2017 Year in Review

Siuslaw News' review of 2017 looks back at some of the Florence area’s top stories


Freshly driven snow

The Florence area received between four and eight inches of snow Jan. 4, causing schools and government offices to close or open late. Mapleton and Siuslaw school districts, Lane Community College and Florence City Hall were among the closures. This is the first major snow accumulation in Florence since March 2012.

Always Ready to Rhody

2017 is the 110th annual Rhododendron Festival in Florence, celebrating a tradition of native rhododendrons and honoring local youth in the Grand Floral Parade and a yearly coronation. This year’s “Always Ready to Rhody” theme honors U.S. Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River as the festival’s grand marshals. In January, the Rhododendron Committee announced the selections for the 2017 Rhododendron Court. Students will develop leadership and communication skills and make public appearances.

Hundreds gather for Solidarity March

On Jan. 21, a Women’s Solidarity March was held in Florence in support of the Women’s March in Washington. Nin Bebeau, the local organizer for the march, says that the event is an important opportunity to stand together and make voices heard. 

“When we march together we show that we stand together, and we show that we stand up for what we believe in, which is the education and empowerment of women,” Bebeau said.

Vision of ‘A City in Motion’ becomes a reality

Florence Mayor Joe Henry gave the State of the City address at the Florence Events Center, focusing on the city’s work plan, goals and current and future projects.

Henry said, “Early on we talked about our dream of being a ‘City in Motion.’ You will see our dream is no longer a dream, instead it is a daily reality and has turned into action and results.”


Landslide topples trailer

The nearly five inches of rain the Florence area received were likely a major contributor to a hillside collapse at the Siuslaw Marina and River RV Park, authorities say. Western Lane Ambulance District and Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue first responders rescued Allison Barkemeyer and her infant granddaughter, Arylyn, who had been trapped in their RV by a major landslide.

Fire Marshal Sean Barrett said, “Calls like this really test our abilities. We classify them as high hazard and low frequency. They don’t happen very often but they are very hazardous — not only to the victim but to the first responders.”

Florence clarifies position on immigration enforcement

City of Florence issued a statement Feb. 3 in response to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13768, signed Jan. 25, expanding the authority of state and local police to include enforcing federal immigration law.

Executive Order 13768, Section 8 states, “It is the policy of the executive branch to empower state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer in the interior of the United States to the maximum extent permitted by law.” 

This statement directly conflicts with language in the Oregon Revised Statutes, (ORS) and the Florence City Charter.

Siuslaw Awards honors citizens, businesses

The community gathered to celebrate the best of Florence during the ninth annual Florence Area Chamber of Commerce Siuslaw Awards banquet celebration.

More than 30 businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals were nominated for nine categories. A panel of seven unidentified judges from in and outside the Florence area selected the winning applicant in each category. All winners were kept secret until the awards presentation.

Ron Caputo was selected as the 2016 Florence First Citizen, and Siuslaw High School senior Claire Waggoner was selected as the Future First Citizen.

Peace Harbor could face choppy seas

Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) member nurses at PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center have been negotiating for better terms in a new contract since Nov. 30. The 75 Peace Harbor ONA members have been working without a contract since that date.

According to Peace Harbor Hospital registered nurse and ONA negotiating team member Sandy Fleetwood, the major negotiating points between the nurses and PeaceHealth are healthcare benefits, wage and hour issues, recruitment and retention and security.


Tregoning advances to master chief

U.S. Coast Guard Station Siuslaw Officer-in-Charge Tim Tregoning advanced to the title of master chief petty officer, the “pinnacle” of his career, in a ceremony held at Oregon Coast Military Museum in Florence. Sector North Bend Commanding Officer Captain Michael Trimpert conducted the ceremony for Coast Guard personnel from the sector and District 13. 

“Today is a momentous day for the Tregoning family,” Trimpert said. “Advancing to master chief is the pinnacle of being an enlisted man in the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Rotary Auction sets record high for third Time

Rotary Club of Florence announced the grand total of this auction and the total had club members dancing. The March 11 auction, called “Dancing for the Stars of Tomorrow,” raised $109,131.89. This is up nearly $8,000 from last year’s “Sky’s the Limit” record.

Auction Committee co-chair Kevin McMullen said the total came from just the auction alone. 

“This is what you guys did in just one night,” he said. 

More than 300 people attended the Rotary Auction at the Florence Events Center.

