Local News

Foodie Crawl To Benefit Local Food Bank As Need Grows

BEND, OR -- NeighborImpact continues to see a rise in food insecurity in the tri-county area. "In the last year, we served over 800,000 food boxes and meal sites across Central Oregon, which is absolutely a record," says Food Program Manager Jordan Reeher, "And numbers just, unfortunately, keep going up around the region."

The nonprofit is a regional food bank, "We receive a lot of food from Oregon Food Bank and then distribute it to a lot of our partner agencies around Central Oregon," says Reeher, "They’re a lot of times where someone is receiving the food directly. That’s where people go if they’re getting hot meals, if they’re getting a food box." He adds, "The bulk of the work we do is providing food to those partner agencies. We want to support that network, make sure that we have food available and that we can distribute that." Reeher tells KBND News the need for food has grown since the pandemic, "Through our network, we did four million pounds that we distributed to our partner agencies, and then another two million pounds that our food pantries and meal sites distributed themselves. So, six million pounds that went out in just the last year."

Much of their work is donor supported. But an upcoming fundraiser will help continue efforts through the year. The US Bank Foodie Crawl is April 28th, from 2-4 p.m., "We always call it a pub crawl meets progressive dinner. It’s basically the best of both. You get to just walk around, try out some new spots, try out some new food." Reeher says, "You get to walk around on a beautiful day downtown and eat some little sampler plates from the best restaurants in Bend. It doesn’t get much better than that." There's also an after-party at McMenamins, from 4-6 p.m., "And all of it just supports the food program, and makes it so the work we do is possible."

Tickets are available now HERE

 

Statewide Series Of Transportation Safety Meetings Starts In Redmond

REDMOND, OR -- Oregon’s Department of Transportation kicks off a series of public workshops and open house meetings this week in Central Oregon, focused on safety. ODOT’s Transportation Safety Office will host eight meetings around the state over the next six weeks, starting Thursday in Redmond. ODOT's Mindy McCartt says others are scheduled for southern and eastern Oregon and The Gorge, "These are those rural areas where we haven’t been in very often."

The agency wants to hear ideas from the public about how to improve safe road user behavior, "It’s the getting the right information in front of the people that need to know, in order to elicit a behavioral change," says McCartt, "And the only way we know, right now, to influence the public is to get out there and ask them how they want to learn."

She says existing tools, like tickets and social media campaigns, aren't enough, "We’ve worked with our legislative partners and our law enforcement partners and increased the fines for distracted driving. Well, that’s still not working; we still have distracted drivers out there. So, now we’re going to be looking at what’s going to get your attention? What’s going to get your attention to re-think is it worth picking up that phone?"

The information will help determine how grant money is spent in each community on a variety of issues, "We’re looking at aging road users, we’re looking at bicycle safety, commercial vehicle safety, commercial traffic safety, distracted driving, drivers education, emergency medical services; impaired driving, intersection safety - when you think about, ‘is it legal to turn right on a red?’ Those kinds of things; U-turns, motorcycle safety, seatbelt awareness, child protective seats, pedestrian, Safe Routes to School, work zones." 

Thursday’s all-day workshop in Redmond requires an RSVP via email or by calling 541-508-9690. The open house starts at 5 p.m., at Redmond City Hall. Later stops include The Dalles, Roseburg, North Bend and Island City. 

 

Sisters Ranger District Hosts Open House, Walking Tour

SISTERS, OR -- The Deschutes National Forest invites the public to an open house at the Sisters Ranger District, Tuesday evening. "It’s an opportunity for the public to come and hear about a range of activities that we have planned for the upcoming year," says Kaitlyn Webb, with the Forest Service.

They'll talk about the upcoming wildifre season and projets planned for the season, "Vegetation management in the Green Ridge and Cougar Rock areas, anticipated prescribed burn plans - So, great opportunity to hear more about a community-focused overview of those plans, the new ranger station’s construction, predictions for fire season and also several watershed restoration projects." Webb tells KBND News, "It is a great opportunity for folks to come, hear updates, but then also have one-on-one conversation with the specialists."

Prior to the formal presentation, they'll offer a walking tour of the new ranger station site, "We’re in the middle of construction of a new ranger station in Sisters. So, it’ll be an opportunity for the community to come and take a walk, and take a look at the progress we’ve made on that construction so far," says Webb. 

