Local News Archives for 2022-05

Free Webinar Focuses on Children's Grief

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Health Services-Suicide Prevention Program, Lines for Life, Oregon Health Authority and Dougy Center will host a free webinar called "Supporting Children and Teens who are Grieving" on Thursday, June second. 

This hour-long webinar starts at 7.00 p.m. It's intended for families, parents, guardians and child-connected humans in the Oregon Community. Grief and loss, regardless of circumstance, can be a difficult topic for adults to speak with children and teens about. It can become even more complex when the adults are also grieving.

Click HERE to register. 

 

Local mental health resources can be found at Deschutes County Health Services' website. For immediate help for someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 541-322-7500 Option 9 or go to the Stabilization Center at 63311 Jamison Street in Bend. No appointment is necessary. These resources are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Crook Co. Receives Federal Infrastructure Money

PRINEVILLE, OR -- USDA Rural Development announced millions of dollars coming to four Oregon communities to address water issues. USDA RD State Director Margi Hoffman says funded projects include updating damaged equipment used to supply drinking water to a portion of Crook County, "Modernizing our infrastructure, particularly our water infrastructure to ensure that every single Oregonian and the rural Oregonians that we serve have access to clean and safe drinking water, is paramount."

The money is coming to Oregon as part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Package. Hoffman acknowledges a lot of infrastructure attention is focused on improving airports, highways and bridges. But, she says money isn’t just flowing to urban centers, "For rural development, that looks like investments in broadband connectivity across the board - so, making sure that every single person in the United States is connected to the internet for telehealth purposes, or to enable precision agriculture. And, we have been working a lot on the municipal water systems throughout the state, particularly with those communities that have been devastated by fire."

Aside from Crook County's Ochoco West Water and Sanitary Authority, the $28 million in grants and loans will help the city of Brookings upgrade pump stations in Curry County and replace damaged equipment in the city of Gold Hill in Jackson County. Lincoln County's Panther Creek Water District will also be able to shore up a hillside that burned in 2020 and puts a water system at risk of a landslide. "I can’t overstate the importance of these critical drinking water systems," says Hoffman, "And nobody experiences that like somebody who no longer has access to potable water, or all of a sudden is on a boil water notice."

Bend-La Pine Schools Again Plans Outdoor Graduations

BEND, OR -- High school graduation season is upon us. Bend-La Pine Schools will again host outdoor graduation ceremonies at its largest high schools. "That was kind of a carryover from last year," says Katie Legace, Executive Director of High Schools, "Due to COVID, we moved our graduations out of the fairgrounds and to the school sites, on their football fields. And we’re going to continue that this year."

Legace tells KBND News, "We are excited to be able to host several of our high school events for graduation outside. We do have a backup plan if we have lightning, for example, or if we have an unsafe smoke situation." She says the schedule was supposed to be staggered - for families who might have graduates at more than one school. Unfortunately, anticipated weather on Saturday, Jun 11 forced the district to shift that day's schedule so both Summit and Bend High's events are at the same time. REALMS and Bend Tech Academy are the only schools to plan indoor celebrations. If other schools must move inside for weather or smoke, attendance could be limited. 

  • Mountain View High School: June 9 at 7 p.m. – football field
  • La Pine High School: June 10 at 7 p.m. – football field
  • Summit High School: June 11 at 10 a.m. – soccer field
  • Bend Senior High School: June 11 at 10 a.m. – football field
  • Bend Tech Academy at Marshall High School: June 13 at 7 p.m. – gym
  • Realms High School: June 14 at 7 p.m. – commons area

Sen. Wyden Hosts Virtual Town Hall

BEND, OR -- Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is in Bend Wednesday, hosting a virtual town hall. He held two public meetings on the coast over the weekend, where he says he heard a lot about big issues - like the Texas school shooting, "They definitely want common-sense gun safety rules and they think now is the time to do it, so that has been front and center," he tells KBND News. "We continue to have focus on fire, prescription drugs, tremendous concern about what Judge Alito’s opinion may look like."

Wyden says his events will remain virtual until the public health emergency is passed. "What I’ve been doing is getting out to communities; I set up in like the newspaper or community college, we take the calls from the county and then I go up and down Main Street and walk into stores." He says, "I will be in the Bend Bulletin on Wednesday for the town hall that’s been announced, online."

The Deschutes County town hall starts at 3 p.m. Click HERE to watch. 

Redmond DMV Closes Temporarily Due to Staffing Shortage

REDMOND, OR -- Oregon DMV is temporarily closing some smaller offices and reducing hours at others. Redmond is among six closing Tuesday; ten others will limit hours. In previous interviews, DMV's David House has told KBND News the agency needs to shift workers to offices in bigger cities, amid staffing shortages, "Bigger offices in the cities have fewer staff than normal and so wait times are longer." For months, a number of DMVs have closed sporadically and unannounced due to a lack of staff.

Summer is considered the busiest time of year for the DMV, partly because of the high demand for driver tests while teens are out of school. House says, "Before you go to DMV, go to DMV2U.Oregon.Gov first and see if you can get what you need online and save yourself a trip to an office."

DMV released this detailed information on the changes:

Starting May 31, DMV will temporarily close these offices so that remaining staff can reinforce larger nearby offices:

  • Ashland
  • Cave Junction
  • Lebanon
  • Redmond
  • Sandy
  • Stayton

Reduced business hours

As of May 31, these will be the business hours for the following offices:

  • Astoria: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except opening at 10 a.m. Wednesdays; closed 12:30-2 each day for lunch
  • Canyonville: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays; closed 12:30-1:30 each day for lunch
  • Downtown Portland: Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays
  • Heppner: Open 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays only; closed 11:30-12:30 each day for lunch
  • Hermiston: Open at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays
  • Junction City: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays
  • Klamath Falls: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except opening at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays; closed 12:30-2 each day for lunch
  • Lake Oswego: Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays
  • Lincoln City: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays; closed noon-1:30 each day for lunch
  • Milton-Freewater: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; closed 12:30-2 each day for lunch

Rep. Schrader Loses Primary Race

CLACKAMAS, OR -- Elections experts have declared a winner in the Democratic Primary for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, despite more than 20,000 still uncounted ballots in Clackamas County. 

Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) has conceded, congratulating Jamie McLeod Skinner for securing the Democratic nomination for Oregon’s Fifth District. She’ll face Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer in November. Election results were delayed by persistent problems in Clackamas County but experts said over the weekend there is no path forward for Schrader’s campaign.

In a Facebook post, Schrader thanked supporters, saying it’s been an honor to represent the fifth district for 14 years. It’s the first time in 42 years an Oregon member of congress has been unseated in the primary.

Redmond Theft Suspect Caught After Standoff

REDMOND, OR -- A man suspected of stealing items from the back of a parked pickup was arrested Sunday with the help of CERT. Police first responded to the Redmond Wilco Farm Store just after 9:30 a.m. After reviewing surveillance footage, officers determined the suspect's vehicle had been seen at multiple other parking lot thefts over the past several weeks. 

About 30 minutes later, the suspect vehicle was found at the Redmond Lowes. When the man returned to his car, police say he had items stolen from inside that store. Despite police surveillance, he jumped in the car and sped from the scene. 

Officers then found the same car parked at the Ridgemont Apartments, with stolen property in plain view. Police set up a perimeter after witnesses said a man matching the suspect's description ran into an apartment. 

CERT - the Central Oregon Emergency Response Team - responded to help with the barricaded suspect. Just before 3 p.m., they arrested 29-year-old Derek Andersen on multiple charges, including theft and two outstanding warrants. 

Bend Airbnb Condo Damaged in Fire

BEND, OR -- A failed HVAC system is blamed for a fire in a Bend vacation rental, Saturday afternoon. Fire was limited to one unit at the Riverside and Pioneer Park Condominiums and the two guests were not home at the time. Damage is estimated at about $120,000.

Bend Fire commends neighbors for activating a fire pull station, evacuating and calling for help as soon as they saw smoke.

Four Injured in Crash at Highway 97/20 Interchange

BEND, OR -- A 21-year-old La Pine man is suspected of driving impaired, leading to a four-vehicle crash Friday afternoon. Bend Police say two northbound vehicles had stopped for congestion on the Bend Parkway near the Highway 20 onramp, just after 3:30 p.m. A third vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee, was slowing for traffic when a pickup crashed into it, pushing it into the first two vehicles. 

Hunter Jones, the driver of the pickup, is charged with DUII, Assault, Reckless Driving and Reckless Endangering. He sustained minor injuries.

The man driving the Cherokee was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. His passengers, a woman and a child were hospitalized with serious injuries.

Northbound Highway 97 was closed at Empire Blvd. for about an  hour and a half for the crash investigation. Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911.

Redmond to Close Outdoor Debris Burning

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Fire & Rescue, in conjunction with the Central Oregon Fire Chiefs Association, will close open debris burning Wednesday, June first, for fire season. 

Backyard fires, which include warming fires, campfires and cooking fires are typically allowed year-round in the Redmond area, when used within the guidelines set forth in the Redmond Fire & Rescue Burning Regulations. Additional restrictions on campfires can be placed during the hottest parts of summer, to help reduce the risk of fire further.

The agencies encourage everyone to check restrictions every time you burn, by calling the burn information line at 541-504-5035. 

They remind Central Oregonians to be sure your home has good defensible space around it to help protect your home from the threat of wildfire. More information about creating defensible space and preparing for the upcoming fire season can be found at projectwildfire.org.

Bend Fire announced earlier this week its district is also closing outdoor debris burning June first. 

ODOT Urges Drivers To Slow Down, Plan Ahead

BEND, OR -- As the summer travel season kicks off, many Central Oregonians will get out of town for Memorial Day Weekend. "There’s going to be a lot of cars out there over the holiday weekend," says Oregon Department of Transportation's Don Hamilton, "And people need to slow down, be careful, plan your trip, look out for the other guys on the road out there."

The good news: Hamilton says you shouldn’t see much road construction, "There’s a lot of work going on, but it’s not going to be going on over the holiday weekend. We want to do everything we can to keep the roads clear for traffic, to make sure there’s as little congestion as we can manage." 

Drivers should still use caution in areas still recovering from the 2020 wildfires, although Hamilton says all highways are open, "In some of the areas that were damaged by the fire, people are going to see the results of that. There’s still a lot of damage, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in some of those areas."

Hamilton expects the busiest roads to be to and from the coast, the Gorge and Central Oregon. Visit Tripcheck for road conditions and traffic cameras.

Deschutes County Prepares for Monkeypox

BEND, OR -- Seattle health officials are investigating a presumptive case of Monkeypox in a man who recently traveled internationally. Deschutes County Health Services is coordinating its response, in the event a case is found here, "Monkeypox warrants caution," Says Erik Breon with Deschutes County Health Services, "It’s not currently a cause for alarm."

Breon stresses there are no current suspected or confirmed cases of Monkeypox in Oregon, "But, we want to work with our community partners and share information about Monkeypox and prevention strategies, and who might be a risk. We also set up our team to coordinate our response in the event of any cases in Central Oregon." According to Breon, the county is working with the Oregon Health Authority and tracking information from the CDC.

He tells KBND News,"It spreads through prolonged close, physical contact and in airborne respiratory droplets. It does not spread as easily as COVID-19." Symptoms include a rash with pus-filled blisters that starts on the face and spreads to the limbs. It also causes flu-like symptoms like fever and muscle aches.

The CDC has identified nine cases in seven states, including Washington and California.

Convicted Rapist Sentenced to Nearly 11 Years

PRINEVILLE, OR -- A Crook County man was sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison for raping a teen. Prosecutors say 41-year-old Erik Ray Diamond took the 17-year-old victim to a remote area in February, gave her marijuana, then assaulted her.

During the investigation, Diamond denied knowing the girl, however DNA evidence proved otherwise. He has a lengthy criminal record, including convictions for sex with a minor and drug possession.

The 130-month sentence is the maximum allowed under sentencing guidelines. He’s not eligible for early release and will also serve 20 years of post-prison supervision.

 

Rescuers Need Rescuing in Overnight SAR Operation

BEND, OR -- The rescuers needed rescuing after a mountain biker got lost Wednesday evening, near Broken Top.

Deschutes County 911 got the call from the mountain biker just after 5 p.m. The 56-year-old man from Switzerland said he’d left the snow-covered trail after encountering a mountain lion, and was unable to find his way back. He was exhausted and needed help getting back to his car. 

Two Search and Rescue volunteers deployed in a tracked ARGO and found the man just before 8 p.m. But, while providing him a ride out, the ARGO got stuck in deep, soft snow.

An additional SAR team responded with snowmobiles and both teams worked together to free the stuck ARGO. The SAR teams were back to their vehicles by 2 a.m., and provided the mountain biker a ride to his car at the Cascade Lakes Visitor Center. 

More Fire Restrictions On the Way

BEND, OR -- Campfire restrictions go into effect June first, for portions of the Crooked, Deschutes, John Day and White Rivers, as well as on BLM-managed lands along Lake Billy Chinook and Lake Simtustus.

Officials say limited access and tall, dry grass make it easy for wildfire to spread quickly in these areas.

Lanterns and metal camp stoves fueled with bottled propane or liquid fuel are still allowed. Closures are in effect until October 15.

Public Assistance Needed to Bust Illicit Pot Grows

BEND, OR -- The Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) team is staying busy. Sgt. Kent van der Kamp tells KBND News the number of illegal marijuana grows in the region is increasing and detectives rely heavily on tips from the public, "Be a good neighbor; tell us if something’s not right. If you’re noticing water issues, smells, different odors of chemicals used in pesticides. You’ll notice that the lifestyle of a property changes once there’s a grow in process."

Sgt. van der Kamp says Mexican drug cartels are working here, renting rural properties where they can hide a new operation. And, he says property owners need to be alert, "Be careful who you lease your property to. Nobody’s going to come to your house at 6 in the morning with a briefcase full of cash and have legitimate purposes for your land. That’s how, often, this happens. Or, if you think that somebody’s moved on to your property or on to your neighbor's property and it’s suspicious, please call. Because it’s generally how these are happening. Be aware of odor, smells, traffic." 

