SALEM, OR -- A new report shows key areas of critical concern for Oregon’s Secretary of State. When Jeanne Atkins took office in March, she hoped auditors could provide fresh perspective on several years’ worth of studies. The resulting collection of data created a list of three key themes: Education, state finances and infrastructure. "Oregon faces critical infrastructure needs, including the need to upgrade state information technology systems and to develop stable mechanisms for funding and managing future transportation projects," Secretary Atkins said. According to the report, Oregon has borrowed 2-billion dollars to pay for bridge and road construction over the past 10 years.
Atkins says that debt reduces the money available to pay for future transportation needs.
On education, Atkins said, "Oregon must have an education system organized for student success and ensuring that young Oregonians are prepared to enter the workforce."
According to the report, 11% of adult Oregonians don’t have a high school diploma or equivalent. Auditors made multiple recommendations on how the state could better prepare its workforce, including targeted support for teachers and students and better funding.
She says she hopes the audits will help lawmakers prioritize efforts as they head into the end of the legislative session. Click HERE
to view the full report.
BEND, OR -- Local assistance agencies are closely watching Congressional budget talks, as lawmakers consider cuts to federal nutrition programs. Republicans have proposed slashing funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the modern-day version of Food Stamps. Jason Carr tells KBND cuts to the program would impact more than just those who receive benefits. "When you look at the numbers in Central Oregon, for example, there are 23,000 households in the tri-county area currently receiving SNAP benefits. That equates to $5.3 million each month coming into the local economy. On the one hand, yes it would impact families who require or need benefits. But, there’s also an economic impact in that grocery stores and other providers that offer food resources would see that impact as well."
He says the program is a lifeline for a growing number of Central Oregonians who have yet to recover from the recession. "Seniors and veterans, for example, have been hit really hard because as they try to find affordable housing, if those housing costs continue to rise, they have to make a decision between ‘gee, do I make my payment this month for housing or food?’ So, we’re seeing more seniors and veterans accessing or needing food assistance."
Congress is looking at several options to help balance the budget, including a decrease in SNAP funding, and making it more difficult to qualify for benefits.
BLACK BUTTE RANCH, OR -- A prescribed burn could begin in the Black Butte Ranch area as early as Thursday. Officials with the Deschutes National Forest say up to 212 acres could be burned adjacent to the ranch, and 1/4 mile south of Highway 20.
The area will likely be impacted by smoke and drivers are encouraged to use caution. Burns could continue through Friday.
SALEM, OR -- The Oregon Supreme Court struck down cuts made to the state's public retirement system, Thursday morning. As part of what was called the 2013 "Great Bargain," legislators cut benefits by $5.3 billion to help fund schools, when so much of state funding was going to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). Public employees challenged the changes, claiming they violated contracts signed with the state.
State Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) says there is no way to appeal the decision, since it was based on the state Constitution. However, he hopes lawmakers will consider other changes. "I would encourage Legislative leaders to go back to the only option that hasn't been adjudicated as it relates to PERS, and one of those is the redirect the 6% individual account program that we set up in 2003 as part of the PERS reforms. What we did, we took the employee money and put it in a separate account. Essentially what that did was break the back of money-match and bend that cost curve back down." He says the only solution to eliminate the crippling PERS liability is to establish a market-based fair retirement plan for new public employees, like those found in the private sector.
House Republican Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) and Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) issued the following joint statement regarding Thursday's decision: "Today's Supreme Court decision represents a step backward for our state and reverses much of the bipartisan work done to address Oregon's skyrocketing PERS liabilities. The 2013 Great Bargain compromise was negotiated in good faith and allowed us to streamline state government, reduce taxes on small businesses and put millions back into Oregon classrooms. Once again, Oregon faces billions in unfunded PERS costs that will hurt schools, police departments and other local critical services. It is clear that we will need to work together again to streamline government and create jobs in order to protect Oregon from a looming fiscal crisis."
Governor Kate Brown released a statement on the decision, as well. "I will be reviewing the ruling and assessing next steps, including the short and long term fiscal needs of PERS, and I will be working with the PERS Board to determine what next steps they will take."
In a statement issued shortly after the ruling was made public, Jim Green, Deputy Executive Director of the Oregon School Boards Association, said: "This is a very disappointing decision. If the Legislature does not take additional action, the decision wipes out the bulk of the savings contained in the  PERS legislation, which means that schools across the state are going to face significantly higher PERS costs going forward. That translates to teacher layoffs and higher class sizes. It also creates an actuarial nightmare in calculating retiree benefits for those individuals who have not yet retired. Our attorneys are still analyzing the decision and weighing our legal options."
In the High Court's 83-page decision
, the justices ruled that changes to how Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) are calculated would not apply to those receiving PERS prior to the 2013 legislation.
SISTERS, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners approved a drought emergency declaration for the Three Sisters Irrigation District. Irrigation district managers made the request after seeing low snow pack in the Three Sisters Mountain area which feeds Whychus Creek. Currently, the mountains have 1/3" of snow-water content; typically, it has 17 to 19 inches.
Nathan Garibay, Deschutes County Emergency Services Manager, tells KBND News, "We will send that request up to the state for declaration. If approved by the state, it recognizes that at least a portion of the area is going to be adversely affected by low snow pack, and that there will be some economic damages as well to crops and livestock."
He says everyone is in for a dry summer, but the declaration is necessary for Three Sisters. "I think clearly Three Sisters Irrigation District is doing everything they can to manage their water resources. I think this will assist them in meeting some obligations, as well as ensuring that they'll become eligible to apply for any programs that become available through the state or potentially through the federal government."
A state decision is expected following the next drought council meeting on May 14th. If approved, it would go on to the Governor for her signature.
SALEM, OR -- Governor Kate Brown signed into law Wednesday, a bill declaring March 22nd as Tom McCall Day in Oregon. McCall served two terms as Oregon's Governor, 1967-1975. He was born in Massachusetts on March 22, 1913 and grew up in Redmond and Prineville, graduating from Redmond High School. Tom McCall Elementary in Redmond is named after the 30th Governor.
His son Tad, who is an environmental consultant in Virginia, traveled to Salem to attend the ceremony. "On a personal level, it's a great honor for my father that he will be remembered this way; and, as a son of Oregon, I have a different reflection, that he is what Oregon stands for," Tad McCall told KBND News. "It's a celebration of what Oregonians think is important and will champion and will sustain."
The bill was introduced at the request of the Tom McCall Legacy Project, a non profit citizens group. Their goal is to educate newcomers and young people about Tom McCall and his influence on Oregon. Tad McCall said, "He really cared about people. He cared about women's rights, equal rights, and prosperity shared among all people. He believed as a society you take care of each other and be a steward of resources so they can take care of us and we can share and enjoy them."
McCall is perhaps best known for starting the country's first "Bottle Bill." He also passed legislation ensuring public ownership of the state's beaches and also started the state's land use planning system. He died of cancer in 1983. Tad is Tom McCall's closest living relative.
BEND, OR -- Parents of students at Miller, Highland and High Lakes Elementary schools called for the school district to address a myriad of concerns at this week's school board meeting, after the district announced the end of a popular before- and after-school program in the fall.
The school board claims the change is due to the cost of running the Open Gym program. However, a number of parents spoke out at Tuesday's meeting, saying they'd been told the program was self-sustaining. Families pay $75 to $200 per year for kids to participate, but the new program could cost $1,200 to $1,500 annually. Parents received the announcement via email.
Peter Grube was one of the concerned parents. He has put two of his children through the program at Highland Elementary, and thinks the district's claims that it's too expensive don't make sense.
"I find that extremely hard to believe," Grube says. "We tried presenting numbers, we put numbers together. Frankly it felt apparent on our side of the conversation last night that they weren't listing and they didn't care."
The district has not disclosed a breakdown of costs for the program, although parents estimate the 32-hour-a-month program costs significantly less than what the district took in.
The new program, Kids Inc., is provided through the Bend Parks and Recreation Department. It will only provide services for after school; and, unlike Open Gym, will provide structured activities like arts and crafts. The Open Gym allows kids free time and sports equipment.
"We are not asking to be subsidized, we are not asking to be a drain," Grube says. "[The current program] isn't a free program. ... Where is the money going? What really is the financial drain?"
BEND, OR -– The road to Newberry National Volcanic Monument’s Newberry Caldera will open to motorized vehicles Friday. Officials will open the gate that blocks access to the caldera area of Paulina and East Lakes as well as area campgrounds. Lava Lands Visitor Center and Lava River Cave also will open to visitors that day.
The opening is begins an exciting year of events and activities highlighting the 25th Anniversary of the designation of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. More information on anniversary events can be found at the Forest Service's website. In addition, visitors will have access to a renovated Lava River Cave, which has additional safety and increased access.
Other Monument Sites and Services Anticipated Opening Dates:
Forest Service Rd. 9720 to Lava Cast Forest
Open and snow free
Paulina Lake Lodge
Friday, May 8
East Lake Resort
Friday, May 22
Paulina Visitor Center
Weekends starting May 9
Check Hoodoorecreation.com for status
Caldera Boat Docks Installed
Planned to be ready for May 1
Paulina Falls and Big Obsidian Flow
Open with snow patches on the trails
Forest Service Road 500 to Paulina Peak
TBD based on snowmelt
List of 25th Anniversary Celebration Activities
Newberry National Volcanic Monument BIO-BLITZ, May 23, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Lava Lands Visitor Center
An event to count and name animal and plant species sited within Newberry National Volcanic Monument on the Deschutes National Forest.
MONUMENT KICK-OFF CELEBRATION WEEKEND
June 19, SHARC in Sunriver, 6:30pm – 9pm
· Newberry National Volcanic Monument Promotional Film Debut
· Speakers, USFS, Stu Garrett, Congressman Peter DeFazio – Oregon, 4th District
· Key Note Speaker: In Search of Ancient Oregon and Living with Thunder Author Ellen Morris Bishop
· Newberry National Volcanic Monument Local Photographer’s Exhibit
June 20 Newberry National Volanic Monument – Monument-wide 9:00am – 5:00pm
· Earth Cache for both kids and adults
· Newberry National Volcanic Monument Local Photographer’s Exhibit
· Jr. Ranger Activities
· Specialized Interpretive Programs at each Volcanic Wonder
· Presentations by USGS research geologist Dr. Julie Donnelly-Nolan, OSU volcanologist Daniele McKay, and USFS geologist Bart Wills
· Monument Guided Recreation Fair
· Woodsy the Owl
· Flint knapping demonstrations
· Stewardhip project at Pauline Lakeshore Loop Trail
· All-day shuttles to Benham East
· Book Signing by Author, Ellen Morris Bishop
· Conoe or Kayak with a Forest Service Ranger
· Bike with a Forest Service Ranger
· Birds of Prey Exhibit
Father’s Day Brunch at Newberry Caldera, June 21, Paulina Lake Lodge/ East Lake Resort
History Pub at McMenamin’s in Bend, June 30, 6:30pm – 8:00pm
The Making of a Monument, Dr. Stu Garrett
Stars over Newberry, September 12, 4:00pm – 10:00pm, Monument Wide – Lava Butte
Activities will focus on the darker side of Newberry, sensory awareness, the arts and the night sky. Certain events will require tickets.
Newberry Caldera Stewardship Project, September 12, 9:00am – 2:00pm, Trail Maintenance and more.
LA PINE, OR -- One person was arrested early Wednesday morning, following an alleged assault in La Pine. According to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, a man arrived at the La Pine Fire Station just before 11:00 p.m. Tuesday, saying he'd been assaulted by someone he knew. The 44-year-old victim was taken to St. Charles Bend with serious injuries.
Deputies responded to a house on Wyatt Drive, where the suspect was determined to be inside. Oregon State Police and the Sheriff's Special Operations Team (SOT) assisted at the location. SOT members worked through the night to establish contact with 45-year-old Jesse Jones of La Pine, who later exited the house without incident. He was arrested just before 5:00 a.m., Wednesday. Jones faces one charge of first degree assault, as well as unlawful use of a weapon and a probation violation.
This is a developing story; KBND News will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available.
BEND, OR -- Real estate experts from across the region are gathering at the Riverhouse Convention Center in Bend Wednesday morning, to discuss how the city’s Urban Growth Boundary will impact future growth. Brian Fratzke of Fratzke Commercial Real Estate is one of the panelists at today’s Real Estate Forecast Breakfast. He tells KBND News that today’s event is a unique opportunity for everyday citizens to get involved in the conversation. "The question is, do you want to protect urban sprawl?" Fratzke says. "At the same time you need to grow the boundary enough so you keep the community affordable."
The Bend area currently has a limited supply of land available in the community, which means land prices are going up even for affordable housing. "For the homeowners, we now are getting those values we wish we had in 2010, 2011 and 2012, when the market was down," Fratzke says. "But we also want to keep our community somewhat affordable, to keep it growing a bit."
Fratzke expects growth to be a hot topic at today's breakfast and in the next several years, as city officials work with the state to manage Bend's growth. "For example, we put a gate around Bend -- we’re not going to grow it anymore," Fratzke says. "We’re not going to attract new businesses. It’s the new businesses that pay property taxes; they pay fees to the city that help pay for our roads. You need a little bit of growth."
But Fratzke says managing growth isn't so simple. Responsible growth involves a tangled web of unemployment, affordable housing and the UGB, which hasn't been expanded since 1981. "A lot of people equate affordable housing with what we used to call 'low-income housing,' but that’s not always the case," Fratzke says. "Workforce housing is ‘hey, I make $36k a year and I’d like to be able to afford a home.'" Fratzke says.
The rental market also factors into managing growth, as Bend continues to see tight vacancy rates. Members on the UGB task force are focused on finding ways to bring in apartments, rental properties and other rental options through expanding the UGB.
Today's Real Estate Forecast Breakfast, presented by the Bend Chamber of Commerce
, begins at 8:00 a.m. at the Riverhouse Convention Center. Attendees are encouraged to participate in the discussion with panelists from the City of Bend and the commercial and residential real estate industry.