That walking tour is at 4:45 Tuesday, April 9th. RSVP by calling 541-549-7700 or via email. The open house portion is from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Sisters Ranger District office on North Pine Street. No RSVP is needed for the drop-in event. 

 

Regional Homeless Count Shows Mixed Improvement

BEND, OR -- The Homeless Leadership Coalition has released more preliminary data from this year’s Point In Time (PIT) homeless count. While Bend saw fewer unsheltered homeless"There was a huge rise in Crook County for the number of people who are living unsheltered," says Coalition Chair Eliza Wilson. But she believes the spike is because of a better process, "We had a huge provider group and cross-systems group working to do the PIT count this year, and we’ve never had that level of engagement in Crook County." She adds, "The health department led the PIT count in Crook County and there were a number of organizations involved in that. Even the library, Redemption House were hugely involved. So they did such a great job of going out into more rural areas." She says most of those counted have been in that community for a long time.

The PIT count is a snapshot of where the unhoused spent the night of January 23rd. Wilson says volunteers counted 1,811 people in the tri-county region. That's 164 more than in 2023. As in past years, Wilson still believes this year's number is an undercount, "We do know that there are more people entering homelessness than exiting." She adds, "This is only what we can capture between 9-5, Monday-Friday; or, I think we had some people go out on Saturday and Sunday. If we were to really be able to have the capacity to count people when they’re off work, because we have a lot of folks who work."

Wilson says there is good news: In both Jefferson and Deschutes County, where state emergency funding increased shelter capacity, more people are accessing those services. "For the first time, there is a shelter in Jefferson County that opened, so we’re seeing more people in shelter in the count." And, "In Deschutes County, why we’re seeing more people in shelter, it’s because we’ve increased shelter capacity with the emergency order funding, and those investments. And in Jefferson County, the same thing: we have a shelter."

 

Mentors Needed For Children Of Incarcerated Adults

BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is looking for volunteers for Central Oregon Partnerships For Youth (COPY), to mentor young people who have a parent in custody. COPY's Bob Moore says the program works with kids trying to process a lot of family upheaval, "If you’re a kid who has a parent dealing with drug offenses or a registered sex offender, those are really big, challenging issues and you’re probably not having a lot of safe places for you to process some of the feelings and concerns that you’re dealing with." He tells KBND News, "Our volunteers are one of those people that are often having those conversations with kids because they know that’s a safe environment."

After training and background checks, a COPY mentor is paired with a child. "What we ask of our volunteers is to spend a couple hours per week with that youth for a year," says Moore, "And what that time looks like kind of depends a little bit on interest and activities and all sorts of different things."

To keep costs down, COPY partners with local organizations to provide options, "Whether it’s the rock climbing gym or the trampoline parks or High Desert Museum or the park and rec districts. So, a lot of opportunities for the volunteers to be plugged in with their youth, doing things out in the community that don’t cost a lot of money through those partnerships." Moore says, "Mt. Bachelor just ended up setting up a partnership with us to do some projects around getting kids into the outdoor environment with some of the programs that they offer. We’ve got some partnerships around cooking, in particular, which I think are amazing." Moore adds, "Having the opportunity for our kids to go out and just have some positive connections in the community, but also having that stable adult that’s willing to be with them through that process and be that consistent person in their life."

COPY is grant funded. The next training for volunteer mentors is Saturday, April 13. The 3.5-hour class covers policies, how to establish a mentor relationship, the impact incarceration has on families and communication. A current volunteer will also take questions. It's free but advanced registration is required. To sign up, call 541-388-6651 or email. Click HERE for more information. 

 

Deschutes DA: Driver Shot By Bend Police Died Of Self-Inflicted Wound

BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County District Attorney says an 18-year-old involved in an officer-involved shooting in Bend on March 20th died of a self-inflicted wound. Witnesses reported a vehicle traveling at over 90 miles an hour on the Bend Parkway that evening. The driver, later identified as Gabriel Platz, was then involved in a three-car crash. One of the other involved drivers told 911 dispatchers Platz smelled of alcohol. 

