Local News Archives for 2023-08

Deschutes Co. Approves Five-Year Plan For Opioid Funds

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners Wednesday approved a five-year plan for spending the local allocation of opioid settlement funds. The county expects to receive $7.1 million dollars over the next 17 years, from the 2018 settlement with pharmaceutical companies. 

County Health Services Director Janice Garceau told Commissioners efforts to combat addiction and overdose deaths in the first half of the year are having an impact, "Doubled the distribution of Naloxone and the education and the targeted intervention around Naloxone, and what we’re seeing is that the trend in [Emergency Department] visits for overdose is beginning to go down." She says communities impacted by the fentanyl crisis see an initial spike in overdose deaths, but positive things can happen, "As the community becomes aware, becomes educated, as people who are friends and family members of those who are using become more aware, the loss of life begins to decline."

Garceau says the goal of the new plan is to reduce the number of overdose deaths and increase programs at the Crisis Stabilization Center (pictured), "Adding targeted expert opioid use disorder prevention services, expanding the coordination of surveillance and overdose prevention activities, sustaining existing crisis interventions, adding direct case management and coordination for this forensic population - a very targeted population, and adding recovery peer intervention services." Those peer supports are important, she says, for people struggling with substance use disorder - especially fentanyl, "There’s a real loss of hope and self efficacy that can occur and people can really believe that there’s just no way out of this trap of addiction. And what a peer can offer that I can’t is a window into a journey that led to recovery, and actual evidence that it can be done."
Garceau says in five years, they will need to re-evaluate based on how much money is left.

 

CRR Voters To Decide Fire Levy In November

CROOKED RIVER RANCH, OR -- Crooked River Ranch will vote on a new five-year fire levy in November. "This new local option levy was approved by the fire board in July and will replace an existing local option levy that’s expiring, which was approved by voters in 2018," Fire Chief Sean Hartley said in a video released this week, "The rate of the new local option levy will be $1.17 per thousand of taxable assessed value. This is a $.28 increase over the expiring local option levy." Chief Hartley added, "If your home has a taxable assessed value of $200,000, it would be an increase of $4.66 per month in your property taxes." That’s about $234 dollars a year total, on the tax bill for that property. 

Hartley says the increased levy is needed to handle the 66% increase in emergency medical calls over the last 10 years, "The local option levy will help us improve emergency response within the community and allow us to retain two grant-funded firefighter paramedic positions." The district has also seen a 36% increase in overall call volume, in the last decade. 

For more information on the levy, click HERE

 

State Fire Marshal Urges Immediate Steps To Create Defensible Space

BEND, OR -- Dozens of Oregon homes have already been destroyed this wildfire season. But the State Fire Marshal’s Office says defensible space could prevent more from being lost. OSFM is now traveling the state to help educate Oregonians about steps they can take now to protect their property. 

Assistant Chief Deputy Chad Hawkins was in Bend this week, and says it's critical to reduce the chances an ember will spark a fire in your yard. "A majority, if not three-quarters of structures lost during a wildfire, is due to what we call ember cast or ember showers. So, it’s those embers that are carried in the wind, whether created by the fire or the prevailing weather patterns or weather conditions in the area at the time of the fire, carrying those embers half a mile, three-quarters of a mile, a mile and a half in some studies." He tells KBND News there are simple and inexpensive things property owners can do now, "Raking leaves, cleaning gutters. We always think of them as small minutia tasks. But those are the ones that if we let slip just for that one-two minutes, and inevitably deal with that oncoming fire front from that escaped fire, or whatever it may be, that could be the time where your house becomes in jeopardy." He says an ember can start a fire in just a handful of pine needles.  

Increasing defensible space isn’t about creating a rock-filled moon-scape in your yard, says Hawkins. What you remove is just as important as what you plant, "How can we incorporate fire resistive fuels that are native to the area?" The state's new defensible space website can help. "Oregon State University maintains a fire resistive plant guide, for example. That’s on there so you can pull that as you build a fire resistive landscape." Property owners can also request a walk-through with an expert, "We have deputy state fire marshals in the field, and also fire service partners, that are willing to come out and do one-on-one defensible space assessments with you as the property owner or business owner, to give you just general guidelines and recommendations. "

Hawkins admits defensible space isn’t a guarantee against wildfire, but he says it should buy a little time for firefighters to arrive.


 

Central Oregon Top Destination For Labor Day--AAA

BEND, OR -- As Labor Day approaches, Central Oregon prepares for one last busy weekend of the summer.

“Bend is the number one destination for Labor Day for members of AAA Oregon-Idaho. And you know that Bend is always a top destination because there's so much to see and do. It is always at or near the top of the list. When we look at popular destinations for the major holiday weekends, whether we're talking about Memorial Day or Thanksgiving, or in this case, Labor Day Weekend, it's number one.” AAA’s Marie Dodds says Lincoln City, Eugene, Medford/Ashland, and Newport are also popular spots.

Dodds tells KBND News travel times around the region will increase, “Highway 97 is going to be very busy. In fact, it can take you probably twice as long to get where you want to go in Central Oregon. So, make sure you plan accordingly. Peak travel times, of course, are Thursday and Friday afternoon and evening. So, if you can avoid those times, let's say between noon and eight p.m., and between 11 a.m. and nine p.m. on Friday. You'll save yourself some headaches as far as congestion.”

Busy times for visitors leaving will start around 10 a.m. Monday. Dodds suggests avoiding traffic congestion by travelling early in the morning, or later in the evening.

New Boardwalk Connects Deschutes River Trail

BEND, OR -- Bend Parks and Rec has been busy with summer trail projects.

The District’s Julie Brown says an expanded section in Downtown Bend offers more access, “The stretch of the Deschutes River Trail from Pioneer Park to Drake Park just kind of had its opening just about a week ago, so people are slowly discovering it. It's a nice trail that includes a boardwalk section that actually goes under Newport Avenue. Pioneer Park now has some parking available. So, for folks who want to have a longer trip on the Deschutes River trail, that's open and ready to go.”

Brown says more improvements are coming, “We're not completely finished with the whole Drake Park project. We're still working on some staircase and some other areas. So, you'll see some areas at Drake Park that are still a little blocked off. But for the most part, we're getting really close to being completed with that entire project.”

The recently opened boardwalk travels under the Newport Avenue bridge, and keeps pedestrians from having to cross that busy Downtown Bend intersection.

Local Woman's Death Deemed "Suspicious"

BEND, OR -- A 51-year-old woman was found lying in the road Monday morning, and Bend Police now say her death is suspicious. Bend PD's Sheila Miller says officers were dispatched to NE Second and DeKalb Monday, just after 6:30 a.m., for what initially appeared to be a medical emergency, "We had multiple callers who reported seeing this woman lying in the road. Our officers responded, contacted medics and medics transported her." She was later identified as Jeri Lynn Davies, "My understanding is that Ms. Davies is a member of our houseless community," Miller tells KBND News, "So she sometimes stayed in that area, but was definitely known to some of the people who camp or live in that area, or stay in that shelter, nearby."

Police were notified early Tuesday that she had died, "After Ms. Davies was pronounced dead at the hospital, our officers went to the scene to ensure that we’d collected any evidence that may attribute to her death, canvassing, talking to people who stay in the area, looking for video, that sort of thing." Miller adds, "We don’t know what may have caused that death, and so that’s our investigation; that’s why it’s suspicious. She had some injuries, so an autopsy will be conducted." That autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday. 

This is the third death investigation this summer in Bend, but it’s still unclear whether a crime was committed, "There’s no reason to believe this is connected to the Hill Street homicide. And then, of course, our other homicide that happened earlier this month, the people are in custody, who are responsible for that," Miller says, "Sometimes these things go in waves, they happen one after another. And that obviously is difficult for our department, but we’re committed to ensuring the safety of our community, no matter how often these sorts of things happen."

 

UPDATE: (08/31/23) Bend Police say the death of a houseless woman earlier this week was not a crime. 51-year-old Jeri Lynn Davies was found lying in the road near Northeast Second and DeKalb, Monday morning. She died less than 24 hours later at the hospital. A final cause of death has still not been announced, pending a final report from the state Medical Examiner’s Office. But detectives believe there was no criminal wrongdoing.

Despite Rain, Drought Persists

CORVALLIS, OR -- According to the latest info from the U.S. Drought Monitor, southeast Oregon is the only portion of the state no longer under any drought designation. "We have nine counties that have a Governor-approved drought declaration at the state level. Most of these counties are located in Central Oregon, which has kind of been the epicenter of our current multi-year drought cycle going back to 2020," Director of the Oregon Climate Service Larry O'Neill said at a recent NW Drought and Climate Outlook presentation, "We’re starting to get more inquiries from counties about potentially having a drought declaration. So there are three pending right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more coming." Lincoln, Douglas and Gilliam counties have pending requests. 

O’Neill says there is a line splitting the state between northwest and southeast, with southeast Oregon considered either fully or partially recovered from drought, "They really took advantage of the atmospheric rivers that hit California during the wet season and then, they’ve also had quite a few thunderstorms and even the remnants of Hurricane Hilary have gone through. When it rained there it really poured." But several counties in western Oregon saw their driest May through July on record and evaporation is compounding the issue, "Oregon has some of the highest evaporative demand in the country, right now."

In Central Oregon, O’Neill says surface soil moisture levels look pretty good, but deeper levels are still too dry, "So, it’s the top three-feet of soil, just about. And this often takes a couple of years to really replenish. So, our drought cycle, going back to 2000, really sucked out a lot of the moisture out of this deep soil column."

Reservoir levels tell the same story, with eastern Oregeon basins at or above average, "But the problem areas of the state are a little surprising, given the snowpack. One of them is the Wickiup in Deschutes County, so right in the middle of Oregon. Wickiup is very low right now, so that’s at the headwaters of the Deschutes River, which flows north into the Columbia. This has caused a lot of problems with keeping streamflows and stream temperatures up in the Deschutes, and has led to curtailments of irrigation water and other associated impacts." The Willamette basin is especially troubling, he says, because those reservoirs are more reliant on rain, which hasn’t materialized, "One impact that we’ve noticed the last few weeks are streamflow temperatures are well above average - about four to eight degrees fahrenheit above average in the main-stem Willamette. And, these reservoirs have drafted down to such a point that there’s not enough cold water to keep the rivers at a cool enough temperature." He says that’s led to more blue-green algae blooms in the Willamette River and adverse effects on fish. 

Images: (top) Nine counties have state drought declarations and three with pending requests. 

(upper right) A map of soil moisture levels shows the divide between southeast and northwest Oregon.

CODE Team Leader Earns National Recognition

ROCKY MOUNT, NC -- Deschutes County Sheriff's Sergeant Ken van der Kamp was recognized by the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association (FBI-LEEDA) at a recent North Carolina ceremony. He received the Trilogy Award for his "exceptional dedication to law enforcement leadership." Sgt. van der Kamp leads the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) team and is the first recipient of the Trilogy award from DCSO. 

"It is an honor to receive the FBI-LEEDA Trilogy Award, and I am grateful for the opportunities this program has provided me to enhance my executive leadership skills, engage with community leaders, and better serve our community," Sgt. van der Kamp said in a statement. "This award reflects the dedication of the entire Deschutes County Sheriff's Office to creating a safer and more secure environment for all residents and visitors of Deschutes County."

FBI-LEEDA is a non-profit organization that provides law enforcement agencies with advanced leadership training and professional development. The Trilogy Award is a distinction awarded to law enforcement leaders who complete three specialized courses on enhancing leadership skills, ethics, and community engagement.

