Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Salem Councilor Jim Lewis resigns

February 16, 2022 at 2:00pm

Salem-Keizer to spend $17.7 million on employee retention bonuses

The Salem-Keizer School District is using millions of dollars in federal Covid relief money to provide retention bonuses to nearly all district employees.

Most full and part-time employees will receive a total of two payments totaling $2,250 this year, Superintendent Christy Perry said in an all-staff email Friday.

The money is intended "as a thank-you for all you continue to do, rising to the demands of operating during the pandemic," Perry said.

The district expects to spend about $17.7 million on the bonuses, district spokeswoman Emily Hicks said, with payments to about 5,560 employees. The funds are coming from the district's share of federal Covid relief money.

Substitute teachers are not eligible, Hicks said.

Employees will receive $1,250 in their March paychecks. Those still working by Oct. 31, 2022 will receive a second $1,000 bonus in their November paychecks.

The payments come as district educators have raised concerns about burnout and high workloads this year. The district, like many others in Oregon and across the U.S., has struggled to maintain adequate staffing and substitute coverage, resulting in several days of canceled classes and many teachers forgoing preparation time to cover colleagues' classrooms.

"The district will continue to work with the associations on ways to support the health and wellness of SKPS employees as we navigate the changing environment and state mandates," Perry said in the announcement. "I am deeply appreciative of you for how you show up for our students."

-Rachel Alexander

February 15, 2022 at 3:38pm

Data digest: Covid by the numbers for Feb. 15, 2022

Oregon Health Authority's hospitalization data shows regional Covid hospitalizations falling as of Feb. 15, 2022.

Covid hospitalizations in both Oregon and in Salem are falling from their peaks during the omicron surge, but remain high.

Here’s Salem Reporter’s Covid report for Tuesday, Feb. 15.

Total Salem Hospital patients with Covid: 98 as of Tuesday morning, three fewer than Monday.

Of those, 16 are in the intensive care unit, and six are on ventilators. 

Sixty-one of those are not vaccinated against Covid, and 37 are vaccinated. 

Salem Health does not consistently report the number of patients who have received a booster vaccine dose because of the difficulty tracking whether patients are eligible for a booster in real time, spokeswoman Lisa Wood said. The vaccinated patient count includes any patient who has received at least two doses of a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Total Salem Hospital bed occupancy: 520 patients; the hospital is licensed for 494 beds.

Total people hospitalized with Covid in Region 2 (Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties): 154. Of those, 25 are in the intensive care unit and 10 are on ventilators.

Total Region 2 hospital bed occupancy: 98 of 100 staffed ICU beds and 683 of 693 non-ICU beds in use. 

New Covid cases reported in Marion County: 148

New Covid cases reported in Polk County: 60

New Covid deaths reported: 20 in Oregon

-Rachel Alexander

February 15, 2022 at 3:36pm

AGENDA: Marion County commissioners consider contracts to expand vaccine access

The Marion County Board of Commissioners meets Wednesday to consider beefing up contracts that would expand access to Covid vaccines and implement a new radio system for first responders, as well as new contract to help keep minors out of the juvenile justice system.


Commissioners will consider reappointing Julie Jackson to the Solid Waste Management Advisory Council for a four-year term starting Feb. 26.

The board will consider adding $150,000 to a contract with Woodburn Ambulance Service for Covid-related outreach, including administering vaccines at homes of people who are vulnerable or providing them transportation to vaccine sites. The new contract would total $450,000 and last through 2022.

Commissioners will consider adding $375,000 to a contract with Interface Network, Inc., a local group working to expand access to health care, for temporary vaccination clinics and a Univision radio campaign. That would bring the contract total to around $819,000, and it would last through Jan. 30, 2023.

They will also consider a $600,000 contract with Justice Benefits Inc. to help maintain local services that keep youth connected with their families and communities, and out of the juvenile justice system.

The board will consider adding around $540,000 to a contract with ADCOMM Engineering, LLC to start implementing a new radio system for all first responder agencies in Marion County. It would bring the contract total to around $1.1 million.

They will also consider buying a roughly $117,000 boat from Rogue Jet Boatworks to replace a boat used by the Marion County Sheriff's Office on public waterways.

Meeting details: The commissioners meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Senator Hearing Room at 555 Court Street N.E. The meeting is streamed live on YouTube

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

February 15, 2022 at 9:52am

Salem councilor Jim Lewis resigns, triggering need for replacement

Ward 8 city councilor Jim Lewis during a volunteer event at Orchard Heights Park. (Helen Caswell/Special to Salem Reporter)

Jim Lewis, a Salem city councilor who has represented west Salem since 2015, has resigned.

Lewis announced his resignation in an email to his fellow councilors Sunday.

“It is with great sadness and disappointment that I must submit my resignation from the Salem City Council. Lingering medical issues, family obligations and celebrations are keeping me from fulfilling my obligations to the position of City Councilor. I want to thank the City of Salem, especially the residents of West Salem for giving me the opportunity to serve my community. I wish everyone the best and may God bless the City of Salem,” he wrote in the email.

Lewis was a more conservative voice on a largely progressive council. He supported building a third bridge across the Willamette River, but also caught flak for a proposed micro shelter village in his ward that ultimately faltered.

The council will need to find a replacement to serve the remainder of his term, which ends Dec. 31.

Those interested in filling the vacancy will be required to submit an application to the council, be registered to vote and have lived in Ward 8 for a year prior to their appointment. Residents need to live within the new Ward 8 boundary chosen in November.

City Attorney Dan Atchison told councilors at Monday’s city council meeting they could schedule a special council meeting March 21 to interview candidates. Then, they will likely appoint a new councilor by March 28. 

Read an updated story about Lewis' resignation and his time on the council here.

-Saphara Harrell