Newport radio voice Don Cohen suffers serious stroke

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Jan 042011

Don Cohen

Friends of Newport radio voice Don Cohen say the much admired “man about town,” and most recently on KCUP radio, suffered a very serious stroke shortly before Christmas. He was rushed to OHSU in Portland where he remained in intensive care for many days. Friends say his condition has improved but that he has suffered serious mobility and speech issues.

Cohen has been a favorite news and talk show personality in the Newport area for years, most recently with KCUP radio.

Body washes up on beach at Lost Creek State Park

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Jan 042011

Oregon State Police troopers from the Newport Area Command office are continuing a death investigation following the discovery Monday morning of an adult female on the beach at Lost Creek State Park, just south of the Newport Airport. The preliminary investigation indicates she may have drowned and that there is no evidence of foul play or a crime. The body was discovered just before noon.

According to Lieutenant Mike Turner a report was received through Lincoln County 9-1-1 of a deceased female on the beach at Lost Creek State Park located along Highway 101 near milepost 147. OSP, Newport Fire & Rescue and PacWest ambulance responded and confirmed the deceased female was about 100 yards south of the parking area.

An area search found her unlocked vehicle in the parking lot with personal belongings and identification that helped positively identify the woman as KATHARINE CLARANN STRANGE, age 63, from Ridgefield, Washington, which is just north of Vancouver, off I-5.

Volunteer distrust within Newport Fire Department?

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Jan 042011

Evergreen St. Fire Dec. 20

Not all is well within the Newport Fire Department. A crowd of Newport Volunteer Fire Fighters converged on Monday night’s city council meeting to accuse some of the department’s paid staff of acting in a way that is creating mistrust. And mistrust within burning buildings is a serious thing indeed.

City Manager Jim Voetberg initiated the conservation with the council that during a recent fire call at a house fire on Evergreen Street, two volunteer fire fighters entered the home although they were not authorized to go inside. It was also alleged that two paid fire staff saw the two enter the home, yet did nothing to stop them nor did they immediately report the errors. One volunteer fire fighter, reading from a prepared statement told the city council that there are some among the volunteers who no longer trust paid staff to keep them safe.

Voetberg said he and fire department management are correcting the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. And he indicated that an outside investigation will produce a report as to the exact facts in the case which will further help to ensure such incidents don’t re-occur.

An overall assessment of the relationship between paid staff and volunteer fire fighters was not offered. Volunteers leaving the meeting said they did not wish to discuss the situation while the investigation is going on.

Dean Sawyer selected to fill Newport City Council vacancy

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Jan 032011

City Councilor Dean Sawyer

Fourth place finisher in a three position race for Newport City Council Dean Sawyer won a seat on the council Monday night by being appointed to fill the unexpired term of new Mayor Mark McConnell. The vote among the six council members was unanimous. But it took a lot of debate among councilors along with moans, catcalls and jeers from the audience to get them there.

Dean Sawyer, a thirty year Newport resident, gave long and quite complete answers to questions on city government priorities, motivations for serving and qualifications to be a councilor. The other candidate, former city airport worker Jimmy Rodriguez, a five year Newport resident, gave answers that were more generic along with long accountings of his extensive military service. When asked what unique perspectives he could bring to the council toward solving the community’s problems, Rodriguez again launched into his long military service without actually making it relevant to the question.

City councilors David Allen, Jeff Bertuleit and Dick Beemer together said Sawyer’s low budget door-to-door campaigning and commitment to public service as a police officer, who has intimate knowledge of the community and its challenges, along with him coming in just eight votes behind successful council candidate Sandra Roumagoux, should qualify him for the council seat. However, councilors Roumagoux, Brusselback and Mayor Mark McConnell appeared convinced that the council should postpone their selection to await more potential candidates to come forward and apply. At that point, the audience became very displeased and some protested quite loudly. When the vote was taken, Allen, Beemer and Bertuleit voted for Sawyer. Suddenly all eyes were on Roumagoux. Roumagoux stopped, appeared lost in the moment, gestured with one hand in the air and finally, almost haltingly uttered the word “Sawyer.” At that point, Brusselback and McConnell folded. They joined with the other four to appoint Sawyer to the council who was immediately sworn in as the seventh member.

For those who might wonder about the political undercurrents that were at work Monday evening, there has been a general understanding that under the immediate past city council, Mayor Bill Bain was more aligned with Councilors Mark McConnell, Lon Brussellback and Richard Kilbride. The ones who agitated for what they called greater accountability and transparency in city government were Councilors Bertuleit, Patrick and Obteshka. As to who had the high ground amidst such charges will be long debated over many a brew down at the Rogue Restaurant. But throughout many meetings, skirmishes and snipings were common between the two groups. And deserved or not, Sawyer was labeled as being more politically aligned with the Bertuleit/Patrick/Obteshka camp. But with the unanimous vote, led by Councilor Roumagoux, it offered the grand possibility that such public behavior, which caused many Newport residents to wonder what was in the water at City Hall, could be over. Sawyer will serve out the remaining two years of former City Councilor McConnell’s unexpired term. If Sawyer wants a full four term as councilor, he would have to file and run in his own right in November of 2012.

