For a limited time, Oregon is reopening the emergency rental aid portal. Yesterday, Oregon Housing and Community Services began again accepting new applications. This will be a limited reopening for at least three weeks, based on availability of funds. The agency estimates supporting about 9,000 additional renters, to be prioritized based on need, not on a first-come, first-served basis. OHCS says it was forced to pause the program in December due to lack of resources, but the Oregon Legislature and Governor Brown found additional funds. More than 36,000 Oregon households have received more than $256 million in rental assistance relief due to hardship from the pandemic. Tenants can apply at https://www.oregonrentalassistance.org/
Central Oregon’s December employment numbers are showing strong hiring. According to Oregon Employment Department, Deschutes County added 2,000 jobs in a single month, leading to an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. This is just one percentage point above the record low seen before the pandemic.
A massive fire destroyed a home near Tetherow yesterday morning, but a fast-acting good Samaritan helped make sure a woman inside got out safely. Investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the fire that destroyed the 1.2 million dollar home in southwest Bend.
Multiple units from Bend Fire and Rescue are on scene of a working residential structure fire at 61539 Meeks Trail. Roads in the immediate area are closed. One person was in the home when the fire broke out but was able to evacuate prior to the fire department's arrival. Personnel from Redmond Fire are also on scene assisting.
The Deschutes County Commission is approving an additional $1.3 million inAmerican Rescue Plan Act investments.
These projects include: $750,000 for temporary housing options for people who are experiencing homelessness; $269,645 for the Circuit Court’s continued use of the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center; and $280,000 to purchase a response unit for the La Pine Rural Fire Protection District. To date, Commissioners have obligated $34.8 million in ARPA funds.
The Oregon Department of Education is encouraging Oregonians to nominate their favorite teacher today for Regional Teacher of the Year. Each of 19 awardees receives a $500 cash award and a chance to be named 2023 Oregon Teacher of the Year. Once selected, a $5,000 cash prize goes to the OTOY, who then serves as a spokesperson for all Oregon teachers. Anyone can nominate a licensed public school educator in grades pre-K through 12th. Submissions are due Monday, January 31, 2022.
SELCO Community Credit Union is inviting high school seniors to apply for a share of $52,500 dollars in college scholarships. As part of its annual program, SELCO will award 19 students $2,500 scholarship to a two- or four-year college. Plus, one graduating senior who demonstrates excellence in scholarship, leadership and service, will receive the $5,000 Richard Metzler Opportunity Scholarship. Applications are open February 1-March 31, 2022. Prospective students can apply online. For more information, contact SELCO at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-686-5382.
A Bend man is facing burglary charges after hiding in the bathroom of a Les Schwab Tire Center. Saturday evening, Bend Police arrived at the business on Highway 97, responding to reports of a suspicious man entering an employee vehicle. Officers and a K9 searched the building and arrested the suspect, 31-year-old Michael Bray, when they found him in the bathroom. According to PD, Bray was released afterward with criminal citations, because COVID-19 protocols at the Deschutes County Jail prevented him from being booked.
Oregon Health Authority is reporting surging numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. As of Friday, OHA says there are 10,034 new infections of COVID-19 and 1,091 hospitalizations in the state. But, authorities say, hospitalizations are expected to peak in early February at about 1,500. There were 663 new cases reported in Deschutes County, 114 in Crook County, and 213 in Jefferson County. St. Charles has 70 COVID-19 patients; 26 are fully vaccinated. There are three patients in the ICU and are on ventilators; none are fully vaccinated.
Cascades East Transit will suspend Saturday regional Community Connector service starting February 5th until further notice due to driver shortages and low ridership. The last day for transit riders to utilize Saturday connector services is January 29th. Regional Community Connectors will continue to operate Monday through Friday to ensure passengers can travel between Central Oregon cities. Bend fixed routes and Bend Dial-A-Ride services will continue to operate on Saturdays. Saturday Service on Community Connectors will be restored once CET recruits and hires enough drivers. All of CET’s services are currently free, with the exception of Mt. Bachelor shuttles.
The Redmond School Board has sent another letter to the Oregon Health Authority asking to halt efforts to extend the state’s COVID mask and vaccine requirements in schools. The letter, signed by four of the five board members, also asks OHA to return the decision-making to local agencies. Yesterday, the agency held a public hearing–and plans two more on Monday–to discuss the mask and vaccination rules in schools. Health officials want to remove the current February 8th expiration date for the state’s mask mandate and make the rule indefinite. While not permanent, the OHA could rescind the rule at any time when COVID cases are back under control. Entire Letter
We have new information about the Wednesday night car crash that closed Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond. A Madras man was struck and killed by a car on Highway 97 north of Bend. According to Oregon State Police, 40-year-old Anthony Hernandez was walking in the lanes of travel around 9:30 p.m. when he was hit by a southbound car driven by a Portland man. OSP said Hernandez had run out of gas and was walking back to his vehicle near the 61st St. junction.
Bend City Council authorizes the purchase of Rainbow Motel. At yesterday’s meeting, the Bend City Council approved purchasing the one acre site on Franklin Avenue, which includes the Rainbow Motel.
The City will buy the motel for $4.5 million dollars with General Fund dollars and be able to use it for any desired use allowed in that zone.
Officials say the public investment could meet a variety of community needs, including transitional shelter or a future possible site for City Hall. For more, listen to "Your Town" when City Manager Eric King joins KBND.