But, he tells KBND News enforcement is only part of the solution to these operations that steal water from neighbors and can put lives in danger, "We have such a complex marijuana law system here that a lot of the regulatory agencies like Department of Agriculture, Oregon Health Authority and OLCC, who all regulate different pieces of the cannabis program, honestly need to come together and pass some laws that make some sense to, not only law enforcement but the courts and the end-user, or the licensee. Because, that’s honestly the hard thing; the laws are so confusing."

To listen to our full conversation with CODE Sgt. Kent van der Kamp, visit our Podcast page

Kids INC. Application Period Opens Tuesday

BEND, OR -- The Bend Park and Recreation District will accept applications for its popular Kids INC after-school program, starting Tuesday. They’ll be accepted through 5 p.m. June 7. "We’re going to have the applications open for an entire week of time," says Bend Parks and Recs' Julie Brown, "So we can try to avoid that first-come-first-served frenzy of activity that tends to happen with our most popular programs; and I’d put this one at the absolute top."

Those applications will then go into a lottery to decide who will be accepted and who will be put on a waiting list. "And what we’re really going to try to do is prioritize, to the best that we can within a lottery system, families that really need this care in order to maintain their employment." Brown says, "For families that maybe need less than fulltime care or really just want the enrichment activities, we’re really going to steer them more towards our sports activities and our art programs."

For the 2022-23 school year, the district will offer both full- and part-time options. Brown tells KBND News the changes came after conversations with families, "For working families, we know that the after-school care program that we provide onsite at 14 elementary schools is incredibly important. So, we have taken some time this spring to have some town hall meetings and some listening sessions and try to meet with parents."

To learn more and apply online, visit the BPRD website between May 31 and June 7 at 5:00 pm. If online access is a barrier, applications can be accepted by phone at 541-389-7275.

Redmond Superintendent Responds to Texas School Shooting

REDMOND, OR -- A day after a gunman opened fire in a Texas fourth grade classroom, the Redmond Schools Superintendent sent a letter to families addressing the tragedy:

 

RSD families,

Yesterday’s tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas was a devastating event, and it weighs heavily on all of us at RSD. The event also serves as a stark reminder of the importance of safety in our schools here in Redmond.

To that end, I wanted to share what we are doing to secure our schools and help our students, families and staff feel safe for the remainder of the school year. Our highest priority is our students’ health and well-being.

The expectation at every one of our schools is that all external doors are locked each day. That includes doors that lead directly from classrooms to the outside, as well as the front doors at all schools. At several schools, this will be a change, but it’s important that we take this measure to ensure our schools are secure.

Other safety measures already in place include a partnership with the Redmond Police Department and the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office to provide six armed School Resource Officers. We regularly do schoolwide drills on Standard Response Protocols and we lock schools down in response to threats. We have had reasons to lock down both Ridgeview High School and Obsidian Middle School this school year. In addition, we have mental health counseling at several of our school sites through partnerships with school-based health centers and Rimrock Trails Treatment Services. Our school district has also invested heavily in the mental health of our students with school counselors, the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition Program (BRYT) and our StepUP program.

Part of our 2020 bond includes adding additional safety measures, like locked entry vestibules and new security cameras at all of our schools. Thanks to our voters, by the time our students return for the start of the 2022-23 school year these changes will be in place in several of our schools. All of our schools will have new or upgraded systems by the end of the 2022-23 school year.

The school district is working hard to be proactive in preventing another senseless tragedy like what took place in Uvalde. You can help us too, by reporting any concerns or threats to the school district or Redmond Police and encouraging your students to do the same. Many school shooters either post their plans on social media or tell someone of their plans ahead of time. If you see something, say something.

Thank you for trusting the Redmond School District to keep your children safe. Let’s finish this school year strong.

Sincerely,

Charan Cline, Ed.D

Superintendent

 

Crook County School District officials say elementary students wanting to discuss the shooting were encouraged to talk with counselors. KBND News reached out to Bend-La Pine Schools, but were not provided details of the district's response. 

Three Injured in Crook Co Crash

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Three people were hurt in a Crook County crash that tied up the Wednesday morning commute. According to Sheriff John Gautney, a pickup and car collided head-on near milepost 4 on Powell Butte Highway, just before 8 a.m. All three people involved were taken to the hospital with potentially serious injuries.

Deputies say Alexis Robles was southbound when his pickup traveled into the northbound lane, colliding with the sedan. No citations have been issued, but the investigation is ongoing.

Redmond Schools Bond Projects Continue

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Schools is moving ahead with construction projects as part of the $27.5 million bond approved by voters in 2020. "We’ve got our Obsidian Middle School offices and entryway are being redone right now, as we speak. They started during Spring Break. And that’ll build out a more secure entryway for students coming into that space," Superintendent Charan Cline tells KBND News, "It’s all about security, there."

Dr. Cline says construction begins at two other schools this summer. "We’ve got an addition going on to Vern Patrick Elementary School and that’ll start breaking ground as soon as students are out. And the same over at Tom McCall Elementary. Both have new wings going on over there." Each of those new wings will include six classrooms. 

Later work is planned for nearly every other school in the district. A full rundown of the projects is available online

Crook County Reports Strongest Economic Rebound in OR

BEND, OR -- Job growth in Central Oregon remains strong. Regional Economist Damon Runberg says Deschutes County’s unemployment rate dropped .1%  in April to 3.5%. "For some context there, the lowest we’ve ever had on record is 3.3%; that was before the pandemic. And our margin for error is such that I can’t say that there’s a statistical difference between what our unemployment rate is today and the record low," Runberg tells KBND News, "So, for all intents and purposes, we’re there; the lowest it’s ever been. It’s really tough sledding if you’re a business looking to hire workers, and it’s a great time to be a worker looking for a job."

Jefferson County’s jobless rate also dropped .1%, landing at 4.8% in April. Crook County’s rate fell .2% to 5%. But, with Crook County adding 500 jobs last year, Runberg says the big news isn’t the number of unemployed but of the employed, "The expansion that we’ve seen in Crook County’s economy is far in excess of any other county in the state. Employment levels - and this is not a type-o: Employment levels in Crook County are 11% above what they were before the pandemic; by far the biggest expansion trend that we’ve seen. And that has almost everything to do with growth revolving around the data centers in Prineville."

Runberg doesn’t expect recent layoffs at St. Charles to show up until June’s jobless report, and he doesn’t think it will have a large economic impact, "It’s not necessarily a reflection of what we’re seeing in the economy more broadly. This is a very specific industry impact that is happening to many hospitals across the nation right now." He says those workers won’t be without a job for long, given the number of healthcare jobs available outside of a hospital setting. 

In fact, the Oregon Employment Department will host a healthcare job fair to help those former St. Charles employees find new work. That event is June 2 at Worksource Oregon’s Bend office on Forbes Road, from 1 to 4 pm. The public is invited but the primary focus is to connect laid-off workers with new opportunities in the healthcare industry.

Clackamas Co. Count Holds Up CD5 Election Results

CLACKAMAS, OR -- Oregon’s Secretary of State says she’s frustrated and concerned about the ballot counting process in Clackamas County. "It was very surprising and disappointing that the county had not adequately staffed up to tally the number of ballots it was receiving, despite our best efforts to help," Secretary Shemia Fagan told reporters at a Tuesday press conference. She says her office is closely monitoring how county officials are duplicating ballots with blurry barcodes. 

As of Monday, a week after the election, fewer than 58,000 ballots had been counted of the nearly 115,000 received. The slowdown has delayed the outcome of Oregon's Fifth Congressional District primary race, which includes portions of Central Oregon. 

New video evidence appears to show the Clackamas County Clerk letting in an observer for Congressman Kurt Schrader's campaign a full hour before the volunteer from the campaign of his Democratic challenger, Jamie McLeod Skinner. In previous news interviews, Clerk Sherry Hall had said she didn't know who let the Schrader observer enter the building early. Fagan says she saw of the new video moments before the start of the press conference, "It’s outrageous. It’s absolutely outrageous to stand in front of the public and say one thing and then to have a video showing something very different. So, I’m incredibly frustrated and incredibly disappointed and I find it outrageous that the facts came out and it looks to be contradictory to what she said."

Other complaints have also been filed against the Clerk, but Fagan says she cannot legally intervene in the ballot counting process and refused to discuss calls for Hall’s resignation, "My North Star, though, as Secretary of State for the whole state is to land this plane. And right now, the only person legally authorized to land this plane under Oregon law is the Clerk. So, as long as she’s the Clerk, I will continue to work directly with her to make sure that we get these election results to my office by the deadline of June 13th." If the county does not meet the deadline, Fagan says she’s prepared to file a lawsuit to force the count to continue. Hall submitted a written timeline to Fagan's office late Tuesday, a day later than requested by the Secretary of State. 

Proposed Border Shifts for "Greater Idaho"

LA PINE, OR -- The Greater Idaho Movement is changing its proposed map, paring down the plan for a large portion of Oregon to join its eastern neighbor. Mike McCarter is President of the group “Move Oregon’s Border.” He tells KBND News, "We are going to adjust a little bit and try to move forward with Eastern Oregon because it seems evident that the Oregon’s leadership and direction that they’re going has a larger impact on Eastern Oregon than it does on Southern Oregon." The new proposed border no longer includes the southern Oregon coast. "So, it starts at the Columbia River and heads south along the Deschutes River. It does make a dogleg out around Bend, comes back in just south of Sunriver and continues on all the way along the western border of Klamath County." McCarter says they’re not giving up on taking Idaho to the Pacific Ocean but believes it’ll have to wait for Phase two.

The La Pine man tells KBND News the change is in response to the May election. Voters in Douglas and Josephine counties failed to support the idea of continuing discussions to join Idaho. Over the past couple of years, nine Eastern Oregon counties have agreed to consider the concept. McCarter admits voters haven’t actually said they want to leave Oregon, "The question to the counties is not a question to secede. It’s a question to look into the possibility. But it does give an indication that a lot of people in eastern Oregon feel closer to the traditional values that there are in Idaho."

A total of 14 full counties and three partial counties remain in the "Greater Idaho" proposal. The question will appear on the Morrow County ballot in the fall. Wallowa County voters shot down the idea in a previous election but will see the issue again in May 2023. But those ballot questions are only symbolic, not part of the federal process to actually change a state’s border. "It requires an agreement between the Oregon Legislature and the Idaho Legislature," says McCarter, "Then that goes back to the US congress for approval."

 

Image Courtesy Greater Idaho Movement

High Desert Museum Turns 40

BEND, OR -- The High Desert Museum celebrates its 40th anniversary this week. "We are a bit unique among museums in that we interpret a place - the High Desert region, which is a multi-state region that spans the intermountain West," says the museum's Heidi Hagemeier, "It’s such a rich way to tell stories about this place, to be able to incorporate art and science, and history and cultures, and the natural world." She says a lot has changed since Brooks Resources donated 135 acres of Ponderosa Pine forest where the facility now sits, "Bend was all of about 17,000 people, the last mill was about to pull out, the area wasn’t necessarily rich in arts and culture opportunities at that point. And yet, a group of people really believed in the vision for this institution. We opened our doors on May 29, 1982."

The musem was the vision of a young Portland naturalist named Donald Kerr. The original indoor space included a display for reptiles and amphibians. "Over time, we grew to include more and more about the cultures of the High Desert and to incorporate more art into the High Desert Museum experience, Hagameier tells KBND News. 

A Friday night community celebration is sold out, but visitors can still commemorate the anniversary at the museum’s 40th Reflection Station, starting Friday, "That’s an opportunity to fill out a postcard, share your favorite memory or something that sparked curiosity and wonder, and we’ll be displaying some of those memories at the museum and also keeping them for posterity."

Bear Drive Closes at Highway 97

MADRAS, OR -- Jefferson County and the Oregon Department of Transportation will permanently close access to Bear Drive and Eureka Lane from Highway 97 on Wednesday. The intersections south of Madras have a history of serious and fatal crashes.

Crews will install a concrete barrier where Bear Drive meets Highway 97. Ford Lane and Falcon Lane were recently repaved to handle increased traffic due to this closure, and design teams are working on new turn lanes at Dover. Construction of that project is slated for 2023. 

Surf Wave Remains Flat at Whitewater Park

BEND, OR -- Bend’s Whitewater Park surf wave will remain flat through the long Memorial Day weekend. The Bend Park and Recreation District continues to investigate what happened April 30, when 17-year-old Ben Murphy got trapped underwater while surfing with a group. He later died. 

"We have taken this time to really try to do as thorough an evaluation as we can of the surf wave, but also the rest of the Whitewater Park, in particular," says Parks and Rec's Julie Brown. "We’re looking at the physical structure, that does include gates and some inflatable bladders." She says the district brought in the engineer and designers who built the park in 2015, "So that we really can try to piece together what we think happened with that terrible tragedy. And, if there are steps that we might be able to take to minimize the risk."

It's unclear how much longer the assessment will take and when the surf wave will reopen. "One of the significant conversations that will have to take place, and it may occur at some point this week or maybe just immediately following the Memorial Day Holiday, is going to be with our board of directors and sharing with them what the evaluation has determined and what some of the recommendations are going to be moving forward," Says Brown, "That will be a public meeting." She tells KBND News, "I’m hoping that we, as a community, can take some extra precautions this year, in light of this tragedy, and recognize the inherent dangers of the river. And, just take more individual precautions, as well as looking out for one another. I expect that will be a big focus for us throughout the summer."

Murphy’s death is the first fatal accident at the whitewater park.

Click HERE to listen to our full conversation with Bend Parks & Rec's Julie Brown.

 

File Photo

Snow Delays Campground Openings

BEND, OR -- Late season snow will impact Memorial Day camping plans. Many Deschutes National Forest campgrounds slated to open this weekend will remain closed, including Lava Lake, Little Cultus and Three Creek Meadow.

The Forest Service says snow depths along popular routes, like Cascade Lakes Highway, vary from one to four feet. Reservations at impacted campgrounds have been canceled through June 16. People with canceled reservations should have received an email from Recreation.gov. Campgrounds are now planned to open June 17.

