Saturday, Jan. 31 -- Central Oregon is witnessing a rising number of feral cats. The latest estimate for the area shows about 10,600 feral cats in total, many of which cluster in groups.
"They can range from groups of four or five cats to 20 or more," says Board President Gail Jett with the Bend Spay and Neuter Project. "It's a big problem."
This weekend, the Central Oregon Cat Alliance -- made up of Bend Spay & Neuter, the Humane Society of Central Oregon and BrightSide Animal Center -- is holding a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the growing population of homeless cats. That takes place tonight, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the COCC Veterinary Technician Classroom in Redmond.
The alliance is looking to get people involved with volunteering, and is hoping to get more information out to the public. But Jett says it would be a mistake if people think volunteering means giving the feral cats to animal shelters.
"That doesn't solve the problem," Jett says. "When you remove a cat from an area, it creates what we call a vacuum effect. So what we're trying to do is leave these cats where they are. They can live very healthy lives."
The Bend Spay and Neuter Project practices what they call "trap, neuter and return." The organization has people bring the cats in -- after safely trapping them. Then staff sterilizes the cats, gives them a rabies vaccine, looks them over and tips their left ear before returning them to the wild.
One of the reasons for that: the national statistics show that there are roughly six to seven cats and four to five dogs born for every human in the country. That means there aren't enough homes for the cats to be placed in.
Jett says the Central Oregon population of feral cats can be kept sustainable, but that will only happen with help from the public. Most importantly, she says, be proactive.
"You do not need to let [the cats] have the first litter," Jett says. "One mother cat and her kittens, over a period of seven years -- if no one is altered -- you can give rise to about 420,000 cats."
92 thousand Oregonians have signed up for private health insurance on the federal website.
That's up from last year's Cover Oregon numbers -- where 77 thousand signed up for coverage.
You can two more weeks to sign up for private health insurance on Healthcare.gov before enrollment closes.
Aaron Patnode, Executive Director of Cover Oregon, isn't surprised by this year's larger enrollment numbers.
"So it's just a fact that people are a little more confident and can enroll in a plan online in one sitting .. and that is driving the success this year."
Oregoninans on the Oregon Health Plan can continue to sign up for the state's Medicaid program beyond February 15th.
Those who lack health insurance face penalities of $325 per adult or two percent of a person's income, whichever is more.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley will serve as the top Democrat on the Financial Institutions and Consumer Protections Subcommittee in Congress.
And he's bracing for a lot of policy fights.
With Republicans in the majority in both houses of Congress, he's afraid they're going to try to undo a lot of legislation passed in 2010 following the financial crisis.
"We are anticipating there will be an effort to dismantle the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau. And I will be fighting that as we went from wealth stripping to wealth building practices for working families. And secondly, we are anticipating they'll try Dodd Frank reforms to regulate risk."
Merkley believes they will attmept to undo "funeral plans" under Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform legislation -- that required banks to have swift and orderly shutdown plans if they were to go under. The legislation was an effort to prevent future taxpayer bailouts.
BEND, OR -- Central Oregon Landwatch is appealing a decision allowing the Bridge Creek water pipeline project to proceed. In December, a federal judge ruled the forest service proved the project would not hurt the environment and allowed it to continue. Paul Dewey with Central Oregon Landwatch tells KBND News, preliminary evidence from their recent study found climate change will drastically reduce water flows in Tumalo Creek in the next 20 years. "What other scientists have found out is there's a decrease in snowpack from glaciers melting in the higher elevations and that means less water in summer and fall. So July through October we could see a significant decrease in the water flowing over Tumalo Falls."
Dewey claims the U.S. Forest Service failed to do a thorough analysis on the impact of climate change on Tumalo Creek and how those slow flows would affect the fish. "The city of Bend has a choice about taking groundwater or Tumalo Creek water. It won't make any sense to take Tumalo Falls water, and they will have invested $70 million and it could potentially run dry June through October if water goes over the falls instead of down the pipe."
BEND, OR -- College savings accounts, known as 529 plans, gained attention this week with President Obama’s proposal and then reversal of an idea to tax earnings on the accounts. Experts with the Oregon College Savings Plan will host a free seminar in Bend Saturday, for those interested in learning more about the state's version of a 529 program. Executive Director Michael Parker says they hold these events across the state. "We try to make it as interactive as possible. We do about an hour and a half, we try to make it as quick-paced as possible so we don’t keep people too long. One, they’re going to learn all about the college savings plan. So, how can I invest, what are the investment options, what are all the things I need to do to start putting money into the plan, how do I open a plan, what do my statements look like, how can I contribute? So, all the things you want to know about the college savings plan, you can get the answers on Saturday."
Parker tells KBND News, the events are about overall college financial planning. "We’ve coupled our presentations now with an expert on debt and scholarships. So, if there’s families out there that maybe have a high school student, we’ll teach you how to fill out the free application for student aid (FAFSA), we’ll teach you how to avail yourselves of a number of private scholarships that are available in the state, we’ll teach you the ins and outs of student debt, so families get a college savings 101."
Saturday's event begins at 10 a.m. at the Riverhouse in Bend. Appetizers and beverages will be provided. Click HERE
to pre-register for the event. To learn more about saving for college, visit our Podcast Page
BEND, OR -- Dr. Bill Watkins delivered a positive economic forecast for Central Oregon, this morning. He offered his report at this morning's annual business conference at the Riverhouse in Bend. Watkins is the Executive Director for the Center for Economics at Cal Lutheran. "We're on the upswing. We expect a good economy nationwide with falling oil prices and we're getting momentum. In Bend and Central Oregon, they're tied very closely to California, particularly the Bay Area, and they've been extremely hot lately with real estate going and that runs into Central Oregon." Although, Watkins warns, "I would like to see diversification away from the tie-in with California. In so many ways you depend on California and I have long-term concerns."
He tells KBND News, economic activity is increasing, as are property values. Some job sectors now have more jobs than they did pre-recession, like education and healthcare. But, other industries like manufacturing and construction may never recover to pre-recession levels. Watkins believes Deschutes County will continue to experience strong economic growth this yaer, with strong GDP and job growth over the next two years. The outlook for Crook and Jefferson counties isn't as strong, but Watkins expects those economies will continue to grow.
He has been delivering these annual forecasts since 1999, and says it's nice to bring good news. "This is wonderful. We haven't had an optimistic forecast like this one ever in Central Oregon. I'm glad to see it. But, being a worry wart, I would like to encourage the community to try to diversify from California."
PHOENIX, AZ -- As tens of thousands of sports fans converge on Phoenix for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX, Central Oregon sex trafficking advocates are there working to identify current and potential victims. Before leaving for Arizona, Nita Belles, with the local chapter of Oregonians Against the Trafficking of Humans, spoke with KBND News. She says large-scale sporting events are often targeted by traffickers for the clientele they attract. "Because there is a largely male population and they’re in the party atmosphere. It’s the 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas' mentality."
She says many attendees feel more free to participate in illicit behavior because of the large, anonymous crowds. "I’ve gone to the last five Super Bowls and I’ve seen some horrific things with sex trafficking and Super Bowls. Fathers and sons, buying- in New Orleans, I saw a dad and a son and each of them had 2 victims on their arms." She says most of the trafficking she has witnessed is not at the big game, itself, but at the various parties and events held throughout the weekend.
BEND, OR -- More than 40,000 Oregonians on the Oregon Health Plan are still waiting to get their health insurancre approved because of a backlog. The system is struggling to keep up with the expanded population on OHP - the health insurance plan for low-income Oregonians. Many came to St. Charles in Bend on Wednesday where Cover Oregon agents were helping people get enrolled. Patricia Town has had insurance for the past year, but can't get re-enrolled. She told KBND she came to the event to get help. "I want to know where I'm at. I'm trying to get my insurance renewed. I've had Pacific Source and I'm getting the run-around with the federal website and it sent me back to Cover Oregon. They say I have to be patient, wait 6-8 weeks, that they're backed up. I understand they're backed up, it's confusing."
The last day to sign up for coverage for this year is February 15. Cover Oregon is holding a series of events throughout the state to help get people enrolled.
BEND, OR -- The Bend La Pine school district’s boundary committee is nearly ready to send a final recommendation to Superintendent Ron Wilkinson. After narrowing three proposals down to its top choice, Wilkinson tells KBND News, the committee is still considering public comment received at recent community meetings. "The most common concern is, it’s ok to move most any area except for my kids. And that’s true for all of us and we understand that. But, concerns are about socio-economic balance, there are a few ways to improve that balance."
Wilkinson expects to receive a final version of the school boundary maps from the committee by next week. "There are a couple of areas where people have identified you can’t get out of that neighborhood without going through another neighborhood because of where the traffic flows. So, literally, committee members and staff members have been out driving some of those spots over the last week, trying to get as much of that together." New maps are required before the district’s new elementary and middle schools open this fall. The committee has already recommended fifth, eighth, 11th and 12th graders be grandfathered into their current schools, if they so choose.
BEND, OR -- The Bend Fire Department is in the process of selecting its newest firefighters.
Chief Larry Langston tells KBND News the new hires are possible, thanks to a funding levy passed by voters last May. "We’re bringing 10 on in February, and they’ll staff some of the voids we have on the engines because of retirements. And also they’ll staff on to our paramedic units, we have two of those." He says the new firefighters are part of a larger hiring program that will eventually bring 25 new employees to the department, this year. He says the larger goal is to decrease response times for emergency calls. The department services medical calls over a more than 16-hundred square mile area of Deschutes County.
Langston says the ten new firefighter-paramedis will start at the fire academy, "It’ll start in February. In the middle of May they’ll go on the engines and the paramedic units. So, we’ll see the first good impacts of the funding brought on by the tax measure, first part of the summer." The levy past by voters last year was the first time the department has asked for additional funding in its 100-year history.
BEND, OR -- Another lawsuit has been filed against the city of Bend regarding the election of Casey Roats to the city council. Opponents claim Roats was not a resident of the city the year before the election, as required by the city charter, and therefore isn't eligible to serve on the city council. This latest lawsuit is being brought by Foster Fell, partner of new City Councilor Barb Campbell, and his attorney Charlie Ringo, who supported Roats' opponent.
