Possible pot tax; North Bend disrupted by suspicious device; Operation Dry Water; Events Center pursuing exclusive caterer; Oregon schools required to test for lead

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Lane Voters could decide pot tax

The Lane County Board of Commissioners gave the initial nod of approval to a 3-percent county tax on recreational marijuana sales this week.  It would still have to be approved by voters in the fall before it would take effect.

The tax would apply only on marijuana sales outside incorporated city limits.  It would be levied on top of the permanent 17-percent state tax on all sales.

Commissioner Pete Sorenson supported drafting an ordinance and hearing public comment.  But, he expressed some concern that local taxes on marijuana would push prices too high and send consumers back to the black market.  Fellow Commissioner Jay Bozievich said marijuana sales will place demands on law enforcement and social services in the county and it would be reasonable to levy a tax to help pay for those services.

All 12 cities in Lane County, including Florence and Dunes City, are at least considering an identical tax on sales within their boundaries.  Florence City Councilors will discuss a possible referral of the tax to voters next month.  In Dunes City, they talked about it briefly earlier this month and will likely take it up again in July.

Traffic was re-routed around the core downtown area in North Bend Wednesday as officials investigated what they thought was an explosive device. (City of North Bend photo)
Traffic was re-routed around the core downtown area in North Bend Wednesday as officials investigated what they thought was an explosive device. (City of North Bend photo)

Bomb scare in North Bend

Traffic on the southbound leg of Highway 101 through North Bend was forced to take a detour for several hours yesterday while officials investigated what appeared to be an explosive device.

Police in North Bend were alerted to suspicious item on the corner of Sherman and Virginia Avenues just after nine Wednesday morning.  Nearby buildings and businesses were evacuated and traffic was routed around the area using neighborhood streets.

Oregon State Police bomb squads from Medford and Roseburg were dispatched to the scene and arrived shortly after noon.  By three they had determined the item to be harmless and traffic was restored.  Authorities have released no further information.

Operation Dry Water

A nationally coordinated effort will be directed at reducing the number of “on the water” accidents and fatalities related to boating under the influence of intoxicants.

The Oregon State Marine Board, along with Oregon State Police and the Lane and Douglas County Sheriff’s Departments will be participating in “Operation Dry Water” through this weekend.

Marine Deputies and officers have received specialized training to help them recognize alcohol and drug impairment in boat operators.  Randy Henry, the Boating Safety Manager for the Marine Board said those officers have the authority to arrest boaters who appear to be impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Henry said recreational boating is very safe if boaters wear their life jackets, boat sober, and keep a sharp lookout.

FEC seeking exclusive caterer

The Florence Events Center will be scrapping the multi-caterer approach at the center.  In 2015 the contract for the previous caterer, Red Rose, was not renewed and instead of enlisting another exclusive food and beverage provider, the center instead opened it up to any caterer who agreed to abide by the FEC’s specifications.

Manager Kevin Rhodes said that presented some challenges in pricing and quality.

Kevin Rhodes – “It’s better for our clients to have a one stop shop, so to speak, where they can just go to one location and deal with one caterer.  We found out that the continuity and consistency provides better service and that’s our aim.”

The City of Florence has issued a Request for Proposal for exclusive, in-house catering services.  Rhodes said it’s a very good business opportunity as they will have use of the extensive catering kitchen at the center.  It can be used as a base of operations for outside work as well.

Proposals are due by the end of business Tuesday, July 5th and the initial contract would be for one year.

Schools to be required to complete lead testing

Governor Kate Brown says she wants all Oregon school districts to have a plan in place by October 1st for testing lead, radon and other chemicals at school facilities and sharing any results with the state and parents.

The move stems from the recent discovery of elevated lead levels in drinking water at two Portland school campuses and the ongoing public relations crisis that followed.

The Oregon Department of Education has drafted rules for districts to follow and will weigh any public input before finalizing the rules this fall.

The preliminary rules don’t say how often tests should be conducted, but they would require separate plans for testing air quality.  The rules also do not specify how school districts would pay for them.  Siuslaw Superintendent of Schools Ethel Angal said they will bear the costs internally.  They had begun the lead testing process before the state requirements were announced.  Results will be released as soon as they are available.