February 20, 2015
We received some excellent news regarding the Iron Mike statue this week: City/County Insurance Services has accepted the Iron Mike statue as a property insurance claim under a provision in our policy that covers “fine arts.” What this means is a little uncertain at this point. We don’t know whether insurance will pay only to re-attach the hand and rifle (which we don’t believe can be done) or will pay to replace the statue with a “substantially identical” statue (e.g., a bronze cast, assuming the State Historic Preservation Office will allow us to do that). In either case, our property insurance has a $10,000 per-claim deductible so that could potentially be our total exposure for repairing the damage. More to come as we learn more.
More excellent news: The Forest Service and the National Resources Conservation Service announced yesterday that Ashland will receive nearly $2.2 million in 2015 Restoration Project funding for the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project. More information under the Fire Department update below.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission held a “listening session” in Ashland Wednesday night to give Rogue Valley residents a chance to weigh in on rules and regulations the OLCC is required to draft for the recreational marijuana market. Prior to the listening session, the Commission held a smaller session just for local government officials. That session, which I attended, drew a small roomful of law enforcement officials, although I was able to present my case that OLCC regulations for commercial indoor marijuana growing should include energy efficiency standards, as well as performance standards related to odor, ventilation, etc. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but they did seem to be appreciative of and very interested in my remarks (and appreciative that someone was talking about something that isn’t a law enforcement concern). Rob Patridge, the OLCC Chair, indicated that I was the first person to raise this issue in these listening sessions.
Public Works Department
On Monday of this week, work began at the Chautauqua Square (in front of the Black Swan Theater) to remove a section of a planter box and the fountain. This was a two-part project, one being managed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) and the other by the City Public Works Department. The area had been congested for some time and the fountain has had problems since it was originally installed in 1990. Though several attempts were made to repair the fountain, none of them were successful. At the request of OSF, the City Council agreed to remove the fountain.
On Monday a contractor hired by OSF removed the planter box at the corner of Pioneer St. and East Main. They attempted to salvage the block to be reused later in the project but it quickly became apparent that none of the blocks would be reusable. Many of the capstones were saved however, so this should help tie the existing and new portions together and make it look less noticeable.
On Tuesday crews from the Parks Department removed most of the marble and the filter/pump assembly from the fountain. The Parks Department hopes to reuse these components in the future. The fountain did not come apart easily but all the major components were removed without damage.
On Wednesday the Street Division of the Public Works Department removed the back wall of the fountain and the concrete located under the fountain. Unfortunately the concrete turned out to be over eight inches thick and reinforced with rebar. Our crews worked most of the day to remove the concrete, often using a jack hammer for hours at a time; difficult work, but they kept at it until the job was done.
On Thursday most of the prep work for the new concrete was completed, including setting the bottom course of blocks for the new planter wall. The remaining two courses of block will be installed early next week, after the new concrete has had a chance to cure.
Today, the remaining prep work was completed and concrete was poured. Early next week the remaining block work at the fountain and planter will be completed, the area will be cleaned up and the space will again be open and usable.
As noted above the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project is one of just 15 projects nationwide that will share in $37 million in grants from the Forest Service and the National Resources Conservation Service for mitigating wildfire threats and improving the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems. Ashland will receive $2,169,400 in 2015. Although this is the largest of the grant awards, it’s still only about half of the money needed to complete the AFR project. These are formally known as the “Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership” projects. Click here to read the news release that was sent out yesterday by the USDA, and click here for the full list of funded 2015 projects. We’re told that Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie may be in Ashland in early March to formally announce this award.
Next Tuesday, Ashland Fire and Rescue and Ashland Community Hospital will participate in a drill next week involving the transport and transfer of care of an Ebola-infected patient. Other participating agencies include Jackson County Public Health, Providence Hospital, Josephine County, Mercy Flights, AMR Grants Pass and AMR Portland.