The former city council voted on the residency issue last month and decided Roats did meet requirements, as did the Secretary of State's office. Fell is asking for a circuit court judge or the new city council to vote on the matter. A new vote could have a different result, since three of the votes for Roats are no longer on the council.
KBND News spoke with Gary Firestone, Assistant City Attorney. He says the city of Bend has 30 days to decide how to respond.
BEND, OR -- A Bend man remains in critical condition in the ICU after he fell from a cliff near Dillon Falls, Tuesday. 35-year old Chris Brinegar fell 30' just after noon. Lt. Brian Husband with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office tells KBND News, "911 dispatch received a call from a friend that a man walking along Dillon Falls was walking too close to the edge and stumbled on the rocks and fell 30-40 feet, and was injured in the process of doing that." It took rescue crews 2.5 hours to get Brinegar up from the rocks. During that time, dispatchers reported he was in and out of consiousness and may have stopped breathing at one point.
Dozens of Search and Rescue personnel were called in to assist in the difficult high-angle rescue. Brinegar was eventually brought up from the rocks and transported by air ambulance to St. Charles Medical Center-Bend. Lt. Husband says alcohol may have been a factor in the incident.
BEND, OR -- Central Oregon fire management officials are taking advantage of our mild weather and conducting controlled burns today and Wednesday. Prineville BLM crews will burn several hundred piles of juniper slash. Lisa Clark with BLM tells KBND News, "The first project is in the Maston Trail Area, just a little bit south of Eagle Crest ... Then, we have a second project southwest of Prineville, and that's off Millican Road." She says smoke will be seen in both areas, although no road closures are expected. Both projects should wrap up by Wednesday.
Newberry Fire Management/Bend-Ft. Rock Ranger District will burn 6 landing piles west of Bend today (Tuesday). Those piles are located between the 4601 road and the 4609 road. Smoke is expected in and around Bend from those burns, as well.
LA PINE, OR -- La Pine city officials are following Bend’s lead and is revisiting how it calculates water and sewer rates. City councilors will begin the discussion Thursday afternoon during a work session with the same consulting firm used by the city of Bend. Interim City Manager Rick Allen tells KBND News, the current rate structure was created prior to the city taking over the water district. "One of the problems is, La Pine hasn’t raised the water rates since the district formed the water district 14 years ago. So, when you don’t raise it with inflation and you freeze it for 14 years, even if inflation is only a percent or two a year, when it’s 14 years, that’s 25-30% increase." Allen says, "We decided the city is taking that over, and we need to know where are we with water and sewer rates, are we funding them properly today, and are we building the capacity we’ll need for the future."
He says the changes are really about fairness, "Under the current system for charging for sewers, take a restaurant for example: If it has 50 seats, and the restaurant next door has 50 seats, but one only opens at night and closes at 9 and has no bar and the other one is open 24 hours a day. It’s reasonable to think that one that’s open 24/7 puts way more water down the sewer, but it doesn’t matter how much you use." He says those two restaurants would be paying the same for water and sewer services, "So, what happens is, the one that’s only open a few hours a day subsidizes the one that’s open 24 hours a day."
Thursday’s meeting begins at 1:30 and is open to the public, but Allen says no public comment will be taken, nor will councilors vote on any recommendations. He says there will be other opportunities for comment prior to any rate changes, which could take effect as early as July.
BEND, OR -- Several Bend-area pedestrian and commuter groups have teamed up to raise awareness of the dangers of riding bikes or walking at night without proper lighting. Jovi Anderson with the Bend Metropolitan Planning Organization tells KBND News there have been 12 pedestrian fatalities in the past 6 years in Deschutes County - the majority of those during low-light conditions. "It seems that the pedestrians, since they can see at night and they can see the roads and the cars, they just assume that they are seen as well. And having some sort of brightly lit light or protective gear really makes a huge difference, although it's not the social norm to wear bright clothes."
This afternoon, Cascades East Transit, Commute Options and other groups will hand out free lights and information at the Hawthorne Transit Station as part of the "See and Be Seen" campaign.
BEND, OR -- Crook County just passed an ordinance to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and Deschutes County is thinking about following suit. No decisions have been made, but Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Penny Pritchard says they are looking at several options.
She spoke to the Crook County health officials when their new ordinance was passed. "It's a great step in the right direction. But I'm not sure its the most comprehensive approach. We need to be looking at the fuller picture-- how a tobacco licensing program could be something more comprehensive."
Right now you don't need a license to sell cigarettes in the state and so it makes it hard to look at whether businesses are selling to minors when you don't even know all the retailers selling tobacco products. Pritchard says they have found Deschutes County has a higher incidence of minors buying tobacco products than the state average.
Deschutes and Jefferson County made significant gains in jobs, but Crook County actually lost jos year over year.
Regional Economist Damon Runberg says the massive layoffs at the Woodgrain Mill in Prineville showed up in the December numbers.
"We saw the first effect in the unemployment numbers in December. Unemployment grew from 10.5% from 10.2% which is pretty significant in a monthly change. We also saw employment gains over the last year wiped out during one month's worth of losses."
Runberg says two out of central Oregon's three counties are really bouncing back.
"Being recovered is not as crazy as we once thought. We're only 2500 jobs short of recovering all the jobs we lost and entering an expansion period in Deschutes County. An expanding economy. It wasn't that long ago, people thought it was crazy that we'd ever recover those jobs in Deschutes County."
Deschutes County has added more than three thousands jobs over the past year.
Garrett Wales says there was a lot of negative reaction when the news broke, but says things have calmed down.
"We've asked everyone to let the beer do the talking. And so far, six seven weeks into it , everything we've been told that would happen, has happened. There's a lot of potential for more. We're excited about the resources behind it. It's been a change but it's been good -- very positive."
Wales says the reaction to the sale on social media was pretty vile initially.
"When it comes to personal sentiment, we knew there would be a strong reaction, but we're already rolling out beers we couldn't have before and the quality is still there, still brewing in Bend and we're adding jobs. It's been good. People are definitely coming around."
10 Barrel plans to open a new brew pub in downtown Portland in the next month.
They will be hiring one hundred full time workers there .. and Wales says they are adding professional staff at their Bend operation as well.
They are expected to drop in the state from nearly 68 million last year to just six million this year.
Senator Ron Wyden authored legislation in 2000 to keep the timber payments subsidies going, but that expired last year.
Senator Wyden hopes to reintroduce with Republican support this session.
"Oregon has received over 2.5 billion dollars from the payments. And from the standpoint of the laws I've authored, this is the most important one. And the reality is what Oregon needs to do is get the harvest up and to have a safety net and the two are not mutally exclusve. You need both."
Senator Wyden is currently working on garnering bipartisan support in the Senate before introducing a bill to extend these timber payments.
U.S. Congressman Greg Walden claims House Speaker John Boehner has made a commitment to him the House will pass a timber payment extension by the end of March.
MADRAS, OR -- Madras Police continue to search for a white or gray Mercedes involved in a shooting incident yesterday morning. The Madras campus of Central Oregon Community College was briefly put on lock-down just after 9:00 a.m., Monday, as law enforcement continue to search for that shooting suspect. At about 7:20 Monday morning, Madras Police responded to the area of 10th and 'B' Street, after a man was seen shooting a gun from his car. It's unknown if anyone was hit by that gunfire, although no injuries have been reported.
COCC notified students to remain where they were, and said that no one was allowed in or out of the campus. The campus reopened less than 30 minutes later. Ron Paradis with COCC told KBND News the lockdown was a precaution due to the campus' proximity to the shooting incident.
Jefferson County 509-J schools went into a modified lockdown as a precaution, all school doors were locked until police said the threat had passed. In a statement on the district's website, the superintendent said students may have witnessed the incident.
LA PINE, OR -- Oregon State Police are investigating a drive-by shooting in northern Klamath County they say led to a SWAT team stand-off in La Pine, early Sunday morning. According to investigators, Klamath County dispatch received a report of shots being fired into or at a residence on Collar Drive, south of La Pine, just before 2 a.m. Police suspect 31-year old Gary Davis of La Pine had previously threatened a man at that location. No inuries were reported during the shooting.
Just before 7 a.m., OSP troopers and Deschutes County Sheriff's deputies tracked Davis to his girlfriend's house on Meadow Lane in La Pine. Officers tried to negotiate with both Davis and 24-year old Tasha Murphey, after they barricaded themselves inside. SWAT personnel arrived on the scene, and Davis was taken into custody at about 9:50 a.m. No injuries were reported during the stand-off and the investigation into both incidents is ongoing.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County Sheriff's deputies are looking for two dogs who went missing after being ejected during a car crash this morning. At 7:30 a.m., police found 26-year-old Amber Blasdell, of Prineville, lost control due to ice an rolled off Highway 380, near milepost 39. As the vehicle spun out of control, Blasdell's three dogs were ejected from the vehicle.
Deputies found Blasdell and one of the dogs lying on the ground outside of the vehicle. She was taken to St. Charles Hospital in Prineville with unknown injuries. The dog was taken to Prineville Veterinary Clinic.
The other two dogs have still not been found. The sheriff's office is asking anyone in the area to be on the lookout. One is a white Heeler named "Sam" and the other is a Chocolate Lab named "Griz." If found, contact the sheriff's office at (541) 447-6398.
At 2:50 a.m. this morning, Crook County Sheriff's deputies responded to a crash on Lamonta Road near Grass Lane. It was found that a single vehicle left the road, went through a fence and hit an occupied motorhome. The 2006 Ford F-150 was driven by 26-year-old Ashley Hixon, of Prineville. She was trapped in the passenger seat of the vehicle, as the car was severely damaged on the front end. After Crook County deputies pulled Hixon out of the vehicle, she refused medical treatment. Deputies also disconnected a live power line in conduit lying on the vehicle.
Hixon was arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants and was taken to the Crook County Jail.
REDMOND, OR -- It's time for Redmond dads and daughters to get ready to dance. After an overwhelming response last year, Redmond Rotary is again hosting the Daddy Daughter Dance, early next month. "Last year was our inaugural year," Event Chairwoman Lynn Evans says. "It was so popular in the community and did sell out, so it was an easy decision in terms of having it again this year."