BEND, OR -- Police dogs from all over the Pacific Northwest wrapped up a three-day training in Central Oregon, on Tuesday. Deschutes County Sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Joye is a master trainer who worked with the 140 teams from Oregon, Washington and Idaho as part of the Oregon Police K-9 Association event. "We go through both classroom and field work to get in front of people outside of our own departments and to get with state-recognized trainers," Joye told KBND News. "It's basically to better our teams to perform better on the streets. Plus, we learn from each other."
K-9s and their human partners participated in various field exercises in Bend and Redmond as part of their annual certification. "We’re broken in two groups: Patrol division works on tracking, as far as wanted people and they have updates on use of force. Then detection comes out and we are searching everything from cars to rooms and we have a refrigerated semi truck. So they get to work in a variety of settings." said Deputy Joye.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office currently has three patrol dogs for tracking wanted subjects, and one drug dog trained in finding controlled substances. Deputy Joye said those dogs are invaluable in the local law enforcement effort. "It’s immeasurable as far as savings of man hours. For example, we have a semi out here - it would take two deputies up to an hour or hour and a half to search that entire truck. You can imagine taking a little piece of drug and hiding it somewhere on a semi trailer, how long it would take to find it. We are clearing this entire trailer within a 5 to 10 minute timeframe."
Training events are held across the Northwest twice a year, coming to Bend every two or three years.
SALEM, OR -- The State Senate committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that will ban conversion therapy for people under the age of 18. The bill has already passed the State House.
Paul Southwick of Portland was the first person to testify before the Senate committee on Human Services. He underwent conversion therapy three times to fight his same sex attractions. He says it didn't work.
"It takes some time to forgive the therapists. I'm in a better place, but I've not forgotten the pain and I support House Bill 2307 because I don't want other LGBT people feeling they have a sickness without a cure." Conversion therapy attempts to provide professional services to change a person's sexual orientation.
A sex addiction therapist from Colorado Springs testified before the committee saying he's seen conversion therapy work. Jayson Graves told them it worked for him.
"When it comes to research based studies on same sex attractions -- there are no studies. There's no evidence that these therapies are harmful. If there were, you'd hear about them today. You're not. You can say that something has been discredited, but based on what?"
The commitee heard from several people who testified that conversion therapy did not help them and only lead to depression and confusion when it came to their sexual orientation.
SUNRIVER, OR -- A small brush fire in the Sunriver area Tuesday afternoon serves as a reminder that we're entering into wildfire season.
The small fire was held to just under an acre. It started at the north end of Savage Drive near Upland Road in Sunriver. It was burning in brush and came within 30 feet of one home, but no structures were damaged.
The La Pine Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service and Deschutes County Sheriff's Office responded to the fire. Its cause is under investigation by the Oregon Deaprtment of Forestry.
BEND, OR -- The Cascade Lakes Highway will open at 10:00 a.m. Friday, but drivers are warned spots of ice may still exist on the road. Road crews say some trailhead and camground accesses may still be blocked with snow.
Paulina Lake Road will also be opening this Friday at 8:00 a.m.
SALEM, OR -- Oregon's winter economic report is out, and it has good news for employees in the labor market. This winter, Oregon businesses reported 39,400 job openings. The average wage is also up about a dollar and a half to just over $17.50 an hour.
Employment economist Jessica Nelson says a recent trend is the shift of average job wages. "Sixty-one percent of the job vacancies paid below $15 an hour, and now in the winter of 2015 that's down to 34 percent," Nelson says. A year ago, 4,200 job vacancies paid at least $25 an hour. Now more than 5,000 pay that much.
Health care and social assistance had the most job openings, followed by leisure and hospitality.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad will be replacing the railroad crossing at Baker Road and will close the road for three days, from May 11 through May 13.
Chris Doty with the Deschutes County Road Department says it will be an inconvenience for a couple days.
"There are thousands of residents in Deschutes River Woods who will need to use alternate routes for a few days, and that's a pretty substantial closure," Doty says. "BNSF [Railway] approached the county to assist with this, and we hope it stays within three days so we'll be in and out during a short period of time."
All traffic in and out of Deschutes River Woods, west of Baker Road, will be detoured onto Brookswood Boulevard. The U.S. 97 interchange with Baker Road will not be affected.
REDMOND, OR -- The man who wrote the iconic song "Louie Louie" died at his Redmond home earlier this week, at the age of 71. Jack Ely's son confirmed his death on Tuesday.
Ely recorded the song with his band The Kingsmen in Portland in 1963. Ely's son says his dad got a kick out of the controversy spawned by the song's release -- the FBI launched an investigation into the lyrics after some claimed they could hear lewd words. As a result, radio stations began to ban "Louie Louie." Eventually the Feds determined the song was "Unintelligible at any speed."
Ely left the Kingsmen shortly after recording the song and later trained horses in Central Oregon.
BEND, OR -- Bend has struggled to reach consensus on how to maintain Mirror Pond without spending a lot of money. The pond needs to be dredged because of significant silt build up, and Tumalo Irrigation District is now stepping forward to be a key player going forward.
The district is interested in operating the dam and its hydroelectric facility to generate power and revenue. Irrigation officials say they are looking at making the necessary repairs to the dam that will maintain water levels and improve the overall health of the river.
Ken Rieck with the irrigation district tells KBND the district is meeting with officials from the city and Bend Parks and Rec about their plans. "The main environmental groups, their benefit is the restoration of flows, the removal of Steidl Dam and fish passage," Rieck says. The irrigation district also hopes to facilitate kayak passage and the addition of a hydro plant.
If they can reach an agreement, it would allow the district to run the hydropower facility near Newport Avenue to generate revenue and improve the health of the river.
"Right now there is no fish passage," Rieck says. "Fish haven't gone through the area in 100 years."
Officials from all three groups are scheduled be meeting Thursday to discuss the proposal. If it's approved, the project could be completed in two to three years.
CROOKED RIVER RANCH, OR -- A Crooked River Ranch man was arrested after a report of shots fired in the 12000 block of Peninsula Ave. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office responded to the area, along with Oregon State Police and CRR Fire and Rescue, at about 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Deputies determined a weapon was fired, but no one was injured as a result of the shooting. Twenty-four-year-old Tyrel Ross was arrested and charged with the unlawful use of a weapon, menacing, pointing a firearm at another and disorderly conduct in the first degree. He was booked at the Jefferson County Jail.
BEND, OR -- The local Bend FC Timbers soccer club has been trying for years to buy land for fields, but it's expensive. Last year the club entered a partnership with Bend Parks and Rec. to build several more sports fields at Pine Nursery. They are trying to raise a million dollars by the end of the year to show good faith on the first phase of the project.
Ryan Shore is the Chairman of the Bend FC Timber's Board. "I think the biggest question is why is Park and Rec. not building these fields?" Shore told KBND News. "We think it's a great opportunity to construct our own project. We've been searching for land for five years to build fields. We think it's a positive way, a creative way, to make the tax dollars go further."
Shore says many sports are growing in popularity locally, and need fields too. "Of course we're growing," Shore says. "We're a soccer organization that has recreational and competitive programs and I think we've got 2,600 kids, athletes in our club. We've grown exponentially."
In the last few years additional sports like La Crosse, rugby and Ultimate Frisbee have also been growing. If the funds can be raised, the Bend FC Timbers soccer club hopes to see construction start in 2017.
BEND, OR -- An investigation is underway into the weekend death of a Deschutes County Jail inmate. Thirty-five-year-old Eben Kaneshiro was discovered unresponsive in his cell, early Sunday morning.
According to District Attorney John Hummel, an autopsy will be conducted later today. Hummel suspects the man died of asphyxiation.
Kaneshiro was found sitting in his cell just after 3:00 a.m. with a sheet tied around his neck. "I need to say that corrections deputies and the crew from Bend Fire and EMS made heroic efforts to save Mr. Kaneshiro’s life," Hummel said at a press conference Monday morning. "I watched the video tape. I saw a rapid, focused response from the on-duty team, and I also saw a look on their faces that revealed the pain they were experiencing. This was difficult for them. [It's] not a good day when that happens."
Kaneshiro had been charged with multiple sexual offenses, involving at least one Central Oregon child victim. According to jail staff, Kaneshiro left multiple letters behind, some discussing suicide and one revealing where investigators could find additional evidence relating to sex crimes committed in Portland.
Those letters have been forwarded to the Portland Police Bureau. It is unclear how many alleged victims are in the Portland area.
Hummel says the Central Oregon Major Crime Team, lead by Sergeant Jesse Petersen of Redmond Police, will continue to investigate the death. "This morning, I spoke with Sgt. Petersen and I told him to continue with his investigation and to leave no stone unturned," Hummel says. "I have full confidence in Sgt. Petersen and the team he is leading. When the investigation is complete, I will review their findings and make a final decision as to the cause of death."
This is the second inmate death in Deschutes County in less than six months. In December, 31-year-old Edwin Mays died of an apparent drug overdose. Oregon's Department of Justice is currently investigating the Mays death and the response by deputies.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- A historical recreator of Teddy Roosevelt will be in Prineville Thursday evening, giving a live performance of "Teddy Roosevelt's Oregon Roadshow." Joe Wiegand will be at the Community Room of the Bowman Museum at 6:30 p.m., as part of a week-long tour of schools and museums.
This is Wiegand's fourth annual visit to Oregon. He'll also be stopping in Bend.
To see one of his past performances, click here.
NEPAL -- A Bend man, reportedly one of thousands missing in Nepal following Saturday's 7.8-magnitude earthquake, has now contacted family. The sister of 19-year-old Josh Edwards took to Twitter to contact the State Department, asking for help. Jennifer Edwards said Josh was last seen Monday, and could be near the Kagbeni village. Earlier this morning, his aunt tweeted he was safe and had contacted family.
According to his Facebook page, Josh Edwards attended Summit High School and works for Mount Bachelor.
MOUNT BACHELOR, OR -- A snow boarder was rescued after a nearly 6-hour search on Mount Bachelor. The 35-year old California man reportedly saw boundary signs yesterday afternoon, but chose to go around them in search of fresh powder.
About 20 Deschutes County Search and Rescue volunteers and several U.S. Forest Service workers responded to the area after Andrew Wong's friends reported he had separated from the group. Eventually, Wongrealized he was not where he thought he was and decided to board down the mountain. He was found in good condition near Lava Lake, just before 10 p.m.
BEND, OR -- Deputies at the Deschutes County Jail discovered a 35-year-old inmate dead Sunday morning. At approximately 3:08 a.m., deputies realized that Eben Eli Keiji Kaneshiro of Portland was unresponsive in his cell. Deputies began life-saving efforts, continuing until medics arrived. Kaneshiro was pronounced dead of an apparent suicide.
The Multi-Agency Major Crime Team investigating, with help from the Deschutes County Medical Examiner's Office. Kaneshiro had been held on charges of first-degree sex abuse, sodomy and coercion of a child under 12 years old.
The District Attorney's Office is expected to release more details later today.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Cable powerhouse Comcast withdrew its offer to merge with Time Warner Cable, after the companies failed to receive federal regulatory approval. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) had actively opposed the deal.
"For the second time this year, Oregonians and consumers across America stood up to Big Cable and won, refusing to make their monopoly any bigger," Wyden says. "The decision will lead to more choices, better services and lower prices, especially for consumers and small businesses."
Comcast has more than 600,000 subscribers in Oregon and Southwest Washington, primarily in the Willamette Valley. The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice both planned to block the deal over monopoly concerns, given that the two companies share a third of cable customers nationwide.
SALEM, OR -- The Oregon House unanimously passed legislation on Thursday that would urge the U.S. Department of Energy to build a new geothermal research lab in Deschutes County. The DOE's Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy, known as "FORGE," is looking for a new location.
Representative Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) was the key sponsor of the bill. "The purpose of FORGE is to do enhanced research on enhanced geothermal systems, to develop large-scale heat exchange systems," Whisnant says. "We're competing with several other states, and that's why we're doing the resolution."
Whisnant believes Oregon has an advantage over other states due to the proximity to the private Altarock Newberry Geothermal Project, which is already working with the DOE and Oregon State University.
He says the lab would provide an economic boost to the area."They estimate the DOE will fund the national lab at $30 million a year, in addition to 310 construction jobs for the lab," Whisnant says. "And they expect 100 permanent jobs in the operational phase."
BEND, OR -- Those trying to block the westside expansion of Oregon State University’s Bend campus will have to wait even longer for a decision from the Land Use Board of Appeals. The opposition group Truth in Site appealed to LUBA, saying the location is too congested and not the best fit for a four-year university.
Former Bend City Councilor Bruce Abernethy tells KBND that the city made the right call. "When I look at it, what are the eligible uses for that property?" Abernethy says. "There are a lot of uses that are way more impactful than OSU-Cascades."
And although Abernethy agrees there will be an impact in the surrounding area, he is less concerned about negative results. "When I was on the city council, people said ‘Oh, no, no, no, the sky is falling – the Bend parkway, the Bill Healy Bridge!’" But Abernethy says, "The city can make it work. There’s going to be change, no question about that. But I actually think OSU-Cascades is a good example of smart infill, smart growth, that takes advantage of the infrastructure that’s already in place. "
Originally, LUBA was expected to rule next week; however, attorneys for Truth in Site requested a delay, citing a family emergency. LUBA will now hear oral arguments, which are scheduled in Salem next Thursday. Testimony will be provided from the City of Bend -- as the city approved the school’s new westside campus –- and Truth in Site. The timeline for a ruling is now pushed back to early June. Depending on how LUBA rules, the case could go to the state courts.
To hear more from Abernethy, visit our Podcast
SALEM, OR -- The Oregon House Rules Committee passed the gun control bill this Thursday. The bill will expand background checks for private gun sales in the state. Thursday's vote was 5 to 4, along party lines.
Representative Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) voted against the bill. "I think when you say that the goal is to make Oregon safer for women and children, that is an oversimplified answer," McLane says. "Everyone here wants to make the state safer to women and children. But that begs the question, does this bill produce that result? I conclude it does not."
SB 941 has already passed the Senate and could come up for a vote in the full Oregon House next week.
