Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, May 20, 2020, Image 1

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No fireworks at Oregon Garden for 2020
Christena Brooks
Special to Salem Statesman Journal
Silverton’s annual fireworks show and celebration
at The Oregon Garden is canceled for July 3, 2020.
Leaders at the garden and its foundation said the
cancellation is a result of the state’s social distancing
measures surrounding COVID-19. “This was a really
difficult decision to make, but the health and safety of
our visitors is the most important thing,” said Delen
Kitchen, assistant general manager. “We were antici-
pating about 10,000 people, and there is really no way
to ensure appropriate social distancing and sanitizing
with a crowd that size.”
Without a clear picture of future restrictions on
large gatherings, staff at the garden, the foundation
and the City of Silverton agreed that canceling the
event was the most responsible decision.
“Like all of you, I grieve that this pandemic has now
taken (this celebration), but despite the fact that there
will be no fireworks, it’s more important than ever to
remember that the Fourth of July is a great time to re-
flect on what we are capable of as a society,” said Kyle
Palmer, mayor of Silverton.
Shana Schacher, event administrator at the garden
is still looking forward to future events.
“We love bringing the community together and cel-
ebrating the start of summer,” she said. “Right now,
we’re looking at ways to responsibly continue our oth-
er summer events, like Movies in the Garden, to give
everyone something fun to look forward to.”
Hundreds gather for a fireworks display at the
Oregon Garden in Silverton on July 3, 2019.
Parents of Salem
baby sue hospital
Forward This
Capi Lynn
Salem Statesman Journal
Wounds heal,
scars remain
Officer Michelle Pratt back
on patrol after being shot
Blaize Wheeldon shortly before he died from bacterial meningitis on May 11, 2018. SPECIAL TO THE
Wrongful death lawsuit comes
two years after baby’s death
Whitney Woodworth
Salem Statesman Journal
The parents of a 7-month-old baby who died
from meningitis shortly after he was released
from Silverton Medical Center are suing the hos-
pital for $6.3 million.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed Friday comes
two years after the death of Blaize Wheeldon and
accuses hospital staff of medical negligence and
the negligent infliction of emotional distress.
It names a Silverton hospital emergency room
doctor and Legacy Health, which operates the
hospital, as defendants.
Blaize’s mother, Summer Poff, spoke with the
Statesman Journal shortly after her son’s death.
At the time, she was distraught that his illness
wasn’t recognized the first time Blaize was taken
to the hospital. She wanted to raise awareness for
the deadly condition that took her son from a hap-
py, smiling baby to being in a coma within hours.
Poff said she knew something was wrong with
Blaize early in the morning of May 11, 2018.
He was fussy, feverish and wouldn’t go to
Poff and Blaize’s father, Jubal Wheeldon, tried
to soothe the baby and gave him Tylenol, but at 3
a.m, they knew he needed to be taken to the ER.
Wheeldon took him to Silverton Medical Cen-
ter, where Blaize was treated with Tylenol.
See LAWSUIT, Page 3A
Marion County approves $500K in tax breaks
Bill Poehler
Salem Statesman Journal
The company that purchased the former NORPAC
vegetable processing facility in Brooks will receive an
estimated $537,205 in property tax exemptions from
Marion County over the next three years to make $15
million in improvements at the 43,000 square foot fa-
cility and hire 300 new employees by the end of the
PNW Vegco, which is owned by farm entrepreneur
Frank Tiegs, purchased the facility on Brooklake Road
and 1,000 acres of farmland Jan. 31 for $13,549,311, ac-
cording to Marion County Tax Assessor records.
The tax breaks are part of a 2016 state law that al-
lows three years of taxes to be exempted on improve-
ments between $1 million and $25 million on rural in-
dustrial property to encourage employment in rural
“This was initiated as a result of one of our popular
wineries here in (Salem) that did a very large expan-
sion and they immediately got an increase in their
property tax bill within months of the work is done,”
Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron said.
“They said we need some time to get some revenues
up to pay their expense.”
PNW Vegco, which is based in Pasco, Wash., has 90
days from Wednesday’s approval from the Marion
County Commissioners to receive support from other
See TAX BREAK, Page 3A
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Salem Police Officer Michelle Pratt’s on her first
patrol shift back, and her husband a sergeant is tag-
ging along.
He requested the assignment because he needs to
be there as much as she needs him, a twinge of guilt
still gnawing at him for what happened last May.
Jake Pratt couldn’t have changed the outcome. No
one could have.
But Officer Pratt could dictate how she returns to
the line of duty after being shot four times during a
traffic stop.
The wounds are long healed. It’s the scars they
can’t see that the couple are concerned about during
the first shift back on Dec. 2, 2019.
She tries to avoid possible psychological triggers
as she makes that first traffic stop, pulling over a dif-
ferent model and make of vehicle and choosing a dif-
ferent location.
But still, her heart’s racing.
She forgets to call in the license plate number. She
gets tangled in her seat belt. Her flashlight comes un-
clipped from her utility belt.
As she approaches the driver’s side window — fac-
ing “a little old lady who doesn’t have insurance” —
Pratt is literally shaking.
Then the flashback comes. She hears the loud
pops and feels the sting in her arm, her legs, then her
Jake helps her refocus and recompose, both realiz-
ing this will be her toughest hurdle. The next traffic
stop goes better and so does the next.
But during each, she has a flashback.
“I was mentally exhausted,” Michelle Pratt said.
“That night, after the first shift, was the best night of
sleep I had since the shooting. Not just because of
exhaustion but being back at work.”
Corralling preschoolers, then criminals
Pratt took an unconventional route to a career in
law enforcement. She didn’t grow up wanting to be a
She graduated from Canby High School and what
is now Corban University, got married, had children
and taught preschool for 18 years.
Curiously, she finds similarities between pre-
schoolers and criminals and how they both need to
be handled.
“Same skill set, different consequences, different
age group,” Pratt said during a candid interview at her
home just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“You let them both know what’s going on, what you
expect, and what’s going to happen if they don’t do
Her introduction to Salem Police was as a volun-
teer advocate on the department’s Domestic Vio-
lence Response Team, which provides 24-hour on-
scene crisis intervention and was the first program of
its kind in Oregon.
She accompanied police officers on domestic vio-
lence calls, offering emotional support to victims, ex-
plaining the law and arrest procedures, and connect-
ing them to resources.
About the time her kids were graduating from high
school, she had an epiphany: “I don’t think being a
preschool teacher is going to be satisfying.”
Pratt was 41 when she was hired part-time as a Sa-
lem Police Community Service officer, helping assist
sworn officers with complaints where enforcement
or arrest powers aren’t required. But to be perfectly
honest, there just wasn’t enough chaos. She wanted
At 43, she graduated from the Department of Pub-
lic Safety Standards and Training and was hired as a
Salem Police officer. She was the oldest in her police
academy class and jokes she may have been the old-
est to ever graduate.
Today, she’s one of 183 sworn officers in the de-
partment and one of 17 females.
“Best decision I made — even going through all of
this,” Pratt said.
See OFFICER, Page 4A