KBND News spoke with Sgt. van der Kamp on August 10th about his work on the CODE team. Find that full interview HERE

Petes Lake Fire Holds At 300 Acres, 0% Contained

SISTERS, OR -- The Petes Lake Fire, discovered Friday evening after a lightning storm, is one of several wildfires sending smoke into Central Oregon. It’s burning in the Three Sisters Wilderness along the border between the Willamette and Deschutes National Forest. As of Tuesday morning, fire managers say it remains 300 acres, but 0% contained. 

Jaimie Olle, with the Forest Service, says trail closures and evacuation orders are in place, "Our wilderness and recreation staff on both the Deschutes and Willamette National Forest were conducting sweeps in the general area of the forest, so hiking into those trails and connecting with folks." Evacuating an area with poor cell service and remote trails isn’t easy. But Olle says the new permits required for that area are a help, "Wilderness Permits are a great indicator for who might be in the wilderness, as well as looking at vehicle traffic at different trailheads and different entry points into the wilderness. These are metrics that our rangers and different staff use to try and help gauge how many folks are in there and how many contacts they’ve made, to help make sure that everyone gets out safely." Around a dozen hikers were evacuated from the Deschutes side of the fire zone over the weekend. 

Olle says crews have been challeneged by smoky conditions, hindering air support, and its remote location, "There are no roads into the wilderness, so folks relying on a lot of aerial support, both to get to the fire, as well as to deliver supplies and things that they might need. So that presents some different opportunities for how we might need to strategize and address this fire."

Type III team took over management Monday, and a Type II team is on the way, "Currently assigned to the Petes Lake Fire, resources include: on the ground - six smokejumpers, four repellers, three hand crews; and these firefighters are being supported with three Type II helicopters. And that incoming team will bolster the overhead capabilities for this fire, as well."

 

Parks and Rec Pivots During Smoky Conditions

BEND, OR -- As the final week of Bend Parks and Rec summer youth programs continues, air quality is keeping staff on their toes.

The district's Julie Brown tells KBND News they try not to cancel, “Our first choice usually is going to be to try and relocate some of those outdoor activities to an indoor space, if possible. That's been something that has been pretty successful with some of our summer camps.”

Brown says as Community Relations manager she updates their website daily to let parents know of changes, “We want to do what we can to limit duration and maybe change the exertion level. So that's what we've been doing in a lot of our camps. And we've also been looking for where could we go for a field trip to maybe get out of the air conditions?”

She says when the air quality index is above 150, many programs are moved inside, “We're trying to make some modifications. For kids in particular, their systems are even more sensitive than adults typically to air situations. So, we want to do what we can.”

Juniper Swim and Fitness outdoor pools also close if the AQI is over 200.

Deschutes County Continues Search For Managed Camp Location

BEND, OR -- eschutes County Commissioners need to find a location for a managed camp before enforcement of a new unsanctioned camping code can begin in November. An available property east of Bend and outside the Urban Growth Boundary doesn’t meet state requirements, but they are still looking for paths forward. 

The site east of Bend is zoned Exclusive Farm Use. County Commissioner Phil Chang Monday proposed smoothing the way for necessary changes, "I wanted to raise the question about rezoning that property, as a potential way of reducing either political or legal challenges." He suggested helping the property owner with soil tests. But others suggested it could lead to potential conflicts with county and state land-use laws down the road.

Commissioner Patti Adair still wants the state to approve a waiver for that site, but said there are now more options, "The Governor’s office, though, did send us 23 properties - on Friday night at almost 7 o’clock. So, I forwarded that on and they should be sending those out. They do have six properties that are five to 50 acres; 23 properties in total." She added, "There’s some good parcels there, but honestly, I want to drive around and see them." Commissioner Chang asked, "Are any of those within the city of Bend?" Adair responded, "All 23 of these are within the UGB."

Adair isn't giving up on the east Bend parcel. She noted she talked recently with the head of Shepherd's House Ministries, "He said their group would be willing to be at the table, as far as people running it - so, to be considered for that. Because that’s going to be really important for the county to have." Adair suggested the lot could be included in a broader county plan, along with state land.

Following Governor Tina Kotek's visit to Central Oregon last week, she issued a joint statement with Commissioner Adair, Bend Mayor Pro Tem Megan Perkins and Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch: 

Our conversation last week made clear that Oregon’s housing and homelessness crisis impacts every part of the state and requires urgent leadership across all levels of government. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Deschutes County has unique challenges when it comes to addressing unsheltered homelessness, which has become increasingly acute and visible in recent years.

Our best chance at moving individuals out of homelessness is to provide a clear path to transitional housing, rehousing, support and wrap around services. As city, county, and state leaders we recognize the need to build more housing and to provide practical alternatives to tent camping such as safe park sites and tiny houses that meet health and safety standards and steward Oregon’s land use system.  

We are committed to working together with urgency as winter approaches to ensure safe, accessible sheltering options for Deschutes County.

file photo

Petes Lake Fire Prompts Forest Closures

BEND, OR -- Effective immediately, the area surrounding the Petes Lake Fire is closed. The fire is burning within the Mink Lake Basin in the Three Sisters Wilderness, about five miles west of Elk Lake.

Due to very dry conditions and forecasted warmer temperatures, firefighters anticipate increased fire activity Monday and Tuesday. For the public’s safety, the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests are temporarily closing numerous trails. Forest Service wilderness rangers are in the area alerting anyone already camping within the closure area.

The following trails are temporarily closed:

  • The Pacific Crest Trail is closed between the junction with Winopee Lake Trail (#16) and Elk Creek Trail (#3510) to the junction with Mirror Lakes Trail (#20).

Willamette National Forest Trail Closures:

  • Bear Flat - #3301
  • Breezy Point - #3517
  • Buck Meadows - #3521
  • Elk Creek - #3510
  • Foley Ridge - #3511
  • French Pete - #3311
  • Goose Lake - #3542
  • Horse Creek - #3514
  • Horse Lake - #3516
  • James Creek - #3546
  • Lake Side - #3525
  • Louise Creek - #3520
  • Martin Way - #3525.1
  • McBee - #3523
  • Mink Lake - #3526
  • Nash Lake - #3527
  • Olallie - #3529
  • Olallie Mountain - #4100
  • Park - #3530
  • Porky Lake - #4338
  • Rainbow Falls - #3543
  • Rebel Creek - #3323
  • Rebel Rock - #3324
  • Red Hill - #3515
  • Separation Lake - #3536
  • Separation Meadow - #4331
  • South Fork - #3327
  • Starwano - #3537
  • Substitute Point - #4343
  • Sunset Lake - #3515.1
  • Water Holes - #3538
  • Wildcat - #3331

Deschutes National Forest Trail Closures:

  • Horse Lake - #2
  • Island Meadow - #3
  • Senoj Lake - #14.1
  • Six Lakes - #14
  • Snowshoe Lake - #33
  • Winopee Lake - #16 (partially closed)

The Petes Lake Fire was first reported the night of Friday, August 25, after lightning moved through the area. Aircraft and firefighters were unable to access the incident due to poor visibility from smoke. Smokejumpers arrived on-scene Saturday morning. As of Monday morning, the fire is estimated at 300 acres with six smokejumpers, four rappellers, one hotshot crew and two Type 2 initial attack crews assigned. Additional resources are in route. Three type-2 helicopters and air attack are supporting firefighters on the ground with water drops and crew transport.

Commissioner Concerned About Insurance Coverage

SISTERS, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang is concerned insurance companies are raising premiums for fire-prone communities, or considering pulling coverage entirely.

“I am hearing reports from south county, from west county…Sisters area… that people are having premiums go up. Some people are facing not cancellation of their policy, but insurers are saying we're pulling out of this area,” Chang says he even saw a letter stating the insurer is using the outdated wildfire risk map to determine its rates, which violates state rules. “The state wildfire map said that you're a higher risk. And so that's why we're canceling your policy. I told them to report that to the state insurance commissioner.”

Chang tells KBND News companies have their own set of data, and don’t need the controversial map, “They have been tracking claims and losses in our community for decades, so they know where there's a severe fire risk.”

He suggests policy-holders show insurers they’ve taken steps to reduce the risk of wildfire, but admits that’s challenging, “How you get the insurance industry to recognize the measures that we're taking to make ourselves more resilient. It's super complicated because, they don't have inspectors to go out and check everyone's home.”

The county's latest round of Fuel Reduction Grants is accepting applications for communities and neighborhoods to conduct work related to improving defensible space.

 

 

Gov. Kotek Discusses Greater Idaho Movement

REDMOND, OR -- Governor Tina Kotek’s One Oregon Listening Tour has stopped in 26 counties so far this year, and many are areas supportive of the Greater Idaho MovementDuring her visit to Central Oregon last week, Gov. Kotek admitted, "I have met Oregonians who are frustrated, who want to be heard in Salem. And yes, some of them might have voted to support the measure to go to Idaho." She says it's not a big part of her conversations, "But it’s like, ‘Look; I just want to be heard,’ My job as Governor is to make sure people are heard. We’re not always going to agree on everything, but we need to have every perspective at the table."

Kotek is pushing for more geographic diversity on state committees and task forces, "A lot of the work that happens at state government are these commissions and boards that advise agencies. We need more representation from other parts of the state. Now, with the ability to do Zooms and virtual meetings, it is a lot easier for people from any corner of the state to participate. They just need to know we need them." She says her staff is using the One Oregon Tour to recruit members, "We have people on the trip asking, ‘Who do you know? Who would be interested in serving?’ Because, that’s one way, I think, to bring people together - when you have different people from every part of the state sitting down, solving the problems together."

About a dozen new committees, commissions and task forces were created by the 2023 Legislature, with more than 130 open positions. Existing boards also have openings. Click HERE for a list, and HERE for applications. 

Crook County is the next to vote on a Greater Idaho measure, in May. 

Submitted Photos: (Top) Gov. Kotek talks with a Culver-area farmer on Aug. 23, 2023.

(Above) Kotek and her team dine at the home of House Republican Leader Vikki Breese Iverson (R-Prineville) that evening.

Bend City Council Recognizes One-Year Anniversary Of Deadly Shooting

BEND, OR -- It's been one year since a shooting inside a Bend grocery store claimed the lives of a customer and produce workerAt a recent City Council meeting, Councilor Anthony Broadman recognized the two men gunned down that Sunday evening, "We continue to mourn the loss of the victims: Glenn Edward Bennett and Donal Ray Surrett, Jr. We also know that our community lost its sense of safety on that tragic evening, last summer. Suddenly, going to the grocery store was a frightening experience." The shooter took his own life as police entered the store. Safeway closed for more than two weeks following the shooting. Bend Police closed their investigation in December. 

"We appreciate how community members supported each other in the shocking days that followed the shooting. And we thank the locals who made an effort to support the store when it reopened," said Broadman, "We continue to support our police department through funding for training and technology that ensure they’ll be able to respond to incidents like these in the best ways possible."

He also noted the 2021 shooting of Barry Washington, and the death of Taylor Wyss earlier this month, "Both of these men were killed by someone who brought a gun to downtown. These deaths were and are incredibly impactful to our community." He called for community action to end gun violence, "We, the Bend City Council, support more responsible gun ownership regulations, such as Measure 114, which expands background checks and training to purchase firearms, and limits on magazine size. We pledge to you to continue to advocate for policies needed to end the epidemic of shootings, so that everyone can feel safe in our community."

Mayor Melanie Kebler praised a recent "Guns to Gardens" event, "That was where you could bring unwanted firearms, and they would disable them, cut them apart and turn them into gardening tools. And they reported to me that they dismantled a total of 73 firearms from this one event."