LA PINE, OR -- A La Pine driver was seriously injured in a single-vehicle crash on Thursday morning. According to La Pine Fire, emergency crews responded to Highway 31 south of La Pine just before 9:00 a.m. Investigators say a pickup crossed the center line and left the road, crashing into a tree and pinning the man.
The driver was flown to St. Charles in Bend with serious injuries. Highway 31 was closed for about an hour during the rescue and investigation. The Deschutes County Sheriff's office is looking into why the man left the roadway.
BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office continues to wait for the results of a federal investigation into the death of an inmate, last year. Sheriff Larry Blanton tells KBND his agency is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice.
"We’ve delivered some documents after being asked to do so from DOJ, and have talked with an investigator about some of the issues there," Blanton says. "But as far as a timeline, I’m not really sure when we’ll receive a report from that -- hopefully soon."
Edwin Mays died of a methamphetamine overdose at the Deschutes County Jail in December. Sheriff Blanton says that while his death is tragic, it’s a symptom of a greater problem.
"Our corrections staff talked with inmates that we brought in and asked them things we ask everybody: ‘Is there something we need to know?' 'Have you ingested something, or is there something in your body we need to help you with?’" Blanton says. "In 2014 alone, we had 13 people say, ‘Yeah, I have ingested something,’ or ‘I need help with something.’ We transported those people to the hospital. All of those people received medical attention, up to and including surgery."
Blanton says when Mays was asked during booking, he denied taking any drugs. The sheriff says Mays likely utilized a practice commonly known as “packing” or “stuffing," when inmates hide drugs inside the body to try and retrieve later.
The Mays family has maintained that the 31-year-old did not receive timely medical care, contributing to his death. Jail surveillance footage from December 14, 2014, shows deputies watching a football game and mocking the inmate’s behavior prior to his death.
Sheriff Blanton says, while it’s not unusual for a TV to be on to provide “white noise” for inmates, deputies are not supposed to be distracted by it. "First of all, there’s no excuse for that, it’s unacceptable," Blanton says. "I’ve taken care of discipline issues relating to that. I accept full responsibility for that, that’s not acceptable. I have dealt with that issue. That will not happen again."
Blanton would not elaborate on what disciplinary actions were taken, citing the ongoing DOJ investigation. Blanton contends, however, that deputies made every effort to provide life-saving efforts to Mays.
BEND, OR -- Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet in Bend on Friday to discuss the possibility of removing gray wolves from the state’s endangered species list. Michelle Dennehy with ODFW tells KBND News the move likely won't impact Central Oregon, since most wolf activity in the state occurs in the Northeast corner.
"One thing to note, that west of Highways 395, 78 and 95 wolves remain listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act, so the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is kind of in charge of management," Dennehy says. "We work collaboratively with them. Right now, if a delisting were to occur, it would frankly have little impact because our wolf plan has protections for wolves into the future."
She says that plan calls for initiating the removal of gray wolves from the state Endangered Species List, once there is confirmation of four breeding pairs in three consecutive years. That objective was met in February, with the addition of OR-7’s pups.
"At this point, our known wolf activity is in northeast Oregon, and we also have a known wolf pack – the Rogue wolf pack, which is OR-7’s pack – in the southwest Cascades," Dennehy says. "We’re also aware of another pair of wolves in the southwest Cascades. We don’t have any known wolf activity at this time in Central Oregon."
The wolf known as OR-7 rose to fame three years ago during his trek from the northeast corner of the state through Central Oregon, and eventually to the southwest Cascades, where he started his own pack.
Dennehy adds, "Wolves really are a success story for Oregon; they’ve done well, they’re increasing in Oregon, and they’re expanding their range. Regardless of what happens with the delisting, we have a wolf plan that protects wolves in place in Oregon."
The commission meets Friday at the Deschutes National Forest Office in Bend. The meeting begins at 8:00 a.m. The full agenda is available HERE
Photo credit: Wenaha pack pups, 2012
Courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon is trying to get the government to buy American. He introduced legislation Wednesdsay called the "Invest in American Jobs Act." It expands the potential to buy American provisions, so that all major projects overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation would strive to buy from the U.S.
"This supports the concept when we build things in America, we create more good-paying jobs and grow the middle class and improve the economy," Merkley says. "This is an important component on that."
The goal of the bill is to require federally funded transportation projects to use American steel, iron and other products whenever possible.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners are going to revisit the issue of whether the Central Oregon Irrigation District can pipe a canal in northeast Bend. Last month Commissioner Alan Unger was pressured to recuse himself from making the decision since he has served on some water boards in the past. That meant the two remaining commissioners split the vote, and the request was denied.
But the commissioners decided earlier this week to take another look at the issue. "We brought it up for discussion whether we left that issue in a good place, and in my opinion we didn't," Unger told KBND. "So I think we should make a decision and move on and we plan to bring it back up in May or June."
Unger added, "I think it's unfortunate the parties put commissioners in a place where we have to choose values between neighbors and districts, but that's what we need to do. The challenge is water planning, and water management is really important as I look at the big picture. I think we have some work to do."
Likely contributing to the commissioners' decision to reconsider, COID had planned to appeal the county's decision to the State Land Use Board of Appeals.
Local state lawmakers are optimistic about legislation to help fund the Mirror Pond project. The House Land Use Committee unanimously approved the bill this week, which would allow the state to raise $5 million through lottery bonds for the project.
The bill's sponsor, State Representative Knute Buehler, says now a local utility has expressed interest in buying the Newport dam. "We're very happy the Tumalo Irrigation District, a key component, is also considering removing one of its dams and taking over ownership of the Newport Dam," Buehler says. "That is quite a development that lends enormous momentum to the whole vision."
The irrigation district is looking at redesigning the dam and continuing to use it to generate electricity.
The public hearing in Salem brought out many public officials who are supporters of the legislation, including City Councilor Victor Chudowsky.
"The idea behind the project is to reconnect people to the river and create economic catalyst for downtown development," Chudowsky says. "It would create a pedestrian walkway to enjoy the river in a more natural state, and we're looking for some seed money and to help the public-private partnerships to have this move in the right direction for our city."
SALEM, OR -- State lawmakers held a marathon public hearing on a bill that would expand background checks for private gun sales in Oregon. The Senate passed SB 941, and the House is now considering it. The House Rules Committee held a seven-hour public hearing, which followed two hours of testimony, Wednesday.
Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) serves on the committee and was pleased the public had an opportunity to share. "I want to thank you for allowing the lengthy public hearing to allow people to testify," he said. "I know the Senate public hearing was only two hours, and a lot of people came to Salem and weren't able to testify -- some clear from Eastern Oregon. I don't know if they were able to make the trek [today] because it was only posted a couple days ago."
Rules Committee Chair Val Hoyle (D-Eugene) says she decided to hold the public hearing so everyone got a chance to testify -– unlike the Senate, which only held two hours of hearings before passing the bill.
"I want to say thank you to my Republican colleagues, Democratic colleagues, the committee staff and other people who have come here who have said ‘yes, we believe in the public process and we will stay until 10:00 at night because it is really, really important,’” she said.
David Terry of McMinnville spoke Wednesday afternoon, saying the state had no business passing the bill. "Our fundamental right to protect ourselves with a gun is absolutely inalienable," he argued. "And this body has absolutely no right, no constitutional right or moral right, to interfere."
Sam McCallister of Mapleton agreed, saying gun laws like this are unconstitutional. "This law will essentially cause the system to be overloaded with a bunch of legitimate purchasers, and it will not help the system," he said. "At the same time, those people that are illegitimate purchasers will still get their guns however they get their guns."
Currently, background checks are needed to buy guns from licensed dealers, but not for private, person-to-person transactions. SB 941, passed by the Senate last week, would change that.
BEND, OR -- A 36-year-old Eugene man was arrested early Wednesday morning after leading Bend Police on a high-speed chase. Just after midnight, a green Subaru Legacy was observed committing multiple traffic violations near NE 3rd St and NE Mt. Washington Dr. Officers say they observed increasingly erratic driving and suspected the driver might be under the influence of intoxicants.
As officers tried to stop the vehicle, they learned that it was listed as stolen out of Eugene. The driver took off down NE 3rd at speeds exceeding 90 miles per hour. Officers soon called off the pursuit out of concern for people in the vicinity.
Just before 2:30 a.m., a Bend Officer located the stolen vehicle near NW Newport Ave. As the vehicle continued on NE Olney Ave towards NE 3rd St. The driver fled for a second time on NE 3rd St. Officers set up spike strips on Highway 20 near the Sheriff's office. The driver continued towards Tumalo and eventually lost control, colliding with a guardrail near the Deschutes River. The driver continued in the vehicle back toward Bend, and an officer deployed spike strips a second time.
Eventually the Subaru spun out and came to rest near the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office. Osman ran from the vehicle through Cascades Village parking lot, and was taken into custody in front of Food 4 Less. Ervin Osman faces a long list of charges, including DUI and meth possession.
This incident is still under investigation and additional charges may be added. If anyone has additional information, they are encouraged to call the Bend Police Department at 541-693-6911. No injuries were reported during either pursuit.
BEND, OR -- A private developer is moving ahead with plans to harness the gas emitted at the Knott Landfill in Bend. Timm Schimke, Deschutes County’s solid waste director says, "Originally Waste To Energy Group came forth with an unsolicited proposal to install a landfill gas to energy project here at the landfill. They had a very unique approach, which seemed to fit well with our landfill being relatively small and very dry – which is usually not good for landfill gas production – but they proposed to enhance gas production. It was a very favorable contract for the county; there was no financial risk for us."
But Schimke says after the contract was signed last year, delays occured when the California-based company failed to secure necessary funding. "Just recently, within the last 60 days or so, I got word they were successful with funding," Schimke says. "So, they are starting the process to schedule the initial stages of work, which is some engineering work and scientific evaluations of the landfill. And we gave them information on what they would need to complete a site plan review needed for the Community Development Department. Once that’s done, they’ll go through a DEQ permitting process."
The idea is to inject steam into the piles of trash to maximize gas production; eventually Waste To Energy Group hopes to convert that methane gas into a liquid fuel. Schimke says the contract could eventually net the county at least a quarter of a million dollars a year. "If they’re more lucrative, we’ll earn more," Schimke says. "If they’re less lucrative, we’ll earn less, although not below that base dollar amount. This is a moneymaker for us." Although, he adds, "That’s not our primary driving motivation. Landfill gas is where you get your odor from the landfill, and we struggle with that. Obviously, we would rather not be putting landfill gas into the atmosphere."
Schimke estimates the initial engineering and permitting phase will be completed in the next six to nine months.
BEND, OR -- A Portland man’s Central Oregon vacation a year ago led to the creation of the Bend Marathon, premiering this weekend. Kerry Loehr tells KBND News he was shocked to learn there was no marathon in a region with such an active running community. "We happened to be shopping at Foot Zone, and my wife and I were talking, we couldn’t believe Bend didn’t have a marathon. And, my partner and I had just started race directing, so we started doing our due diligence to see what it would take to do so. Really the idea was born by visiting Foot Zone and realizing there was a gap in the market."
Loehr admits others have attempted the idea before, but says this time is different -– in part in how he and partner Blair Hook marketed the race over the past year. "We sold Bend as a destination race. When we designed the course, we wanted to highlight everything Bend has to offer. It starts downtown, runs along the Deschutes River, skirts the Old Mill District, runs through Farewell Bend Park –- actually the half and the full split at Farewell Bend. Then the half goes over to Riverbend Park, then back to the finish downtown."
Runners in the full marathon will continue down the Cascade Lakes Highway and turn around near the Seventh Mountain Resort. For more details on the race course, click HERE
. Loehr says the looped road course is another reason this effort will be more successful than past attempts which were "point-to-point" and not favored by most avid runners.
More than 1,200 runners are already registered for Sunday's events, with 70% coming from outside of Central Oregon. "Bend is a community of 80,000 people and that’s not a big enough community to sustain a nice-sized road marathon," Loehr says. "So, what we needed to do was to market it nationally, which we’ve done. We’re bringing in people from 31 states all over the country, including Canada."
Both the half and full marathon start in downtown Bend Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Loehr says he expects the half to take about three hours, and the full 26.3-mile marathon to take about twice that. Runners will finish at the Mirror Pond parking lot.
Drivers may experience some traffic delays along the race course, although Loehr says the start time and route were developed to try and avoid full road closures. The City of Bend issued a traffic notice on Tuesday, encouraging runners and spectators to park for free in the Centennial Parking Garage downtown.
BEND, OR -- Unemployment levels continued to drop in Central Oregon last month. All three counties saw significant drops in their unemployment rates in March.
Regional Economist Damon Runberg tells KBND warm weather is affecting numbers across the state. "Here in Deschutes County we saw a microcosm of that," Runberg says. "We saw continuation early in the winter of adding jobs and never saw the significant layoffs. When the first spring report came along, the numbers seemed lackluster, but really there was no hiring boom in the spring because there were no hiring layoffs to back into."
Deschutes County's unemployment rate in March was 6% -- it's lowest level since December 2007. Jefferson County's rate is 7.4% and Crook County's is 8.9%.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County is seeing a concerning number of whooping cough cases -- a highly contagious respiratory disease. This year, Deschutes County has confirmed 20 cases, vusus the 60 cases in all of 2014.
Heather Kaisner with the Deschutes County Health Department tells KBND News, "It's just continuing on from last year. We saw 60 cases and that's the highest number we've seen in decades, and we thought it would subside, but the numbers continue to increase. The concern is the more prevalent it is, the more likely it can spread to an infant."
She says the best defense against whopping cough or pertussis is a well-immunized community. Vaccines against the diseaes are recommended for all ages, but infants must take a series of shots to be fully immunized, and it takes a couple of years for them to be protected.
SALEM, OR -- The State House will hold a public hearing on the gun control bill just passed by the Senate and now in front of the House. The public hearing on Senate Bill 941 will be held Wednesday from 3:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte was very critical of the two-hour public hearing recently held on the bill, in the Senate. Due to his concerns, he made sure the House would hold a much longer hearing occuring in the evening, in order to draw more people.
This bill being considered would require all private gun sales in Oregon to include a background check conducted by a gun dealer.