Nurses endure third round of negotiations

Peace Harbor Medical Center nurses and Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) union representatives met with PeaceHealth corporate representatives on Monday and Tuesday for a third round of negotiations to try and reach agreement on a new contract.

During a noon rally held Tuesday at the Peace Harbor cafeteria, RN Elaine Beers said, “Peace Harbor has been good to us. I don’t want you to think that we have problems with the local administration.”

Florence  moves  forward

Against the backdrop of the Siuslaw River Bridge, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown received a warm — though rainy — welcome from western Lane County representatives during her visit to Florence March 14. Brown heard about the area’s economic vitality and recent efforts to increase development, create partnerships with regional organizations, improve infrastructure and more.

“I’m certainly committed to moving Oregon forward,” Brown said. “We’ve made incredible progress over the past couple years, and I want to make sure we continue that forward march. Oregon is a place where everyone can thrive.”


Port special meeting gets contentious

During the March 31 special meeting, several Port of Siuslaw Commissioners butted heads with Port Manager Steven Leskin on several unresolved issues.

Commissioners attempted to take Leskin to task on several issues, including inappropriate behavior relating to a report, anger management issues, unreasonable moorage rate charges and poor port staff attitude toward customers.

Later in the meeting, commissioners posed directives that the port manager declined to follow.

Regional ICE crackdown hits Florence

Federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted a raid March 26 in Florence as part of a larger operation that took place in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

A total of 84 foreign nationals were arrested, including four men from Florence.

According to the ICE website, 60 had criminal records, but 24 — almost one third of those arrested, including at least one Florence resident — apparently did not.

Parent Committee clarifies Powwow cancellation

The abrupt and unexplained cancellation of Siuslaw School District’s annual Indian Education Powwow was addressed in a statement. 

Committee members explained that due to an unknown loss of its 501c3 status under the prior volunteer treasurer, “...the recent discovery of this by the current volunteer treasurer of the Parent Committee, and the written threat of criminal prosecution, led to the extremely difficult decision to cancel the 24th Annual Indian Education Powwow in order to protect all parties involved with the powwow.”

Following a unanimous vote, the Powwow was rescheduled for March 17, 2018.

Siuslaw News launches new website

The Siuslaw News, Florence’s No. 1 resource for print and online news, announces a brand-new look and more functionality coming to its website, www.thesiuslawnews.com. The website was launched April 10.

Siuslaw News General Manager Jenna Bartlett said, “This is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Our new website will be more user friendly and allow us to provide even more content to our readers.”

Dunes City addresses cannabis issue

The April 13 Dunes City Council meeting had full attendance for the first time this year, as Mayor Rebecca Ruede returned from an extended absence due to health concerns.

Councilors reviewed a pending resolution to prohibit the cultivation, for sale to distributors, of cannabis within the boundaries of Dunes City. At the close of a lengthy executive session, Dunes City Council emerged and chose not to adopt the resolution to prohibit the cultivation of cannabis.


Central Lincoln completes $6 million upgrade

After four years and a $6 million investment, Central Lincoln PUD (CLPUD) completed its Florence-area Electric System Upgrade project to upgrade electric utilities in the Florence area. From adding a whole new substation in the Pacific View Business Park and replacing utility poles up Highway 101, Central Lincoln more than meets the area’s projected growth rates for the next 20 years.

The upgrade was funded through savings and reserve funds set aside in the ‘90s for this project after an engineer looked at trends, and forecasted the need for another substation to serve the Florence area.

Special Election: Candidates address ‘Our Town’ at forum

Former Coast Radio News Director Bob Sneddon ended his 18- year career hosting the monthly Our Town broadcast Wednesday with a forum for many of the Florence-area candidates in the May 16 Special Election. The forum included candidates for the boards of directors for Lane Community College, Siuslaw Public Library, Siuslaw School District, Western Lane Ambulance District and Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue and the Port of Siuslaw Board of Commissioners.

Sneddon said, “They’re sticking their necks out and they’re the ones on the ballot running for something. If they’re elected, they’re going to be serving us.”

Florence Police officers assaulted, male suspect dead

On May 8, Oregon State Police troopers were notified of assistance needed at the Florence Police Department Jail. Troopers and officers responded and discovered Florence Officer Ken Larson and Corrections Officer Stephanie Sansom had been seriously assaulted while attempting to release 40-year-old David Brickey from the custody of the Florence PD jail.