Deschutes County Behavioral Health offers 24/7 services at the Crisis Stabilization Center, for anyone struggling with the anniversary. Clinicians are available by phone or in-person. 

Photo: A makeshift memorial is seen outside the Bend Safeway store in the days following the Aug. 28, 2022 deadly shooting. 

Defensible Space Grants Offered For Fall Projects

BEND, OR -- In an effort to help people create more defensible space, Deschutes County is now accepting applications for fall Fuels Reduction grants. Money is available for communities and neighborhoods to conduct short-term projects. 

Deschutes County Forester Kevin Moriarty says the goal is to remove vegetation and other flammable materials within 100' of a home. "We always prioritize funding requests for work in that first ignition zone - that zero to five feet, because that’s really where you should start your work. There’s no reason to really be trying to treat vegetation in that 100-foot area if you haven’t done any of the work within the five feet." He tells KBND News, "Another project a lot of people do is removing bark mulch adjacent to their home, and replacing it with gravel. There’s been several studies that show bark mulch is highly flammable, if you get embers that fall into it that it could ignite your home."

Moriarty also says priority is given to those trying to earn FireWise recognition or those already certified, "For this particular grant, we’re really trying to incentivize becoming FireWise." It's a nationally recognized education program that encourages neighborhoods to create an action plan. "What are the risks in your community? What’s the work that needs to be done? You can start creating a timeline," says Moriarty. Some of that work could then be funded by this fall grant or others offered by the county to increase defensible space. There’s also a push to evaluate evacuation routes, "Within that action plan, you can not only come up with defensible space projects, but a plan for if your community does need to leave because of a wildfire, what is the plan?"

Online grant applications for this latest round of fuels reduction funding are accepted through 5 p.m. on September 22nd. Interested applicants can learn more and ask questions at an in-person and virtual meeting held Tuesday, September 5 at 10:30 a.m. at the Deschutes County Road Department main conference room, located at 61150 SE 27th Street in Bend. RSVP to Kevin.Moriarty@deschutes.org.

 

HSCO Aims To Clear The Shelter

BEND, OR -- The Humane Society of Central Oregon is joining the nationwide effort to #ClearTheShelters on Saturday, August 26. Adopters at the Bend shelter will receive at least half off the adoption fee all day on Saturday. With a spin the "wheel of fortunate," adopters get a percentage off the regular adoption fee, ranging from 50% to 100% (excluding dog license fee). And, there will  be treats for people from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The normal adoption process remains in place. The full adoption care package of spay or neuter, first vaccination, microchip ID, free health exam at a local veterinarian, collar, ID tag, pet food and more, is included with all adoptions. Bonus gifts will be included with all adoptions.

For more information call 541-382-3537 and see adoptable animals at hsco.org, including "Sandy" (pictured).

 

County Approves Camping Ordinance Amendment

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County commissioners granted final approval this week for ban on unsanctioned camping on county owned land in unincorporated areas.

Commissioner Phil Chang tells KBND News he has reservations about the viability of the new ban, “Some people say, 'well, just tell people they can't be here and then they'll go away,' but we actually know that if you kick people out of one unauthorized location and they don't have any place to go, they will end up somewhere else.”

The county still has a hurdle to get over.  “Within 90 days, now that we've passed that camping code revision, we need to have alternative sites for people to go so that we can actually enforce the camping code,” Chang says, “that urgency that we need these sites within 90 days to actually enforce our camping code, I'm hopeful, will spur some creativity and some really focused effort to get us there.” Otherwise, the ordinance is likely to face a court challenge. “We need to understand that four one-acre sites (are) just as good as one four-acre site. Might take more human resources to manage it. But you can put the same number of people in four one-acre sites as you could in one four-acre site.”

One site east of Bend is under consideration, but is outside the UGB and needs state approval , which, so far, appears unlikely.

 

Kotek Discusses Homelessness In Redmond

REDMOND, OR -- Governor Tina Kotek continued her multi-day trip to Central Oregon Thursday, meeting with Redmond’s Mayor, Bend's Mayor Pro Tem and other local leaders. "We’re spending a lot of time in Redmond on this trip because we want to make sure - you know, Deschutes County is not just Bend, it’s Redmond and other places. So, we started off here, coming to Redmond, we had a meeting with some culturally specific organizations that work with the LatinX, latino population here in Central Oregon, we met at City Hall - by the way, beautiful city hall - and had a conversation on a variety of things: education and housing and services." She then toured the new Shepherd's House Redmond shelter, "It’s a fantastic site; I’m very excited about it for the community. And we had a large roundtable talking about housing, homelessness services, where the community is, where they want to go. Super impressed with the partnerships here, the collaboration."

Like Wednesday's visit to Crook and Jefferson counties, Thursday's meetings in Deschutes County were not open to the public or press. Kotek met with local media at the Redmond shelter after the roundtable. She again addressed the idea of siting a managed camp outside the UGB. "I’m not supportive of going outside the Urban Growth Boundary because I think that sets a bad precedent for the entire state," Kotek told reporters, "I want to exhaust every option within the Urban Growth Boundary to find those locations." The state could help provide the land, says Kotek; ODOT properties and other state-owned parcels could be considered as options. But, she says a managed camp must be close to critical services, "Do you have electrical? Do you have plumbing? Being inside the Urban Growth Boundary, you’re more likely to be closer to where you can get those really core utilities and things that you need. It’s really a functional challenge. The further people are out, the less they’re going to get connected to services." And, she says, if they don’t connect with services, they’re less likely to escape homelessness. 

She says Deschutes County is doing a lot of things right in addressing critical needs, including making county land available for housing projects, "When you have public land and you have a crisis in housing, that is a good role for the county." But, she says, there is more to do, "I think what we have to see from all our county leaders around the state is being willing to take risks, being willing to take risks, in terms of putting resources into housing and homelessness, because the size of the crisis is so large, that we have to continue to do things differently." Kotek also praised the cities of Bend and Redmond for helping spur housing development and create more affordable options. 

Kotek also addressed reports of a new homeless count conducted by an outside independent contractor hired by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. KBND News asked whether the difference in statistics would jeopardize state funding. Kotek says the official data comes from the Homeless Leadership Coalition during the one-day Point in Time (PIT) count. "We will be looking at those [PIT Count] numbers - which are much higher than the study commissioned by the Sheriff’s Office are showing. And I’ve got to tell you, I think we need to have transparency and accountability whenever we’re doing that kind of research. I’m going to depend on the tried and true methods that we’ve been using. Look, we also know those are also undercounts. They are a starting point, and the PIT count is what we’re using across the state, so that is what we’ll be using for the services we’re trying to fund."

Listen to Governor Tina Kotek's full press conference in Redmond, as she took questions from KBND News, The Redmonds Spokesman, Central Oregon Daily News and KTVZ:

 

Seattle Men Accused Of Bend-Area Crime Spree With Stolen U-Haul

BEND, OR -- Three men from Seattle are accused of breaking into multiple Bend properties over the past two weeks. The first was August 14th, when someone used a rock to break the glass door at U-Haul on the north end of Bend, taking various keys and two trucks. One of those vehicles was recovered in Sunriver the next day.

Earlier this week, burglars drove a U-Haul to Oxarc, shot out the front door and stole four welding units. Other break-ins were reported in Sunriver and La Pine. The second U-Haul truck was found unoccupied in Sunriver Village on Wednesday, August 23rd. 

Deschutes County deputies learned a white Jeep with a black top was also  associated with the burglaries. The Jeep was spotted near Base Camp Grill in Sunriver. Officers contacted the Jeep’s owner, who is out of state and not connected to the burglaries, and learned the Jeep’s occupants were likely living at her property on Lazy River Drive in the Three Rivers area. 

During a search of the Jeep and house, Wednesday night, detectives recovered all of the stolen property, as well as four guns and a large amount of ammunition. They arrested 36-year-old Johnny Lardizabal Marza and 31-year-old Mark Joseph Sampayan on a long list of charges, while 55-year-old Fortunato Novelo is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. 

Deschutes Co. Plans Sex Offender Transitional Housing

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County is looking for an organization willing to open a transitional housing facility for sex offenders and other convicts who struggle to find housing after getting released from jail and often end up homeless. "The goal will be to provide eight shelter-style beds and two more long-term style beds for this population, specifically," Community Justice Department Business Manager Trevor Stephens told County Commissioners Wednesday.

Stephens added, "We currently supervise, consistently, about 25-30 individuals who have restrictions that prevent them from having contact with minors, or that have a condition that requires them to register as a sex offender. It’s extremely difficult to place these individuals in housing within Central Oregon. And so, many of these clients end up camping or they have access to shelter sometimes but not other times." Parole and Probation Officer Heather Simes explained,  "They come out of institutions or out of the court system and there’s nothing available. So they are camping or transient - not even a set campsite, which makes the process of supervising these clients, or this population, very difficult."

But, Simes told Commissioners, a facility where several parolees can live together will make it easier for her department to provide appropriate supervision, "You can meet, not only with the person that you’re there to see or the person that you supervise, but also the other people in the home. They all expect and know that you’ll be coming by. It leads to - usually, in my experience - a lot of compliance, because everybody in the home knows that somebody’s PO is going to show up at some point."

Stephens said a little more than a million dollars is available for the project from the Governor’s emergency order on homelessness. The facility could end up in a neighborhood, but must be at least a thousand feet from any parks and schools. Commissioners unanimously approved a request by Community Justice to start accepting proposals from prospective managers.

 

Gov. Kotek Tours Crook, Jefferson Counties

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Governor Tina Kotek brought her One Oregon Listening Tour to Crook and Jefferson counties Wednesday. While in Madras, she visited the COCC campus expansion project, which will eventually house an early childhood education program. "Central Oregon is doing some amazing work," she told reporters Wednesday evening, "We have to develop the pipeline of early childhood educators who are there to support our families."

During her conversations with local leaders and others, she says she consistently heard two big challenges, "It’s housing and homelessness, and behavioral health, as the two leading issues. Hearing about how some of the housing resources and resources for people who are unsheltered have helped in the community, or what the plans are to increase services, was good to know. And then, on the behavioral health side, every community is dealing with a mental health and addiction crisis."
In Crook County, she took part in a behavioral health and addiction roundtable discussion, "The crisis related to fentanyl is significantly impacting the community. The ability to treat individuals who have a fentanyl addiction is very challenging, because of the nature of that addiction. We talked about the need for more services for young people." She added, "One of the things that’s important for me is to make sure that whether you’re urban, suburban or rural, you have equitable access to the resources. In a community like Prineville, you see incredible amounts of collaboration. So, I want to make sure when they have the dollars, it actually supports what they’re trying to do." And, she says, the solutions aren’t the same for every community, " I can tell you, every corner of the state is trying to help their residents with mental health issues, being homeless, substance issues. We have to make sure every community has what they need, and support what they’re doing locally."

Kotek started the day Wednesday at Macy Farms in Culver, "I wanted to learn more about carrot seed farming. They also do potato seeding and they do mint, which are obviously hugely important crops for Central Oregon." While there, Kotek also talked with the head of the North Unit Irrigation District about overall conditions amid the ongoing drought, "I do think the irrigation districts and the entire Deschutes Basin area are doing very smart things around new pipeline projects, better irrigation systems to conserve water. As a state, I want to support that. As Governor, I want to say, ‘that’s where we need to go.’ I don’t want to lose any more farmers to other states, or just going out of business completely, because we’re having a water issue."

This was Kotek’s first visit to Crook and Jefferson counties since becoming Governor. She says she is impressed with the amount of growth that’s occurred since her last time here. Kotek also noted the poor air quality and smoky skies are a good reminder to take steps to prevent human-caused fires.
She says she will have visited 26 counties by Labor Day on the One Oregon Listening Tour.

