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Charleston Crab Feed celebrates its 35th year

NORTH BEND — Music, laughter and lots and lots of crab filled the North Bend Community Center on Saturday, Feb. 9 as hundreds of people showed up to celebrate the 35th annual “Crack Up” Charleston Crab Feed.

The event, which raises funds for the Charleston Visitor Center, featured about 1,000 pounds of crab bought entirely from Charleston fishermen in support of its community and local economy.

Volunteer Mel Campbell, who has been a part of the feed for over 20 years, said the feed is all about reuniting with friends, supporting one another and enjoying a delicious crab dinner.

“We’re here to promote Charleston,” said Campbell. “We bought all the crab at market price to let the fishermen know that we value them.”

Meat recovery testing conducted late last year showed crab had not filled up with enough meat to open the season as scheduled. As a result, the season opening was delayed later than expected and fishermen were halted from setting their gear.

Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission spokesman Tim Novotny, who emceed Saturday’s event, said having celebrations like the Charleston Crab Feed is a tremendously positive experience for communities and fishermen who rely heavily on the fishing industry.

“You get to see people come in with their big smiles enjoying themselves and the crab that our fishermen have worked hard on bringing in,” said Novotny. “It kind of puts everyone in a good, happy vibe and it’s a great way to start the season.”

In early January, re-testing of crab showed meat recovery rates had increased and areas north of Cape Arago opened up for fisherman to begin setting their gear.

However, areas south of Cape Arago toward the California boarder had remained closed due to domoic acid found in certain areas.

On Feb. 1, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Agriculture announced those areas are now open. According to Novotny, so far over 11 million pounds of crab has been brought in throughout the entire state.

The Charleston Merchants Association, the Wild Women of Charleston and the Marshfield Key Club all participated and volunteered in Saturday’s crab feed. A number of Charleston businesses, local organizations and non-profit groups were also in attendance.

Coos County residents receive free car seat inspections

COOS BAY — The Coos County Car Seat Coalition hosted a free car seat inspection on Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Coos Bay Fire Department in downtown Coos Bay.

Luke Taylor, a Coos Bay firefighter and coalition coordinator, said the group usually meets once a month to host inspections in order to ensure that parents are travelling safely with their children.

“Before I became a (child passenger safety) technician, I thought I knew everything there was to know about installing car seats being that I’m a parent myself,” said Taylor. “After I went through the program, I learned a lot and what we see often is seats are generally too loose and straps aren’t in proper position.”

At the inspections, the group’s local technicians, who include volunteer police officers, ODOT employees, firefighters and hospital staff, thoroughly check incoming vehicles and the child seats they have already installed.

According to Taylor, the technicians will go over safety regulations, rear-facing and forward-facing seat requirements as well as booster seats and when it’s time to transition children into various seat levels.

In addition to inspecting the seats, the technicians also look at a vehicle’s latch system, which provides extra tether points in order to firmly secure seats.

“The biggest thing for us is educating parents as they come through,” said Taylor. “We prefer the child to also be present so that way we can see how they actually fit in their seat.”

Along with its free inspections, the coalition provides discounted car seats for families who are struggling financially. In order to qualify, proof of low income status is needed in order to purchase a car seat, which the coalition purchases using state grants.

The next child seat inspection will take place March 12 at the Coos Bay Fire Station at 450 Elrod Ave. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will also be hosting an additional Saturday inspection April 13 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., but the location has not yet been determined.

As clock ticks, new hurdle emerges in border security talks

WASHINGTON — Bargainers clashed Sunday over whether to limit the number of migrants authorities can detain, tossing a new hurdle before negotiators hoping to strike a border security compromise for Congress to pass this coming week. The White House wouldn't rule out a renewed partial government shutdown if an agreement isn't reached.

With the Friday deadline approaching, the two sides remained separated by hundreds of millions of dollars over how much to spend to construct President Donald Trump's promised border wall. But rising to the fore was a related dispute over curbing Customs and Immigration Enforcement, or ICE, the federal agency that Republicans see as an emblem of tough immigration policies and Democrats accuse of often going too far.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in appearances on NBC's "Meet the Press" and "Fox News Sunday," said "you absolutely cannot" eliminate the possibility of another shutdown if a deal is not reached over the wall and other border matters. The White House had asked for $5.7 billion, a figure rejected by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, and the mood among bargainers has soured, according to people familiar with the negotiations not authorized to speak publicly about private talks.

"You cannot take a shutdown off the table, and you cannot take $5.7 (billion) off the table," Mulvaney told NBC, "but if you end up someplace in the middle, yeah, then what you probably see is the president say, 'Yeah, OK, and I'll go find the money someplace else.'"

A congressional deal seemed to stall even after Mulvaney convened a bipartisan group of lawmakers at Camp David, the presidential retreat in northern Maryland. While the two sides seemed close to clinching a deal late last week, significant gaps remain and momentum appears to have slowed. Though congressional Democratic aides asserted that the dispute had caused the talks to break off, it was initially unclear how damaging the rift was. Both sides are eager to resolve the long-running battle and avert a fresh closure of dozens of federal agencies that would begin next weekend if Congress doesn't act by Friday.

"I think talks are stalled right now," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Sunday on "Fox News Sunday." "I'm not confident we're going to get there."