Already, over half the available tickets have been reserved. The dance involves more than the well-known rotary. Redmond School Superintendent Mike McIntosh is also getting involved for his second year -- driving a horse-drawn carriage.
"He actually bought a larger wagon this year to pull, so that he could seat more dads and daughters one at a time," Evans says. "Last year the line got backlogged a little bit."
The Rotary got the idea from Pendleton, which hosts a similar dance. This year the dance is Candy Land themed. It takes place on February 7th, and is open for girls in kindergarten through the 8th grade -- and their dad or any male relative.
All photos courtesy of Lynn Evans
BEND, OR -- Bend's Oxford Hotel is again gaining national recognition, now ranked as one of the top hotels in the U.S. At number six, The Oxford is the only Oregon hotel to make Trip Advisor's Top 25 list for 2015. It ranked behind hotels in much larger, metropolitan areas like Chicago, Charleston and San Diego.
Trip Advisor's annual Travelers Choice Awards are based on millions of reviews and opinions collected over the past year.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden again introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday to overhaul federal wildfire policy. The bill aims to boost funding for fire prevention and treat the largest wildfires as natural disasters. Wyden hopes the legislation will end the cycle of underfunding fire suppression efforts.
Currently, budgets are based on the average cost of fighting fires over the past ten years, which have underestimated actual costs. The U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior have then been forced to take money from other important programs to make up the difference.
Senator Wyden also pushed yesterday for better legislation to protect privacy as it relates to GPS data. Technology is making it easier to track people's movements, but Wydent believes we need clarification on the specific uses of GPS technology. The "Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act" would require the governement to obtain a warrant based on probably cause before a company, like a cell phone provider, could be compelled to turn over customer GPS information.
Courts have issued conflicting opinions on whether the government needs a warrant to release such information. The Supreme Court has ruled attaching a GPS tracking device to a vehicle requires a warrant, but hasn't addressed tracking through cell phones or other devices.
POWELL BUTTE, OR -- Regligious scholar Marcus Borg died Wednesday after a prolonged illness. The 72-year old taught at Oregon State University from the late 1970s until 2007, when he retired to Powell Butte. KBND News spoke with him in 2012 about the 20+ books he's written. He said, "My vocation passion is to promote adult theological re-education at the congregational level. And, so, for most of my writing career, I've written not for academics, but for general readers seeking what it is to be Christian in our time and place."
On the current deep religious divide in this country, he said, "I think everyone knows Americans are deeply divided. There are really two sides- One is conservatives and conservative Evangelicals; but the other doesn't have a specific name, but generally it's called progressive Christianity, which I think is becoming the dominant force in mainline Protestant denominations."
Borg's book "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time" is the single best selling book by a contemporary Jesus scholar.
BEND, OR -- Bend City officials are looking to the results of a new community survey to help guide future decisions on everything from street maintenance to public safety. City Manager Eric King tells KBND News hundreds of residents are questioned on a variety of topics, every two years. "The intent of that survey, to do it every couple of years, is to help inform our budget development process. We do two-year budgets, and we are just in the middle of developing that budget now. So, data we get back from that survey helps us understand what the priorities of the citizens are, and how to allocate the resources to meet those priorities," he said.
King said Bend residents are happy with the overall direction and performance of city government. However, there is one key issue that most respondents to the survey were worried about, "People are concerned around street maintenance, road infrastructure in general. Traffic congestion is part of that, but I think it’s a bigger picture of how we’re moving people around Bend, and there’s some concern around there. And, it also matches up with my concern as a City manager, and us being able to adequately address our street maintenance issues when we’ve got a funding source that’s structurally out of whack.
King says the city relies on state gas tax money to help fund most street maintenance projects." And, with more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, there is less of that money to go around while construction costs are on the rise.
400 citizens responded to the community survey and King says growth was also a common theme. "Some are concerned that growth could deteriorate that quality of life, others see it as a positive thing. I think that pretty closely matches what we experience everyday with a lot of conflict around managing growth. So, when we talk about our Urban Growth Boundary expansion and where Bend’s gonna grow and how it’s gonna grow, there’s a lot of divergent values in Bend." Nearly all participants responded that the environment, outdoors and recreation were the best things about Bend.
Read the full survey report HERE
BEND, OR -- As Bend's Vacation Rental Task Force meets Thursday, another question now facing city officials is whether legal issues could arise from changes to the city code. Already, vacation rental conversations have focused on neighborhood density and safety, and effects on tourism. But now a potential question is whether or not the city could be sued.
KBND News asked Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore about state regulations limiting vacation rental density. He said, "Our job as staff is to identify those 'no-fly zones.' There have been a few suggestions that could conceivably violate things like the Fair Housing Act. So, there are some regulatory approaches we as staff need to make sure [the task force] is aware of. They can choose to heed our advice or not." One of those ideas mentioned by the task force -- limiting the age of those who can rent -- has already been thrown out as a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Skidmore says, regardless of the recommendations the task force brings to councilors, the city could face lawsuits. "At the end of the day, land use processes in Bend tend to be legally charged," Skidmore said. "We are sued routinely on land use matters. Our hope is that we create a set of regulations that are reasonable and balanced, but there's always the potential that someone on one or the other side of the debate who's unhappy with the outcome could try to challenge it."
In previous legal cases, Oregon judges have ruled against regulations limiting the number of vacation rentals in a city. The Vacation Rental Task Force meets tonight at 4:00 p.m. The task force is scheduled to deliver recommendations to the council by March.
REDMOND, OR -- It’s more than a year away, but Redmond officials are already making plans for a three-week shutdown of Roberts Field. City Manager Keith Witcosky tells KBND News it’s the type of project that only happens once every 50 years, but repaving the main runway is necessary.
Witcosky says specific dates of the closure are still being decided.
"We are getting out right now, and beginning to talk to key stakeholders," Witcosky says. "Among the most important are the air carriers, we don’t want to lose the six direct flights that we have right now. Tourism is very important; we want to make sure that when we look at the dates for this project, we don’t unintentionally interrupt an event that’s dependent on the airport. Business and industry is important too."
Part of the discussion will center around alternate transportation options to get travelers in and out of the region. City officials are looking at the potential need for more rental cars at the airport or use of the Breeze, a bus system.
"We’re going to need help from our stakeholders and our other key partners to help us think about how we get people in and out of this region during that time period, so we don’t affect the economy," Witcosky says.
The closure is expected to happen in late spring 2016.
"It’s driven by weather," Witcosky says. "When you’re pouring asphalt, which needs temperatures 45 or warmer to be able to cure, we’ve got to pick a window of time that works for pouring of the asphalt and actually doing the project."
Redmond's two runways intersect, which means repaving the main runway requires the shutdown of the secondary runway.
"We can do all sorts of paving, and use 1028, which is the secondary runway, but when we get to that cross-section we’re gonna have to tear up the cross-section and repave the entire thing," Witcosky says. "We’re working 24 hours a day, but you can’t pour asphalt 24 hours a day. And, it’s that X-shaped cross-section that has to be torn up and rebuilt within a two- to three-week time period."
Ninety-five percent of the $20 million paving project is funded by federal dollars. Phase one was completed in November.
REDMOND, OR -- Central Oregon Community College expects to break ground next month on a large solar array in Redmond. Vice President for Administration Matthew McCoy is overseeing the project and tells KBND News that the large ground-mounted array will be located on a piece of the school’s property that is considered unbuildable, due to its proximity to the Redmond Airport.
"It will be a very high profile location, a great learning opportunity, and also a great recruiting opportunity ... for businesses coming to Central Oregon and seeing that we’re technology focused and sustainable energy focused," McCoy says. "When you compliment the Redmond technology education center with this solar array, I think it just offers many opportunities in both learning and recruiting of businesses."
McCoy says the project is more than just about renewable energy. "In addition to its being a wonderful opportunity for us to generate renewable energy ... it’s a great learning opportunity," McCoy says. "With our Sustainable Energy Engineering program at the college, we’ll be looking at ways to bring the technology that’s in the solar array into the classroom in learning opportunities for our students." The array should be fully functional by fall 2015.
The project is expected to cost about $2 million, but COCC is one of four local endeavors receiving a share of new grant money. "We're very excited to be supported by Pacific Power through their Blue Sky investment," McCoy says. "And, it’s investing in a large solar array to be located on our Redmond campus. Five hundred kilowatts of solar-generating power. The plan is to have that built by the fall of this year, 2015."
COCC will receive $320,000 from Pacific Power's Blue Sky renewable energy program. The Bend Habitat Restore, Bend First United Methodist Church and Prineville’s Pacific Crest Affordable Housing Project will share over $137,000.
BEND, OR -- 36 dogs seized as part of an animal neglect case are now available for adoption from the Humane Society of Central Oregon. The animals were taken by the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office in November, from a Bend property.
For more information on animals available for adoption through the Humane Society of Central Oregon, visit their website
BEND, OR -- State officials are in the process of working out rules to regulate marijuana, once it becomes legal July first. Police say a marijuana candy overdose in Sunriver this week highlights some of the dangers of the drug. The woman, who legally purchased the pot-laced candy in Washington state, survived. But, Tom Towsley with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, says many have expressed concerns about edibles. "There are some very thorny issues asociated with edibles- potency, dosage, packaging and labeling- that make it different than what we traditionally think of as marijuana."
Towsley tells KBND News, "People are especially concerned about children. Some of those look like cake, candy and brownies. We want to get a sense of how Oregonians want us to regulate it. That's why the commission is going to take its time and get it right." He says one of the goals is to make sure what happened in Sunriver doesn't happen again.
The OLCC is holding a series of public meetings across the state over the next six weeks, hoping for input on future rules. The commission will be in Bend February 19, at the Riverhouse.
POWELL BUTTE, OR -- A Prineville woman was unhurt after her car crashed through a barbed wire fence near Powell Butte, yesterday. The Crook County Sheriff's Department says 65-year old Perry Garrett momentarily took her eyes off the road as she drove eastbound on Highway 126 at about 11 a.m., Tuesday.
She drifted across the highway and hit a barbed wire fence, dragging it as she returned to the roadway. Both lanes were blocked for a time, as that barbed wire was cleared.