 

School Districts Prepping For Students' Return

REDMOND, OR -- Local school districts are readying a return to the classroom after summer break. Online calendars and parent apps are getting updated with information, including school supply lists.

As costs for back-to-school pile up, Redmond School District’s Holly Brown tells me there is help for parents, “We have our family access network, the fan and there are advocates at most of the schools. You can figure out who your fan advocate is on the school website and they have a lot of resources available. So… backpacks, pencils, notebooks, all of that kind of stuff.”

There’s also more help available for meals. “Free and reduced lunches are a great thing to apply for because the standards have actually changed a little. So, families that might not have been eligible in the past could be eligible now,” says Brown, who urges families to check if they now qualify.

Redmond and other districts are also working to provide parents and students with more information on how to use social media responsibly.  “We're seeing a lot of behaviors coming from social media and it can really affect the student's mental health. So, we're working with counselors and getting as much data backed research that we can to help share that information in a digestible way to families,” Brown says.

There are volunteer opportunities to help out at a school, too. Anyone interested should check their school's website.

Sisters Irrigation Modernization Featured In New Video

SISTERS, OR -- A new video released by the Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS-Oregon) highlights how Central Oregon farmers are combating drought. 

Three Sisters Irrigation District Manager Marc Thalacker says modernization projects have become a top priority, "We had a 55% system loss, so we used to divert 35,000-acre-feet and deliver 17,000 on farm." He adds, "It wasn’t hard to figure out that all we needed to do was start piping the canals, capture that water, and then we were able to dedicate half of the conserved water to the stream, to bring back steelhead, salmon and bull trout. And the other 25% - or the other half of the water went to the farmers, which then gave them a 25% increase in on-farm availability."

In the video, NRCS District Conservationist Lars Santana says farmers used to rely on more expensive irrigation systems, "It was not very efficient. And now that they’re piping and pressurized water is available to them, they’re able to convert from flood irrigation techniques to more modern and more efficient sprinkler irrigation techniques, as well as drip irrigation."

Tom Bennett, with the Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District says piping also offers energy benefits for farmers and ranchers, "The fact that they’re getting pressurized water means they don’t have to have pumps connected to the system. If you don’t have pumps, then there’s a certain amount of electricity that you’re not using that isn’t a demand on the electrical grid."

The Three Sisters Irrigation On-Farm and Renewable Energy project was funded through a partnership program with the irrigation district, conservation district, Deschutes River Conservancy, private landowners, NRCS-Oregon and others.

 

Evacuation Orders Dropped For Juniper Creek Fire

CULVER, OR -- All evacuation orders are now lifted for the Juniper Creek Fire, near Lake Billy Chinook. Mop-up continues on the 106-acre fire (pictured), which is now 75% contained. Its cause is under investigation.

Wildfires elsewhere in Oregon, northern California, Washington and Canada continue to send smoke into our area. Oregon’s DEQ says air quality may improve a little Wednesday but smoke is likely to return Thursday in Deschutes County, with intermittent smoke predicted in Crook and Jefferson counties. Air quality advisories remain in effect until further notice.

Click HERE to monitor air quality in your area. 

 

Overdue Hiker's Body Found In Three Sisters Wilderness

SISTERS, OR -- A hiker missing in the Three Sisters Wilderness since last week has been found dead. The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office reports 66-year-old John Mulcahy left the Pole Creek trailhead August 15th, intending to summit North and Middle Sister in one day. The St. Helens Man was supposed to return to the trailhead that night. His family reported him overdue and Search and Rescue responded to the area, along with an AirLink helicopter.

On Saturday, a National Guard helicopter flew over the area and spotted what they believe is Mulcahy’s body. Due to the location, he could not be recovered.

New Local Grant Aims To Combat Loneliness

BEND, OR -- A new grant program aims to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation in Central Oregon. "The purpose of this grant is to support organizations that are bringing people together and provide a welcoming space for people to hopefully get to that sense of belonging again" says St. Charles Health System Community Partnerships Manager Carlos Salcedo. 

It’s in response to the pandemic, but he says the need has been building for a while, "As a society, we’ve been kind of going towards this isolation, with this focus on productivity. And the pandemic just magnified all of that and just compressed everything to a shorter time frame."

Salcedo says targeting isolation became a priority after a recent community health needs assessment, "So, we put this work under three different buckets, which is Loneliness & Isolation, Welcoming and Belonging. So, we’re looking for organizations that are creating that space where people can come and gather and socialize in a welcoming environment that’s very inclusive."

There are very few parameters for applicants because, Salcedo says, he’s looking for unique ideas. Applicants must be in the tri-county area and, "We don’t want it to be just a one-time event. We want it to be recurring. Because, a lot of times what we notice, especially in smaller communities, is that things will get done once and if people don’t show up, it’s called a failure. So, we’re looking to work past failure, and give people an opportunity to engage - if not the first time, maybe the second time or the third time. Because we’re so [eager] just to, like, leave." He tells KBND News, "And it may not be something new; it may be something that we rediscover. Maybe we’re not doing something we used to do? So, what are those things? And I would probably venture to say that that’s the case, more than this unique, new discovery."

Salcedo wouldn’t reveal the dollar amount available, because he says, for the right idea, St. Charles could bring in other partners to make up for funding shortfalls. Applications are due September 30, 2023. Click HERE for more details.

 

Human-Caused Wildfires Keep Local Firefighters Busy

BEND, OR -- The Juniper Creek Fire (pictured) that started Sunday near Lake Billy Chinook is just the latest in a slew of suspected human-caused fires in Central Oregon, this season. Jaimie Olle, with the Deschutes National Forest, says with six weeks left in the season, the number of suspected human-caused starts has already hit 132, and just 39 started by lightning. "That’s a significant number of fires that were preventable," says Olle, "We typically see 164 human-caused starts and 203 lightning-caused starts, and that’s over the span of the entire fire season for Central Oregon."

Olle tells KBND News, "Early in the season, we saw a significant number of abandoned campfires. So, whether folks left the site and didn’t extinguish them at all or didn’t extinguish it fully, we found a number of those creeping and smoldering outside of the rings. Outside of that, a human-caused start can be anything from a tow chain dragging and causing a spark or improperly discarding smoking materials, or heavy equipment use."

And, despite the remnants of Hurricane Hillary sending a little rain over parts of eastern and Central Oregon this week, our fire season is far from over, "That’s not enough of a wetting rain or precipitation to negate the fire season that we’re currently seeing." She adds, "While we do have some rain in the forecast, things are still hot and dry and will continue to be so. Our predictive services outlook shows that we will have elevated risk for fire through August and September, as we have historically seen in Central Oregon." 

Olle reminds everyone to follow public use restrictions while recreating outdoors, secure tow chains so they don’t send out a spark, don’t toss those cigarette butts out of the window and make sure campfires are dead out before you leave.
 

 

Juniper Creek Fire 30% Contained, Evacuations Reduced

CULVER, OR -- Crews held the Juniper Creek Fire, burning west of Lake Billy Chinook, inside fire lines Monday. It's estimated at 106 acres and 30% contained. Mop-up operations are underway and evacuation orders were reduced to Level Two. It's burnign on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected private land.

The firefight has been a difficult one. "The smoke has limited our visibility for aircraft and any kind of air support," ODF's Ben Duda tells KBND News. And on the ground, he says, the terrain is so rough, water tenders lost a few tires, "A lot of it is just the rocks and, for a swiftly moving fire, to get vehicles to it, it really slows us down to almost a walking speed. Five to 10 miles an hour is pretty maximum once you get off the main roads."

Duda is with the Fire Management team working the Juniper Creek Fire. He credits a swift initial attack, "We had a lot of resources available at the time to pounce on this. As well as, in the area, there’s actually one of our smoke detection cameras that scans the area. We were able to log into that and take a look at what was being reported and see the smoke growing and amplify our response, right out of the gate." And he says, crews were ready, "We had a strike team from northwest Oregon, of ODF engines, that were pre-staged in Prineville just kind of on the tail end of that heatwave we had last week - and the forecast; hints of lightning - that came into play. They were a great asset to have locally, here, for the initial attack." Teams from Black Butte Ranch, Lake Chinook Fire and other local agencies were also quick to respond Sunday. 

The fire was likely preventable, "We suspect human-caused. We haven’t had lightning in the area for a while," says Duda, "So, there is an investigation team that’s taking a closer look at that." He is optimistic crews will wrap up operations quickly, within the next few days.

 

Airshow Of The Cascades Features Unique Air Racing Demonstration

MADRAS, OR -- The Airshow of the Cascades takes off at the Madras Airport Friday. Gates open at 2 p.m. and the day includes live music and other entertainment on the ground, as well as aerial acrobatics and night performances. "We have Manford Radius coming, and he’s a Canadian act clear over from eastern Canada," says longtime board member Rick Allen, "He has a glider sail plane and he has fireworks on it."

But it's Saturday's big feature that's getting all the attention. This year’s line-up includes an exclusive air race demonstration, with planes flying 50-100 feet off the ground, "They’re an airplane that runs about 250-350 miles an hour. They’re on a four-mile race course. They call it Nascar in the sky," Allen tells KBND News, "They do not do this anywhere in the country. They only fly basically at Reno, at the National Championships, which are coming up in three weeks." Allen says they could eventually be held elsewhere, "FAA has to approve them. They’re going to be onsite with a lot of people from the federal government to certify them, where they will be able to do this other places. So it’s one class, it’s one race and it will end our show on Saturday." The same pilots flying in the Madras race will compete in the National Championship air races in Reno next month. 

Allen says the Madras Airport was an ideal location for this test, "One is: we have a big footprint; we have a several thousand acre airport. And then the air boss who runs the Reno air races is our air boss. And they asked him six months ago, ‘Where would you go on the west coast of the United States?’ And these guys run the SeaFair in Seattle, and fleet weeks and all these kinds of things. And he said, ‘I’d go to Madras. They’ve got the airport and they’ve got the people who can pull it off.’"

The Airshow of the Cascades runs Friday from 2-11 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. Click HERE for more information and tickets.

 

Crews Get Line Around Juniper Creek Fire

CULVER, OR -- A fire west of Lake Billy Chinook prompted evacuations near the Three River area. The Juniper Creek Fire started around 11 a.m. Sunday, about four miles west of Cove Palisades and 16 miles northeast of Sisters. It is burning southeast of the 2055 road in Township Range 16 and 21, which is South of Graham Road. Its cause is under investigation.

Oregon Department of Forestry crews and others responded and aircraft pulled water from the Metolius Arm of Billy Chinook. Fire operations are managed by a Type-3 Incident Management Team from the Central Oregon Fire Management Service. 

Early on, the fire quickly burned southeast and grew to 100 acres, driven by wind. As of Sunday night, a dozer had lined the fire, which was estimated at about 105 acres. 

Photos courtesy Oregon Department of Forestry 08/20/23

Fugitive Brothers Arrested In Tennessee

CLEVELAND, TN -- A Bend murder suspect was arrested late Friday in Tennessee, along with his brother. Caleb Cegers is accused of shooting a Redmond man on August 10th outside of Duda’s Billiards Bar in downtown Bend. His brother, Dahnte Cegers is charged with Hindering Prosecution.

Both were taken into custody in Cleveland, Tennessee, with the help of local police and the U.S. Marshall Service. The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office announced earlier Friday that Dahnte Cegers was also wanted in connection with the deadly shooting. 

The men are listed in the Bradley County Jail as fugitives from justice.