BEND, OR -- A new study by the Centers for Disease Control has found that e-cigarette use has tripled among middle and high school students. In 2013, 4 percent of teens admitted to using e-cigarettes. Now 13 percent of the students use them.
Penny Pritchard, the Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for Deschutes County, tells KBND News, "It's not surprising given what we're seeing. In 2011-2013, we've seen use in Oregon double, so it's not surprisng due to our lack of regulations across the state. With the current lack of regulation, places that sell them to kids are getting access to these."
Deschutes County Commissioners are looking at possibly banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but they are trying to reach consensus with nearby cities before going forward.
SISTERS, OR -- Following unusually warm weather and only 10 days of skiing on the books, Hoodoo Ski Area has officially closed for the season. But with the bad comes the good: The Deschutes National Forest, through a partnership with Hoodoo, has already opened a number of campgrounds.
"This is a relatively early opening for several campgrounds. We do try to have several campgrounds open by May, but here by April with this incredibly warm weather, we’ve opened several campgrounds, working with our concessionaire, Hoodoo," Jean Nelson Dean with the Forest Service tells KBND News.
Ten Deschutes National Forest campgrounds opened over the weekend, including North Twin, Big River, Pringle Falls, South Twin and Crane Prairie. Nelson Dean says campers should check Hoodoo Recreation's website
to see what's open before making plans. "Visitors can actually expect some of the facilities in the locations that are actually fully open, restrooms will be available to them. There are still some campsites that don’t have facilities open yet." Hoodoo Recreation manages more than 150 campgrounds in both Oregon and Washington, many in conjunction with the Forest Service.
After two consecutive less-than-ideal ski seasons, the ski area announced yesterday it would offer refunds to season ticket holders or allow them to roll unused passes over into next season.
BEND, OR -- Bend-La Pine School District officials have named five finalists for principal at Sky View Middle School. They include three current assistant principals from within the district, the current principal at Madras High and a middle school principal in the Three Rivers School District in Southern Oregon.
Brian Uballez is currently the assistant principal at Sky View, a position he's held for eight years. Prior to that, he was the assistant principal at High Desert Middle School in Bend.
Brian Cook has been an assistant principal at Bend Senior High for seven years. He's also worked as a teacher in Bend, Redmond and Portland.
Scott Olszewski has served as an assistant principal at Mountain View High School for three years. He was also the dean of students at Pilot Butte Middle School in Bend for four years.
Damian Crowson has been principal of Lincoln Savage Middle School in Three Rivers School District in Grants Pass for four years. He is also the administrator for the district's alternative programs.
Sarah Braman-Smith is currently the principal of Madras High, where she has led the school for four years. Prior to that, she was assistant principal at MHS for five years. Most recently, Jefferson County 509J officials announced Braman-Smith would be transferred to the Warm Springs K-8 Academy when that school's principal retires this summer. However, that decision has led to a backlash by some MHS teachers, including protests at recent school board meetings.
The new Sky View principal will begin July 1, when current principal Scott Edmondson will become principal of RE Jewell Elementary.
Bend-La Pine School officials will host a "meet the principal candidates" forum tonight at Sky View Middle School, beginning at 5:00 p.m.
TUMALO, OR -- Bend Fire and Rescue responded to an agricultural burn north of Tumalo that escaped its containment line, Sunday afternoon. Fire investigators say the homeowner and a friend were working a controlled ditch-bank burn when the wind shifted, moving the blaze into trees, a vehicle and a five-acre field.
Officials want this fire to serve as a reminder of how important it is to have a burn permit on-hand. They want to make sure locals know weather conditions before starting an outdoor burn.
BEND, OR -- The City of Bend honored its heroes this weekend, at a ceremony celebrating its Purple Heart City designation. Dick Tobiason organized Saturday's event at the Bend Hero's Memorial and was the driving force behind the proclomation. "We're about the fifth city in Oregon to be declared a Purple Heart City, and about the 900th in the U.S.," Tobiason says. "It was something I did after seeing other cities do it."
City Councilor Casey Roats read the proclomation declaring the designation, and told KBND News he was honored to be involved. "When we were asked for a volunteer among [the council], I just raised my hand very quickly," Roats says. "I had members of my family growing up -- grandparents and my dad were in the service -- so it seemed like taking a little bit of time out of my day to honor those who have given so much for us was the very least we could do."
Tobiason says Saturday's ceremony meant a lot to more than just the 20 Purple Heart recipients in attendence. "There were people who came by afterwards and saw what we were doing. One couple came by and said, 'My dad was in Korea and won a Purple Heart, what's going on here?' And so we told him, and he said, 'Isn't it wonderful that our community respects our veterans and even our wounded and killed veterans?'"
The Purple Heart Monument at Brooks Park honors 450 Bend veterans eligible for the award, which is the nation's oldest military medal. ODOT will install 5 signs at Bend's city limits during the next couple of weeks. The project was sponsored by the Bend Heroes Foundation. Tobiason says no taxpayer dollars were used.
REDMOND, OR -- The internet and social media can be vehicles for negative behaviors, especially when it comes to children. Bend Broadband and The KIDS Center are again offering a forum called "Public & Permanent: preventing sexting, cyber bullying and beyond." The two-hour program aims to teach kids and parents how to stay safe online.
Robin Antonson with The KIDS Center tells KBND News it's a brave new world. "It's very serious. 88% of young teens report being bullied, or have witnessed people being harmed on the internet, smart phone and social networking sites. It's very serious."
This is the second year for the trainings, and Sonja Donahue with Bend Broadband says they hope this year will be more successful. "Last year's event, when we were a little bit surprised that we didn't get more of a turnout, we were commenting if the community heard that there were sexual offenders moving into the area, everyone would be in an uproar. This is really just as important, or a very similar analogy. These predators are in every single room of our house, wherever there's technology." She says those who have been bullied are more likely to inflict self-harm.
The first session will be at Redmond High School tonight from 6 - 8 p.m. The second event is Tuesday at Bend High from 6 - 8 p.m. The event is free for kids and $5 for adults. All proceeds benefit The KIDS Center. Click HERE
for more information.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- A Redmond man was arrested Saturday night, following a pursuit and brief stand-off. Oregon State Police tried to pull over a Dodge pickup on Highway 97 near Redmond, following complaints the driver wasn't staying in his lane. But the driver sped east on Highway 126, into Prineville.
Troopers finally got the truck stopped near the Highway 26 junction in Prineville. After a brief standoff, the driver exited the truck. OSP says he still refused to follow commands and was hit with a non-lethal beanbag round. Thirty-three-year-old Shane Shantie was arrested and faces a number of charges including DUII and reckless driving. He was treated for his injuries at the Prineville hospital, then was booked into the Crook County Jail.
MADRAS, OR -- Oregon State Police are investigating a weekend tanker truck crash on Highway 197, north of Madras. Investigators believe a 61-year old Washington man may have suffered a medical emergency, causing his milk tanker to roll onto its side, blocking the highway.
A Prineville haz-mat crew responded to help clean up the crash site and contain leaks. The driver, Brent Braun of Selah, WA, was transported to the hospital in Madras. The highway has reopened, but the investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.
BEND, OR -- The City of Bend is poised to sell the former site of the Bend Bulletin -- again. City councilors have approved an offer from Cascade Empire Lodging. The nearly $2.3 million deal is substantially less than the $4.8 million the city paid for the property back in 2005.
City Manager Eric King tells KBND the deal has not been finalized. "Well, they have about 60 days of due diligence, then another 60 days to close on the property, " King says. "So, I wouldn’t imagine any construction activity would begin for at least 6 months."
A year ago, councilors approved a $1.9 million sale to a different developer. King says that company couldn’t make the deal pencil, following the due diligence period.
"The intent is to have a mix of uses, hotel being primary," King says. "But also retail and a housing component and a community plaza as a centerpiece of that development."
The city bought the property eight years ago, with visions of converting it into a mixed-use city hall complex. Wednesday's approval of the deal includes a stipulation that allows councilors to review a conceptual design prior to development of the land.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes National Forest crews are expected to conduct a number of prescribed burns over the next several days. Beginning Friday, crews will spend several days burning nearly 430 acres near Highway 31, south of La Pine, in the vicinity of Hole in the Ground.
On Saturday, fuels specialists will begin burning two areas totaling about 260 acres near the intersection of Highway 97 and Highway 58, as well as another 380 acres 20 miles southeast of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, near Fox Butte.
No road closures are anticipated; however, smoke may be visible in these areas and could drift onto nearby roads.
SALEM, OR -- Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Beaverton) is fine-tuning a new bill designed to increase Oregon's school immunization rate. New legislation would require schools to publicize student vaccine exemption rates, twice a year.
Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) serves on the Education Committee considering the bill, and was troubled that a student who has gotten two-thirds of required shots would still not be considered in compliance.
Sen. Steiner Hayward agreed. "The new requirement calls for the notification to break it out by disease," Hayward says. "Parents are less concerned if students aren't vaccinated against Hepatitis A or B than if a child isn't immunized against measles or chicken pox, which are much more contagious. We thought it was important for parents to know what disease their children could be at risk of being exposed to at their child's school."
Earlier this session, Sen. Steiner Hayward tried to pass legislation that would do away with all non-medical exemptions. The bill failed to get the necessary support. This new bill tries to inform parents about exemption rates at schools, but would maintain current rules around obtaining a non-medical exemption.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County High School will undergo a facelift this summer, and school district officials are expected to name a contractor for the project by Tuesday.
Principal Michell Jonas tells KBND the main focus of the work is to improve security. "When after school has started, we’re redoing the entryway so all traffic flow will come through the high school," Jonas says. "There will be three different doors around the school that will have a key-fob type of an entryway."
Jonas says the changes should allow for increased safety and convenience during after-school activities. During school hours, all pedestrian traffic will be required to enter through a new set of entry doors.
Work is expected to begin toward the end of May, and should be completed by the time students return in the fall. The project is funded with part of the $33 million bond approved by voters in 2013.
"When they did the bond, they allocated different monies based on different needs at different buildings," Jonas says. "This summer they’ll finish the construction on the new Barnes Butte Elementary, then they’ll start the remodel of Cecil Sly – but that’ll last all year, as well – and they’re going to start the remodel at the middle school. Ours is the smallest project."
Additional work is designed to improve efficiencies with the high school's water and HVAC system, as well as upgrade wheelchair ramps attached to portable classroom buildings.
BEND, OR -- Bend firefighters responded to a house fire in Southeast Bend, early Friday morning. When crews arrived on Silver Sage Street at about 3:15 a.m., they discovered smoke coming from the rear deck, and found the fire had spread through the exterior wall and into the garage. Investigators say the fire was caused by the improper disposal of ash from a fire earlier last night.
The Red Cross is helping the six adults who live in the home.
POWELL BUTTE, OR -- Law enforcement has confirmed the body found in a Powell Butte Pasture Wednesday is that of a missing 27-year old woman. Shauna Fowler was reported missing three weeks ago, last seen the evening of March 26th. An autopsy confirmed her identity and determined her death was accidental, caused by hypothermia brought on by exposure to the elements.
Search and Rescue crews looked for Fowler by air and ground for two weeks. Her body was foun a mile and a half from where she was last seen, but just outside that designated search area.
April 16, 2015:
The Crook County Sheriff's office has tentatively identified a body found in Powell Butte as Shauna Fowler, reported missing almost three weeks ago. A Powell Butte rancher reported finding a deceased person in his field, Wednesday afternoon. Deputies, along with the Oregon State Police Crime lab are investigating, and say the state medical examiner's office has yet to make a positive ID.
Fowler was reported missing
in late March, spawning a region-wide search for the 27-year old woman. The Crook County Sheriff's office investigation is ongoing.
MT. HOOD, OR -- Oregon continues to experience an extremely low snowpack, and the latest measurements from a site on Mt. Hood aren't encouraging. Julie Koeberle, a hydrologist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, says the water content is at about a four-foot deficit.
"We measured a record low snowpack, and that's going into spring," Koeberle says. "Today it was 17 inches of water and a snow depth of 3 1/2 feet. Last year, we had 10 inches of snow."
According to Koeberle, typical snowpack would be 12 feet.
Three-quarters of the state's snow monitoring sites are at their lowest snowpack levels on record. It's expected a majority of Oregon's streams and rivers will have below normal flows this year.
REDMOND, OR -- It's been three months since a Subway restaurant in Redmond was robbed at knifepoint, and police have released a sketch of the suspect. Investigators believe the same man is responsible for the robbery on December 23rd and a second on January 12th at the restaurant on NW Fir Ave. Redmond Detectives have been working with a witness who saw the suspect and was able to describe him to a forensic artist from the Clackamas County Sheriff's office.
The suspect is described as an hispanic man in his late teens or early 20s, medium build, 5' 8" to 5'10", with short black hair and dark eyes. Anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to call the Redmond Police Investigative Unit at 541-504-3420.
REDMOND, OR -- A Redmond couple has been arrested in connection with a Tuesday armed robbery. According to Redmond Police, the victim was reportedly robbed at knifepoint in his room at the Village Squire Motel, late Tuesday night. The victim and witnesses identified Kenyon Odoms and Jordan Breshears as suspects.
Officers contacted both 22-year-old Odoms and 23-year-old Breshears Wednesday afternoon in Southwest Redmond; they were taken into custody without incident. Investigators say a majority of the victim's stolen property was recovered at the time of the couple's arrest.
REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Mayor George Endicott delievered his annual "State of the City" addres Wednesday, and says Redmond is headed in the right direction. He said the city has recouped the $5 million reserve officials were forced to dip into during the recession, and property tax revenue is up 7% over last year. Endicott says his concern now is to keep spending in check. "Our economy has gotten healthy. The one thing we really need to watch is that we don't get too carried away. Redmond is very conservative, and I'd even use the word 'frugal,' in the way we spend money. So, we need to make sure we remember that we're taxpayers, too."
City Hall is expected to move into the former Evergreen Elementary building in a year and a half. Endicott says that process so far has been smooth. He noted the city is looking for an entertainment company to purchase the current city hall building.