We have an update to the story about the woman who died in a Monday crash on Highway 361. According to Oregon State Police, 36-year-old Sergio Sanchez of Madras was arrested yesterday after his release from the hospital. He was lodged in the Jefferson County Jail for manslaughter and drunk driving. OSP said the initial investigation showed Sanchez crossed into the northbound lane and collided head-on with a truck, driven by 60-year-old John Wallace of Metolius. Sanchez and Wallace were both taken to the hospital with injuries. A passenger in the truck, 56-year-old Anna Wallace suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe is investigating the cause of a train fire yesterday morning near Deschutes River Woods. The BNSF train was heading north when its electrical braking system caught fire, according to a Deputy Fire Marshal. Bend Fire crews were able to access the train from Highway 97 and extinguish the fire, located in one of the upper compartments of the locomotive. The power supply for the train’s breaking system is located in this compartment. None of the fuel lines for the engines nearly 4,700 gallons of diesel were involved in the fire. Officials say the fire was stopped before it was able to spread any further in the train or to adjacent vegetation or homes.
No hazardous materials, freight or neighboring homes were threatened. One southbound lane of Highway 97 near the High Desert Museum was closed for some time as crews remained on the scene. No one was injured.
Yesterday, a six-hour standoff ended with a Bend man facing burglary charges. At around 10:30 a.m. Bend Police responded to a home on State Street for a report of a burglary in progress. According to police, 38-year-old David Taxer was inside a vacant house and the owner said no one should be there. Taxer refused to come out and then barricaded himself inside. Central Oregon Emergency Response team and a Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office K9 came to assist. They found Taxer hiding in the attic, and just after 4 p.m., took him into custody without incident or injury. PD took the man to the Deschutes County Jail where he was booked on burglary, criminal mischief, and theft.
Climbing crude oil prices are sending pump prices higher despite lower demand for gas. Crude oil prices have surged to around $85 per barrel, elevating gas prices at a time of year when they are usually at seasonal lows. Triple A’s Marie Dodds says the national average for a gallon of gas is $3.31, its highest price since December 2021. The Oregon average is $3.92, now at its highest price since July 2014. And in Bend, the average for a gallon of regular is $4.02. According to Dodds, the jump in crude oil prices is fueled by the perception that the COVID-19 Omicron variant may ebb, allowing the world’s economies to expand.
Another 700 Oregon National Guard members are arriving at hospitals around the state to help with the surge in patients from the Omicron variant of COVID-19. They join 500 service members who arrived at hospitals last week. Their duties will include disinfecting rooms for new patients, food service, greeting visitors at entrances, and moving patients in hospitals.
On Friday, January 21, 2002, Central Oregon Community College is hosting a career fair for early learning educators. This event is for soon-to-be and recent graduates, AND for those considering a career in early education to ask questions of those in the field. Some participating employers include: Oregon State University-Cascades’ Little Beavs/Little Kits; The Children’s Learning Center in Madras, the Boys & Girls Club of Bend, and NeighborImpact Child Care Resources. The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Bend campus’s Coats Campus Center. Masks are required and distancing protocols will be followed.
More than 1,000 Bend-La Pine Schools students and 100 staff members were out last week due to COVID. But the district’s leader says it’ll stay business as usual in schools for as long as possible, despite the rising case counts. In a Friday email to families, Superintendent Dr. Steve Cook says the goal is to keep schools open for in-person learning. Last week’s numbers aren’t yet available for Deschutes County but the Oregon Health Authority reported more than 3,000 cases here Tuesday-Friday alone. Two weeks ago Cook warned parents a return to remote learning would be an option if the COVID situation with teachers worsened. Cook also once again urged families to get vaccinated and boosted if eligible, stay home if they’re sick, up their mask game and avoid large crowds.
A missing 16-year-old Bend girl is found safe, and returned home. Yesterday, Bend Police located Aracely Gonzalez-Arteaga, who was reported missing on January 13th.Early Sunday morning, at about 12:30 a.m., a community member reported the possible whereabouts of Gonzalez-Arteaga. Officers were able to locate the Mountain View High School student, who was found unharmed. Foul play is not suspected and Gonzalez-Arteaga has since been reunited with her family. (Photo courtesy of Central Oregon Daily News.)
Oregon Health Authority will ease some COVID-19 contact tracing requirements for Oregon schools. Under the updated guidelines, Oregon will no longer consider masked contact in K-12 settings, including school buses, to be an exposure, regardless of distance. OHA says changes are based on evidence that masking efforts in K-12 schools have worked well to minimize transmission, the majority of which has occurred following indoor, unmasked contact. Officials say it’s a "common-sense" change to contact tracing that will allow schools to focus on identifying high-risk, indoor, unmasked exposures. In addition, schools will no longer be required to report negative antigen test results to OHA. Reporting of positive antigen test results will still be required.
After a brief police pursuit yesterday, a Bend man is facing drug trafficking charges. Through an inter-agency investigation, the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) Team identified 37-year-old Schaun Johnson as a fentanyl and methamphetamine trafficker. Officials say Johnson was pulled over on Highway 97. During the traffic stop, a K-9 detected drugs, but Johnson managed to flee the scene, throwing packages of methamphetamine and fentanyl from the truck onto the highway as he was fleeing. Detectives found the truck off-road in the trees and arrested Johnson.
Photo by Jason Schreiber
A Bend man catches a possible world-record mountain whitefish on the Deschutes River. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Alex Dietz hooked a 5 pound 12 oz whitefish. Last week, officials certified it as the new state record. Dietz’s fish might also be a world record and he is submitting certification to the International Game Fish Association.
Gas prices are moving higher, driven by a jump in crude oil prices. AAA says some refinery and distribution issues in the Pacific Northwest are causing Oregon prices to rise faster than the national average. For the week, the national average for regular climbs a penny to $3.30 a gallon. The Oregon average jumps seven cents to $3.90. Here in the Bend, the weekly average is $3.99.