Impacted campgrounds:

 

Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District

  • Cultus Lake Campground (under assessment – may open if annual hazard tree removal can be completed by 5/27)
  • Elk Lake Campground
  • Lava Lake Campground
  • Little Cultus Campground
  • Little Fawn Campground
  • Little Lava Lake Campground
  • Mallard Marsh Campground
  • Point Campground
  • Quinn Meadow Horse Camp
  • Soda Creek Campground
  • South Campground (Hosmer Lake)

Crescent Ranger District

  • Contorta Flat Campground
  • Contorta Point Group Camp
  • Crescent Lake Campground (under assessment – may open if annual hazard tree removal can be completed by 5/27)
  • Princess Creek Campground
  • Simax Group Camp
  • Spring Campground
  • Trapper Creek Campground
  • Whitefish Horse Camp
  • Windy Group Camp

Sisters Ranger District

  • Three Creek Meadow Campground and Horse Camp
  • Whispering Pines Horse Camp

During the spring and early summer recreation season, the Forest Service reminds visitors that it’s extremely important to “Know Before You Go.” This means confirming that your destination is open for use, checking to see if routes of travel are open and reviewing predicted weather forecasts. Forest Service roads are not plowed or maintained during winter conditions.

You can visit the Deschutes National Forest website to check on the status of recreation sites.

Scammer Claims to be BPD Detective

BEND, OR -- Police impersonators are again trying to dupe Central Oregonians with scam phone calls. On Sunday afternoon, Bend Police were informed that a person received a call from someone purporting to be Bend Police Officer Andrew Davis. The caller identified himself as a detective, provided an incorrect badge number and claimed he had a subpoena preventing the would-be victim from leaving the country. The person became suspicious, and a coworker contacted BPD to verify the call. 

Bend Police have since received additional calls from concerned community members regarding suspicious phone calls from a scammer pretending to be Officer Davis. The man left messages saying he needed to share “sensitive information”. 

Bend Police reminds the public they will never ask for money to clear up a legal matter, and community members should be suspicious of any situation in which an unfamiliar person asks for money or personal information over the telephone. Police also will never ask for a payment via gift cards. Do not provide personal information or financial details to companies or callers you don’t know. 

If you receive a call from someone purporting to be a Bend Police officer and are unsure of the call’s veracity, you should hang up and call nonemergency dispatch at 541-693-6911 to verify the caller’s identity. If you have received a similar call, please file an online report at www.BendPoliceReports.com

Mushroom Hunter Discovers Body

BEND, OR -- A death investigation is underway after a mushroom hunter found the body of a man near the Old McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242) snow gate. The discovery was reported Saturday afternoon.

Deschutes County Sheriff's Detectives say there is no evidence of foul play. DCSO has not yet confirmed the identity of deceased and say family notifications will be made after his identity is known. 

 

**UPDATE (05/24/22): The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has identified the man found dead near Highway 242 over the weekend. Authorities say 44-year-old Marcus Ryan Kawano had no permanent address. Investigators say there is no evidence of foul play.

Missing Bend Teen Found

UPDATE: Oregon DHS says Mercedes "Bo" Dunnington was found safe on Saturday.

 

BEND, OR -- (05/20/2022) The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Child Welfare Division, asks the public to help find Mercedes “Bo” Dunnington, age 16, a child in foster care who went missing from Bend on May 15, 2022. She is believed to be in danger. ODHS asks the public for help in the effort to find Bo and to contact 911 or local law enforcement if they believe they see her.

Bo is known to spend time at the local parks and gas stations in Bend. She also goes by the name Katie:

  • Name: Mercedes “Bo” Dunnington
  • Pronouns: She/her
  • Date of birth: Jan. 10, 2006
  • Height: 5-foot-6
  • Weight: 187 pounds
  • Hair: Dyed blond 
  • Eye color: Green

Bo was last seen wearing a fleece red and black button up jacket with a hood.
Bend Police Department Case #22-26762
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children #1450997

Hay Shortage Could Have Serious Consequences

WALLOWA COUNTY, OR -- A widespread hay shortage is impacting farmers and ranchers across the west. Todd Nash is the President of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and a Wallowa County cattle rancher. He says there are a number of factors impacting Oregon growers; most notably, ongoing drought. "There’s a few isolated areas that have gotten substantial rain," Nash tells KBND News, "But irrigation water, for example in the Klamath Basin, has been reduced. In Jefferson County, they’re seeing their reduction of water allotment reduced by up to 90%, in some cases." He says, "You don’t have water, you don’t grow crops."

For hay producers who do have water, he says input costs are skyrocketing, "Fuel is crazy high but fertilizer has doubled. We imported a lot of product from Ukraine and so that product has just gone through the roof." It’s all led to a massive hay shortage and big price increases, stretching from Texas and the Dakotas to Oregon and Washington. Nash expects it will lead to long-term issues for farmers and ranchers, "If you can’t get hay, you have to make decisions on what to do with your livestock. And in many cases, it’s just sell them and sell them to wherever you can."

He says hay is selling for about $450 a ton in some regions. Last year, it was about $250 a ton. And three years ago, before the drought, it was just $150 a ton. 

Bend Autism Program Training Teachers

BEND, OR -- A Bend-based program aimed at helping kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other development disabilities is now also providing unique opportunities for special education teachers.

High Desert ESD runs the Bridges program at Lava Ridge Elementary for Kindergarten through third graders. HDESD's Sara Ausman says these kids often need extra help learning how to be students, "The transitions, being able to share, line-up, participate, regulate." She says, "Giving the visual and the physical and verbal prompting for students on the spectrum, to help them gain skills and become learning ready." The goal is to prepare students for learning in school. "We have an Autism specialist who spends one full day a week in the program, we have Occupational Therapists."

Now, Bridges is one of 40 designated Autism Training Sites in the state and the only one in Central Oregon, helping teachers who work with these special kids. "I just got a text this morning from a Special Ed Director from one of our neighboring districts," Ausman tells KBND News, "And she said, ‘is it possible for my elementary SpEd teacher to come and observe for a day? We are getting several kinders coming in on the spectrum and we need ideas; we need strategies’."

High Desert ESD serves seven counties but teachers from any district in Oregon can train at Bridges.

 

Deschutes Co. Budget Meetings Start Monday

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County’s Budget Committee begins discussing the Fiscal Year 2023 budget on Monday. At just over $398 million, the proposed budget is a 5.8% increase over the current year. 

County Administrator Nick Lelack says there are a couple of big capital projects, including the courthouse expansion, "We’re in the planning and design phase of that. That’s estimated to cost the county up to $40 million, but it’s a really critical facility for us, going forward." He admits the price tag is higher than initially thought, "It was initially estimated to cost in the upper $20 million range, but with inflationary costs across the country - materials, labor, everything - it’s driving that cost up." He adds, "We budget for the full amount but we’re not going to spend it all this next year, of course. Then we’ll likely go out for bonds early in 2023. We don’t want to begin to borrow money too long before we begin to really spend it on the hard costs for the project."

Lelack tells KBND News they're also looking for ways to increase solid waste capacity, as Bend's Knott Landfill nears capacity. "The funding that we’re really including in this next year’s budget is for the Negus Transfer Station improvements in Redmond, which will be a really significant upgrade to that facility. But we’re continuing to invest in our landfill siting process to replace Knott Landfill in the future." He expects they’ll identify a new landfill site within the next two years.

There’s also $12.4 million dollars in road projects and a proposal to increase the tax rate of one Rural Law Enfrocement District. That rate would rise 9 cents to $1.43. 

Budget meetings are open to the public and will be live streamed

County Commissioners will vote to adopt the final budget in June, prior to the start of the new fiscal year on July first. 

Submit Questions for Sen. Wyden Town Hall

BEND, OR -- Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden will host a Deschutes County town hall next week. The event will be live, but virtual. Click HERE for the link to watch.

Questions can be submitted online in advance. The town hall is at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June first. Click HERE to submit a question. 

Other virtual town halls are planned for Lincoln County, Tillamook, Wasco County and Hood River, over the next week. 

Two Theft Investigations Lead to Three Arrests

BEND, OR -- Three people were arreseted in the past few days, in two separate theft investigations. The first occurred May 2, when the victim's Ring camera captured someone stealing her children's longboards.

On Thursday, a friend then noticed the property for sale on Facebook Marketblace. During an undercover operation, a Bend Police officer offered the seller $120 for the boards and they agreed to meet in a parking lot on the north end of town. The seller laid the longboards out and the officer confirmed they were the victim's.

Police arrested 32-year-old Brittain Donaldson on Second Degree Theft.

 

Early Friday morning, a separate investigation led to two more arrests in Bend. Police believe Nathan Felix stole a bike from the back of a car by cutting the lock. When they found him on the bike talking to a woman, he told police the bike was originally stolen from him and he was just taking it back. Officers discovered bolt cutters in his pocket.

The woman he was with sped off when police arrived. Julie Hinkley was quickly pulled over for making a turn without signaling. She was arrested for DUII and unlawful possession of a loaded handgun.

The BMX bike was returned to the victim. 

Bend Airport Tower Project Gets Funding

BEND, OR -- The Bend Municipal Airport is moving ahead with plans to build an air traffic control tower. The city was awarded a $4.8 million “Connect Oregon” transportation grant, which is about 65% of the total cost of the project. The City anticipates the control tower will open by late 2025.

Officials say an air traffic control tower will increase aviation safety in the region by separating and sequencing aircraft, reduce conflicts with air traffic from Redmond, Prineville and Madras airports, and improve airport operational efficiencies. More organized traffic flow will also reduce fuel use and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“There are 97 public-use airports in the State of Oregon and of the top five busiest ones -Portland, Hillsboro, Bend, Troutdale and Redmond - Bend’s is the third busiest, but the only one of the top five without an air traffic control tower,” Airport Manager Tracy Williams said in a statement. “This is much-needed funding for a critical project at the airport.”

An airport’s operations are measured by the number of times an aircraft lands or takes off. Current annual operations at Bend Municipal Airport are approximately 141,000 take offs and landings.

Oregon Department of Transportation's Connect Oregon is an initiative established by the 2005 state legislature to invest in non-highway modes of transportation, such as aviation, rail and marine. Connect Oregon made about $46 million available for infrastructure projects. Aviation, rail and marine projects in Oregon were eligible. Out of 603 applications, 21 were awarded, including Bend’s - which was the biggest request.

The total project cost is estimated at $7.5 million, which covers design and construction.  The City will seek Federal funding for the balance of design and construction of the project. 

The public is invited to an airport Open House from 5 - 7 p.m. on Monday, May 23 at CJ’s Airport Café to have refreshments, hear updates on the Airport Master Plan, and learn about upcoming capital improvements including the air control tower project.  The airport is located at 63132 Powell Butte Highway (second floor of the green building.)

Traeger Fined for Air Quality Violation

REDMOND, OR -- Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality has fined Redmond-based Traeger Pellet Grills $8,434 for air quality violations. DEQ claims the company exceeded emission limits at its manufacturing facility on East Antler Avenue, then submitted an annual report that included incorrect emission calculations.

Traeger can appeal.

Amid Drought, Bend Water Supply "Okay"

BEND, OR -- Bend City Council is preparing for continued dry conditions, as Central Oregon enters its third year of drought. Although, City Manager Eric King says the water supplies are not in any danger yet. He says Bend’s water comes from two sources: Bridge Creek and groundwater wells. "Having that dual source, having an aquifer that’s not seeing those dramatic impacts, we’re OK. But, we’re partners in the basin," he tells KBND News, "We care about being able to irrigate our farmland, being able to have enough water for fish, etc. So, we want to help to do our part, and we’re really promoting conservation."

He says no curtailments are planned - but that could change if conditions worsen, "We definitely want to get a message out there of conservation and to help the situation by limiting some of your outdoor water use."

Listen to our full conversation with Bend City Manager Eric King at our Podcast Page

AirLink Helicopter Crashes in Christmas Valley

CHRISTMAS VALLEY, OR -- An AirLink helicopter crashed in Christmas Valley Wednesday, just after 5:30 p.m. According to State Police, the chopper came down at the airport. High winds were reported in the area at the time. Everyone on board was taken to the Bend hospital. There were no fatalities.

AirLink's parent company issued the following statement:

Global Medical Response can confirm that one of its Med-Trans Corporation emergency air helicopters, based in Klamath Falls, OR, was involved in an incident at the Christmas Valley airport while enroute to pick up a patient. The incident occurred at 17:34 local time on May 18. The four crew members on board have been transported to St. Charles Bend Hospital for evaluation. There was no patient on board at the time.

Crook Co. School Bond Still Undecided

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Despite a surge of last-minute ballots Tuesday night, the $66 million Crook County School Bond appears headed for defeat. CCSD's Jason Carr is not ready to concede just yet. He’s holding out hope mail-in ballots could push it back to victory. As of Thursday morning, the bond is failing by just 137 votes.

The school district asked for the bond for maintenance and upgrade work. Carr says a property tax bond is the only mechanism the district has to pay for necessary facility work, "We have school buildings that are on average 56 years old and there’s just some maintenance that needs to be done with them. Roofs wear out over time, we’ve got boilers that are 90 years old in a couple of our more historic school buildings. With growth in the community, we need to do some additions in our middle schools and high schools. And then of course, Ward Rhoden stadium, which is our historic football stadium and track, is really in disrepair." If it passes, the district gets access to a $4 million matching grant from the state. 

If it does fail, Carr says the district will reassess its process but will be forced to ask again, "Probably bring the facilities committee back together again and kind of start over at the drawing board. Do we need to pair down the bond measure? Do we need to talk about it differently in the community? Is there a different way we could be communicating the needs of the district?" He tells KBND the need is not going away, "We’re going to have to go back out at some point - Whether it’s November, whether it’s next year - and ask voters to help us keep our buildings in good shape."