When police arrived, District Attorney Steve Gunnels says Platz was still in his vehicle and officers noticed a handgun on the floor. The DA says Platz disregarded commands to not pickup the gun. Investigators determined Platz was shot by police at the same time he sustained a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound. The incident was captured by two officers' bodycams. According to the autopsy, one of the bullets fired by police entered his leg, the other his chest. The self-inflicted wound was to his temple. 

DA Gunnels says the officer's "use of deadly force was reasonable to defend himself" other officers and bystanders. 

Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz issued a statement thanking the DA and the Tri-County Major Incident Team for the "rapid, transparent and thorough investigation." He says, "The completion of the District Attorney's Office review brings to a close the criminal investigation required following these types of incidents. The Bend Police Department will now conduct an administrative review, which aims to assess whether officers adhered to department policies and procedures during the incident."

Krantz went on to say, "My thoughts are with everyone affected by this incident, and I remain steadfast in ensuring our entire community knows that the Bend Police Department is committed to upholding their safety and well-being." And he urged anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or knows of someone who is to call 988 or County Behavioral Health at 541-322-7500. 

An image from an officer's bodycam shows Gabriel Platz raising his handgun, according to DA Gunnels' report. 

OHSU Brings Accelerated Nursing Program To Bend

BEND, OR -- St. Charles Health System, Central Oregon Community College and OHSU are collaborating on a program to train more nurses. Dr. Susan Bakewell Sachs is Dean of OHSU's School of Nursing. She says it will help address the local healthcare workforce shortage more quickly than traditional prgrams, "Designed for individuals who already have at least a Bachelor's Degree in another field, to enter nursing through this accelerated program that gives them a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in 15 months."

OHSU already offers the program in Portland and Ashland, "It is a well-established program," says Bakewell Sachs, "And we have students who have Bachelor’s Masters, Doctoral degrees, who make the decision to change their career path and come into nursing." The partnership allows for OHSU nursing students to use COCC’s simulation lab and classroom space, and they will serve many of their clinical hours with St. Charles. She says it'll also benefit OSU-Cascades, "OSU has graduates who come out of their campus with Bachelor’s of Science degrees, and who may very well want to pursue nursing."

The gaol is to train local students who Bakewell Sachs expects will stay in Central Oregon to work. "We have four regional campuses outside of Portland, and we really do seek to try to educate students in those communities who want to be in those communities." She adds, "We have examples of how this has worked well in other parts of the state, so I’m just really pleased we were able to put this together and we’re ready to move forward."

The first cohort of eight students begin classes in July. 

 

Open House For Greenwood Ave. Project

BEND, OR -- Safety improvements are coming to a section of Greenwood Avenue in Bend. 

The City's Project Manager Todd Johnson says they’ll begin work on what’s called a ‘road diet’ later this summer, “Changing from four lanes to a three-lane roadway section with turn lanes in the middle of that. And this is to provide space for bicyclists and pedestrians and vulnerable users. …Just add in a buffer between vehicles and those vulnerable users.”

He tells KBND News Greenwood from Wall to Second Street will see construction for a few weeks and then the traffic will be evaluated, “Likely implementing this around the July time frame of seeking public input on proposed changes. We have an open house that's live online right now and you can go and comment on it.”

The project is part of the city’s larger goal. “There is a council priority of investing in the core area and just seeing redevelopment there. So certainly, this Greenwood project is part of kind of the larger midtown connections projects that we have,” Johnson says, noting several projects are lined up, “We're looking at that Hawthorne pedestrian bridge, we're looking at making improvements to Franklin, and then this certainly at Greenwood with first the quick build, and then evaluating that for a year.”

An open house this Tuesday, April 9th, will allow the public to give input. It’s from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Bend City Hall.

There’s also an online survey at the city’s website.

 

Most Of Oregon Sees Strong April Snowpack

BEND, OR -- Oregon’s strong snowpack is good news for the summer, if it doesn’t melt off too fast. "Forecasts are predicting slightly above normal water supply conditions for the summer," says NRCS Hydrologist Matt Warbritton, "Which of course bodes well for reservoir storage and also the irrigation season, which has started already."