As medics arrived, the male became non-responsive. Medics transported him to Peace Harbor Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The two officers were transported to a hospital for their injuries. 

On May 16, the Interagency Deadly Force Investigation Team found the action of the Florence police justified.

Ready to Reign

Queen Rhododendra Claire Waggoner fulfills her heritage; Benjamin Cahoon becomes third King of the Coast

King of the Coast Ben Cahoon and Queen Rhododendra Claire Waggoner proudly took the stage at the end of the Rhododendron Court Coronation Thursday night at the Florence Events Center. More than 300 people attended the event, which featured a return to traditions of the past.

Florence carries on tradition with Rhody Days celebration

Florence’s 110th annual Rhododendron Festival wrapped up Sunday after a season of being “Always Ready to Rhody!” This year’s festival theme borrowed from U.S. Coast Guard’s motto “Semper Paratus — Always Ready” and honored Station Siuslaw River.

Rhody Days officially ran May 19 to 21, but Davis Shows Northwest’s Amusement Carnival opened the festival May 17 at the Port of Siuslaw parking lot. The Davis family’s carnival has been coming to Florence since 1950.

Port places Leskin on administrative leave

During a special meeting held Tuesday, Port of Siuslaw commissioners voted unanimously to place Port Manager Steven Leskin on paid administrative leave.

Port of Siuslaw Board of Commissioners met in an executive session before the special meeting.

President Ron Caputo said, “You are being put on paid administrative leave while we check on a complaint we have concerning some sexual advances that (a woman) perceived that you made.”

Leskin was hired as port manager in February 2016.


LCC Florence’s new dean shares vision

In March, Lane Community College (LCC) Florence Center’s former Interim Dean Russ Pierson was chosen from a field of candidates to become official dean.

Pierson, 59, was appointed interim director of the Florence Center March 9, 2015.

“I’ve tried to be as engaged and involved as I could be while not being here on the weekends. A lot of community kinds of things happen here on the weekends. Both Tammy and I are excited that we will now get to partake of those kinds of happenings as well,” he said.

Community raises more than $30,000 for Malakai Kirk

On June 10, hundreds of Florence residents turned out in support for the “Gifts of the Heart Auction: An Evening of Giving,” held at Siuslaw Middle School, raising $30,886.

The event was created by concerned teachers and community members to assist the family of Siuslaw fifth-grader Malakai Kirk in preparing for the expenses associated with the youth’s upcoming bone marrow transplant operation.

Malakai’s mother Laurie Stone said, “I’m so blown away by the incredible generosity of our community and its commitment to helping those in need. What we have here is so special and we’re so honored to be part of it.

Florence adopts first biennial budget

During Florence City Council’s June 12 meeting, councilors voted to adopt the city’s first biennial (two-year) budget, to begin July 1, in the amount of $55,370,862

McClure appointed as interim port manager

During a special meeting June 13, Port of Siuslaw commissioners voted to appoint Dina McClure as interim port manager while current manager Steven Leskin is on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of a sexual harassment investigation. 

McClure previously served as interim manager for approximately four months between 2015 and 2016.

New president moves Chamber forward

Florence Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed new members and President Bobby Jensen to the board on June 15 during the chamber’s annual meeting and installation. Jensen and the new board will lead the chamber for the next year in its efforts to promote business, networking and the Florence area.

Chamber Executive Director Bettina Hannigan said, “It’s my job to help your business be successful so that you can help people. And that’s the heart of the chamber. We’re here to help people. We’re here to help your nonprofits, as you expand your employee base, bring better resources to your employees and to help you be a resource in turn.” 

Carjacker shot, killed by law enforcement

An armed carjacking June 24 ended in a deadly shootout between law enforcement officers from Florence Police Department, Lane County Sheriff’s Office and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the carjacker near Highway 126 and North Fork Siuslaw Road.

Cameron Ollman, 37, of the Florence and Mapleton area, was pronounced dead at the scene.

During the incident, Ollman stole a late model Subaru four-wheel drive vehicle at gunpoint from Brandon Nivilinszky, approximately 15 miles up North Fork Road.


Special 2-Part Series: Issues with ‘Helping’ complicated

On June 27, at the Florence Planning Commission meeting, a permit for Helping Hands to lease a commercial building at 1790 Highway 101 was denied.

The decision has brought to light some of the complex issues within the quiet retirement community of Florence. Over the years, the program has faced issues with finances, staffing and housing, but refused to give up. 