 

photo courtesy Bradley Co. Jail, Tennessee

Murder Suspect And Brother Now Sought By DCSO

BEND, OR -- Detectives investigating the August 10th murder of a Redmond man in downtown Bend now say they're searching for the prime suspect's brother, in connection with the shooting. The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office had previously identified 20-year-old Caleb Joseph Cegers (pictured, left) as the suspected shooter. He now has a nationwide warrant for Murder in the Second Degree and Unlawful Use of a Weapon.

Another nationwide warrant was also issued this week for his brother, 25-year-old Dahnte Nathaniel Cegers (pictured, right), for Hindering Prosecution. He was arrested in 2019 for a fight involving a gun. He later pleaded "no contest" to a Conspiracy charge in that case. 

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of either man is asked to call non-emergency dispact at 541-693-6911. They are believed to be armed and dangerous. 

CORE3 Project Could Receive Homeland Security Funds

REDMOND, OR -- Construction of a multi-agency emergency coordination and operations center in Redmond could get a big boost in funding from the federal government. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) says a proposed Homeland Security bill includes a million dollars for the Central Oregon Ready, Responsive, Resilient project - known as CORE3.

The training and coordination center is planned for near the Redmond Airport. COIC is managing the project, overseeing partnerships with 27 local and state agencies. "With a phase one price tag of just above $34 million, we’re really looking to some of our other supporters to help us with some of this funding," says COIC's Shelby Knight, Project Lead, "And so, this just makes a huge impact."

She tells KBND News CORE3 will benefit more than just the High Desert, especially in the event of a large quake, "This could really serve the state well, in terms of being an emergency coordination center for response - not just for local or regional events, but statewide events or maybe even larger disasters." It could also be used to train local first responders, "You’re not always responding to an emergency. So it makes a lot of sense in the off times to be able to still make use of this facility. And, we’re also seeing an increase in natural disasters, we’re seeing an increase in these conflagration events that require multi-jurisdictional-type training." Among the 27 partner agencies are the Deschutes and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Offices, Bend and Redmond Police and Fire, ODOT and the State Fire Marshal. 

She says COIC has secured about half of the necessary funding and hopes to break ground in 2025. "This is really an investment in current and future safety for our communities," says Knight, "During a disaster is really the wrong time to be planning something like this. So, seeing us make actual big strides, I think is a huge win for our community." 


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Committee Forming To Evaluate Bend Council Pay

BEND, OR -- Bend's City Council approved this week the creation of a temporary committee to make recommendations on pay for Councilors and the Mayor. "I think this is a balance of not having it be a full-time job but also making sure that you’re not taking away from your ability to earn a living," City Manager Eric King tells KBND News.

Seven to nine Bend residents are now needed for that committee. "They’ll look at comparable cities, where we stand with Council compensation," says King, "I know that the Council also wanted to look at benefits, as well. And really just making sure that whoever is running for Council has the ability to do so, and balance their other needs." He says compensation is reviewed every five years. The group is expected to meet three or four times, then make a recommendation to City Council by February.

“It’s important that the recommendation about Council compensation comes from community members. We look forward to hearing proposals on how to make serving on Council more accessible for more people,” Mayor Melanie Kebler said in a statement. “Our community will be better served when a larger segment of our community feels supported to step up and run for City Council.”

The committee will include up to three former Councilors and/or Mayors or other elected officials. Additional members could represent the following:

  • Current City Committees or Commissions (such as the Human Rights and Equity Commission, the Environment and Climate Committee, the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, Budget Committee, etc.)
  • Local community organizations (Latino Community Association, Bend Chamber, etc.)
  • Background in Human Resources and finance/business
  • Underrepresented communities
  • Community at large

Anyone interested who fits into one of the categories listed above can apply on the Advisory Committee Application webpage on the City’s website by 5 p.m. on August 31, 2023.

 

Bend Air Quality Remains Poor, Fire Risk Increases

BEND, OR -- Central Oregon is under a Red Flag Warning Friday, due to gusty winds and extremely low humidity. Bend City Manager Eric King tells KBND News the focus is on two main priorities, "Know your zone: really look at your property, and making sure you’re removing flammable vegetation in and around your house. And then also the idea of Ready, Set, Go: really be on alert and - the message that we should all be ready right now." He adds, "We’re all kind of at a Level One, to be on alert so that if evacuations come, to make sure you’ve got your people, pets, pills and other important documents that are ready to go at a moment’s notice."

King says it’s also important to create defensible space and sign up for Deschutes Alerts, to be notified quickly of an evacuation. Bend’s new Emergency Manager is also now on board, focused on community-wide preparedness, "We have an emergency management system in the county, but Bend has grown to a point where we need to also have a focus here in the city."

The Lookout Fire, burning to our west, is now over 4,200 acres and 0% contained. Air quality in Central Oregon is remains poor, as winds blow that smoke east into the area. An Air Quality Alert has been extended through the weekend. King says we should prepare for smoky skies to stick around, "Comes and goes during the day but it is probably going to be with us for a while. Some of the terrain that fire is in, as well as the Bedrock Fire, is pretty rough. So, to get that fire down, it’s going to take mother nature to fully put it out; so it might be with us for a while, unfortunately." The Bedrock Fire is also in the Willamette National Forest. It’s more than 26,500 acres and about 20% contained.

To check the air quality in your area, visit the Oregon Smoke Blog

photo: smoke settles into northern Deschutes County, 08/18/23

NW Bend Cougar Sightings Continue

BEND, OR -- Bend Police say a cougar was again spotted in the northwest region of the city, Thursday morning. Community Service officers responded to the 1500 block of NW Remarkable Drive just before 8 a.m. They searched the area but did not locate the cougar. 

BPD notified the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and urge the public to keep small animals secure and on-leash. 

Thursday's sighting comes less than a week after a cougar was reported near the Central Oregon Community College campus in northwest Bend. 

 

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Deschutes Co. Commissioners Urge Fire Preparedness Amid Hot Weather

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners ask everyone to get serious about wildfire preparedness. "The death toll in Maui is over 106, I believe. This is something I always worry about," Commissioner Patti Adair said at Wednesday's meeting, "I’m reaching out to all the community to please sign up for alerts. Now, I know it’s not a good idea to sleep with your phone right next to you, but just in case something happens. And the wind is blowing; clearly it’s when the wind is blowing - makes things all different."

Sign of for Deschutes Alerts HERE. The County tested the system in May, with around 45-thousand people registered. Adair says thousands more still need to get connected. "You can sign up to receive phone calls, text messages, emails and more, based on your location." Deschutes Alerts is most commonly used for wildfire evacuation warnings, but can also send notices of nearby law enforcement activity. Commissioner Tony DeBone says the state is working to ensure every county has a similar system in place. Find other counties' emergency alert systems HERE

Commissioner Phil Chang says prevention work is also needed, "There are the other 364 days of the year when the fire isn’t burning, where we should be doing everything we can to make our homes more resilient, to implement defensible space around our homes and to address fuel loads on the public lands and in industrial and large private forestland ownerships."

They also asked people to help neighbors who might not be able to do that defensible space work on their own, or who aren’t tech savvy and need help signing up for Deschutes Alerts.

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Bend-La Pine Schools Looks Ahead To New Bond Projects

BEND, OR -- Bend-La Pine Schools is preparing for students to return in just a few weeks, "We’re ramping up for 33 schools’ worth of students. So, getting that all in place and all in order," Superintendant Dr. Stephen Cook tells KBND News, "And trying to close up construction and projects that we’ve been working on this summer so schools are ready when kids and families return. There’s just a lot that we have to get going." He's also looking ahead to a number of bond-funded projects, "Just to update buildings for seismic expectations and things for earthquake - that kind of stuff."

Dr. Cook tells KBND News, "We’re going to be building a new gymnasium at Sky view, going to do some work at Juniper Elementary School, and probably the most common project that everybody might be aware of or know about is the renovation at Bend High. There’s a lot of planning and design work going on right now." Work at Juniper and Bend Senior High is funded by the $250 million bond passed by voters in 2022. The project at Juniper involves moving the main office for better visibility. Construction won't begin on the Bend High renovation for a while, "We anticipate the shovels hitting the dirt on that project, which will be the lion’s-share of that $250 million, probably breaking ground next summer." 

First, Cook says, new high-tech door locks and handles are coming to school classrooms, "You think about the thousands of classroom doors we have in our 33 schools; that’s no small task. And I think, right now, we have a list of schools to get started on. As soon as this fall, we’ll be working on those."

Dr. Cook says they’re also wrapping up projects funded by the 2017 bond. 

Image: Architectural rendering of early design plans for BSHS funded by the 2017 bond. 

Brightside Animal Shelter Needs Big Fans

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond’s Brightside Animal Center is asking for help to cool down the shelter. Executive Director Taylor Campbell tells KBND News kennels are full of animals dealing with the hot and smoky weather, “Brightside is in great need of some industrial fans to help cool down our dog kennel area as well as if people are willing to foster. If you have AC in your home, or a nice cool home that you can take a dog for a long weekend or a week and help them kind of cool down.”

Campbells says the shelter can help a home get ready for fostering, “We're willing to send you home with the supplies needed. Make the perfect match for that animal just to be able to provide them a more comfortable space while we're dealing with this time right now.”

They’ll also take gift cards to local pet stores to fulfill ever-changing summer needs. “Industrial fans would be a great need to help us cool down those areas and keep them comfortable. Frozen treats, Kongs, things like that, that we can fill with bone broth or peanut butter. Those types of things to give them a nice cool treat are things that we are in great need of,” says Campbell.

Industrial Fans can be dropped off at the Brightside center on 1355 NE Hemlock in Redmond, or the thrift store on 838 NW 5th street. 

The shelter can also pick up fans if necessary.

Poor Air Quality Continues, Canceling Some Outdoor Events

BEND, OR -- Central Oregon remains under an air quality alert until at least Thursday night, as smoke continues to blanket the region from two fires burning in the Willamette National Forest. Click HERE for more on the air quality in your area. The heatwave is expected to start easing Thursday, with high temperatures predicted to be about 10 degrees cooler than Wednesday.

My Morning Jacket canceled their Wednesday evening show at the Hayden Homes Amphitheater due to the poor air quality. Tickets will be refunded at the point of purchase.

My Morning Jacket’s statement on the cancelation:

Friends in Bend - We are so sorry to have to cancel tonight’s show due to the unhealthy air quality caused by wildfires in the area. This decision was not made lightly and we used the best possible information we have available at the present time out of concern for the safety of our fans and crew. Tickets for this show will be refunded. We are sending our support and appreciation to the firefighting teams that are working to control these fires. Please stay safe. We hope to return to Bend very soon.

Study Shows COCC's Economic Impact

BEND, OR -- A new study on community colleges shows COCC has a positive impact on Central Oregon’s economy, sending $289.6 million to Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson counties in the 2021-22 fiscal year, and supported over 35 hundred jobs.

“The overall impact is a great return on investment for the community," says Michael LaLonde, COCC’s Vice President of Finance and Operations, “For every dollar spent on the community college. The return to the community is about $6, which is massive.”

LaLonde tells KBND News a variety of local industries and businesses are bolstered by COCC graduates, “Manufacturing, retail, real estate, quite a few different things. There's a list of about 25 different industries that are supported with our graduates. Once they get a degree from here.”

COCC supports one out of every 43 jobs in the tri-county region. “Our graduates on average, make about $8,000 more per year compared to a high school grad. And over the course of their career, that equates to about $280,000,” LaLonde says, “So that helps the community, it helps spending in the community and the multiplier effect of that type of earnings is significant. And that's where we get the close to $300 million impact on the three counties.”

$300-million is about 2% of Central Oregon's gross regional product.

The study has been conducted for 20 years, but this is the first time it's included COCC alumni information which allowed for more data to be compiled, according to LaLonde. 