Mayor Endicott also discussed recent business growth in the area, saying he wants to make sure it continues. "The city does not create jobs- You hear a lot of cities claim that. We create an environment to create jobs. Our job is to help all those people that want to have a business, want to serve people, that we make their life easier." He says he expects the development of businesses like Nosler and Medline will continue to bring more job opportunities in the next year.
Despite the good news, he says heroin use in the city is on the rise, while overall crime and other drug-related offenses are moving in a more positive direction. "We've had a steady decrease, it turns out, in crime in Redmond. We are above the national average, but we're gaining on it, and our [police] chief says his goal is to make us the safest city." Another of his of his main safety goals is to improve the South Highway 97 corridor, which has seen several serious traffic crashes in recent months.
Redmond now claims 17% of Deschutes County's total population, up from 12% in 2000.
BEND, OR -- A Bend woman was rescued from her vehicle following a single-vehicle carash, Wednesday afternoon. The 56-year old woman may have suffered a medical emergency, leading to the crash. According to Bend Police, officers and medics responded to the rollover crash at NE 3rd and Dekalb Ave just after 7 p.m., Wednesday. The Honda CRV sustained heavy damage, as did a power pole at the intersection.
Traffic was diverted in the area while Bend Fire medics, police officers and an off-duty doctory stabilized the woman and pulled her from the car. She was the lone occupant of the vehicle, and was transported to St. Charles Medical Center Bend for treatment. Neither alcohol nor speed are believed to have been factors in the crash.
BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff's office has received several reports of people contacted by a man claiming to work for the Sheriff's Office, trying to bilk residents out of money. According to DCSO, the caller identifies himself using various names of Sheriff's Office employees. He then claims the person missed jury duty and has a warrant issued for their arrest. The caller then asks the potential victim to send him money to clear up the warrant, or they will be arrested.
The Sheriff's Office wants the public to know this is a scam, and people should never send money without verifying the information they are being provided. DCSO does not advise citizens they have a warrant over the phone; typically, people would be contacted in person by a deputy with proper credentials.
Anyone receiving calls like this are asked to contact the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office at 541-693-6911.
REDMOND, OR -- The Redmond Proficiency Academy is now one of only two schools in Oregon to offer the new AP Capstone Diploma. Beginning next fall, 25-30 students are expected to participate in a program seen as more comprehensive than the previous AP track. English teacher George Hegarty tells KBND News, "It’s an opportunity for us to develop in sophomores and juniors, young students, the ability to research and think critically about really diverse issues, to ignite academic passions. By the time they’re seniors they’ll have the opportunity to explore something they want to do with a faculty mentor, and use that as a springboard into post-high school education in making academic choices for universities and colleges."
AP Capstone is a two-year plan, culminating with an academic thesis paper. Hegarty says the nature of the program fits well with RPA’s proficiency model. "There’s an exam at the end of the year and that exam grants transferable college credit. So, for students looking to attend schools outside of the Oregon University System, those AP credits are much more transferable, nationally. What we talk to the students about is that preparatory is not only skills – our number one goal is that our students transition successfully to the college level – but then also, it does save a lot of money." He acknowledges the program isn't ideal for every school, "When students, if they’re in a normal schedule – a five-day a week, 7-period day - I think the time would be really cramped to do the level of work Capstone requires. Since we’re on a more college-type schedule, particularly for our upper-classmen, they have the time to immerse themselves in study."
RPA's approval to offer the curriculum followed a one-year application process with the College Board. Corbett High School, in the Columbia River Gorge, is the only other school in the state to offer the Capstone Diploma. This new program is in addition to the Advanced Diploma option already offered at RPA in conjunction with Central Oregon Community College.
SALEM, OR -- State Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) has proposed a bill that would allow pharmacists to give women birth control without a prescription. House Bill 2028 will be considered for debate in front of the Healthcare Committee on Friday.
Rep. Buehler, who is also a doctor, says the legislation would give pharmacists the authority to treat patients, and is similar to a bill passed 12 years ago that allowed pharmacists to provide vaccines.
REDMOND, OR -- It was a very emotional afternoon at the Deschutes County Expo Center in Redmond, Wednesday, as families welcomed home nearly 200 soldiers from Afghanistan. The Oregon National Guard 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry left Central Oregon in June, to support Operation Enduring Freedom. KBND News spoke with Gary Combs as he awaited the return of his son, Philip. "It's been a long time. You can't help but worry the whole time, too; anything could happen. Technically, it's not a war zone anymore, I guess, but it's a dangerous place to be." Combs was one of over 600 who gathered to greet the returning soldiers.
Kathleen Riley spoke with KBND as she waited for her husband, Sgt. David Riley. "It's been a little bit surreal, kind of hard to believe the day's already here. I'm already so excited, it's hard to contain it!" She said she just wanted to tell him one thing, "That I love him, and I'm just glad he's going to be home." The squadron is based in Bend, with companies also located in Redmond, Klamath Falls and Lebanon. Soldiers will spend a month with families before the formal demobiliation ceremony scheduled to be held in their honor, May 16th at Vince Genna Stadium in Bend.
Staff Sgt. Alex Zang had to wait to see his family in Salem but wanted to send them a message: "I miss you guys, sorry you couldn't be here, but I'll see you really soon!" Zang says he's already making plans for the homefront. "I'm active duty Guard reserve, meaning I work full-time. So, I'll take the next month off and then go back to work full time at the Bend Armory." Gary Hunter with the Central Oregon Vet Center says his team is ready to help soldiers re-acclimate to the homefront. "Usually, when we have a group like this come home, the Vets Center starts getting busy anytime from six months to a year afterwards. There's usually a little bit of a honeymoon period for the families, then they start getting into the adjustment of things- particularly soldiers adjusting from a war zone to civilian life." Hunter says job placement and counseling are the main things vets ask for from the Vets Center.
For more pictures from Wednesday's Welcome Home Ceremony, visit our Facebook page.
UPDATE: Sheriff's deputies report the owner of the goat has been located.
SUNRIVER, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff's office is asking for help tracking down the owner of a goat discovered near Sunriver. Deputies found the goat wandering near Spring River Road and transported it to a shelter, Monday afternoon.
Anyone with information on where the goat came from, is asked to contact Lt. Deron McMaster at 541-312-6408; after hours callers can ask to speak with a Sheriff's Office Watch Commander through non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911. Deputies have not released a photo of the animal, in an effort to make sure it is reunited with its rightful owner.
LA PINE, OR -- The Oregon Department of Transportation broke ground on a new traffic signal at Highway 97 and 1st Street in La Pine, Tuesday. Officials say the light will address pedestrian and bicycle crossing safety issues at the intersection. Significant industrial and employment growth is planned for the east side of the city over the next 20 years, which is likely to increase traffic in the area.
The project is a collaboration between the City of La Pine, Deschutes County and ODOT. Commissiones Tony DeBone and Alan Unger were on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony, along with Mayor Ken Mulenex, City Council President Stu Martinez, City Manager Rick Allen, EDCO's Janet Burton and members of the Public Works Committee. Construction begins April 20 and is expected to be complete by August.
BEND, OR -- Two Bend elementary schools are setting an example for others in the district by spearheading sustainability efforts while educating students. District sustainability coordinator Jackie Wilson says Miller and Buckingham Elementaries are two of 10 schools in the district participating in the "We Reduce" program. "The teachers and the students that are involved are really paving way and hope to see it involved in high schools," Wilson says. "We want to start seeing ourselves be a district that recycles as much as possible and really just tries to do a whole lot less wasting."
Miller Elementary recently crated a Radical Recycling Award to encourage students to pick up junk. Buckingham has formed their own unique program. After students asked for more conscientious ways to track food waste, the school began weighing what went in the trash, and worked to decrease monthly waste. Wilson tells KBND News student committees have been a main driver behind the sustainability efforts. "In both [Buckingham and Miller] what they have is an active Green Team," Wilson says. "A group of students working to make some tangible actions. Through the Sustainability Committee we come up with some different ideas for the school, and then they just take charge."
One issue Wilson sees is a lack of student programs in most of the Bend-La Pine middle and high schools. While there is a Roots and Shoots sustainability group at Summit High, it's one of the few. But Wilson says as some younger students, who have sustainability classes and groups in elementary school, could initiate change as they move up to the next level of schooling. "They get into middle school, and start asking, "Wait, why are there not more recycling avenues?' And then they start challenging that."
BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors are expected to vote tonight on changes to vacation rental regulations. The move is an effort to restrict density of the rentals in neighborhoods, especially on Bend's west side. New regulations will only apply to future vacation rentals, not those already approved and established. Fred Johnson, a real estate agent with Duke Warner Realty, tells KBND he has many of the rentals in his own neighborhood. "There was an opportunity, and they're going to proceed with licensing and collecting a tax. The beauty of that is, it allows the program to be self sustaining."
Councilors are not expected to enforce the new regulations for existing rentals out of fear of being sued.
BEND, OR -- Bend Police are looking for people who may have inadvertently purchased stolen items from a garage sale at a local storage facility. According to Lt. Clint Burleigh, a 29-year old Bend man is suspected of at least 32 car break-ins. Lt. Burleigh tells KBND the man kept the stolen property at Clark’s Storage on Southeast 9th in Bend, and sold items to unsuspected members of the public. "You have community members going out and just going garage sale-ing not knowing these items are stolen and they’ve purchased them. Our concern is, we want to make sure if the public did go to a garage sale at this location that they would give us a call, so we can add them to the investigation and try and recover the property for the victims."
He says the people who bought the items are also victims, "Because they spent money on an item and that item was stolen. The flip side is, nobody wants to be in possession of property that could be stolen. We want to educate the community, to make sure they know the stuff coming out of that storage facility most likely was stolen from someone else."
The suspect’s name is being withheld, and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone who may have purchased property from a garage sale in front of container #25 of Clark’s Storage, between January and early April, is asked to contact Bend Police at 541-693-6911 or 541-322-2960.
EUGENE, OR -- The University of Oregon has selected its next President. Senator Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) made the announcement on the Senate floor, Tuesday afternoon: "Mike Schill has been the Dean of the University of Chicago Lw School. He's in Eugene today. This ends an 8-month search and I want to congratulate him."
Schill replaces Michael Gottfredson, who was let go by the Board of Trustees last August after just 2 years on the job. UO has not seen stability in the President's office since Dave Frohnmayer retired 6 years ago. The University has also dealt with sexual assault allegations involving students and athletes. 56-year old Schill will take over in July.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday night to extend the Secure Rural Schools Program for another 2 years. Both Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff merkley praised the move. Senator Wyden authored the original S-R-S program in 2000, and said last night "this extension ends months of uncertainly for Oregon's rural communities who have grappled with on-again, off-again funding for roads, schools and first responders."
The extension was part of a larger package to extend the Children's health insurance program and to update the formula for paying doctors and other providers who treat medicare patients. Senator Merkley called the bipartisan vote "good news for Oregon." The bill is now headed for the President's desk.
REDMOND, OR -- The Redmond School Board is discussing significant changes to how the district prepares younger students for the rigors of elementary school. Following a U.S. Department of Education study showing fewer than 25% of Oregon 4-year olds are enrolled in a state-certified preschool, Redmond is looking to create its own early learning center. "We have Terrebonne and Tumalo schools who are dabbling in this effort to create a preschool experience for kids as they come to Terrebonne and Tumalo as our satellite elementary schools, that they would be able to provide some limited access to pre-kindergarten age kids. We think there’s some great stuff going on," Redmond Schools Superintendent Mike McIntosh told KBND News.
He says the biggest shift, though, would be with kindergarten students, beginning in Fall 2016, with the creation of the region's first early learning campus. "What we believe is the Hugh Hartman campus should and will become an early learning center. What that means is that it won’t be a standard K-5, like we have in the rest of the district. We believe – at this point the planning stages are still young – but we believe that school will then house in 2016 all the kindergarten students that are in the Redmond school district, except those that are going to Terrebonne and Tumalo." The Hartman facility currently houses Redmond Proficiency Academy's middle school program, but RPA is moving to a new building after the 2015-16 school year. "What that allows us to do at the Hartman campus, is to provide opportunity for this preschool idea to take root. A pivotal part of this is the partnerships that we develop in our community, with daycares, preschools, with the county, with mental health services, clinics, ESDs, Healthy Beginning and Head Start – All those partnerships that become vital in providing access and services to a collection of families aged 5 and earlier," says McIntosh.
He says the effort is part of state push to better prepare young children for school, and is modeled after similar facilities in other parts of the state. To read about Crook County's efforts, click HERE
BEND, OR -- The recent shooting of a cougar that wandered onto Pilot Butte got mixed reactions in the community- Some supported the action, others didn't. A wildlife activist and filmmaker will show his documentary "Exposed: USDA's Secret War On Wildife" at the downtown Bend library tonight.
Brooks Fahy was invited to Bend by City Councilor Barb Campbell. Fahy feels like the recent case in Bend, too many of these wild cats are being killed out of fear, not for he public's safety. "In this situation nothing needed to be done. Just use calm reason. The animal didn't needed to be killed; it didn't even need to be tranquilized. In 2003 there was a similar incident on Pilot Butte, and they put up a sign and warned people and the cougar wandered off. It could have been handled the same way with no incident whatsoever," he told KBND News.
The documentary begins at 6 p.m. Following the screening, the filmmaker and Councilor Campbell will discuss how to handle cougars that wander into urban spaces.
BEND, OR -- Emergency crews responded to a reported fire at the JJ Court Apartments on Butler Market Rd yesterday afternoon. It was the second fire that day, blamed on an improperly discarded cigarette.
According to Bend Fire investigators, a cigarette tossed onto bark mulch ignited the blaze at about 4 p.m., which spread to the building's exterior walls and eventually into the attic. Crews were able to hold the fire, limiting damage to two units. The Red cross assisted the 10 residents impacted by the blaze.
Yesterday morning, crews extinguished a blaze at an apartment near NW 5th and Portland
. Investigators say a cigarette placed in a plastic container ignited other combustibles and spread to the deck and siding. No injuries were reported in either fire. On average, bend Fire responds to 40 cigarette-related fires each year.