After the meeting, the now full city council retired to an informal meeting to begin planning on how to tackle many pressing issues facing the city. The tone and behavior of the councilors was respectful, open and honest, all appearing to enjoy themselves and their new found freedom to let their hair down and to get busy solving the city’s problems.

Lincoln County elected officials sworn in during brief morning ceremony

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Jan 032011

In a short swearing in this morning at the Lincoln County Courthouse, recently re-elected county officials raised their right hands and affirmed they would do a good job and protect and defend the Oregon and U.S. Constitutions. Pictured left to right are County Clerk Dana Jenkins, County Commissioner Position 3 Terry Thompson, County Commissioner Position 1 Don Lindly, County Assessor Rob Thomas, and Circuit Court Judge Charles P.Littlehales administered the oaths of office.

School Board to vote January 18th on whether to ask the voters for a schools upgrade bond

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Jan 032011

The Lincoln County School Board said after conducting a school district-wide survey and many discussions with the public, they’re ready to vote on whether they will put a $63 million dollar schools upgrade bond before the voters in May.

The bond would replace many portable classrooms, many of them quite old and expensive to heat and maintain, with permanent brick and mortar classrooms. It would also pay to build a new high school for Waldport on higher ground. The current high school lies in a Tsunami zone.

One item that came out in the public survey that troubled some of the board members was a strong suggestion that the bond measure might be more attractive to voters if it did not contain upgraded and new sports fields. However, it was noted that the survey wording might have been less than clear on the subject, so had it been worded differently, sports fields may have been viewed more favorably. The board, as a whole, continued to favor the sports fields being included in the bond measure.

If the measure is placed on the May ballot, and if it passes, the portion of everyone’s overall property tax bill devoted to school district bonded indebtedness would not go up because older bonds are being paid off. School District officials also say there could be additional financial assistance from the state because a special construction fund at the state level has not been used up. The Lincoln County School District is applying for up to $15 million of those available funds.

Again, the school board votes on whether to go for the $63 million bond issue at their January 18th meeting. If they go for it, it would be on the May ballot.

Newport Fire Chief Rick Crook retiring

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Jan 032011

Fire Chief Rick Crook, retiring

Thirty-five years of service in the Newport Fire Department is coming to a close as Fire Chief Rick Crook announces his retirement effective March 15th. Crook said “It’s been a combined 35-year opportunity to surround myself with a remarkable collection of hard working and talented people dedicated to nothing less than helping our customers on what was likely one of the worst days of their lives.” Crook added that “The sights, sounds and smells of emergency response work combine for an experience few people could understand, but I thank our citizens for the opportunity to serve them.” Crook served out his career starting as a volunteer fireman, then a company officer, then Assistant Chief, then Chief.

City Manager Jim Voetberg supported Crook’s decision, noting that “He has worked diligently on behalf of the City of Newport and its Fire Department, and for that he will be missed.”

Crook will use accumulated leave during the next several months while he transitions to retirement.

In the wake of Chief Crook’s announced retirement, City Manager Jim Voetberg told that Assistant Chief Toby Cole has agreed to assume the Chief’s position on an interim basis, until his own retirement in July. Voetberg said the arrangement will give him enough time to widely advertise the position so as to allow him to hire a well qualified permanent chief for the department.

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Waldport City Councilor: Stop the county’s proposed burglar alarm changes!

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Jan 032011

The following is a letter to the editor from Waldport City Councilor Greg Holland, followed by an Editor’s Note at the end:

Dear Editor: Attention burglars. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department will no longer send out a response to answer a burglar alarm. Come on over and break in anywhere.

Before the County Commissioners approve this insane alarm policy, can’t anyone think of another method to solve the problem of false alarms?

How about a policy stating that anyone wishing to retain armed sheriff response to their alarm agree to pay a fee (say $100 and increasing with more false alarms) if it judged to be a false alarm? I don’t mean charge only after three or four false alarms. I mean charge for EVERY false alarm.

Another option would be to charge an annual subscription to insure a response to your alarm.

As anyone else, I want protection of my home. The thought of an alarm going unanswered when my alarm company contacts me while I am out of state or country is enough to send me into extreme panic. Is my front door open? A window broken? Continue reading »

DUII arrests up, fatalities down, over New Year’s weekend

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Jan 032011

Highway 97 fatality, Sunday

Oregon State Police report that DUII arrests totaled 79 over the New Year’s weekend, while the number of fatal crashes was down. The greatest per capita arrests for drunk driving were in the Coos Bay and Eugene areas. The lone fatality involved a woman from northern California who lost control of her car on a snow-packed Highway 97, and slid sideways into an oncoming pickup. Alcohol was not involved. Over the years, Oregon averages five traffic fatalities over the New Year’s weekend.