New snow in Central Oregon this pushed the Deschutes-Crooked River Basin over 100% of average for this time of year. But just to the north, the Mt. Hood and Lower Deschutes Basin is lower than normal. Jefferson County Commissioners have asked for a state drought declarationWarbritton isn't surprised, "Throughout Oregon, especially in the Cascades, but also as you move out into Central Oregon, there’s a lot of microclimates that come into play. And of course, weather patterns aren’t always consistent over a much broader area." He tells KBND News, "Although snowpack and water-year-to-date precipitation over these past two winters have been beneficial to the Central Oregon region that have seen mostly near-normal conditions, there’s still some lingering longer term dry conditions."

Warbritton says northeast Oregon is also likely to see a lower water supply this summer, "There are some indications of drier soil moisture conditions in the Umatilla basin, as well as snowpack and precipitation deficits in parts of the Grande Ronde and Powder River basins."

The strongest snowpack is in the southeast corner of Oregon, "The Steens Mountain and the Owyhee and Harney Basin, those areas have really seen pretty good snowpack through the course of the winter," says Warbritton, "And those are regions, historically, that have trended a bit more dry. But in the past at least couple of years, those regions have been doing well." He adds, "Our Fish Creek Snotel site, which is up at higher elevations in the Steens Mountains, actually has recorded as of April first, its fifth highest snowpack on record. And that record dates back to 1941."

 

Annual Count Finds Fewer Unhoused In Bend

BEND, OR -- A preliminary look at this year’s Point In Time homeless count shows a positive trend in Bend. "We actually went down in Bend, as far as overall numbers of folks who are homeless," says Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler, "And we are also seeing less unsheltered homeless and more people who are in a sheltered status, which is good because then they get those connections that get them into housing." Local leaders got an early look at the results from the survey conducted in January. Kebler says the broader stats are mixed, "In the region, overall, the numbers did go up in total. But in our city, they actually went down. And that’s the first time that’s happened in over a decade."

She tells KBND News, "I think that’s a credit to the city leadership in stepping up and saying we need to expand those shelter facilities, and our community partners that stepped up: Shepherds House, REACH, NeighborImpact, everybody’s who’s helping us run our Project Turnkey and our Second Street Shelter, and creating better partnership with the county and coordination. And, I think this is a sign that we need to keep going; we can’t let up."

Kebler believes an increase in affordable housing options also helps, "For all the housing built in Bend, 10% of it was deed restricted housing. And that was the result of a goal that we set in 2021 and continued to push forward, to really ramp up the number of those subsidized affordable housing units, to go along with all the market-rate units that are being built in Bend." She adds, "10% may not sound like a lot. But if you look at what other cities are able to do and sort of how much it takes to subsidize these units, it’s actually a really big accomplishment to see that percentage of our housing be set aside for people with certain incomes to make sure they can afford it."

The official results from this year’s PIT count, conducted by the Homeless Leadership Coalition, have not been released. 

 

Deschutes County Seeks La Pine Area EPA Grant

La Pine, OR -- Deschutes County will ask the Environmental Protection Agency for a grant to fund projects in the La Pine area.

Commissioners approved the grant request Wednesday after Community Development Department Director Peter Gutowsky told them how the money would benefit South County residents, “We have efforts that are ongoing right now that deal with air quality, upgrading septic systems, assisting homeowners with rehabilitation efforts, helping people with deepening domestic wells.”

The EPA’s Community Change grant is for addressing climate action, pollution reduction, and community engagement.

NeighborImpact, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are included as partners in the proposal.

“We're going to have a story to tell, we're going to have experiences. It will inform how we can utilize these resources countywide, but it also has statewide implications in a very positive way,” Gutowsky told the board the partners play an important role in coordinating with the county to get the money, “You have to demonstrate, not only that you have the relationships today, you have the readiness to proceed, but you have the capacity to continue to invest in not just specific sub area, but for us, it would be all of southern Deschutes County.”

The proposed 19.7 million dollars in grant funding would go towards specialized equipment and implementing pollution reduction strategies.

“We have, I think a significant track record that we can leverage going forward with the partners. And it's a really exciting opportunity,” Gutowsky said.

The county aims to submit its application by late May or early June. 

 

Bend RV Destroyed In Early Morning Fire, Two Arrested

BEND, OR -- A fire in the Scandia Village RV Park, in northeast Bend, remains under investigation. Bend Fire and Rescue responded Thursday morning, just before 5 a.m. after a neighbor woke to a loud noise and found a fifth wheel fully engulfed in flames. 