BEND, OR -- Committees from both the State House and Senate held a joint meeting Monday night to consider a handfull of bills that aim to raise the minimum wage. Currently the state minimum wage is $9.25 an hour. Lawmakers are looking at several bills that could raise that rate to as high as $15 an hour by 2018.
House Speaker Tina Kotek was the first to share her thoughts, Monday night. "Because right now there are 150,000 workers who make minimum wage that is $18,925 a year. We all know that's not nearly enough to save for our retirement or for the future of our children." Kotek said statistics show that the average minimum wge worker is 35 years old and 4 out of 10 are the sole bread winners of their families.
The head of Economic Development for Central Oregon, Roger Lee, feels any jump in the minimum wage would hurt the state's economic growth. "The way to better economic prosperity is increasing the skill levels and quality of the type of workers and not just teling employers they have to pay a different wage." Lee believes that tourism and other service industries would be hard hit by the increased costs of raising the minimum wage.
He says in Deschutes County, 40% of the jobs pay less than $15 an hour and increasing the minimum wage would have a negative impact on many of the region's industries.
BEND, OR -- An improperly disposed of cigarette is blamed for a Bend apartment fire, Monday morning. According to Bend Fire investigators, a passerby used water and a fire extinguisher to slow the spread of the blaze at Northwest Fifth and Portland, just before 10 a.m.
Investigators say a cigarette placed in a plastic container ignited other combustibles spreading to the deck and siding on the building. Fire crews were able to quickly fully extinguish the fire at the four-plex, limiting damage to the outside of the building. On average, bend Fire responds to 40 cigarette-related fires each year.
EUGENE, OR -- A 52-year old Bend man died over the weekend after falling from a cliff in the Willamette National Forest, east of Eugene. Joel Martin reportedly was taking photos of Tamolitch Falls along the McKenzie River Trail on Sunday. He fell 45 feet into shallow water and hit his head.
Martin owned Joel J. Martin Construction in Central Oregon, and supervised the construction of multi-million dollar homes.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- Less than a quarter of all Oregon 4-year olds are enrolled in a formal pre-school program, according to a new study released by the U.S. Department of Education. Principal Dave Robinson of Ochoco Elementary in Prineville has seen first hand the importance of a Pre-K education. "Definitely kids who have had some formal school opportunities before kindergarten are better prepared and will be set up for success in kindergarten better." Robinson tells KBND News there are key areas where early learning can set kids up for future success, "A couple things would be some simple math and reading skills, to be able to count to 10, to do some simple addition. And, probably the biggest thing we know from research, is the kids that don’t have a formal background in school before kindergarten have a much lower vocabulary than kids that do."
Robinson is hopeful a new program will help bridge the achievement gap for young students. "We do that with curriculum trainings, where we work hard with preschools to give them materials they need to offer quality programs. We communicate with families that already have kids in the elementary schools and we bring them into the special events we have here like reading nights and kindergarten round ups. During that time we have all our other community partners for our Pre-K services here available with presentations and booths, offering information." Those partnerships are made possible through the Crook County School District P-3 Initiative
, serving families from prenatal to third grade. "We do a number of things. We actually work with doctors in the region after deliveries, to talk to parents, just to let them know what services are available for health screenings as their baby gets older, and try to direct them into those services right away at the earliest possible age." They also partner kindergarten teachers with area pre-schools to offer curriculum and training.
The district just received a $75,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation
to continue the P-3 Initiative for a second year. The comprehensive effort also includes parenting classes and other activities.
SISTERS, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners finally gave approval for a Sisters-area farm to host weddings this summer. John Shepherd has been trying to get permits to conduct weddings on his property for years. This past week, the permit to designate a portion of his property as a private park was approved late last week. "It took us three and a half years, four applications and $20,000 in fees and fines. It was a huge battle and a lot of obstacles, but we persisted and finally prevailed," John Shepherd tells KBND News. "We'll finally be able to hold private weddings and special events."
Shepherd, who is also a minister, will be allowed to hold 18 wedding on his land, between May and October. There are stipulations: Weddings must take place on weekends and cannot violate any noise ordinances. "We will be opening up land use opportunity that wasn't there before, and that's why it's so important. It's setting a precedent, and that's why Central Oregon Landwatch fought it tooth and nail and used every trick to prevent us from getting this land use permission." He says the first wedding is scheduled for mid-June.
REDMOND, OR -- Three Central Oregon teens will soon head to Washington, D.C. as part of a national youth tour. The high school students each earned a spot on the tour as part of a Central Electric Cooperative competition. Courtney Linville, CECO's regional spokesperson, says the co-op expanded the local contest this year due to the entries.
"We have some great finalists," Linville says. "It was really tough. We had originally intended to just send two students, but the caliber of the applicants was just so impressive that the board decided to send three."
Erin Bush from Crook County High School, Alena Nore from Sisters High School and Lillie Spackman from Bend Senior High all won spots on the tour. They will head to the nation's capital in June, meeting up with other high school students from across the nation to tour utilities, cooperatives and national monuments.
Linville says the students will also be introduced to lawmakers.
"They'll have a chance to talk to our senators and representatives," Linville says. "It's really an intensive tour for one week."
This is the first rural Central Electric youth tour offered since 1992.
All photos from Central Electric Cooperative, LLC
REDMOND, OR -- a Sisters man was killed in a motorcycle crash outside of Redmond, Sunday evening. According to the Deschutes County Sheriff's office, 29-year old Shemaiah Gillan was southbound on NW Helmholtz Way when he failed to negotiate a corner. Deputies say he lost control of the sport bike just after 6:30 p.m. near La Mesa Lane, left the roadway and struck a tree and a fence. Redmond medics pronounced him dead at the scene.
Investigators do no believe drugs or alcohol were involved, but It appears excessive speed was a factor in the crash.
BEND, OR -- Tax Day is right around the corner, and one local tax professional says it’s not too late to buy yourself a little time by filing an extension. However, Evan Dickens with Jones & Roth in Bend tells KBND, an extension does not necessarily put off your financial responsibility. "Here’s the problem – an extension is only an extension to file, not an extension to pay. If it’s possible you’re going to owe tax, you need to have paid it by April 15 or you’ll be subject to a couple of different sets of penalties. The most onerous penalty that the IRS can assess if you don’t extend and don’t file and you owe tax. That’s a Fail To File Penalty, and it’s huge."
Dickens says the new healthcare mandate is causing some confusion for taxpayers, this year, "If there was a three-month gap in your coverage, for example, you may have a little bit of a penalty due for those 3 months – It’s prorated, monthly. But, you need to be honest and clear if there was a portion of the year you did not have health insurance covering you, there’s a tax responsibility for that." Penalties for lack of health insurance will be higher in tax year 2015, then even higher for 2016. Some of his clients choose to pay the fine, because they say it's still less than paying a monthly premium. Dickens also points out that those who qualified for a subsidy but saw an increase in income in the past year, may have to repay some of that subsidy.
The Bend CPA notes that one of the biggest mistakes he sees is from clients who do not have the proper documentation for charitable donations. He says good record-keeping is key to making sure a donation is accepted – especially with non-cash donations to organizations like Goodwill. "If you don’t have a good record of what you donated and a value that you set on it, you could potentially have the entire deduction thrown out. I get handed a stack of Goodwill receipts with no amounts, no items, nothing on them, and it’s not my job to tell you how much you gave or what you gave. If you give more than $500 in non cash donations, you have to report detail of that, including who you gave to, what the dates were." He suggests taking a photo of what you’re donating prior to dropping off the items, as a way of documenting your contribution.
Overall, one of Dickens' biggest concerns for his clients is the risk of identity theft. He encourages eletronic filing, saying the method is much safer than trusting the Postal Service with important financial documents and personal information. And, after you’ve filed your taxes, Dickens says it’s important to keep supporting tax records for 7 years. He says actual tax returns should always be kept.
For more tax tips, listen to our full conversation with Evan Dickens at our Podcast Page
SISTERS, OR -- A U.S. Forest Service employee suffered non-life threatening injuries in an accident west of Sisters, Thursday morning. Deschutes National Forest officials say the man was doing reforestation work in the Sisters Ranger District when the accident occurred at about 10 a.m.
According to Deschutes County Dispatch, emergency crews were called to the Trout Creek Butte area on a report of a man injured by a fallen tree. He was transported by ambulance to St. Charles Redmond.
REDMOND, OR -- The Redmond Police department is thanking the public for its help in arresting a man who lead police on a chase following a March traffic stop. Tips helped identify the vehicle's owner, and evidence recovered from the car lead investigators to 19-year old Kylian Beitz of Prineville as a suspect.
On Monday, Beitz was stopped by police in the same vehicle. He gave the officer a false name, but his identity was confirmed and he was arrested. He was taken to the Deschutes County Jail on charges of attempting to elude a police officer, reckless driving and felon in possession of a firearm. His passenger, Chardae Baird, was arrested for a probaation violation.
SALEM, OR -- Oregon lawmakers are trying to come up with ethics bills to prevent scandals like the one that forced Governor John Kitzhaber to resign. Current Governor Kate Brown, Republicans and the Independent Party of Oregon have all offered bills. Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) told his fellow lawmakers on the Hosue floor Thursday, we have to do better. "Oregon's fourth estate did, the independent journalists and the media did their job exposing the problem and now we need to do ours and fix them. Governor Brown and the Independent party of Oregon all have billls, but the Governor's bill will not protect Oregonians from future scandals."
Rep. Buehler supports a House bill that would require public bodies to retain public records for a minimum of three years. He also plans to introduce a bill that will protect whistle blowers who expose criminal or unethical activity in state government.
BEND, OR -- The cost of college keeps going up at a time financial aid for students is facing cuts. The federal budget just approved by the Senate last week cuts federal Pell grants by $90 million.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley was at OSU-Cascades Thursday talking with students and administrators about this trend. "And Pell grants are a foundation offered by the federal government to students of modest means to be able to pay for college. The budget takes a 31 percent cut out of Pell grants. It freezes them and they're not going up as inflation goes up."
Before the recession about a third of OSU Cascades students used Pell grants that don't have to be paid back, now half the students rely on these grants to be able to go to school.
SALEM, OR -- The State Senate has given the O.K. to continue the Central Oregon Health Council. The public/private government entity oversees those on the Oregon Health Plan and the coordinated care orgnaizations that manage them.
The legislation creating this council passed four years ago and the latest bill, sponsored by Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend), extends it until 2022. The bill was sponsored by Senator Tim Knopp. "This bill extended bill 204 passed in 2011 which adds four members to the Central Oregon Health Council and specifies that people will be reappointed and there is a single advisory council for all CCO's that are a part of it and it clarifies community health assessment and community health improvement."
The Central Oregon Health Council was created to connect patients with providers through coordinated care organizations and to ultimately improve health outcomes in the region. The bill now goes to the House.
BEND, OR -- Students across Central Oregon have started taking their new standardized tests this spring. Smarter Balance aims to be a rigorous testing method to better prepare our kids for the future.
Cascade Middle School Eighth Grade teacher Michelle Hanford has been teaching in the district for twenty years. She says the students have been handling the change in testing well. "In the end I had a lot of kids say it was really tough, but I was able to express my ideas as opposed to multiple choice. And I thought that was really cool."
Some of the testing is essay form, so people not machines will be grading them, which will take longer. Smarter Balance efforts to test students critical thinking skills more than previous tests. About 20 states including Oregon are using the smarter balance tests that are closely aligned to the common core state standards.
SALEM, OR -- The full State Senate is expected to vote next week on the gun control bill that would expand background checks. Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) opposes the bill and believes it has been rushed through without adequate public input. "I've seen that happen when people have the opportunity to engage, but I diddn't feel like we had the opportunity on this bill. This bill is going to come up early next week and unfortunately it looks like it may have the votes to pass."
Senator Knopp says the bill that would require background checks on private gun sales in the state is scheduled to go before the Senate on Monday. He hopes that a couple Democrats can be convinced to vote against the measure.
SALEM, OR -- The State House has passed Representative Gene Whisnant's bill that aims to make a college degree more affordable. The legislation looks to create a fixed-cost baccalaureate degree in Oregon. Texas, Florida and Wisconsin offer $10,000 four-year degrees.
Rep. Whisnant (R-Sunriver) says one of his goals in the legislature was to make higher education more affordable. "Colleagues, my hope is one or more baccalaureate degrees will be offered beginning in the fall of 2017. I urge you to vote yes on this bill to create an affordable college degree."
The bill tasks the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to identify bachelors degrees or pathways to these degrees that are affordable at a fixed cost. The bill now goes to the Senate.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners are finalizing code for medical marijuana dispensaries in the rural parts of the county. Commissiones embraced the planning commission's suggestion to limit hours for the dispensaries and not allow them on exclusive farm use land.
Commissioner Tammy Baney and the other two commissioners unanimously agreed to their recommendations. "I like the idea of limited hours 10 to 7 and I like the idea not EFU, but I'm open to considering in the future on limiting EFU."
The commissioners are also looking to write into the code that these standards are only for medical marijuana and not recreational marijuana down the road. Tehy are expected to approve final wording on the code on April 22nd.
POWELL BUTTE, OR -- A Powell Butte man was arrested early Thursday morning on attempted murder charges, after he allegedly shot his estranged wife. According to the Crook County Sheriff's Office, 41-year old John Heere fought with the woman over the phone earlier in the evening. When she arrived at the SW Riggs Rd home, the couple argued again, and investigators say Heere fired his rifle toward her vehicle. The shot traveled through the windshield, striking her in the upper arm.
The victim was taken by private vehicle to St. Charles Prineville. Heere was taken into custody without incident at about 1:30 a.m. He faces charges of Attempted Murder, First Degree Domestic Assault, Pointing a Firearm at Another Person, Reckless Endangering, Unlawful Use of a Weapon and Menacing. Bail has been set at $120,000.
BEND, OR -- Seven years after suffering big financial losses during the depths of the recession, Central Oregon car sales continue to rebound. Robberson Ford President Jeff Robberson says he saw new car sales slashed in half in 2007 and 2008. He says new technology is now helping attract new customers. Robberson tells KBND News Internet sales now make up about 30% of total auto sales, but that a physical dealership will never be obsolete. "When Internet sales first came out, that was what everything was going to be. What we found was that most people at some point in the transaction either want to drive the car, or look at interior options; they don’t know if they want a Focus or a Fusion. Then they come in, they’ve dealt with the Internet person, they’ve been communicating with them [online], it’s like someone they know, it’s a very comfortable process. But, I don’t see it going totally to an Internet process."