Mapleton schools enter 21st century

The year was 1957: Sputnik I was launched by the Soviets, the first electric watch was introduced and the Mapleton School District campus was built. While satellites and watches have vastly improved since then, the Mapleton schools have remained exactly the same. Until now.

From seismic improvements, decreases in water lead levels and changes to the flow of the entrances and gathering places, Mapleton’s campus is moving into the 21st century.

Mapleton School District Superintendent Jodi O’ Mara said, “Having students learn in a safe environment, where there’s no lead based paint or asbestos, gives our kids a sense that they are worth this. That can carry on into how they do in school and where they plan to go in life.” 

Power of Florence energizes community

The Power of Florence was on full display on Saturday, July 15. This brainchild of 17-year-old Kaylee Graham has grown from a small group of caring youngsters trying to help their neighbors to a citywide service event that engages hundreds in projects designed to improve the quality of life for all in Florence.

Organizers said, “At least 2,000 individuals were out working together to raise money for nonprofits and other causes, sharing and learning about nonprofits, donating items to help with needs in our community and working together to make a difference for our community.”

Lane County programs work to fill summer hunger gap

Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County, in conjunction with other organizations throughout the Siuslaw region, is on a path to fill the food insecurity gap for area teens.

Boys and Girls Club Interim Director Chuck Trent explained the reasoning behind the move.

“While the general economy across Oregon has improved, and it has improved somewhat in Florence, the families that are coming in are basically minimum wage with no benefits and part- time work. They can’t afford food,” he said.

Inaugural jam brings world-class talent

The first Siuslaw Jam was held on July 7 and 8 at the Florence Events Center to rave reviews from audience members and performers. The audience responded to the professionalism and the technical virtuosity of the musicians. The musicians responded to the natural beauty of Florence, the appreciation of knowledgeable audience members and the chance to help create a lasting musical legacy for the area.

Fiber comes to Florence

In a new pilot project announced this week, Siuslaw Broadband, doing business as Hyak, will install fiber optics to Florence’s Pacific View Business Park and certain nearby residential and business areas. 

“Siuslaw Broadband has been trying to get fiber off the ground for a while,” owner Robbie Wright said. “We have been in Florence for six years, so we are in touch with the technology needs that people have.”


Bringing art to the streets of Florence

Members of the Florence Public Art Committee (PAC) want to bring the “wow factor” to Florence through increased visibility of murals, sculptures and other artwork.

Public Art Committee Vice Chair Susan Tive said, “We want arts to have an impact on everyone who lives in Florence and the community. It’s as essential as the roads being safe and the water being good to drink. We want people to know it’s for them. Public art is for Florence, not just the people who are visiting.”

Details given on dramatic rescue

U.S. Coast Guard Air Station North Bend and a host of other agencies played a vital role in the rescue of Heather Mounce Davison from a cliffside near Florence on Aug. 16 around 2 p.m. Davison sustained only minor injuries in her five days without food or water.

Peace Harbor nurses approve 3-year contract

It was nearly a year in the making, but nurses at PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center voted 93 percent in favor of approving a new three-year contract with the hospital. The decision came after nine months of negotiations between 75 local nurses, represented by the Oregon Nurses Association, and representatives of PeaceHealth.

Rumors of neglect, mismanagement at OCHS prompt investigation

A volatile combination of complaints, accusations and rumor swirling in and around social media and community conversation has raised questions about animal care and management at the Oregon Coast Humane Society (OCHS).

Recently, the nonprofit shelter has come under fire from dismissed volunteers, former board members and dues-paying members of the organization. Accusations of physical abuse of animals and even killing of animals at OCHS have been circulated through social media platforms and in anonymous letters received. These were largely unsubstantiated.

Port fires Steven Leskin ‘with cause’

The Port of Siuslaw commission unanimously voted to terminate the employment of Port Manager Steven Leskin with cause. The decision comes after allegations of insubordination and inappropriate behavior, followed by a three-month paid administrative leave due to an investigation over a sexual harassment claim. 

In a statement regarding the dismissal, Port Attorney Jim Brewer stated, “The port has a policy not to discuss personnel matters, but it is fair to say that the port was unable to substantiate the sexual harassment complaint.”

Florence becomes Coast Guard City

The City of Florence officially became the 24th American Coast Guard City on Aug. 16 in a ceremony at Florence Events Center.