No one was home at the time and no injuries were reported. Firefighters extinguished the flames, and prevented damage to neighboring buildings. The RV, a storage trailer and the contents are considered a total loss, with damages estimated at $75,000. 

 

UPDATE: Bend Police believe the fire was started by a man who was angry with the trailer's owner. The incident began just after 3 a.m. Thursday, when officers arrested 54-year-old Edward Bales for blocking Third Street with his pickup. Investigators say Bales and 26-year-old Austin Stapleton had been drinking together for several hours in Redmond and Bend. While driving to Bales' home in the Scandia Village RV Park, the two got into a fight. Stapleton allegedly punched Bales in the face and took his keys. 

Bales was in custody, charged with DUII, when firefighters were dispatched to his trailer at about 4:45 a.m. About 30 minutes later, Deschutes County deputies responded to a reported DUII in La Pine and arrested Stapleton. Bales' dog was in Stapleton's vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. He's now charged with DUII, assault, robbery, theft, burglary and arson. 

 

Photo courtesy of Bend Fire & Rescue

Job Fair Features Many Educator Positions

REDMOND, OR -- A special job fair aims to help educators find positions at local districts.

The Central Oregon Regional Educator Network hosts Thursday’s event at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds.

“We are definitely looking for classroom teachers. We are also looking for other educational positions, special education teachers, counselors, school psychologists, educational assistants to some of those classified positions,” Kimberly Strong, from the High Desert Education Service District, says there will be over a dozen prospective employers, “We're going to have 11 different participating school districts as well as some community resources. And so, it's an opportunity for local educator candidates to come on out and get to know some of our regional districts. High Desert ESD will be out there. They are always looking to recruit substitute teachers. So, there's a lot of different opportunities for folks in Central Oregon.”

She tells KBND News it is free to attend, but advanced registration is suggested, “Folks can do that by visiting centraloregoneducators.org and out of the 1st 100 people to register, we're going to put them in a raffle for some cool Central Oregon themed prizes.”

The event is from 1 pm to 6 pm Thursday in the Middle and South Sister buildings at the fairgrounds.

KBND File Photo: Previous Local Job Fair

Marine Board Urges Compliance With Permit Law

SALEM, OR -- The Oregon Marine Board is trying to boost participation in its permit program for non-motorized watercraft, like paddle boards. According to the board, compliance is especially low in Deschutes and Jefferson counties.

Stand-up paddle boards and kayaks grow in popularity every year, but the OMB doesn’t know how many of these non-motorized boats are actually out on the water. "Anecdotally, we believe that there are around 300,000, which is almost double what we have in motorized," and the OMB's Ashley Massey says the number of Waterway Access Permits issued is much lower, "Because paddling is such a wonderful activity and so many people do it, and it’s become so accessible to pick up at Bimart or Costco, a standup paddleboard or kayak, it’s really difficult to get a sense of what those numbers look like." Permits have been required since 2020 for, "Anyone who operates a non-motorized paddlecraft, and that includes standup paddle boards that are 10-feet or longer." 

Massey says, "When our marine law enforcement are patrolling waterways and they’re engaging with paddlers, a lot of them aren’t aware that this permit program is even around."

Permits cost between $5 and $30, "Some families have like six kayaks. And say only three people want to go paddling. You only need three out there," says Massey, "So, it’s one permit per boat and they are transferable to other watercraft." Recreators are supposed to carry the permit with them, either a paper or digital copy. Kids 14 and under are exempt. Paddlers also need to carry a properly fitting US Coast Guard approved and readily accessible life jacket and whistle. Children 12 and under must wear a life jacket while on board. Click HERE for more information.

Money from the permits goes, "To develop separate access, where possible. Especially in areas where there’s mixed use boating," says Massey, "A lot of conflict that we were hearing about out on the waterways was coming from motorized boaters, saying they can’t use a launch ramp because so many people are in the way. And, the same with boarding docks." Since the program began, the agency has issued $2.7 million in project grants, including one project near Bend's whitewater park.

 

Redmond Man Arrested For Child Porn, More Victims Possible

REDMOND, OR -- A 40-year-old Redmond man was arrested last week on child pornography charges, and police say local children could be involved. Redmond Police say they received information from an out-of-state agency, leading them to execute a search warrant at the home of Justin Copeland. 