Robberson also hopes a recently completed $5 million renovation will encourage even more growth. "We actually have just been in here and fully operational for about a month, and so far it’s up over last year. But, we’re looking forward to a 10-20% increase by having a new facility." He says the biggest sales jumps have been with smaller SUVs, as drivers look to balance fuel efficiency with the capability of a truck. Robberson’s renovation more than doubled the size of the new car dealership on NE 3rd in Bend.
SALEM, OR -- Oregon lawmakers are expected to consider raising the minimum wage in the state this session. Legislation introduced would raise the wage to $15 an hour by 2018.
A new study just released by the Oregon Center for Public Policy refutes the claim raising the minimum wage wold hurt small business. Chuck Sheketoff is the Executive Director of the center. "Higher minimum wage means better worker productivity and that means lower turnover and that's a huge cost for employers and that would mean more toward their bottom line. So productivity gains and reduced costs improve their bottom line."
Democratic State Senator Sara Gelser says it's time to think about people. "We've heard a lot about the business community concerns and during this phone call I'm more concerned about the worker. We're all valid. We all contribute to our economy. And the bottom line is a lot of these people working more than one job are not making enough to meet their basic needs."
Senator Gelser believes this study shows that raising the minimum wage can go hand in hand with strong job growth for small businesses. She says reserachers found higher wages yield higher worker productivity and lower turnover.
BEND, OR -- Starbucks announced this week plans to expand the tuition reimbursement program, to provide four years of paid college for employees through Arizona State University's online campus. There are stipulations -- employees must not already have a four-year degree, and workers at Starbucks' inside grocery stores don't qualify.
KBND News spoke with Starbucks customers at the Cascade Village Shopping Center in Bend, Tuesday. Virginia Sponsler of Bend says she likes the idea of patronizing a business that supports its employees.
"Well, I think Starbucks is a good employer and it's an excellent plan," Sponsler says. "I'm in agreement that you don't have to pay it back or work for Starbucks after you graduate. Anything that promotes work and opportunities while going to school, I think that's great."
Another customer, Liz Karkula, agrees. "I think when companies treat their employees right, that makes me want to support that company," Karkula says. "Working so hard to get my education, I definitely support that."
Until now, Starbucks only offered two years of undergraduate tuition reimbursement. Nikki Zink of Bend says her sister works for Starbucks in California and is already planning to take advantage of the program. "I think it's a wonderful program! I don't know the criteria for them. [My sister] just texted me and said she's going back to school -- she wants to study health sciences."
The company's CEO expects to spend at least $250 million to help 25,000 employees get their Bachelor's degree from ASU in the next 10 years.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Jail Commander Captain Shane Nelson is speaking out about allegations that deputies didn’t take seriously a medical emergency that eventually led to the death of an inmate. In jail surveillance footage from December 14, deputies can be seen mocking Edwin Mays III and laughing at how he was acting in his cell. Hours later, he died of a methamphetamine overdose.
Capt. Nelson, who will take over as Sheriff in July, tells KBND News, "We shouldn’t have made fun of people on the video, that’s a given. And we’ll try and be better. But, in a difficult business, sometimes that dark humor that helps people vent emotion and just try and get through a day, and after dealing with negativity and the bad things in the world, sometimes that bleeds through. All we can do is take a look at it and try and get better."
He says, "We hire human beings; we don’t hire robots. The reason we hire human beings is the same reason we’re good at what we do, and good at having that strong relationship with the community." The Oregon Department of Justice is now conducting an investigation into Mays' death, and reviewing the actions of deputies. Capt. Nelson says he was not on duty that Sunday night, but responded to the scene when medics were called.
The jail is now making changes to how it provides medical care. Capt. Nelson says the increased nursing presence is not in direct response to the Mays death. "It was already on the books, but having an incident like this just helps us make that decision and get that ball rolling, July 1." He says there is always a deputy on-duty trained in CPR and First Aid, but until now, nursing staff has only been available on a part time basis. In July, nursing staff will become part of the full-time employee pool and available at the jail 24-hours a day.
The latest snowpack levels show 76 percent of the state's monitoring sites are at the lowest snowpack levels on record.
This year more than half of all snowpack measurements across the state recorded bare ground on April first.
Snw survey supervisors say at this point in the season, there is no doubt that the majority of streams and rivers in Oregon will have below normal flows this year, due to lack of snow accumulation.
Precipitation since October in the form of rain has been near normal because of our warm temperatures. But our lack of snowpack will mean stream flows this summer will be well below normal.
SALEM, OR -- Both State chambers have passed bills to crack down on so-called "revenge porn." The Senate passed legislation back in February and the House just passed a bill last week. The legislation would make it a crime to unlawfully disseminate an intimate image.
State Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) says a staffer in Senator Hass' office testified before a Senate committee about her experience with revenge porn. "The gal said she went to the police, but they said 'there's nothing we can really do for you.' We are looking to create criminal and civil penalities which will stop this practice."
The penalities for a first offense would be a maximum of one year in prison and a $6,000 fine. Subsequent offenses could include five years in prison and a 125-thousand dollar fine.
SALEM, OR -- The Oregon House just passed legislation that will increase access to experimental drugs for terminally ill patients. The legislation is called "Right to Try." Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) sponsosred the bill and believes it will give these patients more options. "I cannot describe how difficult it is for a doctor to tell a patient there's nothing more we can do for you. Right to Try gives them more options It's consistent with Oregon's leadership in healthcare innovation and will help the most vulnerable citizens in our state."
Many patients cannot participate in clinical drug trials since there is limited availability and usually travel requirements. Right to Try gives these families of terminally ill patients, more treatmnet options. The bill now goes to the Senate.
SALEM, OR -- The full Senate will soon vote on whether to require background checks to include private gun sales in the state. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the legislation Monday and sent it on to the full Senate. The vote was along party lines, with the three Democrats voting for it and the two Republicans voting against it.
The carrier of the bill, Eugene Democrat Senator Floyd Prozanski was relieved a Republican lawmaker decided not to add an amendment that would require the DMV to mark the licenses of felons. "It does appear that background checks have worked for 25 years in this state and they work very well and it's much more efficient. So as I said, they've worked well, we just needed to close the loophole."
Democratic leaders in the Senate are confident the bill will pass in the full Senate, unlike measures in 2013 and 2014. Republican lawmakers say they may seek to pass a substitute bill on the floor.
BEND, OR -- St. Charles Medical Center is updating more than one hundred of their patient rooms. The hospital showed off the first 13 remodeled rooms on the third and fourth floors, Monday. Project Manager Jim Walker says the improvements will make for better care. "Our existing rooms are really quite small especially when you consider the nursing needs. So we brought them up to modern code and really refreshed them. And part of the features are new exterior windows that are larger than the old ones and the westside windows highlight the Cascade Mountains very nice."
The remodel is part of a nearly $28 million project. The rooms will be larger as will the bathrooms to meet ADA requirements and electrical, plumbing and ventilation systems are also being updated. A total of 110 rooms be revamped during the project, which will take 2.5 years to complete.
Governor Kate Brown has declared drought emergencies in Crook, Harney and Klamath counties.
These three counties requrested the declaration due to low water levels and record low snowpack.
The drought continues to have significant impact on agriculture, livestock and natural resources in the state.
Last month, Governor Brown declared drought emergencies in Malheur and Lake counties.
These declarations allow for more flexibility in how the state's limited water is managed.
The group opposing the westside location of the OSU Cascades expansion should hear by the end of the month the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals Decision on their appeal.
Truth in Site appealed to LUBA challenging the OSU Cascades location on Bend's westside, approved by an independent hearings officer and the Bend City Council. The group feels the area is too congested and not the best location for the university.
Bend City Councilor Sally Russell was part of the council that approved the site, but she knows there are issues.
"And they did the best they could with what they had, but I think we're in a sticky place for OSU Cascades. And many of us wanted the university, but because we lost the vision, lost the buy in, understanding. There was huge excitement when this started out."
LUBA is scheduled to release its decision on the appeal by April 29th.
Depending on the decision, the case could still go to the Oregon Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court.
BEND, OR -- The covered bridge at Bowery Lane, just north of the Bend city limits, is closed after suffering heavy damage. It appears an oversized vehicle hit the bridge sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning. The Deschutes County Road Department is helping residents who live in the area until a final decision can be made on what to do with the bridge, however the structure may be a total loss.
The neighborhood is still accessible via Rogers Road and the Old Bend Redmond Highway.
MADRAS, OR -- U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley offered constituents an opportunity to discuss topics ranging from education to sage grouse protection to Medicare funding, during a stop in Madras yesterday.
Sen. Merkley tells KBND one of his worries for rural Central Oregonians is recent cuts to the Senate budget. "The budget that was just adopted by the Senate proceeds to cut early childhood education -- that's Head Start -- and a massive cut to Pell Grants," Merkley says. "That's a 31 percent cut to Pell Grants. College has just been growing in expense so quickly, it's just closing doors for our children. Cutting Pell Grants is the last thing we should be doing."
He also voiced support in efforts to preserve sage grouse habitat. "If we can develop strategies to stabilize the numbers of sage grouse, we can hopefully keep Oregon out of the national listing," Merkley says. He added that he's ready to advocate for more protections, if needed.
Merkley said he is focused on making sure recently passed Crooked River Legislation is implemented "effectively." At the Madras event, several communtiy members shared their support for the legislation approved in December. That bill aims to open up water rights for Prineville data centers and fishermen.
During the town hall, Merkley heard from a man who was denied Medicare coverage for hip therapy, as a substitute for surgery. "He was raising questions of why it isn't approved for Medicare, and I'm certainly going to be looking into that," Merkley said. "We want the most cost-effective strategies. That means better quality of life for our seniors and less impact on the budget. That was a completely new issue."
Yesterday's event kicked off a series of stops in the High Desert, ending with Senator Merkley's stops in Prineville and La Pine on Wednesday, and a stop at Bend's OSU-Cascades campus on Thursday.
SUNRIVER, OR -- South County residents have an opportunity to share opinons on whether a community sewer system should be approved. Deschutes County, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Land Conservation and Development will hold several community meetings over the next couple of weeks.
Wastewater Specialist Bob Baggett will answer questions at the meetings. "This was actually one of the recommendations that came out of the South County Steering Committee a few years ago. They met for three years, looking at solutions for the groundwater contamination problem down there." That contamination problem comes from some of the septic systems in the area. Currently, sewer systems are not allowed in unincorporated partss of the county; the region would need to get a state exception. Deschutes County Commissioners are expected to consider the issue later this summer.
The first of a series of open house meetings is today at Sunriver's SHARC facility, from 1-3 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Another is scheduled for April 30th at the La Pine Senior Center.
BEND, OR -- Thirty-one-year-old Brett Vanscoy was arrested Saturday morning, after his ex-girlfriend reported he held her against her will and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. Bend Police Nick Parker tells KBND News, "It had been going on since February 28 of this year. Officers investing the case determined Vanscoy had held the unnamed female victim in a residence against her will at one point. Over that time, he assaulted her, he strangled her, forcibly raped her and then committed additional sexual-related offenses."
The investigation is ongoing and Parker says they are talking to witnesses. The 35-year old woman had filed a restraining order against Vanscoy, but he had not yet been served. Vanscoy faces a number of charges, including first-degree rape, kidnapping and strangulation.
LA PINE, OR -- Law enforcement in the La Pine area are asking for help in finding whoever is responsible for starting a series of wildfires, last month. Nine fires were sparked on or around March 9th off Forest Road 21, and law enforcement says the fires were human-caused.
U.S. Forest Service investigators are asking anyone who may have seen anthing suspicious in the area on March 8th or 9th, or with other information to call Captain Dan Smith at 541-383-5798, or the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 877-876-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous and may be entitled to a cash reward.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- Prineville's labor market has shifted in the few months following major layoffs from Woodgrain Millwork, which left more than 200 people in the low-paying timber industry without work. But as the market transitions, local public officials are optimistic about the potential for job creation at local data centers. In the recent February unemployment report, Crook County saw a slight decrease in unemployment. However, regional economist Damon Runberg is skeptical about actual improvement. "Crook County has seen an actual decline in their labor force," Runberg told KBND News. "It could be folks retiring, people moving out, looking for work in other places."
But, despite the area shedding 30 jobs, recent legislation still has Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe relieved. "We have avoided harm," she told KBND news. Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 611 into law, Thursday, allowing data centers to avoid paying property taxes based on the "value of the brand."
Prineville has been transitioning its economic growth model from mills to data centers, since Facebook's facility opened five years ago. Apple followed, two years ago. When the centers relocated, the City of Prineville negotiated special tax rates. In exchange, data centers agreed to pay a mandatory minimum of 150% of the average local wage, and hire a minimum number of people.
With the growth of Prineville's data centers, the Oregon Department of Revenue began looking at imposing property taxes based on the value of the companies, which would have charged arger companies potentially millions more dollars per year. For the data centers currently in the Enterprise Zone and receiving tax benefits, the result could have been disastrous to keeping the centers local. Roppe says the impact could have caused the city to lose data centers, following December's victory with Crooked River legislation, which opened up water rights for data center expansion. "What we had heard from our local data centers was that they were planning to increase their footprint," Roppe said. "And that they would not do that [if the property taxes increased]. They did not have to be in the state of Oregon. They have other data centers."
SB 611 now forces the Department of Revenue to keep the property taxes for data centers low, in what Roppe believes will be an economic boost. "We believe it will be of great value of us, for bringing new businesses to the community," Roppe says.
When it comes to the unemployed lower-wage workers, Roppe doesn't want the future of the city to completely depend on data centers. The city has been brainstorming ways to bring back and expand local timber and tire products. But Mayor Roppe says the centers are a way to attract higher-paying, education-based jobs. "Jobs are of upmost to the City of Prineville," Roppe says. "And we want to diversify. We want to have many more avenues of revenue. This gives us a means of doing so."