SUNRIVER, OR -- Sunriver Police are looking toward July first, when recreational marijuana will become legal in Oregon. The department is issuing warnings about pot-laced candies. Early Monday morning, officers and medics responded to Sunriver Lodge, where a 37-year old woman had reportedly overdosed on the candies. Investigators say she was having trouble breathing, and was numb from the shoulders down.
Investigators say she had eaten at least three raspberry looking marijuana gummies, which contained an unknown amount of THC. A 51-year old woman who gave her friend the candy, was cited for marijuana possession. Both are from Washington and officers say they were unaware of current Oregon law.
Photo of confiscated candy provided by Sunriver PD.
REDMOND, OR -- Governor John Kitahaber traveled to Central Oregon yesterday, to highlight local innovations he says are helping grow the community. He stopped at St. Charles Family Care in Redmond to applaud the clinic's "Reach out and Read" program, which pairs each child who comes in for a check-up with a free book. The Governor says it signals to kids and parents the importance of reading. "It's very clear: Children who can read at grade level by third grade have a hugely increased chance of graduating high school. And, we know today to get a good job, you have to have a much higher level of education, training and skills. So, this is part of our goal to make sure every kid can earn a living wage job."
Dr. Peggy Philp brought the program to the Redmond clinic. She says research shows that those kids with higher education tend to be healthier, and part of setting them off on the right path at a young age is encouraging them to read.
The Governor also spoke at OSU Cascades about equity and opportunity. He began at Central Oregon Community College at OnBoard Dynamics, a start-up trying to make it easier to fuel natural gas vehicles. His message throughout the day was about helping communities foster new businesses and living wage jobs. "The role of government is not to solve problems, but to create a space where people can solve problems themselves. We can't do tha from Salem, we have engage people where they live, and that's exactly what's going on in Central Oregon." He told KBND News he's optimistic about the upcoming legislative session, and especially about funding education.
BEND, OR -- Bend La-Pine school district officials released recommendations yesterday for new school boundary maps, in advance of opening 2 new schools in the fall. The Boundary Review Committee has created a preliminary map, taking into account feedback received at a series of public meeting held over the past couple of months.
The committee also released additional details of attendance proposals, ecommending fifth, eighth, 11th and 12th graders be grandfathered into their current schools, if they so choose.
More public information sessions
are offered this week: Tonight (Wednesday) at 5 p.m. at Bear Creek Elementary, and tomorrow at 5 p.m. at High Lakes Elementary. Superintendent Ron Wilkinson is expected to make a final boundary decision in February.
BEND, OR -- Bend city officials will discuss how to create a safer environment for drivers and pedestrians, later this week. Robin Lewis with the city's Transportation Planning and Safety Program took part in a safety study that looked at crash patterns and locations. She tells KBND News pedestrian-involved crashes happen most often when there are two lates of travel in each direction. "It's a very common crash throughout the U.S., where the nearest vehicle will yield to the pedestrian but the second lane will not understand why the vehicle has stopped and will continue, or sometimes even pull around the vehicle that is stopped. And then the pedestrian is hit by the vehicle."
The city plans to partner with ODOT to improve sight-lines for drivers at 4th and Greenwood and 6th and Greenwood, in Bend. Lewis will discuss the project at Thursday's meeting of the Bend Accessibility Advisory Committee. More community meetings are expected this spring, as the project progresses.
LA PINE, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone is hoping to broaden community feedback on local issues by offering seminars in outlying areas. DeBone tells KBND News, "It kind of came ot me after attending City Club of Central Oregon meetings, and Pub Talk meetings and the different things we get to go to that we could have a great series of meetings in our community in Southern Deschutes County. These are open to anybody, but the idea is to talk with Newberry country, Sunriver, La Pine, and even the services provided for Northern Klamath County."
The first seminar will focus on public safety. It's Thursday, January 22, from 11:30 to 1 p.m. at the La Pine Grange Hall.
BEND, OR -- On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, volunteers helped out on different projects across the state. Here in Central Oregon, Volunteer Connect lined up 22 projects for charitable groups across Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson Counties.
A record number of volunteers cleaned, painted and landscaped among other things. Katya Spiecker said serving was a good way to get better acquainted with your community. "It's also a great way to just change your perspective. It really does bridge gaps between people-- you get to know your fellow volunteers, you get to know the non profit -- and then you get to know, quite often, the people that they serve and what they need."
Nearly 400 volunteers served a total of over 1,100 hours on Monday. Over the past 6 years, more than 1,700 Central Oregon volunteers have donated their time on MLK Day.
A new AARP survey shows 85% of older Oregonians want to remain in their homes as long as they can. But the reality is many need help to make that possible. Half of the survey's respondents said they provided unpaid care for a loved one.
Jon Batholomew with Oregon AARP says this is demanding work. "Oregon has ranked very poorly when it comes to caregiver stress and that's something we're very concerned about. 50 perent of those 45 or older have provided unpaid care to a loved one and that can range from shopping and transportation to medication managment or wound care."
Family caregivers in Oregon provide $5 billion in unpaid care annually. AARP hopes to help better prepare people to provide this care and to help with respite care for these caregivers.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney is taking on a larger role on the state's transportation commission. She will now serve as the chair, after Governor Kitzhaber fired the previous leader, reportedly because of political differnces over coal.
Baney tells KBND News she's looking forward to the new challenge, but emphasizes she's not giving up her day job as a commissioner. "The work on the transportation commission compliments the work I'm doing as a local elected official. Having served on the transportation commission for a handful of years shouldn't add to my work load. It won't mean added meetings. I am already in on the meetings. I'll be leading from the room I'm in already."
Governor Kitzhaber is hoping the legislature will pass a five billion dollar transportation package in thr upcoming session. It would fund a backlog in frastructure upgrades to protect us from earhtquakes and other products.
PORTLAND, OR -- We're enjoying some pretty low gas prices. But Marie Dodds of Oregon/Idaho AAA says spring is when gas prices tend to start going back up. "Increased demand," Dodds explains. "More people are out and about driving in the better weather."
Another reason is refinery maintenance and summer tools. But while prices might rise, Dodds doesn't expect it to be dramatic. "Does that mean that gas is going to rocket to $4 overnight? I don't think so," Dodds says. "But it could mean that we could see some periods of time where the national average remains below $3 a gallon, and maybe we pay above that mark for a time."
The current national average for a gallon of unleaded is at $2.12 a gallon. Oregon's average is at $2.32 a gallon this week.
Jan. 19th -- There are only a few weeks left until the Federal Communications Commission votes on the future of free and open internet. But in that time period, two Oregon legislators are differing on what to do.
Republican Oregon Representative Greg Walden, the chairman of the House Telecom Subcommittee, made a huge shift along with other members of his party to supporting some internet regulations. Republicans are putting forward a bill that would ban internet "paid prioritization," but would at the same time block the FCC from enforcing the internet through Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, which puts regulation under the same rules as phone companies.
In response to the bill, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat who has been a spokesperson for net neutrality for years, released a statement.
"We appreciate that the Republican bill also recognizes that net neutrality principles should apply regardless of the technology used to connect to the Internet," Wyden said. But Wyden disagrees with the blockage of Title II enforcement, saying that, "The bill as currently drafted would dramatically undermine the FCC's vital role."
Walden also has a history of experience with the FCC, having run and owned radio stations before becoming a U.S. Representative for the Second District in 1999. He has voiced concerns about Title II regulation even dating back to November, in a debate with then-Democrat challenger Aelea Christofferson.
"Title II regulations means you're going to create a bureaucracy in Washington under the Federal Communications Commission that can actually make decisions on fast lanes and slow lanes, and decide what rates are paid here and there," Walden said.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has announced that the FCC will be voting on net neutrality rules February 26th.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County is offering local young people the opportunity to share why there is no space in their life for unsafe choices around alcohol. Julie Spackman with the Shared Future Coalition tells KBND News, 30% of 18 to 25 year olds participate in binge or underage drinking. "As we were brainstorming how can we get young people involved? We realized, a video contest is a really active way that young people can share a positive voice and really focus on that portion of the population that are making smart choices around alcohol," she says.
It’s the second year for the Success Not Wasted amateur video competition. Eric Jones was a finalist in last year’s competition. He says it’s easier than it sounds, "It is an amateur contest. Really, you need a smart phone, about an hour of your time, maybe a couple of friends and an idea and see where it goes. My idea last year, literally, I sat down with a friend of mine and we jut kinda talked about a story involving alcohol use and setting goals and how to reach them."
Spackman says videos must be 60-seconds or shorter, and the best are personal. "The lead producer needs to be 18-25, but what we see with this age range is it really spans a lot of different life experience. So, there may be people in this age range may have children and that’s why they choose to make smart choices around alcohol. The people in the video or the images in the video don’t have to be limited to young adults. But, the target audience – we want the message to speak to other young adults."
Videos will be accepted through February 4, 2015, and can be submitted through the Shared Future Coalition’s website
or Facebook page
Jan. 16, 2015 -- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say this could be a record year for fish donations to Oregon food banks. Hatcheries just donated over 350,000 pounds- or 175 tons- of Coho and Chinook to food banks. The donations are a result of a run that saw a record 1-million Coho and 1.2-million Chinook returning to the waters of the Columbia River.
Rick Swart with ODFW says, "We have 30 hatcheries in the state. Once they have collected the eggs that they need for seed stock for the following year, then the rest of the fish that come back go to very specific places." Hatcheries on the coast also saw a lot of fish returning. The increased run follows a consistent year-to-year trend. "The last couple of years have been records," Swart says. "In 2013, we were calling that the best year in 40 years. But 2014 was even better. And for 2015, early indications are that it may be even better still, at least on the Chinook side."
Once the hatcheries gather the fish, some are given to Oregon tribes. The salmon are also competitively bid on by food vendors. The remainder are then donated to nonprofits across the state.
Photos courtesy of Rick Swart, ODFW
MADRAS, OR -- The Department of Environmental Quality has orderd the owner to clean up the property where the Historic Madras Hotel burned last October. Frank Messina with the DEQ spoke with KBND News, "Licensed Asbestos Abatement contractor needs to perform this work because we're going to be disturbing the site and because we found Asbestos on the site."