 

Deputy Unseats Incumbent Jefferson County Sheriff

MADRAS, OR -- As more ballots are counted, Deputy Jason Pollock continues to lead the three-way race for Jefferson County Sheriff. He tells KBND News he was surprised by his wide margin with the incumbent Sheriff, "When the first numbers came out, I was - I was blown away. I did not really expect it to be almost a 10% gap between the two of us. I thought it was going to be much closer. But, wow. It was definitely something to take in." Pollock says he was confident he would win, but is grateful for two key last-minute endorsements from former Sheriff Jim Adkins and Jefferson County D.A. Steve LeRiche, "I think it would’ve been a very, very tight race without Jim and Steve’s support. But I still had the feeling in my heart that I was going to come out on top. I do think that that helped widen the gap, for sure."

Sheriff Marc Heckathorn issued a statement saying he’s disappointed but pledges to do his part to accomplish a smooth transition. He was appointed in June 2021 and says he's committed to the county. Heckathorn noted his term doesn’t conclude until January. 

Pollock acknowledges it could get awkward at work over the next six months after beating his boss in Tuesday’s election, "If he decides to stay in office until January, I hope that we can mend these fences and work together for the common good of the community, and just do what’s best."

As of Thursday morning, Pollock has 52.4% of the vote to Heckathorn's 43.4%. A third candidate, Rick DuPont has 3.7%. Pollock still must be elected to the post in the fall. After all the Primary ballots are counted, if Pollock is still above 50%, his name will appear alone on the November ballot. 

Bend City Council Announces Two Vacancies

BEND, OR -- As expected, Bend’s Mayor and one City Councilor stepped down at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Councilor Rita Schenkelberg read a statement thanking supporters and expressing frustration, saying in part, "Many parts of me are things that many community members are not willing to look at, have conversations with or interact in a respectful way. I'm heavily disappointed by that. It was really difficult this evening, to listen to multiple community members degrade my identity, degrade the identities of people that were sitting here having to listen. And I would never ask anyone else to do that. That is why I made the difficult decision to declare my resignation, something that I’ve been thinking about for months." The rest of Council shared their support for Schenkelberg.  

Mayor Sally Russell also gave prepared remarks, saying it’s been an experience serving for 9.5 years, but also exhausting. "I have served with five different Councils," she said, "and they've all been different. It's kind of crazy to be elected as the most liberal person on Council. And, I went through three elections, and here I am - now I'm the most conservative, it seems." Both Russell and Schankelberg were applauded by Council as they left the meeting. 

Their resignations trigger procuedures for filling the vacancies. Remaining Council voted to appoint Mayor Pro Tem Gena Goodman-Campbell as Mayor. She will complete Russell's term, which expires at the end of the year. That leaves the Council seats of Goodman-Campbell (position 5) and Schenkelberg (position 4) vacant, to be filled by appointment. The City issued this explanation of the process:
 

Both appointees will serve on the Council for the rest of 2022. Both Council positions will be on the ballot for the general election in November, at which time both seats need to be filled by election. The appointees will serve on the Council until the newly elected Councilors take office on January 4, 2023.

The person elected by voters into Schenkelberg’s seat will serve out the remaining two years of Schenkelberg’s term instead of a typical four-year term.

Community members interested in being appointed can apply at www.bendoregon.gov/council-application found at www.bendoregon.gov/citycouncil between May 19 and June 1. Appointees must be registered to vote in Oregon and must have resided in the city continuously during the twelve months immediately preceding the appointment.

If more than 10 people apply for the vacancies, a subcommittee of councilors (Anthony Broadman, Melanie Kebler and Megan Perkins) will convene to review the applications and suggest candidates for interviews. If fewer than 10 people apply, the whole Council will interview all applicants. Councilors will hold special public meetings in early June to conduct interviews. (Watch www.bendoregon.gov/councilagenda for meeting information.)

The City’s Charter says a vacancy in the council shall be filled within 30 days by appointment by the council but if the council does not fill the vacancy by an appointment within 30 days, then the vacancy gets filled at the next election, which would be in November.

For more detail, section 21 of the Bend Charter and section 9 of the City Council Rules explain the requirements associated with the process to fill vacancies.

St. Charles Plans Layoffs Amid Rising Costs

BEND, OR -- St. Charles Health System President Joe Sluka announced nearly 200 layoffs Wednesday. In a letter to the public, he cited rising costs and the payback of pandemic relief funds for budget shortfalls. 

The health system will eliminate 76 vacant positions and layoff another 105 employees.

Read his full statement:

 

May 18, 2022

Over the past two years, St. Charles caregivers have worked tirelessly to care for the people of Central Oregon when they needed it most: during a global pandemic – a public health crisis unprecedented in our lifetime.

They turned a parking lot into a COVID-19 testing site.

They converted an empty conference room into a community vaccine clinic.

They’ve taken care of the sickest COVID-19 patients in our hospitals and provided the latest treatments at our clinics.

Along the way, St. Charles – with support from the community – did everything we could to take care of our caregivers, so that they could take care of you.

All of that, of course, came at a price:

  • Our labor costs have skyrocketed, largely due to our need to bring in expensive contract clinical staff from other areas of the country to help us meet the community’s needs.
  • Equipment and supply costs have also increased, as they have in every industry.
  • Our surgery volumes have been down for two years, which means significantly decreased revenues.
  • Last but not least, we are now paying back federal pandemic relief funds to the tune of more than $1 million every week.

We’ve been working hard to reduce expenses for a few months, and those efforts have helped. But they are not enough to dig us out of this financial hole. We ended the month of April with a $21.8 million loss.

We are now at the point where we have to take additional action to ensure the long-term financial stability of the health system.

It pains me to tell you that we must reduce our workforce this week. We are eliminating 76 positions that were already vacant, but that isn’t enough. We are also reducing 105 positions that will result in layoffs.

First and foremost, that is not just a number. Those are our colleagues and our friends. We are grateful to them for their dedication to our community and we are saddened to see them go.

Over the past few weeks, we have gone through a thorough process in which we compared every area of our organization to industry benchmark standards.

Where we are out of line with those standards, we must make changes. In particular, many leadership positions are being eliminated to bring our structures into alignment with other health systems of our size.

These reductions are projected to reduce expenses by more than $20 million annually.

Still, we will likely end 2022 in the red. It has taken us two pandemic years to get us into this situation, and it will take at least two years for us to recover. And sadly, we are not alone. Organizations across Oregon and the country are facing similar financial challenges.

To the communities we serve, I want to reassure you of a few things:

  • We have a responsibility to ensure our community has access to high-quality health care and are focusing these reductions in mostly non-clinical areas to minimize the impact on patients.
  • We are still recruiting and hiring new caregivers to rebuild our workforce and reduce our need for expensive contract labor.
  • We are reviewing all of our service lines to ensure they are financially sustainable, which could result in additional changes.

While these decisions are incredibly difficult, we are making them because we are committed to becoming a more efficient health system that is well-equipped to continue what we’ve done for the past 104 years: Care for the people of Central Oregon.

As always, we greatly appreciate your support.

Sincerely,
Joe 

 

RHS Hosts Pet Adoption Fair

REDMOND, OR -- A group of Redmond High School students will host a pet adoption fair Saturday with animals from three local shelters. The eight student organizers talked to KBND News. "This all kind of started when our teacher asked us what’s some good things we can do for our community. And Matt had the idea of doing an adoption fair to help dogs and kittens get adopted, so we just sort of took off with it," said Mason. Matt added, "We kept on asking her to do it and then, I didn’t think she was actually going to say yes but then she was like, 'alright, put everything away, we’re going to do this'." "And honestly, I think I can speak for all of us when I say we’re all very glad she let us do this," said Mason.

Saturday’s event is more than just a pet adoption fair, "We’re also going to try to raise awareness for the Humane Society and other local animal shelters," the students say, "We want to raise money for them, too." And they're serious about that fundraising. They say you should bring cash. "There will also be a raffle. You can win prizes such as a dog basket from stores like PetSmart. Wilco is making a basket for us, we have dog treats, Dick’s Sporting Goods is making a basket and multiple others."  Local Paws, a local pet supply store, is also providing adoption packages with supplies for new families.

There will be lots of cute dogs and cats from the Humane Society of the Ochocos, Brightside and Street Dog Hero. Also, mascots for photo ops and RHS Panther apparel for sale. But what are these students learning? They tell us, "We’re learning how to be good leaders. We’re learning how to give back to the community."

The pet adoption fair is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., right in front of RHS on Rimrock Way. 

Bend City Councilor Announces Resignation

BEND, OR -- Just a week after Mayor Sally Russell announced her resignation from the Bend City Council, Councilor Rita Schenkelberg is also stepping down.

In a letter sent to Council Monday and obtained by KBND News, Schenkelberg cites the inability to meet expectations of a full-time job and Council duties. Schenkelberg’s resignation is effective as of Wednesday's Council meeting, as is Mayor Russell’s.

Here is Schenkelberg's full letter to Council:

 

Dear fellow city councilors and city staff, 

I am writing to inform you of my resignation as of the May 18th, 2022, meeting. I am grateful for all the support I have received during my time in office. I have learned so much and was grateful to bring ideas forward which weren't previously discussed. Thank you to all the staff who took time to explain and navigate topics with me. Thank you to all the staff who invited me to see where they work and share about their positions and responsibilities. 

Thank you to my fellow city councilors. I am grateful to you all. Thank you for teaching me about local government and the nuances of our position. 

I am unable to meet the expectations of my full-time job and being a city councilor. The pressure to be the first queer, non-binary, poc was not sustainable for me. My hope is that the thoughts and ideas I have brought forward can help inform future decisions.

Thank you everyone again, 

Rita Schenkelberg (They/Them)- City Councilor

Bend Mayor Delivers Final State of the City

BEND, OR -- Mayor Sally Russell delivered her final State of the City address Tuesday night at an event hosted by the Bend Chamber of Commerce. Russell plans to step down at Wednesday's Council meeting. 

During the presentation, Mayor Russell recapped the past year, including projects she considers successes, "This past year, we changed the fireworks code." She also covered transportation projects, "We completed the GO bond project list," she added, "We actually adopted an integrated water system water plan with a focus on conservation," and she focused a lot on housing, "and worked on middle housing development code changes."

Russell also says the city will ask voters to approve a levy next year, to fund additional fire resources, including the staffing of firefighters at the Pilot Butte station, built in 2019, which currently only houses medics.

And, Russell addressed her impending resignation, saying she does not plan to run for another office any time soon, and wants to take some time off.

Gas Prices Hit New Highs

BEND, OR -- Drivers face new record highs at the pump this week. "The national average jumps 15 cents in the past week, to $4.52 a gallon. The Oregon average soars 21 cents to $5.06," says AAA's Marie Dodds, "This is the first time ever the Oregon average has been over $5 a gallon." Locally, the Bend average is also $5.06, jumping 20 cents in the past week.

Dodds tells KBND News it’s all because of the cost of crude oil. "That is still elevated. And, in fact, crude prices have climbed in the last week. We are currently around $112 a barrel; and to put that in perspective, a year ago, we were around $60 a barrel." She blames the war in Ukraine, which came on the heels of pandemic-related oil shortages, "You factor in the subtraction of Russian oil from global markets, and you’ve made a tight situation even worse."

 

Preliminary Local Election Results

LOCAL CANDIDATE ROUNDUP

Final results won't be known for at least a week, but here are the trends we're seeing as of Wednesday morning:

Redmond voters appear to be supporting the $40 million bond to build a new police station; it’s passing with 55% of the vote.

In Sunriver, a $7 million levy to build a joint police and fire facility is also passing, with 70% voting yes.

However, in Crook County, a $66 million bond package to address health and safety needs in schools is failing, with 51% voting no.

Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone is leading in his Republican Primary. He’s expected to face Oliver Tatom in the fall, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Crook County Commissioner Brian Barney received over 71% of the vote, which puts him in line to remain in his seat on the County Court.

And in an upset, Jefferson County voters appear to have ousted Sheriff Marc Heckathorn. His challenger Jason Pollock received over 52% of the vote in that three-way race.

 

CONGRESSIONAL RACES

Redistricting split Central Oregon into two Congressional Districts for Tuesday's Primary.

Again, these results are still early, but Second District Congressman Cliff Bentz appears to have secured the Republican nomination for his seat by an overwhelming margin. He has 75% of the vote.

Joe Yetter leads the Democrat contest for CD-2, 69% to 28% over Adam Prine.

 

In the Fifth District, Jamie McLeod-Skinner appears to have unseated incumbent Congressman Kurt Schrader in the Democratic primary. McLeod-Skinner has nearly 61% of the vote, over Schrader's 38%.  

In that Republican contest, Lori Chavez-DeRemer has the lead with almost 42% of the votes in a five-way race.

Suspect in Sisters School Threat Case In Custody

SISTERS, OR -- The man accused of threatening Sisters schools earlier this month is now in custody. Deschutes County Sheriff’s detectives learned Charles Schmiel was in Beaverton on Monday. They contacted local authorities, who found Schmiel at a car dealership.

He was arrested without incident and transported to Bend where he is now jailed on a charge of Disorderly Conduct.

Investigators believe Shchmiel is responsible for the threat against an unnamed Sisters school on May 5th.

Lifeguards, Swim Instructors Needed for Summer

BEND, OR -- The Bend Park and Recreation District will host another hiring event, this time focused on lifeguards and swim instructors. 

The hiring event is Wednesday, May 18, 4:00 – 6:30 p.m. at the Bend Park & Recreation District Office: 799 S.W. Columbia Street. 

At the event, attendees can learn about positions, complete applications and participate in on-site interviews. BPRD plans to make job offers on the spot. Lifeguard and swim instructor applicants can schedule in-water testing for next steps.

This pre-season event features numerous recreation positions for the important work of our aquatics, recreation, therapeutic recreation and custodial teams.

“We’ve hosted two prior hiring events this spring and hired more than two dozen new employees at those events,” John Bataclan-Wilson, BPRD recruiting specialist, said in a statement. “This event is focused on our aquatics and recreation position openings and we invite people to come learn what working for play means with BPRD.”

Featured openings include:

  • Lifeguard – part-time
  • Swim Instructor – part-time
  • Facility Manager-on-Duty – part-time and full-time
  • Therapeutic Recreation Leader – part-time
  • Recreation Staff – part-time, specializing in various activities including art, climbing, outdoors or tennis
  • Custodian – part-time

To streamline attendance at the event, interested applicants are encouraged to complete a one-minute Hiring Event Pre-registration Form.

