Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Salemtowne fire ruled accidental

July 20, 2021 at 3:44pm

AGENDA: Marion County commissioners consider new health department office space

The Marion County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday will consider approving a $650,000 lease on a new office space for the county's Health and Human Services Department administrative employees.


The two-year lease would provide space for two health department programs and administrative offices in a building located at 2755 Pence Loop S.E. The expansion is necessary because of the growth of the department, according to the lease agreement.

Commissioners will consider an agreement with the Oregon Marine Patrol Board to pay the county $150,000 for Marion County Sheriff's Office deputies to patrol rivers and lakes, enforce boating laws and conduct boat inspections in county waterways, including the Willamette River. The contract covers the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Commissioners will also hear an update on wildfire recovery efforts in the Santiam Canyon.

Meeting details: The commissioners meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 21 in the Senator Hearing Room at 555 Court Street N.E. The meeting is streamed live on YouTube. Commissioners are Kevin Cameron, Danielle Bethell and Colm Willis.

-Rachel Alexander

July 20, 2021 at 2:13pm

Salem hits historic employment level as economy recovers

More people than ever were working in the Salem area last month, another sign of the continuing recovery of the local economy.

The Oregon Employment Department released information Tuesday showing that 3,493 more people were employed in June than the month before.

That pushes the total employed workforce to 203,107. That’s a record, according to Patrick O’Connor, Employment Department regional economist.

The previous peak in employment was two years ago, in July 2019, when 197,324 living in the Salem area were employed.

O’Connor said in a statement that job gains in June “were larger than normal.” He said total nonfarm employment increased by 1,800 when a gain of 200 is more typical.

The June numbers showed that the number of unemployed actually increased – from 10,641 in May to 10,955. O’Connor explained such an increase is typical as young workers enter the labor force during their summer break.

But the total unemployed is down significantly from June 2020, when 18,659 were listed as unemployed.

The Salem area’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June was 5.5% - down from 5.8% the month before and compares to 8.9% a year ago.

The biggest job increase came in the leisure and hospitality industry, which gained 1,300 jobs in June over May. Total employment in the industry in the Salem area stood at 13,500. Manufacturing added 600 jobs, for a total of 12,000, and the category of trade, transportation and utilities showed a one-month increase of 500 jobs for a total of 30,300.

-Les Zaitz

July 20, 2021 at 11:03am

July 23 virtual meeting seeks feedback on post-Covid business recovery

Brandon Peterson, of Salem, heads back to his car after picking up a to-go order from Noble Wave in downtown Salem on Thursday, April 2. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The City of Salem wants feedback to help guide a business recovery plan following the pandemic during a Zoom meeting next Friday.

The meeting, hosted by Enlace Cross-Cultural Community Development Project, will also be in Spanish.

It runs July 23 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and will cover Covid impacts to business, employment challenges and support for entrepreneurship.

Zoom meeting details:

Meeting ID: 845 5957 8124

Passcode: 231189

Link to join: https://zoom.us/j/84559578124

Facebook live: facebook.com/enlacecrosscultural

-Saphara Harrell

July 20, 2021 at 9:56am

Salemtowne clubhouse fire was accidental, fire marshal says

Damage visible on the back side of the Salemtowne clubhouse following an early morning fire on Friday, July 16, 2021 (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

A fire that caused about $300,000 of damage at the Salemtowne clubhouse early on Friday, July 16 started accidentally, Salem Fire Marshal Greg Hadley said.

Firefighters who responded initially described the blaze as suspicious, but after inspecting the building, fire investigators determined it was accidental. Hadley said there were "several potential causes" and investigators haven't yet determined which one sparked the blaze.

The clubhouse includes a fitness area, kitchen, recreational and meeting spaces for the west Salem community, which has about 700 residents, said Tom Mahon, chair of the Salemtowne Board of Directors.

Mahon said electricity is back on to other nearby buildings following a shutoff after the fire. That means the golf shop across the street is running normally, "which makes the golfers happy," Mahon said with a laugh.

The nearby swimming pool also has power back on and will be open later this week once the water chemistry is rebalanced, Mahon said.

Board members are working with inspectors to get the clubhouse certified for occupancy again so residents can use areas undamaged by the fire. That includes the office, some craft rooms and a video library. The clubhouse's pool tables were covered during the fire and mostly escaped damage from ash, Mahon said.

Mahon said the south portion of the building, where the fire took place, will be out of commission into 2022. The community's golf course was unaffected.

“It’s a disaster but it’s not devastating," he said. “We’re still functioning.”

-Rachel Alexander