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MEDFORD, Ore. — After a local father took his son who falls on the autism scale to a Southern Oregon Spartans game, his son wanted nothing more than to play.

However, Shad Bowers knew it would be difficult to enroll his 7-year-old son, Tanner, into a regular league with his condition. So Bowers decided to start his own youth hockey league for special needs kids in the Rogue Valley.

The league is currently collecting monetary and equipment donations at the RRRink in South Medford.

If you are interested in signing up a player, you can contact Bowers at spectrums_hockey@yahoo.com.

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MEDFORD, Ore. — An emerging trend in STD’s in Southern Oregon has state health experts both concerned, and baffled. The Oregon Health Authority documented a sudden increase in the number of people testing positive for Gonorrhea.

Jackson County experienced a 387% jump. 31 cases in 2012 turned into 151 cases last year.

Josephine County increased by 270%. 10 cases increased to 37 in 2013.

Douglas county had two cases two years ago and 23 cases last year. That is a 1050%.

The Oregon Health Authority isn’t exactly sure why there’s such a massive increase in the sexually transmitted disease, but are working with local health departments to zero in on the reason. There is some thought by health officials that drug use, particularly Meth, has led to the increase. People who are “high” often experience fewer inhibitions and an increased sex drive. No matter the cause, experts believe the numbers are a step in the wrong direction.

Sean Schafer with the Oregon Health Authority says, “Gonorrhea rates had dropped to a historically low levels for the first part of the last decade and a half, but has recently increased to numbers we saw in the 1990′s.” The state-wide increase was 18 and a half percent with an additional 300 cases between 2012 and 2013.

For more information on Gonorrhea, and protecting yourself from STD’s, click here.

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WEATHER DISCUSSION

Temperatures, today, were about where they normally are for this time of the year. However, it was a definite change from what we’ve been seeing. The last few afternoons have been very comfortable. Cloud coverage from thunderstorms and a few cold fronts that ushered in cooler air was the reason for the wonderful temperatures. Unfortunately, this is changing. As evidence shows, today’s temperatures were 5-10 degrees warmer than yesterday. Each afternoon, temperatures will continue to get warmer. High pressure sitting over the desert southwest will slowly make it’s way back into our region and bring with it the hot air. Temperatures will once again be closer to records than averages.

After the sunny and hot weather we’ll get this weekend, thunderstorms activity will enter the region. Starting on Sunday afternoon, daytime heating and instability in the area will create afternoon thunderstorms. Models at this time are showing a little bit of development on Sunday and Monday afternoons, however the bulk of the activity will move in Tuesday-Friday. This will stem from a series of disturbances and a mid week cold front causing unstable air. Plus, moisture out of the Southwest will also move in and bring in a better chance for rain this week. Thunderstorm activity will continue for the entire week.

Thanks for logging on and have a great weekend!

Meteorologist Seth Phillips

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JACKSONVILLE, Ore. — This year five out of the ten concerts here at Britt’s performance garden are free. The performance garden is also where most pre-concert music will play before each main stage concert.

At a cost of just over a million dollars, paid for largely by grants and donations, this garden also solved a major program dilemma for Britt, creating a completely separate space and environment allowing Britt to expand its line up, and appeal to a wider audience.

Britt officials say the performance garden offers an area for smaller, more intimate concerts and events for this season. For the first time in 50 years, anyone who needs handicap assistance is able to use new ramps and entrances to the new performance space.

They’ve also upgraded the bathrooms and added a new concession stand. There are lots of other unique things happening at Britt this season. This week local teen musicians got the chance to learn from a group called Project Trio. The experts hope to keep classical music alive.

As far as income from the performance garden Britt says it’s not significant because many of the concerts are before main acts or have a lower ticket price. What is significant is that it enhances the overall experience, which Britt hopes leads to more return visitors. Something else unique to the performance garden is its availability as a rental space, which could lead to revenue for the festival.

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SHADY COVE, Ore. — This time last year, thunderstorms moved through southern Oregon and lightning sparked several fires. The smoke from those fires moved into the valley and just about put rafting companies out of business for the year. One company said so far this year, they’re back on track.

Rafts are stacked up and ready to go outside raft rite rentals in Shady Cove. Friday, the white board was filled with 10 rafting groups, which is about 10 more than a given day last August.

“It’s been fantastic, it’s, we’ve recovered from last  year with where we were cut short because of the  smoke but we’ve definitely recovered. We’re right back to where we were before that, and growing,” said Raft Rite Owner Shelly Burton.

Getting back to business was not something she thought could be a challenge after a third of her business was lost from the smoke last August. Burton said last year the smoke just lingered in the valley, and in the minds of those who typically hit the rapids.

“We expected to maybe recover from it but the smoke just kept coming and coming and then people decided to do something different by the time it cleared. So, the summer was over before we even knew it,” said Burton.

The thunderstorms seen earlier this week in southern Oregon brought mixed feelings to Burton, who knows they could be just one lightning strike away from another rough August.

“There was some rain, because we need the rain to help fill the lake that fills the river. But then, I was thinking about the lightning and if this is going to be Deja vu,” said Burton.

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CENTRAL POINT, Ore. –  The board for the Jackson County Fair is looking to hear from fair goers about what worked and what did not work at the fair this year.

Administrators launched a survey on the Jackson County Facebook page for those who attended the fair this year. The fair board says they have already gotten more than 200 responses in the two days it has been available.

In the past, board members have held town hall meetings to get community response but they say this is an easier way to get the feedback, and they hope it will produce more results.

“When we’re making decisions, they’re literally from real data, not just the survey. We’re going to use all of this as information to make decisions about next year’s fair,” said Jackson County Fair Board Members Jim Teece.