The positions offer a variety of benefits, which may include paid leave, recreation facility passes and recreation program registration discounts. Working hours vary and multiple shifts are available. Some positions are available for age 15 years and older; other positions are available for age 18 years and older.

Learn more about positions and apply at: https://www.bendparksandrec.org/jobs.

Warm Springs Man Pleads Guilty For Sexual Assault

PORTLAND, OR -- A Warm Springs man pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually assaulting a woman on the Warm Springs Reservation in August of 2020. According to court documents, 27-year-old Jerome Stanley want into the woman’s room after being told not to, assaulted her, then later admitted to the encounter during a recorded phone call with the victim and acknowledged it shouldn’t have happened.

The US Attorney's Office says Stanley faces a maximum sentence of two years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and five years' supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for August 8. As part of his plea deal, he will pay restitution to the victim and register as a sex offender.

Man-made Beaver Dams Coming to Jefferson County

MADRAS, OR -- Crews will soon install artificial beaver dams in a Jefferson County waterway, in an effort to remove pollutants. Ally Steinmetz, with the Middle Deschutes Watershed Council, says a new grant will pay for “Beaver Dam Analogues” - or BDAs - in Campbell Creek. "It’s basically a way to filter agricultural runoff coming off of Agency Plains, which is a heavy agricultural use area," Steinmetz tells KBND News, "And our monitoring has found high levels of pesticides in this creek, so these BDAs will act as natural water filters."

The BDAs are created using organic material to mimic the water purfying work beavers have been doing for thousands of years, "We use a hydraulic post pounder to install untreated posts into the creekbed laterally across the creek. And then we’ll weave natural materials like willow sticks or juniper branches through the posts, so it forms this sort of tight webbing that will, over time, fill with sediment and leaves."

It's one of two projects to be funded through a $587,919 grant from Oregon's Watershed Enhancement Board awarded to the Jefferson County Soil and Watershed Conservation District. "We’ve been monitoring the creek; been doing water quality monitoring for about six years," says Steinmetz, "So we have a really good baseline to see what the watershed is telling us about pesticide use over time. And then hopefully be able to track the effectiveness of beaver dams in removing pollutants."

The grant will also fund juniper removal in the Trout Creek area. Projects are expected to begin early next year, when streamflows are low and the risk of fire from the use of heavy machinery is reduced. 

 

Photo: BDA in Bridge Creek, courtesy USFS

BPRD Offers College Scholarships as Recruitment Tool

BEND, OR -- Hiring struggles continue for the Bend Parks and Recreation District. But, there's a new incentive for applicants of one chronically understaffed program. "We definitely recognize that the staffing challenges that everyone is experiencing right now do make it so you have to have more creative solutions," BPRD's Julie Brown tells KBND News. That creative solution is to entice college students to apply for a position in its Kids Inc. after-school program, "What we have is a $5200 a year scholarship in exchange for being a paid staff member in our program to work 20 hours a week."

There are 12 scholarships available at each local college - OSU-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College. And Brown says their major doesn’t matter, "If we have students that are studying the sciences or theater arts or math, they are welcome to participate in this program, too." The scholarship is in addition to the employee's hourly pay of more than $18 an hour. Brown says funding for the scholarships will come from the district's budget and she expects this to be an ongoing program.

BPRD is also working with Bend-La Pine Schools to remove barriers for juniors and seniors who want to apply for a paid internship, "With the assistance of the Future Center at their individual high schools, they can coordinate their class schedules so that they can have an open period at the end of the day and be able to have the hours worked to be an employee in the Kids Inc. program," says Brown. Paid high school interns can also earn school credit on top of their hourly wage. 

You'll find more information on both the college and high school programs at BPRD's website. All positions start in the fall. 

It's Election Day!

BEND, OR -- Statewide voter turnout was just 18% as of Monday. Deschutes County's rate is slightly better at 24%. Voters are deciding who will get their party’s nod for big races like Governor and several Congressional seats, as well as various city, county and regional contests.

But your vote won’t count if it’s not in on time. This is the first statewide election with the new postmark law. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan says you need to pay attention if you still need to mail your ballot. "We want to make note that if folks are putting that ballot into a blue USPS collection box, check the collection time; right? If you’re putting it in at 7pm on Election night but the last collection was 4pm, you’re not going to get that postmark." Ballots postmarked today will still count if they’re received within seven days.

If you’re dropping yours off at an official county drop site, it must be in by 8 p.m. today. 

 

Candle Blamed for Prineville House Fire

PRINEVILLE, OR -- A Prineville home was destroyed in a Monday morning fire blamed on an unattended candle. Fire crews responded to NW Seehale Avenue before 9:30 a.m. and found smoke and flames coming from the front of the house.

They were able to quickly put out the fire, but the home was deemed a complete loss and one cat was found dead inside.

No one was home at the time. The Red Cross is helping the displaced family of five. 

Price Gouging, Infant Health Concerns Amid Formula Shortage

SALEM, OR -- Governor Kate Brown declared an “abnormal market interruption” Friday, due to the nationwide baby formula shortage. "That allows Oregon’s price gouging laws to kick in and allows us to regulate and go after any businesses who are upping the price of baby formula," says Kristina Edmunson with the Oregon Department of Justice.

She says it’s already happening, mostly on websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, "We’re seeing individuals who are selling to other individuals at really high prices. And we’re also seeing people who might hear of a shipment that comes into a store and goes into the store and purchases a high amount of this formula. And that’s why many stores have put the restrictions on."

The shortage is due to a major recall of one brand, combined with labor shortages and supply chain issues. Edmunson tells KBND News, "We want to make sure that families who need this formula are able to go into their grocery store. So, we want to make sure that people have as much access to the limited supply of baby formula as there is right now." 

Report suspected violations to the Attorney General's price gouging hotline at 503-378-8442 or online. You'll find more information on the statute at the Oregon DOJ's website

 

Families struggling to find baby formula may be tempted to make their own. You can find recipes for homemade baby formula online, even on TikTok. But Oregon’s WIC director says that could lead to serious health issues. "Formula is just that; it’s a formula," says Tiare Sanna, "It’s got very specific nutrients and it is impossible to replicate that at home. So you could have nutrient imbalances, you could have electrolyte imbalances, you can actually put too much of a load on the infant’s kidneys that can be dangerous."

Sanna says there’s also the risk of over-dilution, "Sometimes parents will over-dilute the formula; they think it will last longer. And that’s a problem because children don’t get the right amount of calories and nutrients. And again, babies have very small kidneys and they could actually get water intoxication."

And, she says babies shouldn't switch to cow’s milk until 12 months old, because it’s not considered a “complete food.”

Her best advice: keep checking stores, and consider switching brands, "it’s kind of like Crest and Colgate; they all meet the same needs, they all meet the child’s formula and nutrition needs." For moms who've recently weaned, re-lactating may be possible. For families using formula to supplement breastmilk, moving to full-time breastfeeding could be an option. She says your pediatrician may also be able to help secure more formula and can discuss other options and WIC clients can get help from their local office. 

Recent Pot Busts Highlight Risk to Water Supply

PRINEVILLE, OR -- A recent drug bust in Crook County highlights the risk illegal marijuan grow operations pose to the region’s water supply. Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) Sgt. Kent van der Kamp says illicit grows, like the one seized in Juniper Canyon last week, are often found in residential areas. "They’ll just take more than their share of water," he tells KBND News, "A marijuana farm or a marijuana indoor grow requires lots of water. And, they’ll usually just take an abundance of the water leaving nothing in the well or they’ll dry a well."

Sgt. van der Kamp says illicit operations are very different from legal pot farms who have rules to follow and often apply for water rights, "Hydroponic grows or indoor grows, they’re recycling the water so not using as much. But what we’ve seen with a lot of these cartel grows or really illicit grows is they don’t care. They show up, they devastate the land, they’re putting human waste in holes and covering them up, they’re just spraying every pesticide imaginable in every direction [and] insecticides and they’re not caring about the environment."

Sgt. van der Kamp says tips frequently come in from fed-up neighbors, which is how the Crook County grow was discovered, "Neighbors will call and complain and say 'hey. I have a marijuana grow next door to me. I don’t have an issue with marijuana, but now I can’t take a shower because I don’t have water.' Or, 'I can’t cook food because I don't have water. And they’ve now dried my well with their well'.”

Van der Kamp believes the problem is growing in Central Oregon as southern Oregon agencies crack down on cartel activity. On Wednesday, Jackson County officials seized 4,800 marijuana plants. "They put so much attention and enforcement action in Josephine and Jackson County the cartels are realizing, ‘hey, this is a bad plan. Let’s start breaking this up and going around to different parts of the state.’ So now what we’re seeing is the old game of Whack-A-Mole," says Sgt. van der Kamp, "They whack the mole over there and the mole is going to pop up somewhere over here." While Thursday's bust in Crook County is not directly linked to cartels, van der Kamp says the operation had a lot of similarities.

He also says these illegal grows are becoming more sophisticated and more dangerous as their Central Oregon footprint gets bigger, frequently setting up in residential or remote areas where they won't be noticed.

 

File photo

Bend City Council Considers Shelter Code Amendments

BEND, OR -- After hearing from dozens of people concerned about code changes for Bend shelters, City Council asked staff to draft amendments for them to consider later this week.

A number of complaints were due to an allowance for shelters to use an on-call manager. That is no longer under consideration, "They're removing 'on-call' and requiring on-site management," says Pauline Hardie, a Senior Planner for the city. That means a shelter open 24 hours must have a manager on site at all times, "But they’re also going to allow that on-site management to be provided by a shelter resident that’s designated by the shelter provider."

Hardie tells KBND News using an RV as a temporary shelter in a private residential driveway is also out of the proposed changes, "Based on a lot of public comments, the Council is recommending to remove hardship shelters from the proposed code amendment. And possibly looking at a later date at how else to accommodate people who are going through hardships, on people’s properties." She says the existing "medical hardship" code remains in place, which allows a temporary dwelling on private property for specific, documented medical cases. 

And, Council asked for a revision to require shelters communicate not only with adjacent neighbors but also with neighborhood associations, "Every shelter probably does it different, so we didn’t codify how it has to happen. We’ll leave that to the shelters and how they typically do their outreach to the adjacent neighbors and to, now, the Neighborhood Association land use chairs," says Hardie.

Council will discuss and vote on the changes at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

 

Prineville Woman Accused of Trafficking Drugs From Portland

MADRAS, OR -- A Prineville woman is accused of bringing dangerous drugs into Crook County from the Portland area.

Detectives with the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team arrested 42-year-old Judith Carter early Saturday morning, following a multi-day surveillance operation in the metro area and Central Oregon. She was detained at a Madras truck stop at 3 a.m., with the help of Jefferson County deputies and State troopers. CODE says Carter had been the focus of a long-term investigation.

During a search of her car, detectives say they found a commercial quantity of meth and counterfeit pills made of fentanyl, along with other evidence. They have also identified several associates and more arrests are expected. 

DCSO Makes Drug Arrest at Storage Unit

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County deputies arrested a Bend man on multiple drug-related charges after he was found at a local storage facility. 53-year-old Chris Humphrey also had an outstanding warrant for violating parole at the time of his arrest.

Detectives say he was found at the U-Haul Storage facility where he rented a unit, with two pounds of meth, a Butane Hash Oil lab and a felony amount of BHO.

Humphrey was arrested Thursday and charged with Unlawful Possession of Methamphetamine, Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine, Unlawful Manufacture of an Illegal Extract (Marijuana item), Unlawful Possession of an Illegal Extract (Marijuana item) and Warrant (Probation Violation). 

 

Employers Address Rising Gas Prices For Staff

BEND, OR -- Central Oregon employers are getting creative in how they attract new workers and address rising costs for existing staff. One company is shelling out cash. 

"With the rising prices of gas here in Bend - not only Bend but Oregon and across our footprint  - it’s really having a significant financial impact on employees," says First Interstate Bank Vice Presient Eliescha Stone. First Interstate started providing a gas stipend last month to employees making less than $65,000 a year. "It’s now $65 per pay period, which equates to $130 a month," says Stone, "This is ongoing through June. At that point, we’re going to reassess based on if gas prices continue to rise, if our employees are still experiencing this." Stone tells KBND News, while some companies allow employees to work from home to alleviate fuel costs, bank tellers and other staff are needed to make sure branches open every day. 

According to Stone, the idea started with the CEO, "He was going and getting gas in his truck and he started thinking about one of our employees who was commuting - their drive was an hour and a half every day. And he thought 'wow, they have to fill up and we need to help our employees'."

Stone is the Bend Retail Hub Manager, and says the stipend is also helping attract new workers among staffing shortages, "Some of our greatest recruiters are actually our internal employees who are out talking about this. So, it’s worked to the benefit of the bank because they’re doing some of the recruiting."

Detectives: Nursery Supply Store Was Front For Drug Operation

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Central Oregon drug investigators seized 1880 marijuana plants and arrested two people following a long-term investigation in Crook County. CODE detectives executed search warrants Wednesday at the Prineville home of Robert and Fawn Griffin, a commercial indoor grow operation and their nursery supply store. The store, called “Herbology,” was not licensed to sell, export or grow pot.

During the search, police also found 168 pounds of processed marijuana and $20,000 in cash, along with three rifles and two pistols. Detectives say the couple also used a complex money laundering scheme involving real estate and structured banking transactions. 

The Griffins face numerous charges and are now in the Crook County Jail.

La Pine Man To Serve 91 Years For Child Sex Abuse

BEND, OR -- A La Pine man was sentenced this week to more than 90 years in prison for child sex abuse. Rusty Allen Pugh was found guilty earlier this year on 17 charges involving three victims.

In court documents, prosecutors argued Pugh’s sentence should represent the years of abuse that each child victim was subjected to. 

Previous coverage: https://kbnd.com/kbnd-news/local-news-feed/459650 

Pugh was initially charged with more than 90 counts involving six victims. Prosecutors say he will be tried separately for charges involving the other three victims. 