“This is a really exciting day for the City of Florence,” Florence Mayor Joe Henry said. “I’m very proud and humbled by all the attention we’ve gotten and the support of our local Coast Guard station, not just for this recognition but for the things they do on our river and miles of coastline.”

U.S. Coast Guard 13th District Commander Rear Admiral David Throop was the presiding official and dedicated Florence as the 24th Coast Guard City.

Three Rivers terminates top management

Three top employees of Three Rivers Casino Resort were fired on Wednesday, Aug. 9, including casino Chief Operating Officer Michael Rose, Assistant General Manager Bob Garcia and Chief Finance Officer Jim Herman. The decision was made by the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.

“The Tribal Council earlier this summer determined it was time to change the management team,” a statement from the Tribal Council read. “The change in direction, however, is in no way associated with any security matter.”

Jerry West will take over as CEO.

Special 3-Part Series: Are the kids still alright? Examining teen alcohol use in Florence

The community is taking part in the Healthy Directions initiative — an area prevention and health promotion coalition that was formed through Lane County Public Health.

The goal of Healthy Directions is to bring about awareness of, and attempt to lower, teen alcohol use in the Siuslaw region.

Friends of the FEC receives $30,800 grant

Oregon Cultural Trust announced this week that Friends of the Florence Events Center (FEC) received a Cultural Development Capacity Grant totaling $30,800. The facility will get new LED stage lighting and an upgraded sound system. 

Mayor Rebecca Ruede passes away

Dunes City is in mourning as Mayor Rebecca “Becky” Robinson Ruede passed away on Aug. 17 after losing a year-long battle with cancer. She was 61.

A tribute from Dunes City read; “Becky’s compassion for mankind, her level head and her kind heart made her a perfect mayor for our city during a time when healing was necessary and strong leadership a must. Her presence will be greatly missed as the city faces the new challenges presented to it every day.”

On Aug. 25, Dunes City Council appointed Councilor Bob Forsythe as mayor.


Summer remodels for Mapleton Elementary

Mapleton Elementary School went through a cornucopia of remodeling projects, including updates to the classrooms, the gym, bathrooms and the outside grounds.

Mapleton School District, which obtained more than $10 million in funding through bonds and grants, has also undergone a slew of safety changes including asbestos removal and drastic improvements in water lead levels.

“I like this place because it’s new and it’s not as old. It’s much better than our old school,” said third-grader Lucie Burrus.

Special 2-Part Series: A dream that won’t be deferred

After President Donald Trump ordered a six month phase out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on Sept. 5, America — and Florence — has been grappling with the issues that surround Dreamers, those who were brought here illegally when they were children, and illegal immigration as a whole.

Much of the debate has been centered around the need for border security, and the role immigrants play in the American workforce.

Dunes City votes to ban future marijuana grows, keep existing ones

On Sept 13, Dunes City Council voted unanimously to temporarily ban any future medical grow sites in the city, but allow existing grow operations to remain. Ordinance 245, originally proposed in August, would have banned all processing sites, producers, dispensaries, processors and wholesalers from opening within city limits, including those facilities which are currently being built. 

PeaceHealth announces leadership change

PeaceHealth Florence has announced the hiring of a new Chief Administrative Officer for Peace Harbor Medical Center.

Jason Hawkins will take over for current CAO Rick Yecny on Oct. 30. 

Coos Bay Rail Link honors Mapleton Schools with custom train

Students and faculty from Mapleton School District gathered with representatives from the Coos Bay Rail (CBR) for a special dedication. Students arrived to find a full-sized train engine parked next to the recently painted CBR utility shed that now welcomes visitors to Mapleton and proudly proclaims the town as “Home of the Sailors.”

CBR representatives revealed the latest addition to Mapleton’s proclamation of Sailor pride — an engine adorned with the Sailors’ logo, which will run between Coquille and Eugene.

City works to bring ‘Hope for Housing’

From August to mid-September, the City of Florence and its new Housing and Economic Opportunities Project (HEOP) ran a survey asking residents for input on housing needs in the community. Questions ranged from home ownership costs, rental rates and development expenses — all tied in with current city code regarding the permitting process and building codes.

Planning Director Wendy FarleyCampbell presented on “Hope for Housing” at the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Rent is too high, and home payments are too high,” she said. “When people cannot afford to live where they work, the entire community suffers.”