Detectives say they collected evidence pointing to Copeland's possible contact or attempted contact wit children in the Redmond area. Any information about the suspect or the investigation is urged to contact Det. Ben Halsey at RPD, at 541-504-3475. 

Copeland is accused of Online Sexual Corruption of a Child and Encouraging Child Sex Abuse. He was arrested Thursday without incident. 

Managed Homeless Camp Could Open In Redmond

REDMOND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners met Tuesday night with the Redmond City Council to discuss the possibility of creating a managed homeless camp on a portion of 45 acres of county-owned land near the airport. 

City Councilor Cat Zwicker also serves on the board for the Coordinated Houseless Response Office (CHRO) and says the current strategy of asking a service provider to develop a property is unlikely to work. She wants the city and county to first get infrasctructure to the site, "I feel like, this is almost a situation of if you build it, they will come." County Commissioner Phil Chang agrees, "I buy the argument that asking a homeless service provider to come in and develop a managed camp versus asking them to come in and operate a managed camp are two very different things. I’m personally very supportive of this proposal." He says there is funding for the project, "Of our remaining America Rescue Plan funds, we’ve allocated $1.5 million, so I would love to have a sense of what we think that $1.5 million could get us." 

Commissioner Patti Adair also serves on the CHRO board and said, "I really believe that we have an opportunity here. We need to get it done sooner rather than later."  She cited the county’s work providing water and portable toilets to campers in Juniper Ridge as an example of how a managed camp could work. Chang agrees that program has been successful, "But, we haven’t provided management. We haven’t provided a space for service providers to come in and support people on their journey out of homelessness."

Redmond City Councilors appeared open to the idea of siting a managed camp near the airport if it's a partnership between the city, county and a homeless service provider. Commissioner Tony DeBone was frustrated the conversation lacked details, saying, "When you say the word ‘managed camp,’ I don’t have a feel for what that means." Commissioner Adair replied, "It means that there’s rules. You don’t leave your trash out." But DeBone still expressed concerns, "There’s a lot of thoughts in each one of our heads about what we think this should look like. And there’s nothing on paper here, now. So, we’re talking about it at a high level. We’ve been doing this for years now, which is frustrating for all of us." 

Mayor Ed Fitch says the property could be ready by next spring. 

 

Weed Burning Again Blamed For Structure Fire

BEND, OR -- For the second time in just a few days, firefighters say efforts to destroy weeds started a structure fire. Bend firefighters responded to a home on Northeast Hope Drive Tuesday, and found flames spreading from the ground, up an outside wall and into the second floor. Crews kept the fire from growing and it was quickly extinguished.

Investigators say someone used a propane torch to burn weeds and hot embers spread from the ground to the garage. Damage is estimated at $100,000.

On Saturday, a Tumalo-area barn was destroyed after someone tried to get rid of weeds next to the building, using a propane torch. 

Redmond Police Investigate Vehicle Damage

REDMOND, OR -- Windows of nearly a dozen vehicles were shot out in northwest Redmond over the weekend and police are asking for the public’s help identifying those responsible.

The damaged vehicles were discovered Sunday morning on NW Birch and NW Cedar, between NW 31st and NW 35th streets. Police believe the shooter used a BB gun or air rifle sometime between 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday.

Anyone living in the area with security footage is urged to contact RPD through non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911; reference case #2024-8946.

Deschutes County Mulls Permit Increases

BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County department that issues permits for new development wants to increase its fees to cover an anticipated future budget shortfall. "Deschutes County’s Community Development Department is the only county department in Oregon that really tries to be fee dependent," says Director Peter Gutowsky. He told County Commissioners this week those permit requests are down between 1% and 30%, depending on the category, "CDD, right now, is experiencing some structural budget challenges as a fee-dependent department. And, this is a reflection on conservative budget estimates over a five-year period. And we have a shortfall of approximately $1.4 million."

Gutowsky is asking County Commissioners to consider raising the cost of most permits in its fiscal year 2025 budget. The biggest increases would be for electrical and land use applications, which could go up 18%. He also proposes wiping out eight positions in the department. "I want to emphasize that the Community Development Department is not proposing layoffs," he says, "These are unfilled positions that we want to eliminate, and it just reflects our budget challenges." He’d also like to transfer for around $244,000 from a reserve fund.  