 

Motorcyclist Killed In OBR Crash

TUMALO, OR -- A Redmond man was killed in a Wednesday night crash, when his motorcycle collided with an SUV on Old Bend-Redmond Highway. Deschutes County deputies say 30-year-old Quinn Chastain was northbound at a high rate of speed when the car pulled out of a driveway near 94th Street.

Investigators say the driver tried to avoid the collision but was unable; she is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

Bystanders performed CPR on Chastain, but he died at the scene. 

OBR was closed for five hours during the investigation. 

DCSO Searches For Armed Suspect

REDMOND, OR -- Deschutes County Deputies are looking for a man they say ran from a northeast Redmond traffic stop late Wednesday night. The search prompted Deschutes County 911 to send emergency alerts to people living around NE 5th and Maple, warning of a possibly armed suspect in the area. 

A deputy tried to stop a car just before 11 p.m., but the driver refused to pull over and eventually took off on foot. Shortly after, a deputy and residents reported hearing what sounded like gunfire in the area. The shots are unconfirmed and no injuries or damage was reported. 

Investigators believe the suspect is 36-year-old Braxton Michael Monson. He's described as 6', 200 pounds and was wearing dark jeans and a hoodie. Monson has a dark flower tattoo on his neck and various tattoos on his arms. DCSO says his facial hair is not as long as what's shows in the most available mug shot. He's known to frequent Prineville and Madras. DCSO says anyone who sees Monson should call 911 and not approach him, as he may be armed. 

Gunnels Poised To Take Over As Deschutes Co. D.A.

BEND, OR -- As campaigns head into the home stretch, one local race appears already decided. With only one person running for Deschutes County District Attorney, it seems Steve Gunnels will replace John Hummel as DA. Hummel says it means six months of training and transition before Gunnels takes over, "The last few transitions in the DA’s office, here in Deschutes County, hasve not been smooth. When Mike Dugan went out it was pretty contentious with his challenger, and when I came in it was a little contentious with the person I replaced. So, this is going to be smooth; it’s going to be done right."

Gunnels has been a prosecutor for 27 years, but Hummel says there are still lessons to be learned about leading the office, "The role is different as the head. You know, there’s budgeting and managing, and supervising and hiring, and coaching and disciplining; so all that. But we have six months to work on it, so there will be a smooth transition."

Hummel announced last year he would not seek re-election. He told KBND in a recent interview, "I just think, when you stay in office for 10-20 years, you actually start believing you’re the smartest person in the room when, of course, you're not. And you start thinking your way is the only way, and it’s not healthy. So, I decided I didn’t want to become that person."

Assuming Steve Gunnels wins on Tuesday, he’ll take over the office in January

Mentorship Program Helps New Farmers

BEND, OR -- A new mentorship program aims to address the changing face of Oregon’s agricultural community. Bend-based High Desert Food and Farm Alliance launched “Growing Together” last month. HDFFA’s Annie Nichols says it helps a rising number of growers who weren’t raised on the farm, "I think we’re seeing a shift in agriculture as a lot of new producers are getting into this field. They’re interested in growing food and nourishing their communities, they’re interested in stewarding the land but they don’t have that generational knowledge." She tells KBND News, "We’ve had folks come from journalism, supply chain management; pick a field and you’ll find somebody who’s retired from that life and gone into farming."

She says three farms have signed on as mentors in Alfalfa, Antelope and Tumalo. Those mentors are compensated for their time through a USDA grant, while mentees receive help for free. So far, two mentee farms are participating, in Sisters and east of Bend. Nichols says that extra emotional and knowledge support increases the chance for their success, "Making the connections, so they can ask, ‘what do I do when I’m getting rot on my potatoes?’ or ‘how did you get into the Bend Farmers Market?’ It’s not even just production but understanding some of those things that many of these farmers have had to figure out themselves." Click HERE for more information.

 

Photo courtesy HDFFA

Summer Drought, Fire Outlook Shows Little Change

CORVALLIS, OR -- Despite recent rain and snow, parts of Oregon  continue to struggle under drought conditions. State Climatologist Larry O'Neill says it's a tale of two Oregons, "This late snow and rain that we got and cooler temperatures actually substantially changed some of the drought outlooks for parts of the state, mostly in western Oregon and in northern Oregon around the counties that border the Columbia River Basin. That is really good news right now. But what that does is kind of exacerbates that we have current drought conditions that are part of the last three years of drought in Central Oregon, specifically around Crook County and Deschutes, and then going down into Klamath County and the Klamath Basin." He adds, "The US Army Corps of Engineer projects in the Willamette Valley are doing very well and most surprisingly, it’s down into southwest Oregon. So, Lost Creek and Applegate are actually seeing very healthy in-flows." But, he says the rest of the state isn't fairing as well, "On the other hand, when you go into Eastern and Central Oregon, conditions have not improved materially. Things in the Prineville and Ochoco, Bowman Dam systems, those are still near historical levels." 

O'Neill and other experts from Oregon State University took part in a Wednesday forum to discuss the summer wildfire outlook. He says the summer monsoon season could bring some relief for dry areas, but our region isn't likely to improve enough this year. "We’ve got a large area in Central Oregon that’s at D4, or 'exceptional drought.' You know, that’s the worst drought level and reserved only for the most historically significant droughts that we have. In that place, we would need something like 200-300% of normal precipitation within the next six months to bring that drought index back into normal category."

OSU Ecologist Erica Fleishman says the improvement we have seen this spring is probably not enough to prevent wildfires from growing out of control this summer, "Fire season is being pushed off a bit in most of the state because it’s been generally cool and, in some areas, fairly wet. But, if it becomes relatively hot and dry after that, which is in the longer range outlook - especially if there are high winds - I would say that the fire risk is similar to what it’s been the past couple of years." She says vegetation is still very dry in the most fire-prone areas of the state. 

 

File Photo

Bend Gas Prices Hit New Record High

BEND, OR -- Skyrocketing gas prices are causing sticker shock for drivers. AAA's Marie Dodds says gas prices all over the state hit new records after crude oil shot up over $110 a barrell, "It’s a big jump. Any time we see prices jump more than a dime I think most folks consider that a significant jump. National average is up 17 cents. Oregon average is up 16 cents. And, believe it or not, there are states that are seeing jumps that are twice as big."

The national average also hit a new record at $4.37 a gallon; Oregon’s average is now $4.85 a gallon and Bend's average jumped 14 cents to $4.86. 

Dodds says drivers can save a few cents a gallon by changing habits and behaviors, "Driving more slowly helps you save fuel. Check your tires - over and under inflated tires will cause you to burn more gas. Make sure that you get all of the extra stuff out of your car - every pound that you carry makes you burn a little more fuel." Combining your errands can also help, and Dodds suggests using a mobile app to help find the cheapest gas stations in your area.

No Back-Up Plan if RPD Bond Fails

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond’s Police Chief says there is no “plan B” if a $40 million bond does not get voter approval next week. Chief Devin Lewis tells KBND News his department has far outgrown its current building, "It was built on 1.1 acres, it only has 16 secure parking spots and it was built in the late 90s for 36 employees. We have over 60 employees now, so we’ve almost doubled our staffing size. The population of Redmond has almost tripled in that amount of time." He says evidence is housed in various locations around the city and they’ve delayed hiring in the past because there isn’t enough parking.

The city recently purchased property on NW Canal (pictured), where a new police facility would be built, "That was 8 acres of property, so Council gave us the approval to make that purchase. At that point, we did a needs assessment, looking at not only that property but what kind of size of a building are we going to need for the amount of people we currently have, but obviously looking beyond that to the next 20-30 years, kind of trying to forecast the growth of the city and the growth of the department."

But that project hinges on voter approval of the 20-year General Obligation bond. "Failure isn’t really an option," says Lewis. He believes the department will need to ask again in November if the May measure doesn't pass, "I don’t see another way at this point. We’ve maximized every nook and cranny we could in this space. We’ve converted closets and janitorial spaces, and the old Council chambers - we’ve converted all that and we’re still outgrowing it." City Council has committed $9 million to the project, which is expected to cost $49 million. The bond would cover the remaining $40 million. 

If the property tax measure is approved, property owners would pay 73-cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Chief Lewis says that’s about $150 dollars a year for the average Redmond house. 

There is no organized opposition to the measure. Although, a Facebook page supporting the bond has drawn critical comments. 

 

Plans Released for Green Ridge Area

SISTERS, OR -- Plans are in motion for a major restoration project in the Green Ridge area, near Sisters. Lauren Durocher, Sister Ranger District Environmental Coordinator, says the draft plan just released Tuesday includes more than 19,000 acres of thinning, mowing, prescribed burning and other treatments. It also authorizes restoration of cottonwood and aspen stands.

It's part of a broader effort by the Forest Service, "We’re looking at this 10-year wildfire crisis plan to promote resiliency on the landscape," Durocher tells KBND News, "And this project really ties into that, to promote that resiliency against large-scale wildfire, large-scale disease outbreaks."

Tuesday's release starts a 45-day clock for filing objections. Durocher says the latest draft includes revisions made after hearing early concerns from the public, "The Green Ridge Project Area overlaps with Northern Spotted Owl habitat, as well as mule deer habitat. And so we learned from various interested publics about their concerns about how this project would affect those wildlife species."

The 25,000-acre Green Ridge area is about 13 miles north of Sisters. Durocher says with the official draft release, things move pretty quickly, "We’re expecting in the fall of 2022 we should have that final decision in hand, and we’ll be starting that preparation for getting that work done on the ground." That work is then expected to begin in the summer of 2023. More details are available on the USFS website

Bend PD Seeks Advisory Council Applicants

BEND, OR -- Bend Police continues to accept applications for the Chief’s Advisory Council. Chief Mike Krantz says it’s similar to committees the department has looked to for input over the last 18 years, "It’s a advisory council to the police chief, obviously - to the command of the police department. And, its goal is to have community people give input to the chief of police on issues from the community’s perspective."

Krantz says it’s important to have diverse voices on the council, "Issues could include anything from developing strategies, increasing community awareness about policy or budget issues, developing workforce recruitment and retention strategies, reviewing training processes," he tells KBND News, "Just a wide variety of information could come out of this." He adds, "Its goal is to be a communication conduit between different community networks and the police department. And, just to continue to enhance relationship building with the community and the police department through transparency." 

He says more than 60 people have applied since the application period opened in April, and more are expected before the June 15th deadline. There are just 20 positions available.  
Applicants must live in Bend, be willing to participate in a Ride-A-Long, and able to attend regular meetings. Click HERE for more information and to apply. 

Bend Property Used In Real Estate Scam

PORTLAND, OR -- A Portland man will serve 18 months in federal prison for using a house he didn’t own as collateral for a new loan. Federal prosecutors say Alireza Zamanizadeh filed a quitclaim deed in Deschutes County to transfer a Bend property to his business for one dollar. He then forged the owner’s signature on a statement verifying the transfer, which allowed him to secure a loan for $316,092. 

The real owner was not aware of the transaction and spent $400,000 to purchase the house back from foreclosure after Zamanizadeh defaulted on the loan. 

Zamanizadeh pleaded guilty to bank fraud in September and was just sentenced Tuesday. After his prison time, he'll serve five years' supervised release and he's been ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution to the owner of the proeprty. 

Voters to Decide Sunriver Levy

SUNRIVER, OR -- Sunriver voters will decide next week whether to fund construction of a new public safety facility. Police Chief Cory Darling says his department’s building was not meant to be a police station. "It’s an office space," he tells KBND News, "So, we’ve really had to make do since 2002, when the Sunriver Police Department became a part of the district. And then, the fire department has some structural integrity issues that we saw a few years ago during a major snow storm, where the fire department actually had to evacuate their facility over the winter months."

Deschutes County and the Sunriver Service District have committed  $11 million to build a facility to house both police and fire services. A 10-year property tax levy on the May ballot would provide the other $7 million needed for the project. If approved, property owners would pay $.47 per $1,000 dollars of assessed value. 

Darling says his existing police station lacks basic law enforcement necessities. "We had one officer that was working a graveyard shift. He went to a motor vehicle fire, where his clothing was contaminated. He had to come back to the police department, remove his contaminated clothing, putting it in a plastic bag and setting it outside the police department," says the Chief, "He was not able to take a shower. And then, the same night, he went to a fatal motor vehicle crash where he, again, saturated his uniform with bodily fluids, blood, etc. And had to come back and do the exact same thing." 

Darling believes public safety upgrades are long overdue, "Currently, the police department, we have no backup power. So, if we lose power, we’re pretty much done. We have no decontamination facility, whatsoever. No showers. Our security is very inadequate for a police department. No interview rooms. Soundproofing is very limited, so you can hear conversations throughout the building. We have no ventilation for processing of evidence or holding of evidence. We have no holding cells."

Police Chief Darling says the fire department is also struggling, "The fire department was built in 1995. They fall short in a lot of areas where safety procedures have enhanced for fire departments. Decontamination is very limited on their side. The processing of the oxygen tanks is problematic. They have a lot of concerns for the safety of their firefighters."

They’ve been conducting tours for the last few months and Chief Darling says everyone who comes through the building sees why a new facility is needed. The last tour before the election is Friday at 1 p.m. Sign up in advance at the Sunriver Service District website

There is no organized opposition to the levy.

Bend Mayor to Step Down Next Week

BEND, OR -- Bend Mayor Sally Russell issued a statement Monday afternoon announcing she will resign from City Council at its meeting Wednesday, May 18. 

Read her full statement:

 

After serious discussion and deliberation with my family over this past month, I have come to a difficult decision.

So, as abrupt and unexpected as this may seem, I am resigning from Bend City Council and the seat of Mayor at the conclusion of the Bend City Council meeting on Wednesday, May 18th, 2022.

The Council, following the Bend City Charter and Council’s recently updated rules, will move forward with appointing a currently sitting member on the Bend Council to serve as Mayor through the end of the Mayor’s term, December 2022. Appointment of a sitting Councilor creates a vacancy in that councilor’s former seat. Council will have 30 days to fill the vacant Councilors seat through an open public appointment process, as required by the City Charter and rules.