The hotel burned October 26, 2014. Messina says leaving the debris there is a public health risk. "We don't want Asbestos fiber blowing around for the neighbors." But, he says there are precautions that can be taken until then, "Keeping it wet will keep it from turning to dust and people are not supposed to be in there." Messian says he's talked with the property owner who expects to have it cleaned up by the end of the month.
For more pictures of the October fire, visit KBND's Facebook page.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney will head up the state's Transportation Commission. Baney has served on the commission since 2011. Governor John Kitzhaber announced her appointmnent as chair at Thursday's Transportation Commission meeting in Portland. "I'm seeking new leadership for the Transportation Commission in the wake of the recent Oregon Business Summit and strong interest. It's quite likely we'll be able to move a transportation package this session and I ver much support that. And, I've asked Commissioner Tammy Baney to serve as chair and she's accepted and I'm very happy for that." The Governor called Baney a proven leader who cares about Oregon communities and ensuring the state has modern, safe and efficient transportation.
Baney responded to the Governor's remarks, "You have a commission that is ready to push forward with you and we appreciate your leadership. We have a lot of work to do to make sure the transportation infrastructure supports the economic vitality and the communities people live in. We appreciate your leadership and we're right there with you."
The commission establishes state transportation policy and advises the legislature. State lawmakers will begin the next Legislative session on February 2nd.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County is the first in the state to utilize a new online financial application designed to make it easier for people to access the county budget. County Treasurer and Finance Director Wayne Lowry tells KBND News his department has spent the past month fine-tuning the cloud-based "Open Budget" application so information is presented in a user-friendly format. "Our budget in a PDF, 300 or 400 page document is out there on the web, always has been. It’s kind of hard to look through and to figure out what’s going on. This is a graphic representation, which makes it a lot easier. It’s interactive too, so you can drill down on different bars and charts and see the underlying information."
Lowry says the full 2015 budget is still available online, "We’re providing it as an additional method for citizens and other interested people to see our budget information. So, we’re trying it to see if this is useful for folks. This is kind of a trial." The county will pay $250 a month for the “Open Budget” platform. "When a citizen goes to our website, it actually goes to their [Socrata's] website, and looking at Deschutes County in our format," says Lowry. "It’s a general ledger and it’s a public record and it’s all a bunch of numbers. But, we want to make sure that the bunch of numbers show what’s happening in a logical format that people can understand."
According to the manufacturer, more than 50 public-sector organizations are now using the Socrata “Open Budget” platform. Deschutes County is, so far, the only agency in Oregon. To access Deschutes County's "Open Budget" information, click HERE
BEND, OR -- Currently Bend has seventeen citizen committees. But are they effective? Should we continue them? That is the focus of Thursday's City Club of Central Oregon. Bend City Councilor Sally Russell will be on the panel. "Does it make sense for two and a half years, should this technical process even involve the community? Should they be invovled or not? My answer is if you can bring the costs down from 130 million to 90 million, I say absolutely."
Fellow Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie and Redmond City Manager Keith Witcosky will also be on the panel.
REDMOND, OR -- A Redmond man faces a list of charges after holding police at bay during a nearly 6 hour standoff. Officers responded to Southwest Redmond just after 6:45 Wednesday evening, after William Wilson reportedly threatened to kill his wife. Lt. Mike Kidwell tells KBND News Wilson was following the woman with a knife. "It started out in the area of 31st and Lava, almost like a domestic disturbance. And, continued out to Obsidian and down the street on Obsidian when we finally got the call. By the time we got there, he had already returned back to his residence on Lava."
Lt. Kidwell says 31-year old Wilson would not come out of the house for police. At 12:15 a.m., after obtaining a search warrant, "We ended up entering the residence with the Central Oregon Emergency Response Team. Once we got inside, he was located in the kitchen area and he was taken into custody without incident." He is charged with Menacing, harassment, drug possession and being a felon in possession of a weapon.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County 9-1-1 leaders are considering putting a levy to voters to help pay for improvements to the county’s radio and dispatch equipment and establish stable funding for the agency. 911 Director Steve Reinke tells KBND News a potential levy is still at least a year away because the county needs to decide if there are partnerships which could keep the project’s cost down. "We’re investigating using the state radio system as much as possible to transport radio signal from the 911 center to the various sites around the region. And, because the state is putting in a trunked radio system, we may be able to join with them on several sites and then we would also share the cost of the site and the maintenance. There’s just a tremendous benefit."
Reinke says the agency is also talking with other jurisdictions in an effort to ease the burden of funding. "We’ve communicated with the school districts, road departments, street departments, public works and the airport to talk about, would you be interested in partnering with us on this system if we are to put it in place. In other words, this system has the ability to allow more users on to help their communications because most of these agencies maintain a radio system of their own."
Without partnerships, Reinke says a new dispatch system could cost the county $13-$14 million. He's confident the county will be able to enter into an agreement with the state, but the rest of the funding would likely come from a new operating levy. "What we’d prefer to do is to look at our long term operational needs and raise our permanent funding level to meet the long term needs of our center, operationally, as well as whatever we might need for that radio system on top of that. The strategic planning process has given us an idea of what our future budgets would look like based on the level of service our users and the public want us to deliver. What we want to make sure is that that’s sustainable, long term." He says a potential levy could be sent to voters as soon as May of 2016. County Commissioners approved the Deschutes County 911's strategic plan, yesterday, telling staff to move forward with the plan.
BEND, OR -- Bend has been selected as one of 50 communities vying for a $5 million prize from Georgetown University. The Energy Prize competition challenges cities to tap their imagination to help reduce energy usage. Mike Riley with The Environmental Center tells KBND News, "We found out about this almost a year ago, and thought this would be a great fit with our creative entrepreneurial spirit in Bend. And, we can do more. And, this would help galvanize every one to actionon efficiency and renewables."
Over the next two years, Bend will participate in the challenge by doing things like washing clothes only in cold water and switching to LED light bulbs. Then, in 2017, Georgetown will narrow the field down to the top 10 communities that decreased energy usage the most. Other communities competing include Fairbanks, AK, Berkley, CA and Corvallis.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Six Oregon conservation projects have received federal funds through a new program designed to support public-private partnerships. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden supported the Regional Conservation Partnership Program as part of the 2014 Farm Bill.
Senator Wyden says the six projects will receive a combined 22-million dollars, including $9-million for the "Oregon Model To Protect Sage Grouse." Other projects receiving funding: North Slope Ochoco Holistic Restoration Project ($5m), Klamath-Rogue Oak Woodland Health and Habitat Conservation Project ($3m), White River Irrigation Efficiency and Stream Flow Restoration Project ($2m), North Willamette Valley Upland Oak Restoration Partnership ($2.2m) and Unlocking Carbon Markets for NIPF Landowners in the Pacific Northwest ($1m).
For details of all projects across the country, visit the USDA website
LA PINE, OR -- A Central Oregon business will be featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, Friday evening. Turbo Pup is a natural dog treat company based in La Pine. While Kristina Guerrero isn’t allowed to tell us the outcome of her prime time television debut, she did tell KBND News how it felt to pitch her business to the “Sharks.” "So, I came out with Oden, my dog and I looked around and I remember my first thoughts being they all looked really good and Lorie is gorgeous. And then I realized, 'Oh God, I have to talk now!' I think being in the tank is all it’s cracked up to be. It’s the bombardment of brutal honesty. I can’t even tell you how long I was in there, and that’s not because I’m not allowed to, it’s because I literally don’t know. It felt like centuries."
Guerrero says she put her best foot forward, "When I went in, my only thought was, I wanted the best possible outcome and that I didn’t regret anything after I left. My only goal is to have a successful company that can pay forward." Her appearance surprised on the show was a bit of a surprise, even for herself! "Shark Tank was looking for veterans who are entrepreneurs to put on their show. To be honest, I hadn’t watched Shark Tank, I don’t have a TV. After I decided to apply, I did do a lot of research and to prep for the show, I binge watched episode and thought it was really neat!"
The Shark Tank episode featuring Guerrero and Turbo Pup airs Friday, January 16, at 9 p.m.
REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Schools officials are continuing to plan for all-day kindergarten in the district, beginning next school year. But, Superintendent Mike McIntosh tells KBND News funding the program could be a challenge. "The co-chair's budget comes out this week, so I want to glance at that. The governor's budget was woefully inadequate. The way I see it, the K-12 budget has to be $7.5 billion in the biennium to afford it. Either way, Redmond will in fact launch full day kindergarten." The co-chairs of the Oregon Ways and Means Committee are expected to release their "framkework" for a state budget discussion later today, in Salem. Governor Kitzhaber has proposed an $18 billion budget, with nearly half going to education.
McIntosh estimates full-day kindergarten in all 7 Redmond elementary schools will cost about $1 million. He says cuts to help pay for the increase in staffing and curriculum won't be decided into the state budget is finalized.
BEND, OR -- Bend-La Pine School Board members unanimously approved the name of Bend's new middle school. Pacific Crest Middle School will open in the fall, near Summit High. Other names considered by the board: Bachelor Butte, Bridge Creek, Deschutes River, Discovery and Manzanita.
A new elementary school near Reed Market Road is also scheduled to open in the fall. The naming committee is still accepting submissions
for that school.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- UPDATE: Investigators have released the name of the pilot killed in Sunday's plane crash. 73-year old Bruce Myers of Bend was the pilot and owner of the experimental aircraft. Officials believe he was the only one on board. The "kit plane" - a single engine RV-9A aircraft crashed during takeoff at the Prineville Airport, Sunday afternoon.
January 12, 2015:
One person is confirmed dead after a small plane crashed at the Prineville Airport, Sunday afternoon. The plane was reportedly taking off from the airport at the time it crashed, just after 2 p.m. Sources tell KBND, the small "kit" plane was owned by a Bend resident. The identity of the pilot, and presumed sole occupant on board, has not been released, pending notification of next of kin.
The plane crash occurred in low clouds and rainy conditions, although it is unclear if weather was a factor in the incident. The Crook County Sheriff responded to the scene, as well as the Medical Examiner, Oregon State Police troopers and Crook County Fire and Rescue Personnel. The NTSB is expected to investigate the cause of the crash. KBND News will have more information on this developing story as it becomes available.
REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Police report a woman reported missing has been found safe in California. Linda Whipple has been in contact with family and they say she is in Oceanside, California.