In cooperation with Mr. Paul Huard, an Ashland High School AP Humanities teacher and Ashland CERT member, Ashland CERT is helping to form a student-led, teacher-coached club on campus. The CERT Club was introduced on Wednesday with ten students showing interest. Christopher Curtis, Ashland CERT member and AHS senior, will also assist with the club as his senior project. The club is slated to meet two Red Day Wednesdays and once after school monthly. Ultimately these students will learn the basics of response in large scale incidents with the hope of holding an all-campus emergency disaster drill towards the end of the school year. Michelle Zundel, AHS Principal, is a strong advocate for having a large stock of disaster supplies on hand at the school for an emergency.
Last night, channel 12 (KDRV-TV) broadcast a story stating that a private investigator working for Hannah Thomas-Garner’s father found blood that the Ashland Police Department missed in the car that Hannah abandoned in Mt. Shasta. (There was no attempt to contact the APD to verify the story.) As APD was able to put this together today, this is what we believe happened; The vehicle was originally processed by the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, which, unlike APD, has a full-time crime scene technician. If there is blood in the car, she missed it. When we initially saw the photos of the car, we asked questions about what looked like drops of blood. Siskiyou County’s crime scene tech verified that she looked at those spots and determined that they where dirt from the surrounding area. Sometime after the car was impounded, the investigator hired by the father went to the storage yard and collected what we are now being told was a sample of those reported ”dirt” spots. Those samples were sent to a lab which, for $4,000, verified that they contained blood. This was all done without APD’s knowledge.
Yesterday afternoon Hannah’s father apparently called the press. We contacted him today and asked for copies of the lab report. He said he would contact the lab and see if they could send it. He also asked if APD would be willing to pick up the bill to have additional testing done on the blood from the car. We said we do not see any value in spending taxpayer money for that purpose and we still do not have any evidence of any crime related to Hannah being missing that would allow us to send it to the state crime lab.
Except for the media attention, this does not really change any of the facts of this case. It is not unusual to find small drops in a car and in this case when you look at the photos the amount of what is possibly blood in the car is consistent with being the result of a minor injury not major trauma. The photos, which were also released to the media today, show that the vehicle windshield was at least in part broken out by a medium sized rock which would have been used on the windshield repeatedly to cause the damage inflicted. Most of the inside of the car was covered in glass. It would not be surprising to find that the person that broke that window or anyone else that was inside that car received at least a minor cut on the hand.
There is some new information as to Hannah’s possible location. Someone looking like Hannah was seen by several people in and around a rainbow festival in Florida over the last week or so. Witnesses say that person identified herself by three different names, one of which was Hannah and one of which was the nickname by which most of Hannah’s Ashland friends know her. We are now trying to contact several stores that person was seen around to see if they can give us video to help identify her.
Meanwhile, the department completed a couple of good investigations this week:
Detective Rick Spence arrested a 30-year-old male for Rape 1, Sodomy 1, Sexual Abuse, Stalking and Assault. He then appeared before a Jackson County Grand Jury and presented the investigation. The Grand Jury issued an indictment charging Rape I (2 counts), Sexual Abuse I, Sodomy I, Coercion, Strangulation, Stalking and Assault IV. This was a very sensitive case and was excellently handled.
Detective John Perrone arrested a 33-year-old male for Rape in the First Degree. The arrest was the result of a delicate ongoing investigation where the suspect is believed to have raped or sexually assaulted three women. The investigation was taken before the grand jury who indicted the male on two counts of Rape in the First Degree. More charges are anticipated in the coming week.
Both of these cases help validate the You Have Options Program and our approach to handling sexual assault cases.
Detective Carrie Hull is in Washington, DC, this week speaking to a large group of very senior Department of Defense officials and military officers, including (we were told) most of the Army’s three- and four-star generals about YHOP. DOD paid the cost of the entire trip and is reimbursing the City for at least some of Carrie’s time.