 46 staff members as a result of that cut and were unable to pay competitive salaries in the following years.

“Last year we were able to fix our salary base so we’re competitive with other agencies when trying to hire people,” Zanni said.

Even with the salary increase the Sheriff’s Office struggled for a while to find qualified applicants and get them trained.  

“We’ve finally got enough staff. They’re young and inexperienced, but we’re excited moving forward,” Zanni said.

Getting the jail back up to 98 beds has been Zanni’s number one priority since the second pod closed in 2015, but in recent months he's had some extra pressure from the Coos County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners were put on notice by the state about overspending in the jail regarding parole and probation inmates. Because space was limited, the jail was not always able to provide the amount of beds the state would pay for.

The state pays the sheriff’s office for 19 beds a day at a rate of $111 per bed, which is right around $63,000 dollars a month. This is a flat monthly rate the state pays the jail whether they use more than 19 beds or less than 19 beds each day.

“What’s been happening is a lot of probation and parole violators have been released early, because they were nonviolent or non-criminal and just status violations. It wasn’t helping parole and probation with their program. So it will really help them because if they can give somebody a detainer for violating their parole or probation they won’t be getting right back out,” Zanni said.

According to Zanni many people, including other local police agencies, have expressed their concerns about people who been have brought in for minor crimes and released because of limited jail space. Zanni is confident that the reopened jail pod will help rectify a loft of those problems.

North Bend Police Chief Robert Kappelman said, “This is great news. It’s going to mean less repeat calls to those who chronically commit crimes…Not only has it been difficult to hold people accountable, but it’s also made it difficult to protect the community from people who chronically commit crimes.”

Since the jail dropped to 49 beds the CCSO began using a matrix to determine which inmates get released when the jail is at maximum capacity. 

“Hopefully some of these people that are taken into custody will be held and we won’t see as many repeat offenders. I really appreciate Sheriff Zanni and his staff for working hard and making this happen,” Coos Bay Police Chief Gary McCullogh said.

When school SWINGS

COOS BAY — Most local kids have heard rock music. Also hip-hop. And country, of course.

Zydeco? Not so likely.

Next week, students from throughout Coos County will sample this Louisiana-born confection of Cajun, French Creole, blues and Afro-Caribbean influences, courtesy of the South Coast Clambake Music Festival. It promises to be tasty.

“I think what the kids will really think is cool is the washboard,” said Janet Saint, a retired teacher and Clambake board member. “They don’t even know what a washboard is.”

For three decades, Clambake has celebrated jazz, swing and other genres of “America’s original music.” A key element is Clambake’s “Music in the Schools” program, which is backed this year by a $3,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund.

“This is an important music program that also brings out a little bit of history to our kids and our community,” said Jackie Chambers, a Coquille Tribal member who coordinates the tribal fund. She recalled attending a Music in the Schools event last year:

“Seeing kids of every age get up out of their seats and dance to music they may have never even heard was a sight to see,” she said. “The program was very interactive, exciting, and fun all around.”

Saint said experiencing a live show not only inspires appreciation for music, it also shows that playing in a band is “cool,” and it teaches the value of mastering a craft.

Visiting bands often invite the kids to sing along or dance. Teachers might even be pulled onto the dance floor.

“Oh my gosh, the kids love it,” Saint said. “Most of the kids will say it’s their favorite assembly of the year.”

This year, the kids will hear Gator Nation, a California band whose music encompasses zydeco, Cajun, and New Orleans rhythm and blues.

“A lot of these kids where we live – they’ve never gotten to see that, and maybe they never will,” Saint said.

Another attraction will be the presence of Marshfield High School’s Swing Club. The teen dancers (coached by Saint) will show the younger kids an extra reason to relish music.

Clambake is one of five artistic and cultural organizations receiving grants from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund this year. The five grants account for $16,200 of the more than $290,000 being awarded for 2018.