January 11, 2015:
Redmond Police are asking for the public's help in finding a woman who hasn't been seen since December 28, 2014. Investigators say it is unusual for 57-year old Linda Whipple to not show up for work or check in with family. There are no signs or indications foul play is involved.
Whipple's cell phone data indicates the phone may have been in the Newport, Oregon area. Newport Police are searching the area, but so far, there has been no sign of her. Whipple is associated with a blue Kia Forte with OR plate 944-GVG. She is white, about 5'05" and approximately 125 lbs, with brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call local law enforcement, and reference case #15-1912.
BEND, OR -- A Bend Transient was arrested Tuesday morning in connection with sabotage that caused diesel to leak from a train in downtown Bend, last month. 47-year old George William Myers is accused of damaging the bottom of the locomotive's fuel tank. He was taken into custody just before 8 a.m., near NE 2nd and Franklin in Bend.
On December 23rd, more than 2,000 gallons of diesel leaked from that Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Train as it rolled through Bend, just before noon. The alleged sabotage caused major traffic delays
near the tracks at Greenwood and Revere avenues.
BEND, OR -- Officials negotiating the transition of Mirror Pond continue to look for public input on how the city should move forward with the Bend icon. The Mirror Pond Ad Hoc committee is hosting a public meeting tonight (Tuesday) to provide information on the proposed redevelopment concept. Chuck Arnold, Executive Director of the Downtown Bend Business Association tells KBND News it’s a chance for everyone to help guide the future of Bend. "This is our community and we have to all own it. I think it’s important for us to all give feedback and work together and make sure we all feel positive about changes to our community. It’s a pretty dramatic, bold proposal and it may come to fruition in all parts or only part of it may come to fruition, but that’s what this direction is about."
The proposed plan would remove the current dam and allow for business development along the banks of the river, which Arnold says would help fund the removal of the Mirror Pond dam and future maintenance, to avoid dipping into tax dollars. But, he says, there are many moving parts the Ad Hoc Committee and the public need to address before making a final decision. "But what also begs the question about a bigger picture of, if you start making some changes along the river and say, if proposals of taking out some parking lots go forward, then you start the conversation of where does the next parking garage go?"
Tuesday night's meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Oxford Hotel. More details on the proposal and tonight's meeting at the Mirror Pond Project webpage.
LA PINE, OR -- A La Pine family safely escaped from a house fire late last night, but lost two pets in the blaze. Fire officials say Tina Blake noticed the ceiling near a wood-stove pipe on fire and tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher. When her attempts were unsuccessful, she and three children evacuated and called 9-1-1.
La Pine fire crews responded to the double-wide manufactured home on Burgess road just after 11:30 p-m. They got the blaze under control within 20 minutes, but say the house sustained heavy damage.
According to La Pine Fire officials, the manufactured home had just been placed on the property to replace a home destroyed by fire in April 2012. There were no injuries in last night's blaze, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Red Cross and nearby family are assisting the displaced family.
BEND, OR -- The deadline to sign up for health insurance this year is February 15th. But, if you haven't yet signed up, the Oregon Health Authority is offering opportunities to ask questions and get enrolled, throughout the state. OHA officials will be in Bend today. "Anybody who has OHP or private coverage needs to do something in order to be able to keep their health insurance. So, if you have questions, you should come out," says Deanna Simon with the Oregon Health Authority. She tells KBND News, "If you haven't applied for some sort of health coverage, you could be losing it. We want people to be as informed as possible."
Tuesday's enrollment fair begins at 11 a.m. at The Environmental Center in downtown Bend (16 NW Kansas Ave.). It lasts until 4:30 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring employer and income information, policy numbers for any current health insurance and your Social Security number. OHA will host another event Thursday at the Redmond library, 1-4:30 p.m. There is no appointment needed for either event.
BEND, OR -- Last year, about 200 Central Oregonians stepped up to take part in local volunteer projects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As the annual Day of Service approaches, event organizers say this year could set records. Katya Spiecker with Volunteer Connect expects a wide range of participants, "There are projects for families and for children, which is great. Like Camp Fire is hosting a project again, making valentines for hospitalized veterans."
Other projects include cleaning the dining area at the Shepherd's House in Bend and sorting cans and bottles at St. Vincent de Paul in Prineville. Spiecker says they have about twice as many projects as last year, and are hoping for around 300 volunteers.
For information on available service projects and to sign up to volunteer for January 19th, click HERE.
REDMOND, OR -- UPDATE: Police continue to search for the suspect in a second hold-up at the Redmond Subway on N. Highway 97. Monday morning's armed robbery is the second at the restaurant in three weeks. The suspect description in both incidents is similar: Hispanic male, 20-25 years old, 5'8" - 200 lbs, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt. He brandished a knife and demanded money.
Marie Armon is the Director of Operations for Subway's Redmond locations. She tells KBND News they began taking precautions after the first robbery three weeks ago. "We always have two people here. We're making customers and neighboring businesses aware of what's going on and asking everyone to be aware of who's around you and just to be safe." In both incidents, the man escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Monday, January 12, 2015:
Redmond Police are searching for the man responsible for the second armed robbery in as many months at a Subway restaurant. Witnesses tell KBND News, police are in a standoff with the suspect at an apartment near Northwest 4th and Greenwood in Redmond.
Deschutes County Dispatch confirms officers responded to the Subway restaurant on Redmond's north end shortly after 8:30 a.m. after employees reported the robbery. The person responsible for anarmed robbery at the same location, on December 23rd, has not been caught. Read details of that incident, HERE.
AFTERNOON UPDATE: Redmond Police investigators say they are still searching for the suspect, and no longer believe he is in an apartment near 4th and Greenwood. Marie Armon, Director of Operations for Subway's Redmond locations, tells KBND News all employees who were on duty during this morning's incident have been sent home.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley celebrated the passage of Crooked River legislation with Prineville business owners and water activists this Saturday.
The bill, which Merkley and Oregon Representative Greg Walden have been pushing for three years, was passed and signed by President Obama in an unexpected rush days before the end of the December legislative session.
Merkley told KBND that the passage was an achievement.
"Prineville is courting groups to come here, but they've got to know there's enough water for commercial uses, whether it's the data centers they already have a couple of, or other types of commercial activity," he said. "And certainly the farmers have been getting water on a regular basis but didn't have the security or certainty that comes from a secured water right."
Around 40 people gathered at Merkley's event. One of those people, a fellow speaker, was Water Watch of Oregon Senior Policy Analyst Kimberley Priestley. Priestley joined onto the bill from its very infancy, providing input along with a diverse group of interested parties.
"We came to an agreement in 2012 on the language," Priestley said. "And it's been a long and complex road to get to bill passage."
Priestley says she's satisfied with the end result.
"This bill includes the framework that was agreed to in 2012, the framework in Senator Merkley's original bill," she says.
The bill took input from the Warm Springs Tribes, officials from the City of Prineville, irrigation districts and Crook County. That follows years of discussion around the water issue -- Priestley says fisherman have been trying to get water behind Bowman Dam released for the fish for even longer than the bill has been in discussion.
Merkley had to juggle many stakeholders when he visited the issue.
"Having a strategy for managing the water, so it would make for a healthier stream and environment. The lake and the stream for salmon, steelhead, trout and so forth. Those where all challenges, but there was a win-win strategy we were able to forge, and get it done," Merkley says.
As a result of the bill being passed, the scenic water boundary, which had kept the city from retrofitting the dam, will now be moved. The new structure will allow more water to be released and is expected to provide a more sustainable water supply for the city.
The bill received some of its inspiration five years back, when Portland General Electric was denied access to Bowman Dam due to scenic river restrictions.
All photos by Junnelle Hogen
PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County School District officials are looking for public input on proposed elementary school boundary changes, as they prepare to close 2 schools and open a new one. Jim Bates, principal at Cecil Sly elementary in Prineville says the changes are the best use of new bond money, as the district moves to invest in remodeling one school and building another. "Barnes Butte is on schedule to be completed in August, and we’ll seat 630-640 students. And, we’re going from three elementary schools to two larger elementary schools," Bates tells KBND News.
Ochoco Elementary will close in June, and students from Cecil Sly will switch to Crooked River Elementary while their school undergoes renovations. Bates says Crews will improve security, increase the number of classrooms "This formerly was a middle school, and we’ve got a large section of room down what used to be a former shop. And that’ll be remodeled and turned into kindergarten classrooms." Crooked River Elementary will then close in June of 2016. "I’m your principal at Barnes Butte elementary. And Cheri Rasmussen currently is at Crooked River, she’ll remain at Crooked River for next year, and then she’ll be your principal when we re-open the Cecil Sly remodel."
School district officials are now accepting public input on proposed boundary changes, which will effect nearly every elementary student and staff in the district. Bates says, " We’re very interested in community input. We’ve shared some preliminary boundary moves and we’re in active discussion right now on that topic. It’s our goal to do the best job we can for as many people as we can and then be flexible beyond that." For more information on boundary changes and details on how to provide input, click HERE
MADRAS, OR -- A woman faces a list of charges after allegedly leading police on a chase through Madras and east of town, late Saturday night. Just after 11 p.m., a Jefferson County Sheriff's deputy says a woman was seen riding a motorcycle the wrong way in downtown Madras. Investigators say 33-year old Jaquelynn Marie Brown failed to stop.
During the pursuit, officers say Brown threw several items from the bike, which were later found by a Warm Springs Police officer, including a small amount of methamphetamine.
Eventually, Brown crashed on a muddy road near the Hay Creek Ranch, about six miles east of Madras. She was arrested on charges including reckless driving, meth possession and an outstanding fugitive warrant.
BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff’s office is looking for adults interested in mentoring kids struggling with an incarcerated family member. Bob Moore is Project Coordinator for Central Oregon Partnerships for Youth (COPY). He tels KBND News volunteers come from all backgrounds, and many have no previous mentoring experience. "We require our volunteers to be over 21 years of age, and live mostly in Deschutes County because that’s the population of kids we work with and connect with. But, beyond that, just a diverse background and diverse skill sets are really something that’s great because it gives me more flexibility in identifying a kid in the community who would benefit from that."
