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Jason JohannesenLEABURG: “The first work we’re doing with the Connect America program is in this area,” were welcome words heard by a packed audience last Thursday night. They came from Karen Stewart, CenturyLink’s director of local government affairs, who was talking about a federally backed program to upgrade McKenzie area broadband service that is already underway. Asked for a completion date she said, “September, unless we run into construction problems.”
Under the wing of the Federal Communications Commission, the Connect America project is designed to accelerate infrastructure construction to reach some of the 23 million people who currently can’t connect at speeds of at least 10 Mbps (megabits per second of data transfer) downloading and 1 Mbps to upload. CenturyLink accepted those funds for Oregon, committing to complete the project in the state within six years.

 

Aerial of schoolFINN ROCK: Some McKenzie Schools staffers may have re-routed their vacation plans in order to spend this week in Portland. “We let the whole staff know where we are in terms of our budget,” superintendent Jim Thomas told the school board last Wednesday. “We’re in the process of notifying people that would be directly impacted by it and chose to do that before Spring Break because Portland had their job fair coming up. It wouldn’t be fair to teachers who may have to be leaving to miss the opportunity to go to a job fair.”
Specifics on who might be affected will remain confidential until they’re discussed at a future executive board session. Thomas said staff cuts are tied to declining enrollment and state support. They would hinge on factors including seniority and certifications. At the time of the meeting, estimates were that next year’s budget will decline close to $370,000, resulting in the loss of about one and a half teaching positions. Since then another adjustment from the state raised that shortage to $459,000.

Maia HardyNIMROD: Business owners and people planning start-ups heard some interesting news this month from Maia Hardy. Speaking at a meeting of the McKenzie River Chamber of Commerce, Hardy outlined loan programs targeting rural businesses that are available through Community LendingWorks (CLW).
“We are a community development financial institution,” Hardy said, adding, “We’re a non-governmental lending institution that does affordable ‘mission lending’ for folks who have had a hard time accessing loans through a traditional bank.”
Community LendingWorks was established in 2012 under the wing of the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation, which, for 35 years, has worked primarily in the Eugene/Springfield metro area. It has offices both in Marion and Clackamas County as well.. NEDCO’s programs have ranged from home ownership loans to supporting business incubators.

The business model for CLW includes a revolving loan fund, according to Hardy. “A credit score is not a determining factor for getting a loan. We take a holistic look at the business and work with them if they need more of a financial education.” That additional assistance can involve one-on-one counseling or small business classes and helping them with marketing.

 

Jesus savesBLUE RIVER: Randy Boehmer says “Oregon is the 26th state these mules have pulled these wagons.” Averaging three to four miles an hour to a bale of hay, the Arizona native has been on the road for eight years. “I am out here living a slower paced life trusting God that people will see the Bible verses on the sides of the wagons, believe that Jesus is the one true living God, repent of their sins and ask Jesus into their hearts. There are no diesel trucks and horse trailers following us - it’s just the 9 of us - 5 mules, 2 dogs, Jesus, and me.”
His sheepherder’s wagon was eastbound on the McKenzie Highway this week, after an excursion covering 200 miles of the Oregon coast since the Fall.

A taxidermist for 40 years, Boehmer began to look at life differently when his parents died in 1991. Helping his siblings clean out their belongings caused him to realize all they’d worked for so hard meant little when most of their possessions were carted off to the dump.

 

 

New powderGet ready to spring forward this weekend with fresh powder and fun times at Hoodoo. The current forecast is predicting 24-42 inches of new snow Friday night through Monday. It's the perfect time to visit Hoodoo and enjoy some late winter turns on the slopes.
National Weather Service
Detailed Forecast
This Afternoon - Rain before 4pm, then rain and snow showers. High near 38. South southeast wind 5 to 7 mph becoming light and variable. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Tonight - Rain and snow. Low around 30. Southwest wind 10 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of around an inch possible.
Saturday - Snow. High near 36. Southwest wind around 18 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible.

Internet worldBroadband access on the agenda next week

LEABURG: Narrowing the digital divide that separates rural areas from high speed internet connections will be the focus of a March 17th meeting at McKenzie Fire & Rescue’s Leaburg Training Center. Organizers of the meeting include several McKenzie area residents who attended a Rural Broadband Conference convened by the Oregon Rural Development Council in Bend last month. That conference offered information on an array of federal, state and local initiatives that were designed to reach unserved, and under-served rural residents.

Steelhead releasedIt takes just one generation for the DNA of steelhead domesticated in hatcheries to be altered and to be significantly different than steelhead whose parents are wild, according to a recent study by Oregon State University.
In fact the study found that in just one generation there were 723 genes that differed between the offspring of wild steelhead and the offspring of first-generation hatchery steelhead.
Further, the study found through gene enrichment analysis that adapting to the hatchery environment involves responses by the steelhead in wound healing, immunity and metabolism, suggesting the adaptation is due to crowding in hatcheries.
“We found hundreds of genes were   expressed   differently   between the offspring of first-generation hatchery fish and the offspring of wild fish, and that the difference was heritable from their parents,” said lead researcher Michael Blouin, professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at OSU.

Eagle Rock ParkEUGENE: The Lane County Parks Advisory Committee will hold a public hearing in two weeks to gather testimony regarding the draft Five-Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for county parks projects from 2017 to 2021.
The Parks CIP is a five-year program used to plan expenditures for capital improvements to the Lane County Parks System according to Parks Manager Mike Russell. “Projects included in the CIP are designed to improve safety, utility and efficiency of existing facilities and further develop and add amenities that will improve visitors’ experiences,” he said. “Community members who have a park project that they would like to see included in the plan are encouraged to attend the hearing and provide testimony.”

Blue River mapBy Jim Baker, Blue River CDC & McKenzie Action team
The McKenzie Action Team, a group of community volunteers, hosted an open session on February 17 for residents to gather and discuss options for dealing with septic tank issues in Blue River.
There has been a long festering problem with aging and failing septic tanks. In addition, the small lots in Blue River do not meet modern standards for building due to septic requirements.
As a result, many of the business properties in Blue River cannot reopen or expand. Building lots stay vacant and a home owner often can’t even add a bedroom to their own home for they’re growing family.

Finn Rock CampFINN ROCK: “I always wondered why they called it a camp,” Billie Rose recalls. “Our folks lived there for almost 20 years. I guess ‘camp’ sort of gave the impression we were transients but we weren’t.”
Billie, her sister Nancy and brother Joe, were part of a gathering of old friends last Saturday who grew up in a community that many of today’s McKenzie Valley residents might never know existed. Their home, the Finn Rock Camp has long roots, stretching back to 1890, when Thomas “Whit” Whitaker Rosborough built a sawmill in Rosboro, Arkansas. After his honeymoon itinerary swung though the Pacific Northwest, Whit had a longing to return. He did that in 1939 when he moved to Springfield, Oregon, and built what a newspaper of that time called the region’s “most modern timber manufacturing plant.” Timber for the mill came from lands he’d purchased up the McKenzie Valley.

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McKenzie River Reflections is the weekly newspaper serving Oregon's McKenzie River Valley. Available by mail for $23/yr in Lane County, $29/yr outside Lane. Digital subscriptions are $23/yr. Subscribe at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/subscriptions-0. Purchase copies online at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/back-issues-0. Read about area communities including Cedar Flat, Walterville, Camp Creek, Leaburg, Vida, Nimrod, Finn Rock, Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.