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who appeared on the same program, agreed: "We are not to the point where we can announce a deal."

But Mulvaney did signal that the White House would prefer not to have a repeat of the last shutdown, which stretched more than a month, left more than 800,000 government workers without paychecks, forced a postponement of the State of the Union address and sent Trump's poll numbers tumbling. As support in his own party began to splinter, Trump surrendered after the shutdown hit 35 days without getting money for the wall.

This time, Mulvaney signaled that the White House may be willing to take whatever congressional money comes — even if less than Trump's goal — and then supplement that with other government funds.

"The president is going to build the wall. That's our attitude at this point," Mulvaney said on Fox. "We'll take as much money as you can give us, and we'll go find the money somewhere else, legally, and build that wall on the southern border, with or without Congress."

The president's supporters have suggested that Trump could use executive powers to divert money from the federal budget for wall construction, though it was unclear if he would face challenges in Congress or the courts. One provision of the law lets the Defense Department provide support for counterdrug activities.

But declaring a national emergency remained an option, Mulvaney said, even though many in the administration have cooled on the prospect. A number of powerful Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have also warned against the move, believing it usurps power from Congress and could set a precedent for a future Democratic president to declare an emergency for a liberal political cause.

The fight over ICE detentions goes to the core of each party's view on immigration.

Republicans favor tough enforcement of immigration laws and have little interest in easing them if Democrats refuse to fund the Mexican border wall. Democrats despise the proposed wall and, in return for border security funds, want to curb what they see as unnecessarily harsh enforcement by ICE.

People involved in the talks say Democrats have proposed limiting the number of immigrants here illegally who are caught inside the U.S. — not at the border — that the agency can detain. Republicans say they don't want that cap to apply to immigrants caught committing crimes, but Democrats do.

In a series of tweets about the issue, Trump used the dispute to cast Democrats as soft on criminals. He charged in one tweet: "The Border Committee Democrats are behaving, all of a sudden, irrationally. Not only are they unwilling to give dollars for the obviously needed Wall (they overrode recommendations of Border Patrol experts), but they don't even want to take muderers into custody! What's going on?"

Eastside School to break ground in April
The Coos Bay School District is also looking to rename the Harding Building

COOS BAY — Beneath the new Eastside School will be a foundation with 90 steel pilings that are 40 feet deep.

The Coos Bay School District recently completed a geo-tech survey on the property and discovered that the new building will need reinforcement.

“Surprise, surprise, we live on the coast and found sandy soils,” said Superintendent Bryan Trendell.

The district decided to go with steel pilings to save money, though it will still cost roughly half a million dollars to get it done.

Before that begins, the district has finished schematic designs for the school and will be presenting those to the City of Coos Bay for permitting approval later this month. After that, the district will go to do bids on subcontractor work before breaking ground in the first half of April, which is when the pilings will be driven.

“There will be noise driving them in,” Trendell said. “We will mitigate that with the fact they can shake those into place. Rather than spend months driving pilings and disturbing the neighborhood, we can shake those into place with little disruption on two or three weekends.”

The plan is to do this on the weekend so classes at Millicoma School aren’t interrupted.

When the district did the geo-tech survey at Eastside, it also had it done at the Harding Building. While Eastside’s soil was sandy and loose, the foundation beneath Harding was sturdy. Trendell said this means there won’t have to be so many pilings beneath the new junior high at that location, saving the district money to put toward the building itself.

The Harding Building is one year behind the work being done at Eastside, meaning that demolition will take place next fall.

Not only that, but the district is in the process of giving Harding a new name.

Trendell said the district seems favorable to Marshfield Junior High, Marshfield Middle School, Coos Bay Junior High or Coos Bay Middle School.

“There were some funny ones people put in that didn’t gain a lot of steam,” Trendell laughed. “Those four by far are at the top. Harding Junior High was number five on the list.”

The Coos Bay School Board will name the new school in the next month or two.

“We need a name attached when we go out for design and bid,” Trendell said.

Meanwhile, progress is being made at the Harding Building. According to Trendell, the district has done basic programming with architects who sat with key staff to talk about what the new building will need as far as classrooms, as well as the district’s “wish list” for the new building.

“It’s the same process with Eastside,” he said. “We’ve pared down some of the work since building materials are going up in price, but we’ve arrived with what we think will be a nice, state-of-the-art building.”

To shrink the project to save on money, Trendell said the district cut back on square footage.

“Ultimately it comes to that,” he said. “We had to reduce spaces but will end up with the same types of spaces in the end. It’s going to have everything we want it to have and we feel good about that.”

The new Harding Building will hold upward of 400 students, becoming the new home for all 8th grade and 7th grade students in the district. Trendell said the district wants to keep 8th graders near Marshfield High School to continue taking upper coursework, while still being separate with other students in their age group.

“When we talk about that junior high, we have great opportunities for 8th grade kids at the high school and also want them to have their own home,” he said. “This way there could still be the possibility that our 8th graders are getting high-end classes and still be taught at the high school.”

What this means is the Coos Bay BEST Bond project is on moving along on schedule.

“That’s where we are,” Trendell said. “We’re hoping to get ground broken in April at the new Eastside site and the new junior high planning is on schedule and is very early in the planning stage.”