Moore encourages those interested in volunteering to attend a free training and orientation on January 17th at the sheriff’s office. "It’s a six hour orientation that looks at our program policies, Q&A from a current volunteer, mentoring skill-sets, what incarceration looks like for a kid that’s struggling with a family member who’s incarcerated. So, we through that open at the sheriff’s office to let people take a look at our program, to see if it’s a good fit for what they’re looking to do with their time," Moore said.
Mentors are asked to spend a couple of hours each week connecting with a child. For more information on the program, Click HERE
BEND, OR -- Newly sworn in Bend city councilor Casey Roats has been cleared of any wrongdoing, after an election complaint was filed with the state. The Secretary of State's office said yesterday Roats did not violate election rules when he used the address of his business and a home under construction on candidate filing forms. The ruling upholds the city council's decision last month.
Roats was sworn in, along with Barb Campbell and Nathan Boddie, on Wednesday.
BEND, OR -- Jim Clinton is looking forward to continuing as Bend's Mayor. The council unanimously re-elected him to the position, earlier this week. He is, by far, the most senior person on the council, as nearly half of the council was newly sworn in Wednesday night.
"Every time there's a new council, it's a chance to open things up and look at things anew without upsetting the apple cart," Clinton said Wednesday night. "I've said before my goal is to make Bend the best city in the U.S. and we've gone far along that path, already."
Councilor Doug Knight admitted he was interested in the Mayor position, but said he didn't have the necessary votes.
Despite only having served on the council for two years, Sally Russell was voted by councilors to become Bend's Mayor Pro Tem -- effectively, the second in command. Russell believes the group will have a lot on their plates, "But, I look at the long list of projects before us: Transportation, roads, sidewalks, trails, access. If we are really effective and do it right, we as a community are going to be so strong and good."
Councilor Victor Chudowski nominated Russell to the Pro Tem position, saying she has an open mind.
BEND, OR -- An elderly Bend man reported missing yesterday morning, was found more than 12 hours later in Gresham. Eighty-nine-year old Leopold ("Leo") Scheiblehner drove away from his home on Glacier View drive at about 8:45 a.m. yesterday. Family members say he has early stage dementia. They were concerned when he didn't return home.
Gresham police located Scheiblehner at about 9:00 p.m. He was in good health and was reunited with his family.
Our dense fog advisory has now been extended until Friday at noon.
Visibility is down to less than quarter of a mile at times.
We're under a freezing fog advisory, so be careful -- roads may be icy.
PORTLAND, OR -- The man behind the largest investor fraud case in Oregon history has agreed to a plea deal. 49 year old Jon Harder ran "Sunwest Management" which owned approximately 300 assisted living facilities, including one in Redmond. Harder pleaded guilty Thursday to one felony count of mail fraud and one felony count of money laundering.
Harder admitted in federal court that beginning in late 2007 through February 2008, he lied to more than 50 investors to obtain more than $5 million. He claimed the funds were going to assisted living facilities, but instead it was going to pay his personal expenses. Harder will be sentened on May 12th. He could face up to 15 years in prison.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Congressman Greg Walden co-sponsored two bills during the first week of the new congress. One helps veterans find jobs. "The first bill we passed is the 'Hire More Heroes' bill -- exempting these veterans. We reduce costs and confusion for small businesses and thereby help create new opportuniteis for members of our military as they return to civilian life," said Walden. The bill would exempt veterans already receiving healthcare by the Veterans Adminsitration or the Department of Defense from being counted as part of the employee limit under the new healthcare law.
The House also passed a bill sponsored by Walden that would define a full time employee as a person who works 40 hours a week, not 30. Walden says the former definition puts Americans workers at risk of having their hours and wages cut.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Oregon's two U.S. Senators have introduced legislation again to double the state's timber harvest. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are co-sponsoring legislation during the first week of the new congress.
Senator Wyden says he's not giving up. "Oregonians are not going to settle for the status quo when it comes to timber harvest and natural resources policy and neither will I," he says. "Rural Oregon communities need jobs, they need certainty, and they need the federal government to follow through on its commitments."
Although this legislation had bipartisan support in the Senate last session, House Republican leaders blocked them from being included in the end-of-the-year legislation last month.
BEND, OR -- The amount of water Bend residents are using right now will be used by the city to calculate what new monthly water and sewer rates will be. City Councilors voted last month to restructure water and sewer rates to do away with the current flat-rate system.
"Your sewer rate will be calculated instead in the amount of water that is typically going down the sewer," says Mike Buettner, Bend's Water Conservation Program Manager. "And the best way to do that is to typically look at the amount of water use that takes place during the months of December, January, February. During those months we're typically not irrigating, or we're not washing a car in the driveway, and so on, so a majority of that water use we know is occurring inside of the home."
The decision to get rid of the flat fee has been similarly adapted by other cities. But, Buettner says, "I wouldn't say that we're following suit. Every city is so different, and the way their rates have historically developed over time. This is a change that was long needed for the city of Bend, and it will really help even the playing field, create that equitability and fairness that the council set out to get with the new water rate."
The city is partnering with EPA WaterSense, Alliance for Water Efficiency and Irrigation Association to promote wise water use. Learn more about the city's efforts, and learn tips on conserving water in your own home, HERE
. Residents can also request a free indoor water conservation kit. For more details email the city at email@example.com
, or call 541-317-3000.
BEND, OR -- Central Oregon may not be at high risk for deadly Radon gas, according to a new report, but experts say that doesn't mean there's no risk. The state report released Tuesday shows the highest concern in the Portland area. Brett Sherry, Oregon's Radon Coordinator, says the gas- which is odorless, tasteless and invisible- can be deadly. "Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, so it's a significant health risk. We've known about it since the late 1800s, early 1900s. What we didn't know about it is the problem it is in homes - we didn't learn that until the late 70s and early 80s," Sherry tells KBND News.
"So, what we do is collect data from test kits compiled from around the state and we make a list. So, you can go to our website and we have a list of cities by zipcode that shows how many test results and what the risk level is," says Sherry. There are several high risk pockets around the Willamette Valley and in eastern and southern Oregon. "There are certain areas at high risk where homes don't have high levels of Radon. And, it doesn't mean if your area is 'low risk,' your home is free of it. The only way is to test to make sure you'll know." Sherry encourages homeowners to purchase low-cost Radon test-kits to see if high levels of the gas exist.
BEND, OR -- The pastor of a Gresham church is facing dozens of child sex abuse charges in Deschutes County. 42-year old James Worley was arrested in Multnomah County on December 30th. He is being transported back to Deschutes County on Tuesday.
Worley was indicted by a Deschutes County grand jury on 20 counts of first degree sex abuse, 11 counts of first degree sodomy, 2 counts of first degree rape and 3 counts of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct. The two children involved were reportedly under the age of 12 when the alleged abuse began in September 2002. According to the indictment the abuse continued until June 2004.
Worley has served as senior pastor of Powell Valley Church in Gresham since 2012. According to the church's website, he is married with four children.
Original Booking Photo from
Multnomah County: Dec. 30, 2014
BEND, OR -- Central Oregon Community College released the name of the last finalist for president: Dr. Jerrilee Mosier. She is the Chancellor of IVy Tech Community College Northeast in Fort Wayne, IN. The COCC board named the three other finalists in December, but Dr. Mosier didn't want her name released until she could notify colleagues.
The other finalists are Dr. Leah Bornstein of Coconino Community College in Arizona, Dr. Jimmie Bruce of Northwest Vista College in Texas and Dr. Tony Miksa of McHenry County College in Illinois. Candidates will go through campus interviews during the last two weeks of January.
REDMOND, OR -- After a rough start to its first year, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Redmond/Terrebonne is finding its stride. Executive Director Jenny O’Keefe says new changes are helping the clubs become an independent entity after its split from the regional body. Before the Christmas break, O’Keefe warned families the Redmond “Junior club” – serving kindergarten students – would be bussed to the Terrebonne club due to low enrollment. But, Monday she announced students would stay in Redmond. "We’ve hired one of our current staff members, Michael, to run our junior club, to help increase that membership. We’re watching very closely what the school district does as far as all-day kindergarten next year. And, if they decide not to do that, we’ll have a solid program here at the Redmond clubs developed by then."
O'Keefe says more changes are in store for the clubs in 2015, "Coach Kurt Taylor, currently one of the assistant varsity football coaches at Redmond High School, we have offered him a full-time position to help develop and enhance our teen program. The principal has been very helpful and excited and innovative in helping us grow our program and helping forge that partnership for kids." She tells KBND the new enhanced teen program will offer workforce training for 16-18 year old club members. O'Keefe says teens will be able to get help building a resume and could potentially become future club employees. "We really are preparing the next generation of Redmond’s workforce for the businesses that are donating to us. It is a very reciprocal relationship that we’ve established. It isn’t just give us money, so we can keep doing what we've always done. It’s thank you, and we’re going to be good stewards of the money you’ve given to us and really do something powerful with it."
BGCRT has also partnered with Redmond High School's Kiwanis Key Club to bring more community service projects to younger club members. O’Keefe says she’s excited about the stability now coming to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Redmond Terrebonne, as they work toward re-establishing their charter with the national organization.
LA PINE, OR -- South County is getting closer to allowing more development in the La Pine area. The Department of Environmental Quality has been meeting with local residents to discuss how to protect the groundwater from contamination from sewers. Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone says the DEQ and Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development provided an update, recently. "We have proposed findings to put a package together that will allow sewers in rural communities in south county, where highly draining volcanic soil and shallow water levels make it susceptible to nitrate loading," DeBone tells KBND News.
This Goal 11 exception for southern Deschutes County would allow sewer systems in the area for several years, whil a moratorium is placed on other efforts to reduce nitrate. The next step is to offer public hearings in the coming months. DeBone expects a formal Goal 11 Exception application will be submitted by spring.
BEND, OR -- The River's Edge Golf Course in Bend is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever is responsible for vandalism at the golf course. A substantial amount of damage was done to course greens and fairways by a vehicle, Friday night. The golf course and CrimeStoppers are offering rewards for information leading to those responsible.
MADRAS, OR -- A Madras man was killed after a pile of hay bales fell on top of him, Sunday afternoon. Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies responded to a property on South Adams Drive and found 76-year old Harvey Stickler had been crushed by the hay load, just before 5 p.m. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has determined his death was an accident.