Special 3-Part Series: Millennials in Siuslaw

Millennials are typically defined as adults between the ages of 18 to 35, with technological advancements and poverty from the Great Recession of 2009 defining their career choices.

Millennials aren’t the first thing that come to mind when the Siuslaw region is discussed. With a median age of 57, Florence is the Oregon coast’s “retirement community.”

Because of that, the millennial population in the region is often ignored. While they own businesses, volunteer in the community and form a major part of the workforce, they’ re somewhat silent in community leadership positions.

Momentum continues with RAIN, development

Florence continues with its “City in Motion” theme this October, with increased programs from Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN), continued success with economic development partnerships and even the sale of two commercial lots of land in the Pacific View Business Park.

“The City of Florence is thrilled that our town has become a place of year-round entrepreneurial activity and enthusiasm,” said Florence City Manager Erin Reynolds. “Our rural coastal region is now connected with resources more commonly found in metro areas that are essential to any startup business.”

Special Two-Part Series: Beyond labels

With no visibly active community centers or major organizations in the community except for PFLAG, a high school gay/straight alliance and small groups of meetups with friends, it seems that the old battle cry has come to fruition; LGBTQ is here, they’re queer and people have pretty much gotten used to it. An in-depth look into the area’s LGBTQ community and its many facets.

OCHS inspection shows no abuse or neglect

The ongoing controversy surrounding the Oregon Coast Humane Society has advanced significantly, with two important new developments happening this month.

An on-site inspection conducted by Florence Code Enforcement Officer Dan Frazier on Oct. 6 found no signs of animal abuse or neglect at the Oregon Coast Humane Society.

The inspection was prompted by an Oregon Department of Justice inquiry generated at the Portland office of the DOJ.

Port looks to public to plan future

It’s time to reach out to the community to move forward in planning the future, Port of Siuslaw Commissioners concluded during their Oct. 18, public meeting.

“I think it’s time to bring the public in and get some ideas. I believe there are a lot of people in the community, within this district, that have good ideas that we can listen to,” Port Commissioner Mike Buckwald said.

New recycling rules

Residents of Florence are in the process of adjusting to major changes in the rules and materials that can be recycled in curbside pick-up, and most seem to be responding well to these changes.

New rules have been adopted by waste haulers in town that prohibit consumers from putting any kind of plastic in their recycling and by reducing the materials that the companies will accept from consumers. Lane County has also announced that the only plastic that will be accepted at county landfill sites and at transfer locations, including Florence, will be clear plastic milk jugs.

Special Two-Part Series: Do we really want to be a city?

As Dunes City Councilors sat in a special work session on Oct. 17 to discuss the future of current marijuana grow operations in the city, newly appointed Mayor Robert Forsythe posed a question to the council.

“I think the question is, do we want to act like a city, do we want to become a county again or ‘Florence south’?” he asked

Through a complex combination of vague laws, coupled with an inability to reasonably enforce them, slim city coffers and miscommunication between city officials, the recent marijuana debate made the city’s problems starkly clear.


Food Share in crisis

 “We are strapped for cash,” Florence Food Share Executive Director Norma Barton said in reference to the current fiscal health of the 37-year-old program.

Food share’s financial concerns come from a variety of problems, from unexpected changes and reduction in corporate donations of food, to a sizeable decline in general cash donations from the public this year. It found itself faced with an uphill battle, trying to figure out how it can provide Thanksgiving dinners to the public, keep the lights on, pay its employees and continue to provide full pantries for the coming years.

Community rallies around Food Share

New corporate programs and a slew of donations help the local program

After Florence Food Share’s financial difficulties were brought to light last week following a dearth of cash donations and changing corporate sponsorships, the nonprofit has seen a rash of donations and support from local corporations.

“Since then, people have stepped up and the donations have been pouring in all week,” Florence Food Share Executive Director Norma Barton said. “Thank you, Florence community.”

Voters pass local option levy by wide margin

Florence voters had only one ballot measure to consider in the special election — the renewal of a local option levy for the Siuslaw School District, Measure 20-281.

The funds generated by the passage of 20-281 will provide the money needed to fill in the fiscal gaps in a number of district programs.

Special 10-week Series: Is coastal living in jeopardy?

While Social Security is supposed to help sustain shelter and basic necessities for the elderly, people in several age demographics are finding themselves driven to sell donated items of clothing or panhandle just to pay the utility bills.