"I want to underscore that CDD’s budget is not vulnerable immediately," says Gutowsky. "We’re not in a budgetary crisis now. It’s just: we’re aware of this kind of budget vulnerability, or structural challenge on the horizon - five, six, seven, eight years, assuming our budget projections, which are conservative, were to be somewhat accurate."

Commissioners will formally consider his request next month, when they discuss the budget for fiscal year ‘25. 

 

Tumalo Barn Destroyed In Weekend Fire

TUMALO, OR -- A Tumalo-area barn was destroyed in a Saturday evening fire. The homeowner discovered the blaze at about 6:30 and called 911.

Firefighters from Bend, Redmond and Cloverdale responded and stopped the fire from spreading to nearby vehicles and buildings. But the barn and its contents are considered a total loss, valued at about $75,000.

Earlier in the day, someone was burning weeds with a propane torch near the barn. Its metal siding did not fully cover the wood framing and was able to ignite. The fire smoldered several hours before it was noticed.

COCC Madras Invites Public To Sneak Peek Of Expansion

MADRAS, OR -- Central Oregon Community College has wrapped up the design phase of its Madras Campus expansion project. Officials submitted for permits last week. "We hope to be breaking ground by the end of June 2024; so just around the corner," says Madras Campus Director Jeremy Green.

He tells KBND News the lower part of the building was designed in partnership with a third-party operator of a childcare facility, "The Children’s Learning Center is our partner, and they have existed for the last several years with a three-year long waitlist," says Green, "With the addition of 100 childcare slots, they’re going to be able to really meet the broader need within the community." Green says it means some kids could start pre-school at COCC Madras and later return to earn their degree. "This is an exciting venture for COCC, as a whole. We don’t have another facility on any of our four campuses that are going to be built or designed like this, with a third-party childcare provider on site. So it is going to change the look and feel of the Madras campus, for sure." 

There’s also an expanded health careers training facility that mirrors portions of St. Charles Medical Center. Renderings of the entire expansion project will be available at an open house later this week, "What are the COCC students going to experience when they walk into this facility, as a health careers-specific training site for nursing, nursing assisting and medical assisting? What can the broader community expect as this building is constructed over the next year?"

The open house is Thursday evening, April 4, at COCC Madras (1170 E. Ashwood Rd.), from 4 to 5:30 p.m. "We have the latest renderings of the project that will show the project to scale, that will give an idea of what the building will look like on the inside, folks accessing this facility from the childcare center get a look and a feel for what is it going to look like for the kiddos coming in." 

Fundraising for the project continues. Green expects the new building to open in the fall of 2025. 

Image: Architectural rendering of COCC Madras' new building

Prineville Man Arrested For Drug Trafficking

PRINEVILLE, OR -- A Prineville man faces a list of charges, following a drug bust in the Juniper Canyon area of Crook County. Detectives with the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team identified 60-year-old Charles McQuage as a suspected drug trafficker in late 2023. They believe he’s responsible for the distribution of meth and fentanyl around the area.

McQuage was arrested Thursday, during a traffic stop. In a search of his home, agents seized drugs, two pistols, a butane honey oil extraction lab (right), cash and additional evidence.

According to the Crook County District Attorney, there were four fentanyl overdoses in Prineville this week; two were fatal. 

McQuage is charged with:

  • Unlawful Distribution of Methamphetamine
  • Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine
  • Unlawful Possession of Methamphetamine
  • Unlawful Distribution of Fentanyl
  • Unlawful Manufacture of Fentanyl
  • Unlawful Possession of Fentanyl
  • Commercial Drug Offense (Enhancement)
  • Felon in Possession of a Weapon (Firearm)
  • Unlawful Manufacture of a Marijuana Item (BHO Lab)

Jefferson Co. D.A. Says Office Lacks Staff, Funding

MADRAS, OR -- Jefferson County’s District Attorney is asking for more staff and better pay. Steve Leriche says his office has multiple murder cases on its schedule, but he told County Commissioners this week just one a year would be a lot for his staff.

And now, Chief Deputy D.A. Brentley Foster is resigning as the second in command, effective in a week. "The manslaughters, the rapes, the child sex abuse, the encouraging child sex abuse, those are all of my cases," Foster told Commissioners. She works long hours and frequently on weekends, "Over the last 10 years, this kind of schedule and this kind of caseload has taken a toll on my health."

