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Fire survivors aren't being charged Southern Oregon RV Park fees

I drove by the Jackson County Expo recently and noticed hundreds of RVs and what appeared to be several FEMA-type temporary housing units parked in The Expo’s parking lots. I also noticed the county’s Southern Oregon RV Park was almost full. My question is two-fold. What happens to these RVs and temporary structures once displaced families secure permanent residences, and is the county donating the park’s sites or are they realizing a profit from this tragic fire?

— RH

First off, all the RVs and mobile units you see coming and going from The Expo in Central Point are for people displaced by the fires that ravaged Jackson County and other parts of the state in September.

“The Expo is the staging yard for the entire state,” said Jackson County Emergency Operations Center Director John Vial, who is also the director of the county’s Roads and Parks Department. “A lot are leaving here and going up north. Some are staying here locally.”

If a fire survivor staying in a mobile home finds new housing, FEMA does a thorough cleaning of that unit and prepares it for the next fire survivor, Vial said.

In the long run, FEMA generally sells off its mobile units after disasters. There’s a lot of government red tape that stops FEMA from selling units to disaster survivors who are living in them.

Jackson County Commissioners are already lobbying for FEMA to allow survivors to eventually buy the units if they wish to continue living in them. But no one knows yet whether that can happen.

As for the Southern Oregon RV Park built and owned by Jackson County near The Expo, many fire survivors have been living there. The American Red Cross had been paying the park fees until Dec. 31. The state of Oregon has taken over the temporary housing mission from the Red Cross and is now paying park fees for fire survivors, Vial said.

“The county incurs significant costs to build and maintain and manage that park. County parks are an enterprise fund. If we don’t make money with parks, we don’t have parks,” he said.

Vial said the county parks system is not supported through property taxes. It has to operate like a business to support itself.

Other county departments expected to operate like enterprise funds and support themselves include The Expo and the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport.

The RVs for fire survivors at the Southern Oregon RV Park come from FEMA and also through donations. Rogue Retreat, for example, has partnered with the Phoenix-Talent School District to provide donated trailers. Some RV owners have donated the use of their RVs in the aftermath of the fires.

Contracts have also been negotiated for fire survivors to live at other state and county parks.

In addition, the Red Cross and now the state have been paying local hotels for the use of rooms for hundreds of fire survivors.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.