I would like to briefly share some thoughts and reflections as I step away…

 

  • My job as Mayor has affected me and my family in numerous ways, as we have - just like you - navigated such huge social, environmental and economic pressures, and the effects of a pandemic. Fires, smoke, heat domes, homelessness…  So many historic changes in such a short time.  I am simply exhausted. It is in my own - and my family’s - best interest to leave at the conclusion of May’s Council meetings.

  • My goal has always been to make solid decisions for our community as a whole, and to look for ways to knit our community together. After a break, I will continue to look for meaningful ways to continue to contribute to the well being of our community; I anticipate most of those will be at collaborative tables where people work to listen carefully to understand and accept differing viewpoints, to find and support viable solutions.

  • Today, goals, budgets and work plans have been set with this Council for this biennium.  Work has begun in earnest on Wilson Avenue and other parts of town because of the historic Transportation Bond was passed under the last Council.  The Bend Central District/CORE Area is now seeing redevelopment investment.  I am proud of all the thoughtful work that has been done through leadership by the various City Councils I have sat with, together in partnership with City Staff.

  • To my fellow councilors, I say, “Good Luck.”  Every person in our community needs your strong leadership more than ever.

  • To the incredibly talented and amazingly committed City of Bend employees, I say, “Thank you!” Your work is one of the key reasons Bend is such a state treasure.

  • To my colleagues across Oregon and beyond, it’s been an honor to work alongside you, striving to make our communities a better place for all.

  • To the community of Bend, I offer you all a heartfelt "Thank you!” for the honor of serving you.  It’s been an absolutely amazing journey…and it’s difficult to express what it means to have earned your trust to help navigate Bend’s path forward during some of the city’s most challenging times. Please, please stay engaged and continue to participate in city governance, it’s the only way Bend will continue to thrive.

Bend Firefighter Honored for Heroics

BEND, OR -- A Bend firefighter has received state recognition for his heroic action. 

Jared Hopper was off duty when he saw smoke coming from a Crook County house in May of 2021. A neighbor told him a woman was trapped inside. Officials say Hopper went into the smoke-filled house, lifted the woman from her bed to her wheelchair and got her out safely. They say because of his actions, the woman did not suffer any smoke-related or other injuries. Crook County firefighters arrived shortly after the rescue and extinguished the fire, which was isolated to the garage.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Award from the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association at a recent ceremony. "We are very proud of firefighter Hopper's quick actions that may have saved this women's life," Fire Chief Todd Riley said in a statement. "This Distinguished Conduct Award is well deserved. 

 

High Desert Houselessness Increases

BEND, OR -- Homelessness is increasing in Central Oregon. The annual one-day count conducted by the Homeless Leadership Coalition found 1,286 people experiencing homelessness. That's a 17% rise from 2021 across the region. The Point In Time count was conducted on January 24, 2022. 

Despite the increase, officials believe it's still an undercount. Coalition Chair Eliza Wilson says a January COVID outbreak in Redmond impacted the number of volunteers able to help with the count in that city. "This is just like a little snapshot. We know this is at least the number, but we know that there’s many more."

Wilson tells KBND News 223 people in the count are under the age of 18; more than double the number of kids in the 2021 report. "There’s so many different things that lead to homelessness. And if we look at these numbers, it’s very clear. There is a large number of people who, this is their first time they’ve experienced homelessness. I think there was one person who was counted, it’s the first time they’ve experienced homelessness and they’re 76." She says for many, it’s simply because of a lack of affordable housing, "A lot of the people that we work with are working and have full-time jobs, whether it’s in the restaurant industry or in the service industry of some kind. And, the cost of living and low vacancy rate is certainly contributing to the issue."

And, Wilson says, despite what some in the community have said, the people in the PIT count are local, "Like years in the past, we’re seeing that most of the people who are experiencing homelessness in our region are from Central Oregon and have lived here for quite some time."

This year’s annual count saw the number of houseless veterans decline by more than 50%. Wilson believes some of that improvement is likely due to the opening of Veterans Village. 

Graphic: courtesy Central Oregon Homeless Leadership Coalition

 

Transient Arrested for Bend Assault

BEND, OR -- A Eugene man is accused of beating up a man after leaving the Bend Warming Shelter Saturday morning. A passerby called 911 at about 7 a.m. Saturday, reporting a man was beating up another man, near Third and Dekalb. The passerby stayed with the victim and provided information to responding officers.

About 30 minutes later, police found the suspect near Wall and Newport. They say he wouldn’t provide his name and resisted arrest, causing minor injuries to two officers. After he was evaluated at the hospital, the suspect was taken to jail where he was identified as 35-year-old Corey Bjur. 

Investigators say he didn't sleep at the shelter, but showed up Saturday morning, asking for food. Bjur was kicked out after making offensive comments. The victim checked out of the facility at about the same time. Police believe Bjur followed the victim, assaulting him about a block away. He's charged with Assault II, Disorderly Conduct II and Resisting Arrest.

Anyone who may have witnessed the assault is asked to call Bend PD at 541-693-6911.

 

File Photo

Apartment Fire Blamed on Unattended Candle

BEND, OR -- A weekend apartment fire in northeast Bend could’ve been much worse, according to firefighters, had it not been for the sprinkler system. 

Crews responded to The Reserves at Pilot Butte Saturday around 9:30 p.m. and found smoke in an attached garage in the back of the complex. Once they got inside, they discovered only minor fire damage to the stuff in the garage because a sprinkler kept the fire from spreading to other units.

They say it started with a candle or incense left burning unattended near craft supplies.

 

DCSO Identifies Suspect in Sisters School Threats

SISTERS, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office is looking for a man they believe made threats against a school in Sisters. Investigators say 41-year-old Charles Matthew Schmiel made a vague threat against an unnamed school on May 5, leading to an increased law enforcement presence at all Sisters schools. Deputies again performed security checks at all Sisters schools Friday before students and staff arrived. They say they found nothing suspicious. 

They say Schmiel does not have a permanent address and may be camping in the area. Anyone who knows Schmiel's whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 541-693-6911, reference case 22-23618. 

Driver Seriously Hurt in NE Bend Crash

BEND, OR -- Bend Police are investigating a serious crash that closed a major intersection Friday morning. They say a pickup towing a utility trailer was northbound on NE 27th Street, just after 10 a.m., when a Subaru tried to make a left turn on to 27th, directly in the path of the truck. The truck collided with the car's driver-side door.

The 87-year-old Subaru driver was seriously injured and taken to the hospital. The 35-year-old driver of the pickup remained on scene and is cooperating with police. NE 27th reopened just after 1:30 p.m.

More Prescribed Burns in South County

SUNRIVER, OR -- More prescribed burns are planned for the region, next week. Firefighters on the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District plan to burn 2700 acres near Sunriver and La Pine. Ignitions will take place in various areas intermittently over the next four to six weeks, as conditions allow.

Sunriver burn areas include 700 acres near Cottonwood and Highway 97, 1,000 acres west of the Three Rivers subdivision, and 1,300 acres south of Lava River Cave. Each area will see three or four days of ignitions. These are "understory" burns to reduce hazardous fuels before the start of wildfire season.

Near La Pine, they’ll work east of Newberry Estates, burning 750 acres adjacent to County Road 21.

Another operation is planned for later this spring, to burn 150 acres west of Bend. You'll find more information on current prescribed burn opeations at CentralOregonFire.org

 

Wyden's Recreation Plan Gets Committee Approval

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Key components of an Oregon Senator’s recreation plan passed through a Congressional committee this week. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has been pushing his “Recreation Not Red Tape" Act for several years, "The laws governing recreation, with respect to federal agencies, are still sort of from the dark ages. For example, we want to make sure people can pay online."

He says the current level of bureaucracy stifles economic growth in regions that rely on outdoor recreation tourism dollars, like Central Oregon, "And people from around the country even, who wanted to come to Oregon and recreate in Central Oregon and put money into the Central Oregon economy, they said, ‘I can’t get through the red tape. I get up at 3 o’clock in the morning and I’m hold on the phone'."

Among other things, it aims to simplify how fees are collected by adding an online payment option, and ensure veterans have access to outdoor recreation, volunteer and wellness programs. He tells KBND News, "With recreation particularly growing during the pandemic - one of the things we sure learned is people love to get outdoors. It’s a big economic winner. It’s why I’m pushing so hard on my River Democracy bill. And what I’m trying to do on recreation is pretty much the same thing: throw open the doors of government, get people’s input and make the machinery give them a chance to do what they want."

Parts of Wyden’s act were included in bipartisan legislation approved this week by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Lava River Cave Opens Friday

SUNRIVER, OR -- The Lava River Cave opens for the season Friday. Through Memorial Day, the cave’s entrance gate will open at 9 a.m. and close at 4:15 p.m., Thursday through Monday each week. A valid recreation pass is required. Starting May 31, the cave will be open those same hours, seven days a week through September 15. US Forest Service officials say the gate will also close periodically, when the parking lot is full, to avoid overcrowding.

The Lava Lands Visitor Center also opens Friday and will follow the cave’s schedule of days open. Its hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During peak season, from June 17 through Labor Day weekend, a shuttle runs every 20 minutes between the Visitor Center and the summit of Lava Butte.

The Forest Service plans to open the Paulina Visitor Center in Newberry Caldera Memorial Day Weekend. Access to the caldera is from Paulina Peak Road, managed by Deschutes County. Check the road department's website for road opening information. 

You'll find more information on all of the locations within the Newberry National Volcanic Site at the Deschutes National Forest website

Race for Jefferson County Sheriff Heats Up

MADRAS, OR -- The race for Jefferson County Sheriff has become unusually confrontational. Central Oregon Daily News reports Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche and retired Sheriff Jim Adkins released a joint statement this week endorsing challenger Jason Pollock.

They cite Sheriff Marc Heckathorn’s actions during the campaign among the reasons. Heckathorn issued a statement on his Facebook page in response, saying he was stunned by the lack of support from two people he said he considered friends and mentors. Heckathorn was appointed Sheriff last summer, when Jim Adkins retired.

Sheriff Heckathorn and Senior Deputy Pollock took part in a virtual forum this week, where the two traded barbs about their reputations and past performance. Click HERE to watch the full debate. 

Bend to Hold Hearing on Stevens Road Tract

BEND, OR -- Bend’s Planning Commission will take public comment on a plan for the Stevens Road Tract. The city is considering a proposal for planning and development of a complete community on the eastern edge of Bend. You'll find more information HERE on the Stevens Road Tract Concept Plan. 

The Planning Commission’s public hearing is 5:30 pm Monday, May 9. A work session is also scheduled for May 18 at 5 pm, with a public hearing slated for June first at 7 pm.

City staff say they’ve hosted three online open houses to gather public input on planning for the 261 acre tract. The project is in resopnse to HB 3318 passed by the 2021 Legislature. 

Bend Police Investigate Massage Parlor

BEND, OR -- A Bend massage parlor is under investigation for operating without a license and allegedly injuring some clients.

Police have received multiple reports the business may have been the source of human and sex trafficking. They executed a search warrant Thursday at May Foot Spa and Massage near The Forum Shopping Center. Investigators say they found no evidence of trafficking, but the business is not licensed by the state board of massage, and some clients report being injured by untrained therapists.

May Foot Spa and Massage is owned by 48-year-old Xu Wu, of Puyallup, WA. Investigators are forwarding to the Deschutes County D.A. a charge against Wu of practicing massage without a license. Bend Police say the investigation is ongoing.

The public can search for licensed massage businesses through the Oregon State Board of Massage website. 

Driver Arrested, Passenger Cited After Sunriver Pursuit

SUNRIVER, OR -- A Prineville man faces numerous charges after Sunriver Police say he ran from a traffic stop, early Thursday morning. Deschutes County K-9 "Quattro" tracked the suspect from the car. Sunriver Police say 38-year-old Shawn McCallister was found and arrested a short time later. He told police he’d ingested numerous Fentanyl pills and was taken to the hospital for evaluation.

Investigators say McCallister’s passenger, a 36-year-old Redmond woman, gave police several fictitious names in an effort to hide the identity of her husband. Rachel McCullough was cited and released for hindering prosecution.

 

Two Arrested For Sisters Break-In

SISTERS, OR -- Two men from the Portland are accused of a burglary near Sisters. Deschutes County deputies say a flatbed trailer was taken after a weekend break-in. The trailer was spotted Wednesday morning and pulled over in Jefferson County. 

Deputies arrested 42-year-old Luke Clendenin, of Tualatin, and 39-year-old Casey Weitzel, of Portland. Detectives say evidence links them to the May first break-in near Sisters. They say the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible.

Dozens Testify at Bend City Council Shelter Meeting

BEND, OR -- Bend City Council spent several hours Wednesday night discussing new codes for temporary shelters serving those experiencing houselessness. Before the start of the open hearing, Councilor Megan Perkins offered an update on plans for the Rainbow Motel, purchased last year by the city, "Beginning in mid May the Rainbow Motel property on Franklin Avenue will be temporarily used to accommodate 44 community members in low-barrier overnight shelter. The Franklin Avenue site will be operated by NeighborImpact for current residents of the shelter on Division Street, while the city renovates the Division Street property." After that renovation, those 44 people will move back to the Division Street shelter and the motel will be used by the Shepherd’s House while its Second Street facility transitions into a navigation center. Then, the city plans to renovate the Rainbow Motel property into housing, a city hall or other public use. 

Councilor Perkins also spoke about misconceptions surrounding low-barrier homeless shelters after several in the crowd complained about proposed shelter code changes, "Low barrier shelters encourage people to seek resources by eliminating obstacles, including identification requirements and background checks, pet restrictions and sobriety mandates. But, low barrier does not mean no barrier. Local low barrier shelters do not permit alcohol, drugs or criminal acts on site. Our Division Street shelter, for instance, has two pages of rules for the individuals and families living within." City staff also discussed unsanctioned camps, saying state law mandates the city can only crack down on those camps once more shelter beds are available.

In its first in-person meeting in two years, City Council heard public testimony from the crowded room and through a virtual platform. Dozens of people testified, including retired Bend Police Chief Jim Porter. Public opinions were split between those who want to see the city move forward on changes that would allow more shelters, and people who say more restrictions are needed. Click HERE to watch the four hour meeting. 

