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Coos Bay Urban Renewal Agency releases annual report

COOS BAY — Coos Bay City Council accepted the Urban Renewal Agency’s report for the 2017 fiscal year at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The Coos Bay Urban Renewal Agency consists of two urban renewal districts, the Downtown District, and the Empire District.

Urban renewal utilizes property taxes to fix identified problems within the area that the taxes are collected. It often focuses on improving an area’s transportation and utility infrastructure. Urban Renewal also tries to attract and retain small businesses and develop public spaces like parks, plazas, and trail.

During its 2016-2017 fiscal year, the Downtown District was able to start and complete a number of projects, including the Steve Prefontaine mural, and the creating new funding for the Coos Bay Downtown Association.

The Empire District finished the South Empire Boulevard project this fiscal year, which began back in 2010. Façade grant funds were also used to update the Dolphin Playhouse.

“There’s a number of different projects some get in the planning stages within a year, other can go from planning to completion, and some are ongoing and take multiple years,” Coos Bay city manager Rodger Craddock said.

“At the time and Urban Renewal District is formed they look at the assessed value of the properties within the district. Based on the assessed value by the county assessor, that area is determined to be the base value of the property,” Craddock said.

When the downtown Urban Renewal District was formed in 1988, the value was assessed at $50 million currently the property is worth $110 million. The Empire District’s initial basement in 1995 was $23 million, and currently the assessed value is $74 million.

Two gateway projects were started during the 2016-2017 fiscal year and will be finishing up this month. The project established two areas at the north and South ends of Coos Bay where 8 foot by 10 foot signs with the city’s seal will be placed. The city will receive the signs sometime next week, and expects to have them placed by the end of the month.

The downtown district’s total revenue for the 2016-2017 fiscal year was $886,067 and its total expenditures were 1.4 million. The Urban Renewal Agency estimates the next fiscal year to bring in $819,181 in tax increment revenue.

Last fiscal year the Empire District saw a total revenue of $675,577 with expenditures totaling $649,398. Tax increment revenue for the Empire district in the current fiscal year is estimated to be $663,070.

Plans for this year’s Urban Renewal projects will be discussed at the city council's upcoming work session at 7 p.m. on March 13.

“Next week at the work session we’re going to be talking about what’s next for Urban renewal. There is a street scape plan for downtown that is 10 phases. The council chose the two gateway projects that we’re doing right now at the entrances, but there are others on the list that can be done,” Craddock said.

Officers partner with Coos Health and Wellness for crisis training

COOS BAY — This week, officers from local enforcement agencies have been attending crisis intervention training classes at the Coos Health and Wellness building to better prepare them for situations in the field where an individual might be in a personal crisis.

This is the second year Coos Health and Wellness is offering its crisis intervention training to local law enforcement. The week-long training was the result of Coos Health and Wellness Counselor Ross Acker riding along with Capt. Kelley Andrews of the Coos County Sheriff’s Office.

Acker assisted Andrews in the field by talking down individuals in crisis. Andrews saw the value in those skills, and within a couple of years the CIT training was being offered to local police agencies.

This year around 30 officers from the Oregon State Police, Coos Bay Police, North Bend Police, Parole and Probation, and the Coos County Sheriff’s Office attended the CIT training.

Throughout the week officers receive training from local organizations like the Nancy Deveroux Center, Oregon Coast Community Action, Kairos, Bay Area First Step, and of course Coos Health and Wellness.

Aside from this now annual training, these local mental health organizations and law enforcement don’t really have much of a chance to talk about mental health.

“It’s been a good experience. No. 1, you learn more about the different types of mental illnesses that are out there, and it gives us a better idea of how to properly deal with those things and address them out in the field,” Deputy Sean Sanborn with the Coos County Sheriff’s office said.

Mental health has increasingly become an issue that law enforcement has taken a more active role because so many state run mental facilities have closed due to lack of available funding.

Off and on during the training, presentations were given by people who had overcome issues with mental health, and faced struggles like homelessness because their mental illness.

According to Coos Bay Police Department Officer Hugo Hatzel, hearing the perspectives of people who have come into contact with law enforcement because of their mental health was a valuable experience.

As police officers we’re learning ow to deal with how to deal with people in the population that have different mental health illnesses. It’s becoming more of a thing that we’re getting these mental health calls. So it is important to know how to potentially address issues,” Hatzel said.

Many of the people who shared their stories of interactions with police during a lapse in their mental state offered officers similar advice. Folks who had experienced homelessness as a result of their mental health told police it’s important to try and humanize people in that situation.

Simple tips like saying the person’s name in a calming voice and making the individual feel heard were given. Multiple people who had beaten addiction and depression said that when they were living on the streets they felt like feral cats saying that it might be helpful for law enforcement to make them feel like a person.

“A lot of the stuff is just a matter of being empathetic and knowing how to talk with people. I’m coming out learning a few things and that is the goal whenever we go to training. The first thing they said when we entered this class was that they were not looking for officers to throw out all their safety skills, but maybe we can add a couple more tools when you’re out there in the field with these folks,” Hatzel said.

The week’s training culminates on Friday when officers will be placed into scenario based training, where officers will use the skills they’ve learned throughout the week to talk down a staged scenario.