SUNRIVER, OR -- More than 250 disaster preparedness officials from city, tribal and non-profit agencies around the state converged on Sunriver this week. Andrew Phelps, Director of Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management, says the 2nd annual "Oregon Prepared" workshop was a chance for leaders to address threats and hazards specific to each region, and statewide - especially in rural areas where emergency management is often only one person. "Local jurisdictions don’t always have the resources, the capabilities or the training to handle every emergency that they might have. You can look at 9/11 as a perfect example – there’s no city that’s more prepared for a catastrophic event than New York, and they were completely overwhelmed. So, you can look at a community like Bend and realize that a big raging wildfire, Bend Fire and Deschutes County fire resources aren’t necessarily going to be able to deal with that. So, making sure that we can coordinate with state entities and federal resources to come to these communities and mitigate the damage."
Phelps says a big focus this week was on developing the "Cascadia Playbook" - a plan that would guide jurisdictions in the first 14 days after a catastrophic event, like a large coastal earthquake. "Working with folks in the Cascade region – Central Oregon, and even along the eastern side of Oregon – to build partnerships so that we can share resources, because we know a lot of the resources are going to be out on the coast. But, also prepare those communities for the influx of folks leaving the tsunami inundation zone. A lot of them are going to end up in the valley, but that’ll get overwhelmed as well. So, you’ll have folks coming as far east as Bend and Redmond." He says the Redmond airport is already designated as a staging area for federal resources during a disaster, until those resources can be directed elsewhere.
He says other agencies are already learning from Central Oregon’s example. "One of the big components of reducing the impact of disasters is mitigation planning. The Deschutes County Emergency Manager Nathan Garibay just completed the Deschutes County Hazard Mitigation plan, and a component of that is looking at all hazards. It’s not just wildfire, but flooding, snowstorms, severe weather, things like that – things we can do to reduce the impact of these hazards." He says planning is key to moving forward after an event. "We can’t eliminate all hazards, we just can’t. But, we can prevent those hazards from becoming disasters."
BEND, OR -- State Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) has launched a coalition for the Mirror Pond project. He has introduced legislation that would provide $5-million in state funding from lottery dollars for the project. Rep. Buehler talked about the vision for the future of the pond at last weekend's Bend town hall. "In addition to improving the flow and making the river healthier, it will increase recreation along the river and turn some of the unused land into economic development."
Some of the community organizations supporting the Mirror Pond project include Bend Parks and Recreation, the Bend City Council, the Bend Chamber of Commerce, Deschutes River Conservancy and The Environmental Center. Rep. Buehler is asking coalition members to be ready to speak in Salem in support of his legislation asking for state funds.
BEND, OR -- A Texas-based marijuana dispensary company has announced plans to relocate its corporate headquarters to the High Desert. The President of Med-Cannabis Pharma, Inc and one of its investors have already moved to Bend. Graciela Moreno tells KBND she wanted to move her company to Oregon, and other parts of the state just didn’t fit her vision for the future. "I think that Bend actually has quite a bit more to offer our company and also our employees. I think it offers a great balance of work life and recreational and family life, as well. It’s an up and coming city and I just really enjoy the people here and I think that we can find some great employees."
She says the region is ideal for the company's plans for growth around the state, as they look forward to the legalization of recreational pot, in July. "We’ll be expanding here and I know that Redmond soon is probably going to open up. We’ve got an eye out there and some of the moratoriums that are being lifted in the coming months, so we’re looking to expand retail outlets. We’re also looking to start our grow facility in Central Oregon, in Bend."
Moreno says Med-Cannabis Pharma is still looking for office space, and admits some realtors and landlords are reluctant to discuss a lease. "I’ve talked to several landlords, several different city ordinances and trying to find out more information and presenting who we are. We’re running things on a corporate level; we also have the business mentality, as well. We want everything to be safe access, but there is some reluctance, even to lease space to us." The company will soon be looking for warehouse space in or near Bend, to open its own grow facility, and plans to eventually launch its own product line. Med-Cannabis Pharma is a publicly traded company with several medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon, including one in Bend.
BEND, OR -- Central Oregon Landwatch claims a recent study they conducted shows climate change may decrease water levels so much in Tumalo Creek, it would threaten the city's water pipeline project. Bend City Councilor Casey Roats is skeptical of the findings of just one study and is waiting for the results of larger study funded by federal and state money. Councilor Roats says it's been difficult dealing with Central Oregon Landwatch. "You have environmental groups that have a value set and don't want us to be taking anything out of the Tumalo Creek - And there's no city in their right mind who would give up water rights from the turn of the century. If you do that you move to the back of the line instead of the first in line."
Central Oregon Landwatch has appealed last December's federal court decision to allow the pipeline project to go forward. That appeal is now headed to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Roats says the $5-million the city has spent on fighting the group would have been better spent elsewhere. "You know when you get the lawyers involved, it gets expensive. And, that's money that would half gotten us halfway toward the goal of piping everything. But Central Oregon Landwatch and Oregon Waterwatch in Portland - it's been shameful that people in our own community are doing this, when there are solutions and no end user has to be out of any water."
BEND, OR -- The Bend City Council agreed to push ahead with amendments to the city code regulating vacation rentals. Councilors spent several more hours, Wednesday night, discussing options like limiting the number of short-term rentals allowed in a neighborhood, and restricting the transfer of operating licenses. Councilor Barb Campbell explained why they wanted to declare the issue as an emergency, to move quickly. "It was the difference between 2 weeks, being able to start writing the papers to implement, and 6 weeks. Even with those of us who had differences, for whatever reason, we felt the greater good was to get something done, tonight."
Campbell added that last night's unanimous approval of the first reading of the amendments means "that 2 weeks from tonight, we can enact the measures that we have voted upon. Otherwise, it was going to be, wait another month after that, which put us so far out into this coming summer. Myself, I just didn’t want to do that to those residents. That was going to mean how many more summers of this." They discussed Monday’s seven hours of public input, and clarified recommendations from the vacation rentals task force and city staff.
Councilors are expected to approve the provisions at their April 15th meeting.
SALEM, OR -- It was a packed hearing Wednesday before a State Senate committee considering a new gun control bill. Senate Bill 941 would expand background checks on all private gun sales.
Some of the most emotional testimony was from supporter Robert Alan Yule, whose wife Cindy, died after being shot at the Clackamas Town Center in December 2012. "I'm here today for Cindy because since her death I and her stepdaughter have worked tirelessly to require background checks because they work. It is the single best way to reduce gun violence".
SB 941 would ban felons and others with criminal backgrounds or a history of severe mental illness from buying a gun. The Oregn Republican Party has come out strongly against the bill. Kevin Starrett with the Oregon Firearms Federation also strongly opposes the bill and testified on Wednesday. "The bill is not intended to stop crime, but create more cost and inconvenience for gun owners in a massive registration. There was the gunshow loophole. Now there is the private party loophole and soon we will have the first cousin loophole."
Opponents argue requiring these bckground checks on private sales would place a big burden on gun owners.
PORTLAND, OR -- A Warm Springs man will spend a little under two years in federal prison for domestic violence. 44-year old William Clements pleaded guilty to beating up his wife, last May.
Craig Gabriel with the U.S. Department of Justice says, "I think the message here is the epidemic of domestic violence has to stop. It has caused serious and dangerous impacts to tribes, families and the entire community."
After Clements completes his 21 months in prison, he must serve three years of federal supervised release. He must also attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation and successfully complete a domestic violence counseling program.
SALEM, OR -- A bill that will allow terminally ill patients to try experimental treatments that haven't been approved yet, is on its way to the full House. The House Healthcare Committee approved the legislation this week. State Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) spearheaded the bill. "The medicine or device would have to have completed a phase one study. And another restriction we agreed on is we changed the age to 15 and older."
But Steve Buckstein with the Cascade Policy Instiute feels the bill should include children. "House Bill 2300 would give adults that right, but not children under the age of 15. Those who favor Right to Try let their state legislators know that faced with a terminal illness, children should have the same right to try as adults do."
The FDA approval process is very expensive and can take up to ten years to complete. This allows terminally ill patients to try the drugs before they're approved for market.
BEND, OR -- Emergency crews rushed to Alfalfa Market Road Wednesday morning, on the report of a serious crash. But, Sara Crosswhite with Deschutes County 911 tells KBND it was an apparent April Fool's prank that got out of hand. "The caller reported a motor vehicle accident with a female that was potentially unconscious in the vehicle – a single vehicle rollover in an unknown area, so we were just going on the basic street she gave us with no cross streets known. We were just going blindly to the location to try and find an accident that occurred." She says there was initially no indication that the report was fake.
The woman who called 911 reported the crash in good faith, thinking she was passing along legitimate information, according to Crosswhite. "We ended up dispatching Deschutes County Sheriff's units, with three different deputies responding to the call. We also dispatched Bend Fire and they had, it looks like, one or two units responding to Alfalfa Market Rd. And, at that point, they’d asked us to dispatch Air Link, so we were calling the helicopter to fly up in the air to try and locate the motor vehicle accident." She says that was when the caller received a text saying it was all a joke, and the woman immediately notified dispatchers about 10 minutes after the initial report, before dispatchers launched the helicopter.
Crosswhite says the biggest concern with such a hoax is the danger posed to first responders as they speed to a non-existent emergency during the morning commute. "In the 17 years I’ve been with the agency, I don’t recall a prank of this magnitude on April Fool's Day. Every once in a while we’ll get people to call in false calls because somebody played a joke on them, misled them- not on April Fool's Day. This was a rare one for us." She says the county takes false reports very seriously and the Sheriff's office expects to follow up on the incident.
BEND, OR -- The Humane Society of Central Oregon is working to find homes for pets recently left abandoned outside its Bend shelter. Less than a week ago, a woman left a Jack Russell Terrier in a crate at the front doors of the shelter, 40 minutes before it opened. A few days before that, Lynne Ouchida says a pair of guinea pigs were left at the back door. "It was interesting that people that it was OK to abandoned an animal at the shelter."
She tells KBND leaving an animal in any location violates state law, "Well, the Oregon state statute states specifically, the person commits the crime of animal abandonment if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence leaves a domestic animal or equine at a location without providing minimal care. It is no defense that the defendant abandoned the animal at or near an animal shelter, vet clinic or other place of shelter if the defendant did not make reasonable arrangements for the care of the animal." The shelter is not pursuing legal action in the two recent cases, Ouchida says they just want to make sure the animals can quickly find a good home. "If the dog or cat or any kind of animal comes in, the more information you provide the better we can treat it. Whether they have medical issues, behavioral issues, maybe it does/doesn’t do well with cats or kids." She says that information helps find the best new family for an animal.
Ouchida says there is no fee to relinquish a pet, however they do request a voluntary donation. "We do ask questions, and the questions are why you are relinquishing it – the first questions are how can we help you keep your pet? If you have come to the decision that you can’t keep it, then absolutely, we’ll take that animal, that’s what our services provide. We do ask you to fill out information about the animal so that we can place it in an appropriate home." Animals that are not properly relinquished must be held as a "stray" and aren't available for adoption for a number of days.
SALEM, OR -- The Oregon House passed the $7,255 education budget pushed by Democrats, this Tuesday. It's $600 million more than the last biennium and should allow most school districts to fund all-day kindergarten. However, State Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) voted against the budget. During his House speech, he told lawmakers it doesn't adequately fund education for students.
"I agree with [Bend-La Pine Superintendent] Wilkinson," Buehler said. "It's time to reprioritize education and not only fund it more, but [do that] by enacting reform in the state." Buehler says the funding level would mean an $83-per-student decrease in the Bend-La Pine School District.
Rep. Buehler adds, "The first step is to make education funding a priority before low carbon fuel standards or corporate giveaways. We need to address the unacceptable dropout rate and ensure third grade reading proficiency, and return from the shortest school year in the nation."
Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) is co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee. He agreed the budget isn't enough, but said it's the best they could do given other funding needs. The spending plan now moves on to the Senate.
BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors heard seven hours of testimony Monday night on proposed rules for vacation rentals. The marathon hearing was a precursor to tonight's meeting, when councilors are expected to vote on those rules.
Former Bend Mayor Bruce Abernethy was among those who testified. He tells KBND News he believes the proposed rules don't go far enough, given the heavy concentration of vacation rentals in a couple of west side neighborhoods. He says the new rules wouldn't effect those properties.
"So, basically, if you're in a neighborhood with a high concentration already, you won't get more," Abernethy says. "But there's no guarantee it will necessarily go down to a more reasonable level."
City councilors will consider whether old vacation rentals will be phased out. Current Mayor Jim Clinton tells KBND, "One way to do that is at a certain date these agreements automatically disappear. It's an onerous deal and it gives rise to claims. The less onerous way, where there appears to be some support, is to make the older permits non-transferrable."
Currently, permits are attached to the property, but councilors will consider whether to keep permits for short-term rentals with the homeowner.
REDMOND, OR -- The University of Oregon is partnering with the City of Redmond to improve livability and sustainability in the city. After similar partnerships in Medford, Springfield, Salem and Gresham, this is the first time the “Sustainable City Year Program” has ventured over the Cascades.
Oregon associate professor Nico Larco is cofounder of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, and says there is already a lot of involvement.
"The way the program works is, we have somewhere between 25 to 35 courses across the university working on specific projects that, in this case, Redmond has identified that they want to move forward on," Larco says. "Projects range from everything from looking at the airport campus and looking at design guidelines for that, to looking at south 97 corridor and thinking about an urban design for that and development standards, to thinking about street tree programs," he told KBND News.
Larco says the program chose Redmond based on its outstanding application. "A combination of their commitment to sustainability, a really interesting project list – I mean, they’re really thinking broadly about all the pieces where they can work with us and move the dial – and just a great project team from within the city, and private sector partners and organizations. It just seemed like a great fit."
He says students are excited to get started in Central Oregon, next week. The program typically will work with the city over the academic year, starting in August or September and lasting through June. This year, there was interest in starting the bike course before that date.
"We’re kicking things off early," Larco says. "This one class is going to be happening this term. Then, after that, everything else will be starting up really in August and September."