BEND, OR -- A Bend man was arrested after crashing an SUV into playground equipment at St. Francis Catholic School, early Sunday morning. Bend Police say Thomas Taelour was trying to run from officers responding to a reported dispute on Northeast Aldrich Drive. Taelour allegedly led police on a high-speed pursuit through neighborhood streets. He nearly hit a tree on Atherton Ct. before crashing through the gate at the St. Francis playground.
The 23-year old man collided with playground equipment before backing into a patrol car, causing minor damage. No one was injured, but Taelour faces a number of charges, including driving under the influence and attempting to elude.
BEND, OR -- A pursuit through Bend Senior High School's landscaping over the weekend, led to the arrest of a 32-year old Bend man. Police tried to pull over Colton Todd Staples after a traffic violation on NE 6th and Alden, just after 1 a.m., Saturday. According to investigators, Staples slid off the road into a snow bank, but was able to free his vehicle when officers tried to approach. He then drove through the Bend High School parking lot, over bushes and grass, and through landscaping at a neighboring church.
Eventually, Staples stopped on Veronica Lane, where he ran to a nearby home. While at the front door, officers were able to take Staples into custody. He faces charges of attempting to elude, reckless driving, resisting arrest and a probation violation.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners and other newly elected and re-elected officials were sworn in this morning. Just after 8 a.m., Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel (pictured) was sworn in by Judge Gary Thompson at La Pine High School. He took his oath on a 100+ year old book, provided by the Deschutes Historical Society. Hummel then swore in Deputy DAs by conference call, so they were able to perform their duties in court by 8:30. After the ceremony, DA Hummel the held a question and answer session with La Pine High School students.
Just after 8:30 a.m. in her Bend courtroom, Judge Alta Brady swore in Deschutes County Commissioers Tony DeBone and Tammy Baney, Deschutes County Assessor Scot Langton, County Treasurer Wayne Lowry and County Clerk Nancy Blankenship.
Photo courtesy of Deschutes County
BEND, OR -- It was standing room only at Senator Ron Wyden's Bend town hall meeting, Friday. The question and answer session dealt with a number of topics from environmental issues to veterans' concerns to the planned closing of Bend's mail processing center. The sorting facility is scheduled to close in July and that means Central Oregon mail will be sorted in Portland, not here. Senator Wyden expects this to be a continuing battle. "The question is, are we going to turn rural communities into sacrifice zones? My guess is they will continue to look for further reductions. I don't favor that. I think there are reforms that make better sense." The closure of the Bend processing center will mean the letter you send across town, which only takes a day right now, will take two or three days after July. The Postal Service is shutting down the processing center, in part, because first class mail delivery has decreased significantly in recent years.
At Friday's town hall, one attendee asked the Senator about the upcoming Republican majority, and the chances of passing any public lands legislation. Wyden responded, "Certainly, if you look at the public statements made by new members, the real question is 'How are we going to advance some of the priorities we're talking about today?' I've always said public lands are an economic engine and they can generate a lot of economic activity." Wyden said that during the last government shutdown, the most consistent complaint was a lack of access to our public lands. He told the town hall, he plans to reach across the aisle to try and strike some middle ground and pass sensible legislation.
Wyden also said he believes the cost of senior healthcare needs to be addressed. "Medicare today is about cancer, diabetes, it's about heart disease, stroke and Alzheimers. That's the program, that's the whole ball game. In terms of the federal budget, Medicare's up 'here' and everything else is down 'here.'" He says lawmakers need to do a better job bringing costs down, by rewarding better outcomes.
REDMOND, OR -- We’re learning more about the 14 dogs saved from being euthanized at a California shelter, and brought to Redmond’s Brightside Animal Center just after Christmas.
Redmond shelter director Chris Bauersfeld says she visits the facility in Red Bluff whenever she visits her daughter in the area. "They are overcrowded. There is no low-cost spay/neuter program in that area. They get dogs in, and they keep them through the 5-day stray hold. They told me that about 10% of the owners reclaim their animals. Another 10-20% are adopted out to the public, and they able to get another 10-20% transferred to other shelters. Then they euthanize the rest," Bauersfeld tels KBND News. When she stopped in at Christmas-time, she didn't leave empty handed. "I just happened to stop in, and they were pulling dogs at that point to euthanize. I said can you hold up just a sec and if I find some dogs that I can take back with me, will you hold them until Saturday. And the one caregiver started to cry – because there’s just so much emotion when you’re selecting which dogs are going to die at that moment." The breeds vary from lab and shepherd mixes to chihuahua and terrier-varieties.
But, that initial batch of dogs wasn't all: "Then, in addition to those 14 that I loaded into my car, I also had picked up a pit bull mother dog and her puppies the day before," says Bauersfeld. "They’d been brought into the shelter, they’d been found in a house where the people had been evicted. They left the pit bull behind, and she had her puppies all alone." Bauersfeld expects the pit bull family will travel to Redmond in about two weeks, where they will remain in foster care until the puppies are old enough to be adopted. The other 14 dogs should be ready for new homes, later this week.
Brightside is posting photos of the available dogs on their Facebook page
... interested families should call or stop in at the Redmond shelter
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County continues to rebound from the recession. The county now leads the state in job growth and in November, the county added 3,000 local jobs. Regional Economist Damon Runberg tells KBND retail is leading the charge. "The retail industry in Central Oregon is really focused in Deschutes County and it's really interesting the retail holiday hiring was really strong in November. It's stronger than last year and consumer confidence is high and that means people are buying stuff again." Runberg says job growth slowed a bit in November because the tourism industry delayed laying off some workers until that month due to the stronger than expected "shoulder season" between summer and winter.
Jefferson and Crook counties struggled to add private sector jobs in 2014. Following the November announcement that Woodgrain Millwork in Prineville was laying of over 200 workers, Crook County will likely end the year losing jobs, year over year.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- A former Crook County employee has filed a complaint against District Attorney Daina Vitolins. Charlie Burr with the Bureau of Labor and Industries tells KBND News his agency is investigating the complaint received in November. "Any time our agency receives a civil rights complaint alleging an unfair, unlawful employment practice, we will conduct a thorough investigation. We’ll interview the complainant, the respondent; we’ll seek to determine whether there is substantial evidence of unlawful activity." Burr adds, "We have jurisdiction over state and local agencies and any employee can file directly with us and we will take a look at it. Not with inherent bias for the complainant or the defendant, but with the duty to determine exactly what happened."
In the complaint, Traci Peterson claims D.A. Vitolins created a hostile work environment after she raised concerns over not receiving flex-time for required lunch meetings. The document outlines a number of instances of alleged retaliation. She says Vitolins removed her from meetings essential to her job as a victim advocate after she asked about flex-time. She claims the D-A also filed a complaint against Peterson’s husband- a Prineville police officer who frequently worked with the D.A.’s office. Peterson was a victim advocate for Crook County. In the complaint, she says Vitolins left her no choice but to resign in October.
BEND, OR -- Foreclosure rates in Bend and Redmond decreased by nearly a full percentage point in October, compared to the same time a year ago. According to the new report just released from Core Logic, the rate is declining at a faster pace than state and nationwide rates. But, the local rate is still higher than the national average.
Rob Moore, owner of Arbor Mortgage in Bend tells KBND News, it's a trend his company is seeing, as well. "If I compare the loans we’re doing today … a couple of years ago, one out of every 2 or three loans were a short sale. Today maybe one out of every 10 loans is a loan where we have a distressed sale. We rarely see short sales anymore and the foreclosures are significantly down." In October, 1.67% of Bend-area mortgage loans were in some state of foreclosure, compared to 2.62% a year ago. Statewide, that average is now at 1.77%.
Moore says he's seeing sellers in much better positions than just a few years ago. "If people wanted to get rid of their property a few years ago, they unloaded it. Those that were trying to hold on to them either find themselves in a position today where they can sell it where it’s not distressed, they can at least get their money back; or maybe they’re in a position where they can sell it for what it’s worth or slightly more, and make a little bit of money." Core Logic reports local delinquency rates are also dropping in Bend and Redmond. 3.32% of mortgages were delinquent in October, compared to 4.55% a year ago.
BEND, OR -- The Deschutes River in Bend crested at about 1 p.m. yesterday, but city officials are still closely monitoring water levels after flooding over the past couple of days. The sub-zero temperatures that hit the area earlier this week caused parts of the river to freeze. In some places between the Colorado and Galveston bridges, there was no where for the water to go but into riverfront yards.
The city made sand bags available for homeowners as a precaution, handing out about 200 bags in the past few days. Officials from the City, County, the Oregon Water Resources Department and Pacific Power will continue to watch the river, although flows are expected to decrease as the weather warms.
BEND, OR -- The Bend Chamber of Commerce is hosting an event Tuesday (Jan. 6), designed to give Central Oregonians an inside look at the upcoming legislative session. Jamie Christman says it’s also a chance for the Chamber to get an idea of what issues they need to watch closely. "There genuinely is a conversation that takes place. We’ll have Senator Tim Knopp and Representative Knute Buehler. And we also have a partner that we’ve reached out to and that is independent lobbyist Erik Kancler, who is also knowledgeable of what takes place behind the doors."
Christman tells KBND News, "We’re going to get an opportunity to take a look at what we can be proactive with, what we can also step up and make a stand for. And, that can be anything from land use and UGB, to taxes and increases to wage changes and laws, paid sick leave. Obviously, the one thing we can all band behind is OSU Cascades and workforce housing." CEO Tim Casey expects the Chamber to take a more active role in legislative issues, this year. "This year, we’ve actually taken a different track. We’re reaching out and expanding to be a regional advocate," Casey tells KBND. "Jamie and I have reached out to all the cities in Central Oregon, the chambers, organizations that service the Central Oregon area and asked them, 'What is your priority for legislation that’s happening in Salem.' And from there, what we do is we put together a list for our Legislative committee. They take a look at it and they help prioritize it." Christman expects the Chamber will keep a close eye on land use and tax issues, along with the OSU-Cascades expansion, during the February session.
The Chamber’s Legislative Outlook Town Hall begins Tuesday at 5 p.m., at the Deschutes Brewery Tap Room.