Council is expected to vote on a first reading at its May 18 meeting. 

Madras, Prineville DMVs Struggle Under Staffing Shortage

MADRAS, OR -- Oregon’s DMV has been hard hit by a lack of workers, leading to long lines in urban offices and closures in some smaller towns, including Madras and Prineville. ODOT's David House says the DMV is recovered from pandemic slow-downs but now faces another setback in its effor to return to normal operations, "The good news is, the backlog is almost gone. But now we have this staffing shortage. So, we remain very busy."

House says 20% of the positions at DMV field offices remain unfilled, statewide. "We haven’t been able to keep up with just the regular retirements or people moving on to another job; and this is hitting all our offices," he tells KBND News, "Especially the offices that have just one or two staff members, it only takes one illness to shut that office down for a day."

Prineville's DMV was closed Tuesday and Madras shut down for the day on Wednesday, "Madras and Prineville, I think those have two employees each," says House. "And then, when we have short-staffing in nearby offices too, we can’t send relief. And that’s what we would normally do. Bend is down several people, for example, so we can’t send relief from Bend; and that’s a very busy office."

Coquille’s DMV, on the southern Oregon coast, has been closed the last two days, and House says the situation is most dire in Medford - a larger office that has less than 50% of its needed staffing. 

House says many transactions can be completed on the DMV2U website. He suggests checking there to see if your request can be completed without waiting in long lines at an office. 

Dems. Fight For Oregon's Second Congressional District

BEND, OR -- Oregon’s Second Congressional District has new boundaries, but it’s still expected to be a tough fight for Democrats. The two Democrats hoping for the chance to unseat Republican Congressman Cliff Bentz took part in a Tuesday forum, hosted by City Club of Central Oregon and the League of Women Voters of Deschutes County. 

Adam Prine is a Chicago native who moved to southern Oregon six years ago. He says he supports legislation to reduce gun violence - with limits, "I would not vote to take away someone’s right to own an automatic weapon, because it’s a fundamental right and it’s in the Constitution. But, I do think a well-regulated militia also has background checks." Joe Yetter says he also wants more background checks, to close loopholes and increase firearm safety, "I think that improved safety measures like gun locks can be required." He’s a veteran and physician in Douglas County. 

Both candidates support some form of universal healthcare and banning stock trading by members of Congress, but varied widely on many other issues. Yetter was asked what sets him apart from his Democratic opponent. "I believe that you get things done by working with people, understanding that you share some common values and some common interests," he said, "And that one doesn’t need to burn down the building before working to rebuild and build better." In response to the same question, Prine said his campaign is ready to bring change to the district, "I’m in it to win it. I’m in it for a long, long fight. Nothing’s going to make me quit. I don’t even really want to do it but it’s mandatory."

Click HERE to watch the complete forum and others hosted by City Club.

Oregon's Primary is May 17.

 

Photo: (top left) Adam Prine, (bottom left) Joe Yetter, (bottom right) Moderator Emily Cureton Cook, Central Oregon Bureau Chief for OPB.

Abortion Protesters Gather Outside Deschutes Co. Courthouse

More than 200 people protested in front of the Deschutes County Courthouse Tuesday evening in support of abortion rights. Congressional Candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Josie Stanfield with the Central Oregon Diversity Project addressed the crowd along with speakers from Saving Grace. Organizer Melissa Adams told Central Oregon Daily News, the possibility of Roe vs. Wade being overturned is a matter of life and death. She called the protest a means to celebrate resistance and persistence in the face of adversity.

 

Photo courtesy Central Oregon Daily News

Stolen Truck and Dog Recovered

Bend Police recovered a truck and trailer that was stolen Tuesday morning with the owner’s dog inside. Officers say “Amigo” was unharmed and reunited with his family about four hours after the ordeal began. The truck was taken after it was left unlocked with the keys inside, at the Bend Lowe’s. It was recovered from the Redmond Lowe’s. Police arrested 35-year-old Phoebe Duran of Redmond on several charges, including theft of a companion animal.

 

New Assistant Principal Appointed to Ridgeview High School

The Redmond School District has selected a new assistant principal of Ridgeview High School. Randi Viggiano currently serves as the school’s counselor, a position she has held since 2017. She will also serve as the school’s Athletic Director. She began her career at Culver Elementary in 2010 moving to Culver High School before joining Ridgeview High. Viggiano looks forward to strengthening community partnerships, and developing strong young leaders through athletics. She takes over as assistant principal on July 1, replacing Sam Platt who starts his job principal of Tumalo Community School on July 1st.

 

Central Oregon Firefighters Participate in Immersive Firefighting Program

The Central Oregon Fire Management Service is holding an immersive scenario-based wildland firefighting program for area structural firefighters. The program improves coordination between local fire departments and federal and state partners and improves interagency response in the event of an emerging wildfire incident. The three-day course begins in the classroom and includes wildland firefighting suppression tactics with live-fire response exercises. The program has attracted more than one hundred participants from fire departments throughout Central Oregon. 

 

COCC Launches Workforce Center

Central Oregon Community College (COCC) has launched a new workforce resource. The Center for Business, Industry, and Professional Development is designed to support economic development and will offer a diverse range of skill-building courses. The college has essentially merged two departments into one place for employee development and training for customized services. Director, Ken Betschart, says it will also offer entrepreneurial assistance, licensing and certifications, and customized trainings.  “Of course people are always looking to improve upon whether project management, licensed or certified in certain specific industries like construction or electrical services.”  Betshart says the small business community has a high need for resources to offer both employers and employees alike.

Deschutes Co., Warm Springs to Receive Smoke Grants

BEND, OR -- Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality is spending more than a million dollars to help communities mitigate smoke impacts. $1.3-million dollars in grants will head to 20 county and tribal governments, including Deschutes County and Warm Springs. Click HERE for the full list.

Oregon DEQ’s Harry Esteve says the money is to address the impacts of smoke from outdoor burning of yard debris or slash. "In some cases, it’s to figure out a different way to handle this material rather than burning it," he tells KBND News. "You can chip it, you can do other things with it. We’re also looking at getting help for what are called air curtain incinerators." Those incinerators burn slash with less smoke than pile burning.

Whether it’s from wildfire, yard debris or pile burning, or prescribed fire, Esteves says it's an air quality issue because smoke releases hazardous particulates, "These tiny essentially particles of soot. And they don’t get filtered out by your lungs and so they can get into your body, into your systems, into your blood and create health problems."

He says the grant money will also be used to help communities create and implement smoke preparedness plans for wildfires.

 

File photo

 

Gov. Brown Visits Bend School

BEND, OR -- Oregon Governor Kate Brown was in Bend Monday, visiting North Star Elementary in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. Brown thanked teachers for their work during the pandemic and for continuing to help students and families navigate critical issues.

She told Central Oregon Daily News, "In this building, you can feel the energy. You can feel the good things happening. They’re really just doing an extraordinary job." In a statement issued by her office, Brown said, “I’d like to thank teachers and school staff for the incredible work they do every single day for Oregon’s students.” She added, “The past two years have underscored how important our schools and educators are for students’ well-being––not just their academic success, but their mental, social, and emotional health. To all teachers across Oregon: thank you for the profound contribution you make every day. You have the deepest gratitude of all Oregonians.”

Brown was joined by ODE Director Colt Gill, Bend-La Pine Superintendent Dr. Steve Cook, the North Star Principal and school staff. 

 

Photo submitted by Gov. Brown's Office

 

Theft Commonplace At TV & Appliance Store

A TV & Appliance store in Bend is experiencing multiple thefts. Standard TV & Appliance on Paramount Drive is seeing items like gas, tires, diesel exhaust fluid and batteries disappearing on a regular basis. Store owners blame the problem on relocated homeless encampments, some of whom have set up camp behind the store. Security cameras have failed to help identify the culprits. A road improvement project that begins in June is expected to help reduce the number of thefts by limiting access roads to the store.

 

Bend La Pine to Host Military Recognition Event

Bend-La Pine Schools is hosting its first ever joint Military Recognition Event to honor students who have enlisted in a military branch after graduation. More than a dozen students from high schools across the district will attend the celebration at Mountain View High School on May 9th. The event will include all branches of the Armed Services and local recruiters. Students from the Mountain View National ROTC program will also be on hand in uniform to greet guests and serve refreshments.The Bend La Pine Military  Recognition Event will be held at Mountain View High School on May 9 from 3:45 – 4:30 p.m.

 

 

Summer Festivals Return to Bend in Full Force

BEND, OR -- Bend will see a full slate of events this summer. "It’s like a big weight being lifted off," says Aaron Switzer, with Lay it Out Events. Bend Summer Festival and nearly all of the region’s traditional summer events will return this year, following 2020’s cancellations and 2021’s scaled down versions due to the pandemic. "I think most people are feeling pretty comfortable that, at least for the summer, we’re going to have a really great time. And it’s great to be back in that place."

Switzer tells KBND News the last two years were incredibly hard to book musical acts, find staff, even schedule venues, "You just didn’t know what was going to happen. You didn’t know if you were going to have the festival, so as promoters we have to hedge our bets a little bit. That also isn’t true for this year. This year, it’s much more robust and people should expect to see a lot of what they saw prior to COVID."

Lay it Out announced Balloons Over Bend, Theater in the Park and the rest of its summer line-up will return this year, although Switzer says Summer Festival will be just two days instead of the traditional three - the result of cautious scheduling prior to the lifting of pandemic restrictions. And, he says, there will still be a few COVID holdovers, "You’re going to see the handwashing stations. You’re going to see signs recommending people stay within their comfort zones with masks."

Lay it Out’s season begins with the BBQ, Brews and Whiskey Festival, June third. Switzer says, "I think Bend is the flashing sign for being fully open. I mean, with the amphitheater shows, with the Oregon Spirit Distillers concerts, the Athletic Club, our events."

 

Photo courtesy Lay it Out Events

Prineville Reservoir At Record Low Level

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Irrigators who rely on Central Oregon’s Crooked River Basin for water are preparing for another growing season with limited water. Prineville Reservoir is at just 28% capacity, its lowest level on record for this time of year. 

"With minimal snowpack, minimal precipitation, the water is just not storing," says Christine Schuldheisz, with the Bureau of Reclamation. She tells KBND News the reservoir filled to just 62% capacity last year, contributing to this year’s shortfall, "We’re starting this year with a very low reservoir to begin with because last year it didn’t fill. So, precipitation rates again are a contributing factor. They’ve been the lowest over the past two to three years, and of course the temperatures have been generally increasing, as well."

The Bureau is in talks with irrigation districts who rely on that water, "Being very transparent about expected irrigation deliveries, so that the water users, the farmers can plan accordingly for their growing season," says Schuldheisz, "Oregon has seen this drought for several years now, so the farmers are preparing for it."

She says visitors to Prineville Reservoir State Park also need to be prepared. She doesn't expect the reservoir to go dry this summer, but the popular recreation spot will look a lot different and some activities may be limited as the reservoir is drawn down.

 

Bend-La Pine Schools Addresses Bias Incidents

BEND, OR -- Bend-La Pine Schools has faced criticism in the past for its handling of bias complaints from students. In a recent podcast, the Superintendent talked with other district officials about how to improve reporting and response of bias incidents.

Kinsey Martin is Bend-La Pine Schools’ Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. "The state is now, with the new legislation, not asking us to - requiring us to also prioritize the mental well-being of our students," she says, "Especially those who are experiencing this level of bias." A new state law went into effect in January, requiring districts have a process in place for reporting and addressing these types of incidents in schools.

"Bias Incidents" are defined as behaviors that target another person based on their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or other identifying factor. Martin says there’s a new reporting process in place designed to better track incidents, "We’ve had over 160 reports made, this year, of different bias incidents." Assistant Director of Student Services Eric Powell says the new process aims to provide wrap around services to victims and their families, "One of these is one too many. And I think it’s important to honor and recognize that at the basis of every one of these is a student in our system that experienced trauma." The district process also includes educating the offending student and their family.

Martin says the district is now expanding its reporting process, "Open it up, make sure all staff are aware how to make the reports themselves, versus sharing it with a principal. So, we’ve expanded access to all of our staff, at this point. We are about to roll out and try out some lessons for students."

Click HERE to listen to the full "Supe's On" podcast episode called "Even One is Too Many," with Superintendent Dr. Steven Cook.

Dem. Candidates for Gov. Debate in Sunriver

SUNRIVER, OR -- Ballots are now in the hands of voters, and Oregon’s race for Governor is heating up. The top three Democrats running for the state's top job met in Sunriver for a forum, Sunday. The event was hosted by the Democratic Party of Oregon, so this was a friendly crowd.

On the homeless crisis, former State House Speaker Tina Kotek touted her work in the legislature, but didn't offer specific future actions. "We have too many people living on the streets; it’s unacceptable," she said, "I have a plan that says in the first 10 minutes of my administration, the first 10 months and the first 10 years, we’re going to solve this problem."

State Treasurer Tobias Read said current efforts aren’t enough, "We have to get a lot faster at standing up transitional and emergency shelters that includes the wrap-around services that many people need."

Small business owner Patrick Starnes wants to create what he calls the Oregon Shelter Fund, "It needs to be income-based permanent housing. Because it’s not just for the unhoused, it’s for our workforce housing, too."

All three committed to closing the urban-rural divide in Oregon. Read said, "We have to realize that most of us have some version of the same priorities- to make sure that the people we care about are happy, and healthy, and safe, and nearby and have some prospect for a brighter future." Starnes, who ran for Governor as an Independent in 2018, told the crowd, "I’m a rural Democrat and I’m traveling to all 36 counties. So, it’s crucial that we bring Oregonians back to one Oregonian. ‘Cause we’re all tired of the divisiveness." Kotek added, "There’s no magic wand here to fix this problem. It’s about really listening and being present in communities that feel left behind."

They also discussed education, job creation and the GOP. Click HERE to watch the full Sunriver forum. In total, 15 Democrats are running for Governor in the May 17 Primary.

 

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