 

Bend Parks & Rec Disappointed With Water Lantern Festival

BEND, OR -- Last week's Water Lantern Festival was billed as "fun, happiness, hope and great memories." But the aftermath was not cherished by parks officials and river visitors. On its Instagram page, the group Loot the Deschutes documented piles of leftover lantern bases and abandoned lights floating in the water (pictured) and piled up on the banks.

The Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) now says it will reject future proposals for the Water Lantern Festival. The district sent the following statement to KBND News:

 

BPRD is disappointed that the organizer’s plan to confine the lanterns to a specific area was not successful. We also appreciate the community members’ efforts over the weekend to remove debris that was found in the river.

BPRD has notified organizers that any future event proposals for the Water Lantern Festival will not be approved. This is due to the issues that arose with containing the lanterns during the event, as well as the lack of communication, lack of remorse and lack of clean-up efforts. The inaction doesn’t alignment with our community’s values. 

The lantern festival had a rental reservation for their event at Riverbend Park. They went through the same process as all public event organizers – completing a request form, submitting a logistics plan, site map, and appropriate insurance. They also held their pre-event meeting with a BPRD staff person to review all details.

The lanterns event was a new concept for our community. When the proposal was submitted, we contacted other communities where it had occurred and they didn’t have issues that raised concerns. We approved the event based on our criteria – we always conduct this evaluation for event requests. The lanterns weren’t a fire concern and the plan was to contain them within 150 feet of the launch area.

BPRD staff worked throughout the weekend directly with organizers to strongly encourage them to work with Loot the Deschutes and other locals on clean-up efforts. Thanks to all involved in trying to make a difference, especially on the heels of the successful river clean-up event a couple weeks ago.

Highway Projects Continue Amid Heatwave

BEND, OR -- Construction crews are still on the job during this heatwave, but rules passed by Oregon OSHA last year are aimed at keeping workers safe. Kacey Davey, with the Oregon Department of Transportation, says her agency makes sure road crews don’t overheat while trying to keep projects moving forward. "We’re always providing shade, always providing cool water. But one of the biggest things we’re doing is trying to do all of the outside maintenance-heavy work during the morning," she tells KBND News, "And then, in the afternoon, when the sun is up high in the sky, then we’re doing a lot more of the greasing the trucks and the work we can do in the shops to keep our folks safe. So, make sure when you’re driving through all of our construction zones, to give them extra space and extra smiles as you go through there, because they’re working hard."

Similar precautions are taken during poor air quality, "If it’s really bad, smokey outside, we’re trying to keep our folks in our trucks, doing more of the transporting, hauling materials as much as we can indoors, where they’re protected."

Oregon OSHA also mandates employers create break schedules for crews working outside, when they're exposed to outdoor temps above 90. "We all follow OSHA’s rules and regulations," says Davey, "So, whether it’s around heat of the day and what you need to do to provide for your workers, or what you have to do when it’s wildfire smoke outside, everybody’s following those same set of rules."

Work on Bend’s North Corridor Project is moving forward, despite the heat. Davey says, "We’re just getting started on the Highway 97 part of that project. For that, still most of the work is off on the shoulder, where they’re starting to build the footings for the new parkway that you’ll see extend along the railroad track." The biggest traffic impacts for that multi-year projects remain on the Highway 20 side. 

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No Injuries In Redmond Rollover Crash

REDMOND, OR -- A minivan driver was cited for careless driving, following a two-vehicle crash that tied up traffic just south of Redmond Tuesday. Emergency crews responded to Highway 97 just before 11 a.m. and found a car on its side, and the minivan with front-end damage.

Redmond Police say medics evaluated two small children in the car that rolled but, luckily, no one was hurt in the crash.

 

Fuzztail Fire Forces Campground Evacuation

BEND, OR -- Thunderstorms moved through Central Oregon Tuesday afternoon, bringing scattered rain and the potential for new fires.

The Fuzztail Fire was reported Tuesday about five miles south of Bend. Sheriff’s deputies responded to China Hat Road and asked the public to avoid the area. The Swamp Wells Horse Camp was evacuated. Swamp Wells Trail is closed from FSRD 18 to the Swam Wells Horse Camp. The entirety of Fuzztail Butte Trail is also closed.

Initial fire attack included two air tankers, two dozers, four engines and a water tender. As of 5:30 p.m. it was estimated at 12 acres. 

While a smoke column from the Fuzztail Fire could be seen from Bend, the region is experiencing the most smoke impacts from other firest in the Willamette National Forest. Check air quality in your area HERE

 

City Staffer Bit By Dog During Camping Code Enforcement

BEND, OR -- A 60-year-old Bend man faces criminal charges after police say he ordered his dog to attack a 21-year-old city worker. Contractors and city staff were reportedly conducting camping code enforcement when the incident occurred, just before 10:30 Tuesday morning. 

According to Bend Police, Gerald Gosnell, Jr. was upset they were removing garbage from an encampment on NE Forum Drive. Gosnell was booked on multiple charges, including menacing and having an unlicensed animal. The dog was taken to the Humane Society of Central Oregon, and the victim was treated for a minor dog bite to his hand.

Bend Woman Arrested For Weapons Offense

BEND, OR -- Bend Police say a 33-year-old passenger pointed a gun at the driver of another vehicle, near NE 27th and Bear Creek Rd, Tuesday morning. Officers responded just before 10:30 a.m., where witnesses told them the woman was in an orange VW GTI.

Within minutes, a police drone operator located the suspect car at the 7-Eleven at Third and Franklin. Officers conducted a high-risk traffic stop in the parking lot; that means they had guns drawn while ordering the people out of the car. The driver and passenger complied.

Heather Gentry was arrested on changes of Menacing and Carrying a Concealed Weapon. Bend PD says a handgun was found in a purse inside the car. 

Simultaneous Murder Investigations Continue

BEND, OR -- Investigations continue into two recent murders in Bend. It’s been four weeks since the body of Evelyn Weaver was found inside her home on NW Hill Street. Her car was found abandoned in Klamath Falls. "The top priority in that case is locating the suspect," says Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels, "And police are working extremely hard, literally every day, to solve that murder and to get the person who did it in custody. That person really should be considered extremely dangerous, and should be behind bars." He tells KBND News, "Any person who is known to members of the public who people may suspect could’ve been involved in something like that, it doesn’t hurt just to bring that name forward." Gunnels adds, "Every piece of information helps in the long run."

Detectives also continue to look for 20-year-old Caleb Cegers (pictured), suspected of shooting a Redmond man last week in downtown Bend. "Police are in the process of locating that individual," says Gunnels, "They are working very diligently. I was working with detectives all last week and over the weekend with search warrants and other investigative tactics to try to locate that individual." Cegers' girlfriend is already charged in connection with helping him leave the scene. The victim in that shooting, 33-year-old Taylor Wyss, died at the hospital. 

Both cases have multiple law enforcement agencies working together, Gunnels says, similar to when the Major Incident Team responds, "What you need in those situations is a lot of investigators to kind of flood the zone. You need them on hand immediately after, and usually for weeks afterwards, to try to do follow up interviews and other investigation." Bend Police is the lead agency in the Weaver murder investigation. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is in charge of the downtown Bend shooting.
 

 

Bend Fire: Know Your Wildfire Evacuation Route

BEND, OR -- Reporting out of Hawaii indicates some in the path of the Maui fires had difficulty evacuating, due to blocked roads and little notice. With the high risk of wildfire in Central Oregon, a listener asked how gates blocking secondary access to some neighborhoods are opened fast enough during an evacuation.  

Bend’s Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki tells KBND News those gates are the responsibility of the property owner, "If they do lock them, there’s a requirement within the fire code to have a fire department fast response locking system. We use a brand name called Knox. That allows the fire department to carry one key and it allows us to unlock that padlock or the box that then has keys inside." He says the gates must be periodically tested to make sure they open both directions - to allow evacuees out and emergency crews in.

There’s an exception, though, in Deschutes River Woods, where the county owns and maintains a gate at the third access road for that community, "In order for us to open those, we need to follow protocol, which means notifying the railroad. We need the trains to stop. We’re able to unlock those and open them up and get people out of there." Derlacki says if you're concerned an emergency gate isn't functioning properly, talk to the property owner, which could be a homeowner or neighborhood association. If they are not responsive, contact the fire department. 

It’s important to know your closest evacuation route in advance, and whether your best way out of a community is through a locked gate. Although, Derlacki says, typically, how you got in is your best way out. And, he says, don’t wait until the last minute to leave, "If you’re getting a Level Two evacuation, which is that ‘be ready to go,’ plan on leaving. And not waiting until it’s at Level Three, so you don’t have to worry about that emergency gate, traffic is starting to back up; it’s starting to get heavy. That can be some of the most dangerous times."

If you’re forced to leave your home, Derlacki suggests checking in at an evacuation shelter, even if you don’t plan to stay, "Right now, one of the complications in Hawaii is no communications. Cell phones, regular phones are all down, so they can’t account for everybody. One of the ways they can account is people show up at shelters and say, ‘hey, this is my name, here’s my address, my whole family got out; we’re staying here.’ Now, when they’re looking through records it’s like, ‘now we know where this family is, this address. We can account for them.’"

 

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Cooling Shelters Open During Excessive Heat Warning

BEND, OR -- Local health officials and non-profits urge the public to take precautions during this week’s Excessive Heat Warning, and watch out for at-risk groups, in particular. Shepherd’s House says the area’s homeless population faces added challenges, and its shelters in Bend and Redmond are ready for an influx of people. “They're expected to meet the need, at present… So, it's just that there's going to be a higher demand and we're prepared for that,” says Aaron Mitchel from Shepherd’s House Ministries, “We’re also handing out masks for people so that way they can endure the heat but also kind of help filter the smoke that’s going on in the air.” The non-profit witll accept bottled water donations Tuesday at Mountain View Fellowship on 35th street in Redmond, and at the Division Street shelter in Bend.

Emily Horton, with Deschutes County Public Health, says other groups also need to take precautions during triple-digit temps, “The elderly, the very young, overweight or people with certain medical conditions are at high risk. And then of course, people who can't get out of the heat. So, people that are working outside.” Horton says people experiencing symptoms of heat illness should call 911. The Excessive Heat Warning is in effect through Thursday night.

Cooling shelters are now open in Deschutes County: 

  • The Lighthouse Navigation Center - 275 NE 2nd St., Bend
    • Will support as a daytime site with usual operations. 
    • Pets are allowed. 
  • Cascade Peer & Self Help Center - 1036 NE 8th St., Bend
    • Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. only. 
    • Pets are allowed. 
  • Council on Aging of Central Oregon - 1036 NE 5th St., Bend
    • August 13 – 18, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
    • Age restrictions for guests: Must be 60 or older; adult dependents and caregivers are welcome to accompany the 60+ individual(s).
    • Pets are not allowed at this time. 
  • Mosaic Community Health - 2965 NE Conners Ave Ste 280, Bend
    • August 15 – 18, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Only available to Mosaic patients. 
    • Service animals only. 
    • Cold drinks and snacks will be available in conference rooms for patients.
  • Mosaic Community Health - 1250 SW Veterans Way, Ste 120, Redmond
    • August 15 – 18, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Only available to Mosaic patients.
    • Service animals only. 
    • Cold drinks and snacks will be available in conference rooms for patients. 
  • Mountain View Fellowship - 1475 SW 35th St., Redmond
    • August 15 – August 16, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. 
    • Pets are allowed. 
    • Requesting donations of bottled water, electrolyte packets, food, sunscreen and hats. 
  • La Pine Activity Center - 16450 Victory Way, La Pine   
    • August 15 - August 18, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 
    • Open to all community members regardless of age  
    • Pets are not allowed. 
    • Requesting donations of bottled water.