Leriche says he needs his office fully staffed, "With the docket that’s been put forth before our office, thanks in part to the crime spree of ‘20 to 2022, this is a task that’s almost impossible. I don’t know how we’re going to do it." He believes it will be tough to replace Foster given the current pay scale and the skills required for the job. "To get someone to sign up to take a job that demands weekends and nights and long hours and then sometimes very little gratitude. Sometimes you’re the subject of scorn or hate." He told Commissioners he's even received threats, "Recently, I was advise that I had ruined someone else’s life and that my sons better watch out because ‘eye for an eye, [redacted]' sort of thing. That’s what we live with."

Leriche says he recently hired law students because the pool of candidates is so small, "We don’t get a lot of applicants. And that’s not just our story, it’s small D.A. offices throughout the state, and even some big ones. Being a D.A.’s not cool these days. The legal profession, people are choosing other routes than being D.A."

He's asking Commissioners to consider increasing his office's budget, so he can recruit and retain more staff. 

 

Proposal For Future Of Redmond High Takes Shape

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond-area voters are expected to be asked in November to approve a $97 million school bond, part of which would cover the cost of fixing the failing HVAC system and roof at Redmond High.  We’re learning more about plans for the RHS building, if the district decides to move forward with a proposal to consolidate high schools at Ridgeview. 

Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline says RHS would be repurposed, "We’re going to actually develop an alternative high school in that building, which will handle about 150 kids. We have a lot of students that just have a hard time with regular schools and so we’d create an alternative track there for kids who need something a little different; a little more supportive." He adds, "We also have a behavior program over at what’s the Brown building; that would move into that building. We would sell that Brown building. We would also move our district office over into that space, thus selling our district office space." Cline tells KBND News, "The sale of Brown would be used to do some minor modifications of Redmond High, to make it work for those purposes. The middle of the building, we would actually build community-use space; classrooms that people could use for meeting rooms, big empty spaces people could do productions in."

He says those sales would also provide the district with long-term savings, "So, we take two albatrosses, if you will, off the district’s books - buildings that are hard to maintain, buildings that are really getting fairly old. And we take the money we gain from that to do the remodels at Redmond High, to make that a good space for a lot of different educational purposes."

For RHS to remain a traditional high school, Cline says it would also need expensive repairs to the theater and locker rooms, which aren’t necessary under his plan, "For me, the idea of fixing Redmond High, continuing to do this kind of work, is putting Band-Aids on a problem. We have problems with our district office building; we have problems with the Brown schools."

Earlier this month, Redmond Schools released the results of a community poll, showing support for the consolidation idea. A bond committee is finalizing a list of project recommendations, which will then get voted on by the school board before it goes to the November ballot. Cline says public listening sessions will be held soon to gather more feedback. 

 

Parolee Housing Program Ends Prior To Launch

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners formally halted development of a transitional housing program in southeast Bend this week. Commissioner Tony DeBone says neighbors were concerned about a plan to house parolees, including sex offenders, in the triplex on Wilson Avenue.

"We had a public hearing on the matter last week. My conclusion was we should notify the community we’re going to try to do this kind of siting. So that basically got us to a point of let’s back off of this," he tells KBND News. "We’re not going to utilize that facility for this purpose, but I’m sure we’ll be able to find some re-use for it. Somebody’s going to be able to use housing. So, I do apologize. It’s one of those situations that it’s just not good anywhere; ya know, the whole big picture on this."

Parole and Probation officials had said the program would ensure their clients are supervised instead of living on the streets. The county bought the triplex three months ago, "We used some public resources to purchase it," says DeBone, "We’ll find opportunity to reuse it." He adds, "If it’s not used for this kind of purpose, it’s housing for somebody in our community. So, I don’t know that there’s any other discussion that needs to happen there."

But, he acknowledges it's too soon to know the exact future of the property, "We’ll either get it to another housing provider of some sort. There’s another apology in there: we displaced some people. We offered them resources and they were able to find other housing, but it was very disruptive for a few people that were in there. But we’ll get some other people in there. Not sure exactly what’s happening or what we’re going to do in the near future."

Last week, Commissioners voted to start looking for a new site for the program in Bend or Redmond, potentially in a neighborhood under development. That timeline and location remain unclear.

 

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