These are symptoms that many, including city officials, private business owners and nonprofit organizations in the Siuslaw region, are calling a housing and employment crisis; it crosses all ages and socioeconomic barriers and impacts residents of the region in different ways.

Leaving a legacy to be proud of

Wesley Voth, long-time correspondent/columnist for Siuslaw News, died suddenly and left a permanent void in the fields and woods and alongside the beautiful river that served as the church and classroom for a son of the natural world.

SVFR sends historic ‘Strikeforce 1’

Firefighters Tony Miller and Kyle Orozco presented a short video and report to the Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue Board of Directors. The two men, along with firefighter Blair Campbell, were part of the first-ever SVFR deployments to California.

The group from Florence, Strikeforce 1, was part of a contingent of firefighters and equipment sent from around the state to assist with suppression efforts in northern California.

18th annual Pounding brings in record haul

Hundreds of area residents help fill the pantry of Florence Food Share before the holidays

The 18th Annual Pounding broke records this past Saturday as Siuslaw area residents donated 13,088 pounds to be given to Florence Food Share. The event broke the all-time record by almost 2,000 pounds, set last year.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Florence Food Share Executive Director Norma Barton. “We are incredibly grateful to this amazing community.”

Jason Hawkins transitions into lead role

PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center (PHPH) of Florence has installed a new Chief Administrative Officer. Jason Hawkins recently arrived in town to take over leadership of the organization, as current CAO Rick Yecny retires.

“We can’t accomplish our mission just within the four walls of this hospital,” Hawkins said.

Susan Snow approved as Dunes City councilor

In a special session of the Dunes City Council, the council voted unanimously to appoint Dunes City resident Susan Snow as the new city councilor.

Councilor Duke Wells said, “I liked Susan Snow because her résumé was very impressive. ... I think a fresh perception of what’s going on in Dunes City is a good thing. That was the main reason why I chose her.”


Public shows support for the Port of Siuslaw

Public support for the Port of Siuslaw was in full display as commissioners and staff opened their doors to the community, asking for suggestions on how the port should shape its future in a public input meeting.

The public suggestions covered a wide variety of topics, including the port’s campground, the marina, housing, tourism and working together with other local agencies.

Upriver community plans future of healthcare

The lack of medical or mental healthcare contributes to many of the problems the Upriver area has, including behavioral health issues, poverty, geographic isolation and a lack of preventative care. These issues were discussed at a town hall discussing the Western Lane Behavioral Health Network.

The meeting’s purpose was to get feedback on the problems facing the community, via the lens of healthcare, in hopes to build a blueprint on how to improve the lives of Upriver residents.

Firefighters return to assist with wildfires

Once again, firefighters from Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue have left the district to assist in the wildfire emergencies in California. 

A total of seven firefighters, including Kyle Orozco, Captain Jeff Larson and Colton Griswald in a Type-5 brush-fire vehicle, and with Shannon Curry, Levi Green, Captain Andy Gray and P.J. Crescioni in a Type-1 engine assisted with structural protection.

SVFR Chief Director Jim Langborg said, “This is an opportunity for some of our firefighters to get experience they may never get again.”

Crews complete move-in to new facility

Florence Public Works will be entirely moved in to its new Public Works Operations Facility at 2675 Kingwood St. this month. The 2.75-acre lot now houses a 5,942 square-foot office building and a 7,754 square-foot maintenance building.

Public Works office staff and crew members all have workspace in the new office building, with room to spare.

‘Net’ gain from FCC decision unclear

Net neutrality is the principle that all data on the internet should be equally accessible and that internet regulators, such as governments or internet service providers (ISPs), should not be able to prioritize or degrade access to content. The loss of these precepts in effect entrusts the cable and wireless companies to adhere to net neutrality standards on a voluntary basis.

Siuslaw Vision Keepers support region’s people

Siuslaw Vision 2025 held a public meeting at the Siuslaw Public Library to update community members on current projects and progress of the Vision Keepers.

The Vision works in six categories: jobs, health, learning, services, arts and recreation. It brings together input from a variety of community meetings and surveys. 

DRT draws focus of Small Business Revolution

Florence’s Downtown Revitalization Team (DRT) announced this month that the city is in the running to be featured in a web-based TV series that focuses on small businesses and a thriving main street. “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” may choose Florence after a site visit on Jan. 3.

Ellen Huntingdon has led the initiative from initial query.

“I think Florence spoke for itself,” she said. “The more you learn about this town, the more you want to be involved.”