Deschutes County Public Health suggests the following strategies to stay healthy during periods of smoke and heat:

  • Drink water and bring extra bottles for yourself and others.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you are thirsty. Talk to your doctor first if you are on water pills.
  • Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • Use air conditioning or a fan.
  • Don’t use a fan to blow extremely hot air on yourself – when temperatures cool and air quality improves to moderate or healthy (yellow or green on the Air Quality Index), open windows and doors to air out and cool homes and businesses
  • Wear lightweight and loose clothing.
  • Avoid using your stove or oven – plan ahead so you don’t need to generate additional heat in your home for meal preparation.
  • Avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day (3 - 7 p.m.)

Anyone can get heat-related illnesses. So think about the family and friends who may need you to check on them during extreme heat. People who are very young, elderly, overweight or have medical conditions are at higher risk, as are athletes or those who work outdoors. “People may not realize that heat-related illnesses can be deadly,” said Dr. Richard Fawcett, Deschutes County Health Officer, “so extremely hot temperatures should not be taken lightly.”

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Heavy sweating
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Decreased urine output

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature
  • Fatal if treatment delayed

 

Sen. Wyden Meets With Officials in Bend & La Pine

BEND, OR -- U.S. Senator Ron Wyden visited Bend and La Pine Saturday, talking with officials and community leaders about wildfire and healthcare.

“I have long specialized in health care and I think these health care centers are dollar for dollar about as good a buy as you can get. And La Pine is doing great,” Wyden said after visiting the site of the Community Health Center’s 27,000 square foot, three-story expansion project, for which the Democrat helped secure $3.1 million in federal funds. “I happen to think dollar for dollar one of the best things that is done in health policy, is supporting these health centers,” he said, adding community health centers are important for preventative care.

The Senator also talked to wildfire managers from the Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, Bureau of Land Management, and Warm Springs, along with State Representative Emerson Levy, Deschutes County Commissioners Phil Chang and Tony Debone, and Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler at the Deschutes National Forest office in Bend about the wildfire outlook. 

They told him this year's fire season hasn’t been as bad because lightning hasn’t been a factor, but firefighter retention and recruitment is a major concern.

“The bump up that firefighters got expires here in a few weeks. And I just think this is a four-alarm fire about firefighters,” Wyden told KBND News addressing firefighter pay is a top priority when he returns to Washington next month, “It should involve bump up and pay retention bonuses and professionalizing the field, so it's available year-round.”

 

Hamehook To Close For Roundabout Construction

BEND, OR -- The new roundabout at Deschutes Market and Hamehook is taking shape, but drivers should prepare for delays and detours over the next month.  "Deschutes Market Road is one of the highest volume roads within the Deschutes County system; you know, upwards of 8,000+ vehicles per day. So, working around traffic is a challenge out there," says Deschutes County Roads Director Chris Doty. Flaggers are controlling traffic through single-lane closures, until August 24. "The roundabout’s kind of tucked in one corner of the intersection and to make those connections requires really jumping out into traffic; it’s a real difficult part of the project," says Doty, "So, the contractor’s flagging it 24/7 for the next couple weeks."

Then, beginning Thursday (Aug. 17), Hamehook will close through September seventh. "From Butler Market Road to the north, will be mostly open just to local traffic during that closure. So, if you’re a normal Hamehook user, you’re going to want to continue on Butler Market, and take Deschutes Market further to the west and kind of wrap around the other side of the project." Doty tells KBND News, "Luckily the system is such that people can avoid this without a lot of out of direction travel. And once it’s opened back up, it’ll be available and certainly a lot safer with a roundabout in place at that intersection."

The roundabout should open October first. "Certainly, there’s a lot of work left to do. Weather can always play a factor, as well. But that’s the construction target date, per contract, and we have every reason to believe it’ll be at that time - and hopefully sooner." Construction began on the $2.1 million project in the spring.

 

New Bus Riders Invited To Bend-La Pine Safety Course

BEND, OR -- Bend-La Pine students new to riding the bus, including kindergarteners, are invited to get on a school bus and learn about safety this week. The district’s transportation department hosts the Winnie the Pooh School Bus safety program to reduce the intimidation felt by some students.

One-hour sessions take place between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the following dates and locations:

  • Tuesday, August 15 - Bend-La Pine Transportation Department, 501 SE Second Street, Bend
  • Wednesday, August 16 - Bend-La Pine Transportation Department, 501 SE Second Street, Bend
  • Friday, August 18 - La Pine Elementary, 51615 Coach Rd, La Pine

Students will learn how to cross the street safely, line up to wait for the bus and about behavior expectations while riding the bus. A Spanish-speaking staff member will be available during all sessions. Refreshments will be provided. 

For more information on the Winnie the Pooh School Bus Safety Program, contact 541-355-5702.

Governor Discusses Homeless Crisis With Local Mayors, Commissioner

BEND, OR -- The Mayors of Bend and Redmond and a Deschutes County Commissioner met Friday with the Governor to discuss the possibility of opening a managed homeless camp outside the Urban Growth Boundary. Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler says the 30-minute conversation was productive, "I think everyone in the region is aligned that this sort of outdoor shelter model is something we’re really lacking. So, it was encouraging to have her be really supportive of that and try to see how we can all work together to achieve that."

Kebler says she looks forward to partnering with the county and state, "I think we have to be willing to look at everything seriously and not let the conversation get derailed before it starts. And I think the Governor was asking us, ‘how can I support you all in doing that?’ And help express to the community how important it is to get a supervised place where people can park their RVs, a place where people can camp outside. Because, if we don’t do that, we get the status quo, which is not acceptable to anybody." She tells KBND News, "We’ve got to have this alternative outdoor shelter option. We can’t just build more congregate shelters in hotels and motels. There’s a population that needs a different solution to stabilize and sort of start moving out of homelessness. I think we have really good alignment on that across all the jurisdictions. It’s just sort of - how do we execute on starting to create those safe places for people to go?"

In a statement emailed to KBND News after the meeting, Governor Tina Kotek said, "We know that homelessness looks different in different parts of the state, and solutions that work for one region may not work for another. I am committed to being a partner across the state to ensure access to safe, clean, shelter for people who need it. I continue to firmly believe that we must exhaust every possible option within the UGB for shelter sites that provide practical options for people experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon like safe park sites and other alternatives to outdoor camping sites particularly as winter approaches. My conversation with local elected county leaders today yielded common ground, and, I hope, a path forward."

Mayor Kebler hopes that "path forward" includes funding to help create a managed camp. She says Bend is ready to be a partner, "Ultimately, it is going to take the local coordination together to get this done. And we’re ready and willing to offer what land and areas we can that we are in charge of, and continue to try to support coming together with the county and the joint office to make something happen as soon as possible."

Kebler is looking ahead to a planned emergency meeting with the Coordinated Houseless Response Office and federal land management agencies to discuss possible options.

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Cougar Spotted In NW Bend

BEND, OR -- A young cougar was spotted on NW O'Brien Court in Bend, Saturday at about 11:05 a.m. The neighbor who called police showed officers a video of the cougar in a yard, but police were unable to locate the big cat in a search of the area that included the nearby Central Oregon Community College campus. Bend Police provided information to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

BPD urges people to be alert to their surroundings and protect pets by keeping them on leash. Report cougar sightings to non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911 or ODFW, if you believe the animal poses a threat to humans. Learn more about cougars in Oregon HERE.

Crews Knock Down Crook Co. Brush Fire

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Fire crews held a Crook County brush fire to about an acre Friday afternoon. Firefighters were dispatched to SW Rimrock Road at about 12:15 p.m. and found flames across several properties, threatening at least four buildings, including two houses.

Two CCF&R engines, a water tender, ambulance, several command vehicles and wildland engines from several state and federal agencies responded. They were able to knock down the blaze before it caused any structural damage. 

The cause was determined to be a burn barrel left too close to combustible materials.

New Bus Service Operating In Oregon

BEND, OR -- A new bus service is now in Oregon, providing daily trips to more than a dozen cities, including Portland, Bend, Eugene and Klamath Falls. Megabus is one of the largest bus companies in North America. It launched service in Oregon this week, through a partnership with Pacific Crest Bus Lines

Megabus Vice President Colin Emberson says this is just a first step in a plan to eventually connect Oregon with its nationwide system, "By using partnerships and teaming up with really good operators in geographies that we’re not - and here, what we’re doing is partnership with Pacific Crest - it’s allowed us to add just over 400 cities to our network in the last 12 months." He tells KBND News this latest partnership connects a total of 24 cities in Oregon and California, "Like with an airline with connecting flights - so it’s not just about where you can go on that one bus, but where can you get to, say if you get into Denver, you can go all the way east to Indianapolis. And then from Indianapolis, all the way east to New York."
Megabus offers same-day ticketing, although Emberson urges holiday travelers to book in advance, "When we started Megabus years ago, we were a bit surprised to find out that even somebody, for a 10 hour bus trip, there’s a lot of people buying that ticket a couple hours, 30 minutes before."

Emberson says bus travel should be comfortable, "They’re all ADA accessible with various amenities, like outlets and wifi and things of that nature. So, the more luxurious, over the road, not your transit bus, but obviously for something like a couple hours on the bus, a bathroom is pretty important." He also believes it attracts eco-conscious travelers, "When you compare bus to other modes of transportation like, obviously the car or even planes or trains, it’s by far the most environmentally friendly option."

New daily trips are available between Bend and these 13 Oregon cities:

  • Altamont
  • Chemult
  • Chiloquin
  • Crescet
  • Eugene
  • Gilchris
  • Klamath Falls
  • La Pine
  • Portland
  • Redmond
  • Salem 
  • Sisters
  • Sunriver

The partnership also includes additional trips between Portland and three cities, Salem and three cities and Eugene and two cities. Schedules and tickets are available HERE

 

DCSO Names Suspect In Bend Shooting, Seeks Public's Help

BEND, OR -- Despite executing search warrants at two locations, investigators say they have not located the man suspected in a fatal downtown Bend shooting. The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office took over the case, after Bend Police discovered the Chief is related to a witness to the shooting that occurred just after midnight Thursday

DCSO says 20-year-old Caleb Joseph Cegers is the primary suspect. The SWAT team searched a location on Astro Place, near Brookswood Blvd, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. A second search warrant was executed on Cackler Lane, off Butler Market, at 3 a.m. Friday. Cegers was not found in either search.

However, they arrested 21-year-old Sadie Cole, of Bend, on Assault IV, Hindering Prosecution and Criminal Mischief charges. DCSO tells KBND News she is Cegers' girlfriend and is accused of helping him leave the scene of the shooting. 

They've also identified the victim in the shooting as 33-year-old Taylor Shae Wyss, of Redmond. 

Anyone with information on Cegers' whereabouts is asked to call 911; he is believed to be armed and dangerous and should not be approached. 

Non-Profits Assist With OHP Enrollment

BEND, OR -- Three local nonprofits - Mosaic Community Health, Latino Community Association, and Volunteers in Medicine got hundreds of immigrants on to the Oregon Health Plan over the last year.

Mosaic’s Strategy and Development Director Elaine Knobbs-Seasholtz tells KBND News $300,000 from an Oregon Health Authority grant supports local outreach, enrollment, and navigation activities, “Our three entities have worked so hard to build trust in the immigrant community and we know we're going to be stronger together to really get out this amazing opportunity into the community.”

The program started last year with some restrictions. As of July 1, those restrictions were lifted so Oregonians of all ages who meet income and other criteria are eligible to receive no-cost healthcare and other benefits.