When taking the survey, participants also have the option to be anonymous, or give their name and contact information for further input. The board members also plan to use results from the Jackson County Fair smartphone application they launched this year to make improvements for next year.

The board will still hold a town hall meeting to get in-person feedback as well.

The survey can be found here.

 

Fire Teams to Stay SeparateMEDFORD, Ore. — City officials say they are leaning toward keeping Medford Fire and Rescue and Jackson County Fire District 3 separate entities. The City Manager says they plan to make that official on August 21st when they move on the recommendations of a cooperative study.

The position of Fire Chief was in question with that study. So once this topic is put to bed, city officials say they can move forward in the search for a full-time Medford Fire and Rescue Chief.

Deputy City Manager Bill Hoke has been the Interim Chief since the first of the year. “He’s been, uh, worked with us great and allowed us to run the organization and supported us where he could. But that’s, you know, going on for an extended period of time could cause some issues for us and and for the other city departments that need his support as well,” said Brian Fish, Deputy Chief with Medford Fire and Rescue.

New Businesses Coming to MedfordMEDFORD, Ore. — The City Planning Department says construction is underway for new restaurants and other retail shops. Two new buildings are going up in south Medford near the WalMart. City officials confirm Panda Express, Starbucks Coffee and a GNC store will be in that retail center.

The new Denny’s in Medford near Crater Lake Highway is also under construction as well. It’s going inside the Ramada Inn.

The next step for these businesses will be to wrap up construction and to call planning officials for site inspections.

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MEDFORD, Ore. – Police arrested a homeless woman in connection to two arsons this week, and said she is a suspect in 21 other suspicious fires in Medford over the past month.

57-year-old Debra Irene Johns was arrested Thursday morning near Hawthorne Park, shortly after officers arrived on the scene of a tree on fire. Officers recognized Johns from previous encounters, and she tried to run while throwing tissue paper from her pockets. She was arrested on an unrelated warrant, and was later charged with the fire at Hawthorne Park and a fire outside Beavertooth Oak on South Holly Street on Wednesday.

Although the charges are only for the two fires, Medford Police Chief Tim George said Johns is likely responsible for setting 23 arsons in Medford since June 25th.

“This suspect is the person who was committing arson crimes that are very consistent with the string of arson crimes,” George said. “Not all of them, but it is a consistent theme with the majority of these fires.”

A suspicious early-morning fire on June 25th destroyed a warehouse that housed Miscellany Antiques on Fir Street. Since then, other fires have been set in alleys, in a car, and near homes, mostly around west Medford.

Johns is charged with two counts of second-degree arson, and a count of reckless burning. George said police will continue to work with Medford Fire to see if Johns is linked to the other arsons, and said he is not ruling out the possibility of a second suspect.

Some people who live and work near some of the fires said they are happy a suspect has been caught, but they are still being cautious. Volunteers at the Southern Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Center had a newspaper recycling bin removed last week to keep it from being a target. Executive Director Glory Cooper said Friday they will wait for a few days to see if there are any additional fires or arrests, and said the bin would likely be brought back next week.

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. -An idea sparked by the major wildfires that destroyed over 70,000 acres of Southern Oregon last summer, Hidden Valley High School students Rachel Loughran, Jordan Gilbert, and Sylvia Marr have found a way to award $35,060 to their local Fire Departments in Josephine County.

As members of the Josephine County Foundation (JCF)- a student led non-profit, these three decided to partner with their local fire departments because they saw the educational and financial need in their community. JCF consists of local students from Hidden Valley High School, Illinois Valley High School, North Valley High School, Grants Pass High School, and New Hope Christian School. The student’s objective is simple: to come together to serve their community, and to raise funds for Josephine County.

Through online resources and meetings with all Josephine County Fire Departments, the students decided the best way to assist the firefighters would be to write grants towards funding for equipment. This way, students in the community would get the experience of learning about philanthropy with the benefits of bringing outside/new funds into Josephine County.

Not knowing the financial need of the local fire departments, Hidden Valley High School Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) members helped JCF members interview each local Fire Chief and fill out a Needs Assessment based on the top priorities for their station. The assessment showed that $11 million dollars of equipment was needed over the next 5 years.

After making a list of the low-cost, critical equipment based on each agency’s needs assessment, the students set a 2 year goal of raising $60,000 for their community’s fire safety equipment. Within this first year, these high school students were able to raise $35,060 of their goal in grant money for the fire departments. On May 19th, the Josephine County Foundation held their first ever Awards Ceremony where they distributed the funds as follows:
• Applegate Fire Department – $4,500 for 10 Firefighter Pagers
• Grants Pass Fire Department – $4,560 for Structural Turnouts
• Illinois Fire Department – $6,500 for a RAD-57 CO Monitor and Positive Pressure Vent Fan
• Rural/Metro Fire Department – $4,800 for 3 Multigas/CO Detectors
• Williams Fire Department – $5,800 for 2 Gate Valves and 5 Fire Hose Nozzles
• Wolf Creek Fire Department – $8,900 for 1 3/4 ” Fire Hose and 3 Handheld Radios
Through all this hard work and dedication, these JCF members also wrote a 30 page report and gave a seven minute presentation through FBLA at the National Leadership Conference and received 2nd place in the nation against almost 100 other community projects. Their national success further demonstrates the hours committed, the hard work dedicated, and the lives changed through this partnership.

This project has had a monumental affect on Josephine County’s schools and community, and will for years to come. In the upcoming school year, students will continue to apply for grants to fund the needs of the departments in order to reach (or exceed) their goal of $60,000.

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