NEWS

Neighbors on Merloy Avenue hoping for changes to Highway 20 intersection

administrator, 05/04/2014 5:19 pm

When longtime Corvallis resident Pete Bober moved back to town recently after spending the past seven years in Roseburg, he chose Merloy Avenue.

“It was centrally located,” said Bober, a retired community college administrator. “It’s nice and flat. The lots have a country feel. I can be at the Beanery in eight minutes, and I can meet my buddies in North Albany in eight minutes.”

But whichever direction he was headed, most of the those eight minutes would be spent on Highway 20, and Bober soon learned that the Highway 20 intersection with Merloy, about four miles from downtown, is not for the faint of heart.

“Everybody seems to know someone who has been involved in an accident,” Bober said.

Including Christine Kramer, who has run a pet grooming business out of her home on Merloy for the past 10 years.

Kramer’s mother was injured in a 2008 wreck on Highway 20, and the neighborhood still is reeling from a fatal crash at the intersection Feb. 5 that killed 29-year-old Dominic Schlundt.

“After Dom, I wanted to do something,” Kramer said. “I said, ‘I have to do something about this intersection.’ ”

Residents on Merloy held a neighborhood meeting April 24, with 17 of the 32 residences participating. Bober, meanwhile, called Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, who helped set up a town hall meeting for May 15 that will include representatives from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“I understand the concerns,” Olson said. “I spent 29 years with the Oregon State Police, and Highway 20 between Albany and Corvallis is not a friendly highway.”

ODOT crash information for the intersection from 2008-13 shows 11 crashes and 19 injuries — but no fatalities — during that period.

More from the Corvallis Gazette Times…

Highway signs to honor mid-valley’s fallen military heroes

administrator, 04/29/2014 6:26 pm

A soldier and a Marine who were killed serving in Iraq will soon be honored with large brown-and-white Fallen Hero Memorial Highway signs near Albany and Philomath.

State. Rep. Andy Olson unveiled the signs honoring Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler Troyer of Albany and Army Spc. Eric McKinley of Philomath Monday afternoon at the American Legion Post 10.

Olson has worked with Troyer’s parents for almost two years to recognize military members who sacrificed all.

His parents are Terri and Michael Thorpe and David and Sandy Troyer. McKinley’s parents are Tom McKinley of Salem and Karen Hilsendager of Philomath.

Michael Thorpe was instrumental in Oregon’s development of the Hero Memorial Signs program. It is modeled after a program in Massachusetts, where a bridge is named in honor of one of Tyler’s friends, Lance Cpl. Shayne Cabino, also killed in action in Iraq.

“This is a continuation of what we did last year when we unanimously passed House Bill 2708,” a measure establishing the sign program, Olson said. “We are here today to honor two of our fallen heroes from the mid-Willamette Valley, Army Specialist Eric S. McKinley and Lance Corporal Tyler Troyer.”

Olson thanked Katie Thiel and David Hachek of the Oregon Department of Transportation, who said the signs will be placed by June 13 — the anniversary of McKinley’s death. Troyer’s will be placed before that date.

McKinley’s sign will be near the entrance to the city of Philomath. Troyer’s sign will be near Oakville Road on Highway 34.

Olson said Troyer loved playing baseball and was a left-handed pitcher for the West Albany Bulldogs.

He enlisted in the Marines soon after graduating from high school at the age of 18…

Read more at the Albany Democrat Herald…

KATU: Some Oregon lawmakers plan to keep minors from buying e-cigs

administrator, 02/03/2014 5:17 pm

SALEM, Ore. — Some Oregon state lawmakers want to make sure minors can’t buy electronic cigarettes. To make it happen, they plan on introducing several bills in the 2014 legislative session.

“We know that nicotine is addicting,” said state Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany. “Why would we not prohibit this?”

Olson is the sponsor of House Bill 4073. It would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from buying electronic cigarettes in Oregon.