All 57 grants for 2018 will be awarded at a luncheon on Friday.

New rail spur links Willamette Valley timber to world

NORTH BEND — A new rail spur is now handling inbound freight in North Bend thanks to the collaborative efforts of a tribal entity, a public agency and a private business.

"This is really the perfect symbiotic relationship," said Ray Doering, director of communications for the Coquille Economic Development Corporation.

He said timber producers would rather use the spur to ship their inventory to the K2 terminal, said Doering. Otherwise they'd have tro truck everything to the port in Longview, Washington."

The Coquille Economic Development Corporation (CEDCO) and the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay announced the completion of a rail spur Wednesday to the K2 Exports yard on CEDCO’s Ko-Kwel Wharf property. The spur allows K2 Exports to bring logs by rail directly to its export terminal on the wharf.

“CEDCO has been interested in linking our industrial development property to the rail line ever since rail service returned to our communities,” said CEDCO CEO Judy Duffy-Metcalf. “After receiving a request to create a rail link and analytics to support the project from their customer, K2 Exports presented us with a business case for building a spur on the wharf property. We were happy to coordinate the effort with Coos Bay Rail Link.”

CEDCO estimates that it took 1,250 truckloads of logs to fill the Ken Hope, the most recent ship to depart from Ko-Kwel Terminal. It would take only 350 rail cars to handle that same volume of logs. This efficiency makes it more cost effective for logging operations in the Willamette Valley to export logs through K2 Exports and the Port of Coos Bay while also avoiding the need to add considerable truck traffic on roads leading to the coast.

K2 Exports reports seven carloads of logs arrived on the day the rail spur opened, and another seven cars arrived two days later. These were all shipped from Eugene by a company that has been looking to enter the export market.

According to Patrick Kerr, director of rail operations for the Port, establishing a rail spur to bring inbound forest products from the Willamette Valley is an important step toward opening more export opportunities for inland businesses.

“The Coos Bay rail line traditionally has served to export forest products from Southwestern Oregon to inland markets across the United States through its connection to the National Rail Network in Eugene,” said Kerr. “The new spur at K2 will create a new opportunity to bring forest products from the Willamette Valley into the Port for export to foreign markets.”

With the rail spur in full operation, K2 Exports expects to increase its number of vessel to nearly double the calls it previously accommodated in the Coos Bay Harbor.

Oregon effort to declare health care a right falters

SALEM (AP) — An effort to insert an amendment in Oregon's Constitution making health care a right died amid concerns by lawmakers that it would expose the state to lawsuits.

Such an amendment would have been unprecedented among U.S. states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Democratic-controlled state House approved the measure 35-25 on Feb. 13, but it never reached the floor of the Democratic-controlled Senate for a vote.

Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, chairwoman of the Senate Health Care Committee, said it was never brought to a vote in committee because it did not appear likely to pass by the entire Senate.

"I firmly believe that health care is a right," Monnes Anderson, a Democrat from the Portland suburb of Gresham, said in an email. "As a retired public health nurse I see how no access to health care affects your ability to keep a job and children to learn."

The amendment to the 160-year-old Constitution would have obliged the state "to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, medically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right."

Opponents had said there was no plan to fund making health care access a right, and warned that doing so would make the state vulnerable to lawsuits. The League of Women Voters was among the opponents. "The State of Oregon has insufficient income to support its current responsibilities and cannot provide the added cost of health care coverage for all its residents at this time," it said in written testimony.

Lawmakers have wrestled over the issue as the Trump administration has tried to dismantle former President Barack Obama's health care law.

"There were general concerns that there might be a lawsuit or something similar that might force the issue on what is now being touted as an aspirational thing," said Rick Osborn, spokesman for the Senate Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, a Democrat from Portland, said there just wasn't enough time during the current five-week legislative session to gain critical mass on the measure.

"The bill would have needed extensive amendments for it to get the support it needs in the Senate," Burdick said.