Many tobacco retailers already refuse to sell such products to minors…

Link to KATU

Editorial: Legislature should ban e-cigarettes for minors

administrator, 12/27/2013 5:11 pm

One of the easier questions to come before the Legislature’s February 2014 session is whether the state of Oregon should ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.

That’s the subject of a bill from Albany Rep. Andy Olson, and it’s a no-brainer: Simply put, these devices should not be available to minors. We expect an easy passage for Olson’s bill, although you never can be sure with the Legislature.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale a vapor mix consisting of nicotine, flavor additives and other chemicals. They do not contain tobacco. In Oregon, they are not subject to age restrictions or cigarette taxes.

In the meantime, although the companies marketing these e-cigarettes might argue this point, there’s little doubt that some minors might find them attractive, especially since some of them come in flavors such as bubble gum, strawberry and chocolate.

And, in fact, there’s little doubt that e-cigarettes are gaining some traction with youth: The 2013 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey reported that 5.2 percent of 11th graders in 2013 said they had used e-cigarettes sometime during the last 30 days, a considerable jump from the 1.8 percent reported in the 2011 study…

Read More…

Should Oregon pay $1.5 million to put photos on food stamps, welfare cards? Lawmakers consider fraud reduction options

administrator, 11/14/2013 6:39 pm

It would cost Oregon at least $1.5 million in the first year and about $930,000 annually after that to put photographs of cardholders on the Oregon Trail cards used by food stamps and welfare recipients.

That’s the estimate recently heard by lawmakers on an interim legislative work group considering methods of reducing public assistance fraud. A May audit from the Secretary of State’s office found that hundreds of Oregonians who were deceased, incarcerated, or won the lottery benefited from one of three public assistance programs intended for low-income individuals.

Another option would be to only put names of cardholders on the Oregon Trail cards. That option would likely cost less, though Department of Human Services officials are still crunching the figures.

“It’d be pretty expensive to put the names on the cards, so we might just want to do a test case in a certain part of Oregon to see if it’s worth having the names on the cards,” said Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, chairwoman of the interim House Human Services and Housing Committee.

The work group is expected to finalize recommendations at its final meeting Nov. 20, Tomei said. Members will likely recommend further education of Human Services employees and improved communication between department officials and law enforcement officers investigating possible fraud. For instance, federal regulations can often prevent Human Services officials from releasing information on public assistance recipients, Tomei said.

Work group members are also considering whether to recommend additional fraud investigators and other staff. The state would bear the costs of new hires, but the millions of dollars that could be recovered would likely go to the federal government rather than state coffers, Tomei said.

Human Services officials estimate that hiring nine additional fraud investigators at a cost of $800,000 each biennium could net $1.3 million, but most of the recovered money would return to the federal government, she said.

Currently, 21 employees work in the fraud investigation unit, said John Carter, manager and chief investigator of the fraud investigations unit.

Another proposal is to hire three more data match staff at a cost of $430,000 per biennium, with an estimated savings of $7 million in federal and state money.

Although Human Services officials perform initial eligibility checks on applicants for food stamps and welfare, data match staff scour additional public records to verify that all the information applicants provide is accurate.

“Not every eligibility worker has the capability nor the time to check on income and household composition,” Carter said. “It’s just not physically possible because they have time constraints and they have certain regulations where benefits have to be issued in a timely manner.”

Work group member Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, would also like to see fraud investigators be able to terminate benefits to recipients who fail to provide information to investigators.

Olson previously pushed to have Oregon Trail cards include photographs of cardholders, but said that would be too cumbersome and expensive. Instead, he wants to see cardholder names printed on all Oregon Trail cards statewide, not simply a pilot project for part of the state.
“We either get into it and do it right the first time or we don’t do it at all,” he said. “As a result of this, you will clearly see a reduction of the replacement-card issue. You’re also going to see a lot more accountability in place.”

Even if printing names on Oregon Trail cards cost a $1 million, the savings it would produce would be worth it, he said.

Read more at the Oregonian…

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