“Our collective group has been able to provide navigation support to more than 400 eligible people. And our partnership has enrolled 300 individuals in Oregon Health Plan,” Knobbs-Seasholtz says, adding another grant awarded this year allows them to build on that success, “We've done lots of these presentations collectively LCA, VIM, and Mosaic, at churches, businesses, events... So being able to talk directly to people is so powerful and has been able to spread the word.”

They plan to ramp up OHP outreach efforts over the next year.

 

Air Quality Advisory Holds Until Sunday

BEND, OR -- Oregon's DEQ renewed an air quality advisory for Deschutes County and eastern Lane County, due to smoke from the Bedrock Fire. It's expected to remain in place until at least Sunday. Intermittent smoke is also predicted for northern Klamath and Lake counties. 

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions on the Oregon Smoke Information Blog, DEQ’s Air Quality Index, or by downloading the free OregonAIR app on your smartphone.

The Bedrock Fire was first reported in the Willamette National Forest on July 22. As of Friday morning, it's estimated at 15,178 acres and 10% contained.

 

Photo: The Bedrock Fire burns in the Willamette National Forest, 08/06/2023.

Local Drug Detectives Crack Down On Fentanyl Trafficking In Camps

BEND, OR -- Earlier this week, CODE Detectives arrested an alleged drug trafficker operating in China Hat Road camps, highlighting increased drug enforcement efforts in these areas. "Many of these Drug Trade Organizations have started recognizing the vulnerable communities that are in homeless encampments," Sgt. Kent van der Kamp tells KBND News.

He oversees the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) team and says over the last eight to 12 months, Drug Trade Organizations (DTOs) from Mexico and Honduras gained a foothold in camps - first in Portland and now here, selling cheap and highly addictive fentanyl. "And there’s different theories," says Sgt. van der Kamp, "One of them is that they feel safe and they can operate with impunity because the police are less likely to come into the camp and raid the camp. So we’re seeing that quite often, right now. And we have seen that practice being used here, where they’re finding a vulnerable person - usually an addict - to be a runner or to be a holder for them and distribute the drugs within the camps; because there is a large population inside those camps that are fentanyl addicts." He adds, "We knew that that was going on, but it has progressively gotten worse, and perhaps maybe it’s because the camps are now consolidating and they’re becoming a little bit more concentrated."

He speculates traffickers think they’re protected by a houseless community hesitant to contact police. But that has changed, "They’ve actually reached out to us saying, ‘hey, I’m not feeling safe. This is what’s going on in the camp that I’m living in, and these are the people doing it. But if they find out that I’m talking to the police, they’re going to beat me up and throw me out of the camp and I’ve got nowhere to live."

Van der Kamp insists CODE doesn't investigate the camps, but the illegal activity happening inside, "With the drug sales and that environment comes violence and theft and extortion and stories of human trafficking, where these fentanyl distributors are using other Honduran kids to sell drugs. So, that’s what we’re focusing on; not so much the homelessness part, but that’s where the targets are taking us."

Click HERE to listen to the full exclusive conversation with CODE commander Sgt. Kent van der Kamp.

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Overnight Shooting In Bend Leaves One Person Dead

BEND, OR -- One person is dead after an overnight shooting in downtown Bend. Police responded to the area near NW Wall and Oregon Ave. just after midnight Thursday, and found a man on the ground with a gunshot wound. Despite life-saving efforts by officers and paramedics, he died at the hospital. 

Investigators say the shooter left before police arrived. Officers closed Wall Street between Greenwood and Oregon, and Oregon between Bond and Tumalo streets for four hours for the investigation. 

Bend Police released no other information, due to the ongoing nature of the investigation. 

UPDATE: Bend PD now says the victim is a 33-year-old Redmond man. Investigators have identified a suspect, although his name has not been released. 

 

Bend Roundtable Talks New Transportation Fee

BEND, OR -- Residential utility bills in Bend could see an additional $15 a month next year, if the city approves a proposed transportation fee. They hosted a roundtable Wednesday to hear from community partners. 

Bend Streets and Operations Director David Abbas reports less money is coming from the two main revenue streams that pay for transportation infrastructure, “State fuel tax is flat or declining. And then the general fund has constraints and, and limitations locked in from the low property tax rate and the increasing needs and priorities of the community for that general funding.”

The city is looking for $15-million a year, $8-million from residential customers, $7-million from non-residential. It would likely mean $12 to $15 a month tacked on to a residential utility bill starting next year.

Gina Franzosa, an engineer representing the transportation bond oversite committee and a neighborhood association, thinks the proposed residential fee is too high, “$10 a month…Just gut feeling, feels better. But either way I'd like more detail than we are going to implement these programs.”

The proposed non-residential transportation fee of $215 dollars a month got some push back from Katie Anderson, board chair-elect of the Bend Chamber of Commerce, “What I would ask is that we continue to balance how this impacts our business community, especially given the latest round of fee increases. There's a lot of impact that our businesses are feeling whether it's from the business license fees, the increase of SDCs.”

Envision Bend’s James Dorofi says surveys show increased safety is a priority, “People want people to go slower. They want people to signal at roundabouts, Reduce traffic congestion.”

Another roundtable meeting to discuss the fee’s equity, transparency, and accountability is set for next month.

 

Bend, Redmond, County Meet Friday With Gov. Kotek

BEND, OR -- The Mayors of Bend and Redmond and a Deschutes County Commissioner plan to talk Friday with Governor Tina Kotek about Central Oregon’s homeless crisis. Commissioner Patti Adair says they’ll meet over Zoom. "We’ve been asking for - you know, the letter that we’ve been sending to the Governor, regarding having a managed camp outside of the UGB. We are having that conversation. Hopefully the Governor is going to respond with positive back and forth," Adair said Wednesday, "So we can actually get those camps, so that the people can actually move somewhere within Deschutes County. But, we really need to get them out of China Hat." The county needs to create a managed camp before it would be allowed to enforce a proposed camping ban on county-owned land.

Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch says the region needs more flexibility from the state, "It’s difficult to site these homeless facilities in town, given the conflicts with adjoining properties and neighbors." He told KBND News, "We also see the need for some additional infusion of money for the capital part - that is, building these homeless camps so they can be in a safe location and there won’t be as much conflict with the community."

Kotek said last month she’s hesitant to approve what she called “unprecedented” waiver authority without proof the region has exhausted options for a camp inside the Urban Growth Boundary. Her office confirms she's scheduled to meet with the Mayors and Commissioner Adair Friday. 

 

County Camping Code Revised, Awaits Final Approval

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County's proposed camping ban on county-owned land won’t be in place until late November, at the earliest. County Commissioners approved another first reading of the new code Wednesday, after a revision to allow the county to also enforce the ban on city, state or federal land outside incorporated cities, under the right circumstances. "If they wanted to essentially enter into some sort of agreement with the county to allow enforcement of the county code on those city lands or state lands or federal lands that are located within the unincorporated county," says County Legal Counsel Dave Doyle, "We wanted to at least have procedurally a process for that."

Doyle told Commissioners the revision came after public testimony from people who live near homeless camps off China Hat Road, which is federal forestland not governed by county rules, "They were hopeful that we could do something with regard to their properties, and we’re trying to provide every opportunity to do that, provided the federal government’s inclined to do that." He added, "[It] Doesn’t compel anybody to do anything and it would require obviously an agreement on both sides, be it the city and the county or the federal and the county or the state and the county. So, there’d be quite a bit of work to get there. There’s the whole enforcement piece, which I assume would have something to do with the Sheriff’s Office, at a minimum, and perhaps code enforcement as well."

Under the proposed code, sleeping or overnight camping would be banned at any county owned or controlled property, except where expressly allowed. But, Doyle reminded Commissioners, it would not immediately end unsanctioned camping outside city limits, "Even if the federal government were to enter into some sort of agreement and say, ‘yeah, let’s get you helping us at China Hat utilizing these code provisions,’ we still have to have alternate shelter sites. As I’ve said, many, many times: it’s predicated on having somewhere else to direct people to go, if you’re going to tell them you can’t be where they are." To meet that goal, Commissioner Patti Adair wants the Governor to allow the county to open a managed camp outside the UGB

Commissioners are expected to approve the second reading of the county camping code in two weeks; that starts a 90-day clock, "You’d be looking at probably late November to have these code revisions become effective," Doyle said Wednesday.

 

Deschutes Co. Commissioners Set Hearing Date For New City

BEND, OR -- County Commissioners will discuss next month the proposed creation of a new city in Deschutes County. A group has petitioned to incorporate about 265 square miles around the Millican area, southeast of Bend, with an estimated population of 160. They would name the town “Mountain View.”

According to the county clerk’s office, 29 people living in the area signed a petition to incorporate, which is the required 20% needed for certification.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the petition at 9 a.m. on September 20th.

 

Bend Man Accused Of Threatening People With Several Weapons

BEND, OR -- Bend Police arrested a 46-year-old this week on multiple charges after officers say he threatened several people with a shotgun and knife on NE Dekalb. Robert Gwin is also accused of hitting a truck with a metal object.

When police arrived at about 9:15 p.m. Monday, they say Gwin got into his car. He refused to exit and eventually climbed onto the hood and then the roof, where he stood talking on his phone. He wore a harness and a kilt, with multiple obects hanging from it, and had a 10" knife on his wast and a 3" knife holstered to his ankle.

When he repeatedly refused commands, officers fired two less-lethal rounds and tased him to take him into custody. Gwin was evaluated at the hospital before going to jail, where he was booked on charges including Menacing and Resisting Arrest.

Bourbon, Gun Cleaning Reportedly Involved In Accidental Shooting

BEND, OR -- A Bend man is recovering after police say he shot himself in the leg then passed out and crashed while trying to drive himself to the hospital.

Police responded to the crash scene Tuesday, just before 11 p.m., near the entrance to The Center. A Subaru Legacy hit a pillar and stopped on the sidewalk. The driver was lying nearby, where a security guard worked to apply a tourniquet. He was taken by ambulance to the St. Charles Emergency Room, just around the corner.

A friend called 911 to report the crash and accompany the man to the hospital. He says they had been shooting handguns earlier in the day and returned to the man’s NE Purcell Boulevard apartment, where they drank bourbon and cleaned their guns. That’s when he reportedly accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting himself in the left leg.

The incident remains under investigation.

OR SOS: Sen. Knopp, Others Will Not Be Allowed To Run In 2024 Election

SALEM, OR -- Oregon’s Secretary of State has directed the Elections Division to enforce Measure 113, which disqualifies state lawmakers from running for re-election if they have too many unexcused absences. 

Sec. LaVonne Griffin denied our request for an interview, but said in a statement legislators with 10 or more unexcused absences during the 2023 session cannot run for their seat in 2024. Some had suggested they wouldn’t be barred from running until 2028. 

Governor Tina Kotek agrees with the Secretary’s decision, "I think her ruling was in line with what was the intent of the voters in the passage of that measure." She responded to media questions Tuesday, saying, "I did not consult with the Secretary of State on her decision. And, I think, ultimately this will be decided in the courts. That is not unusual. Measures do get challenged from time to time." 

Ten State Senators racked up more than 10 unexcused absences during the GOP-led 2023 walkout. Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) is among them. Following the Secretary's announcement, Knopp released the following statement:

"After repeated unlawful and unconstitutional actions by President Rob Wagner and other Democrat leaders in the 2023 Session, Senate Republicans held them accountable by peacefully pausing the session to gain compliance with Senate Rules, Oregon Law, and the Oregon Constitution. In retaliation, Wagner was quick to impose unexcused absences on members who challenged his failed leadership. It appears the Democrat Attorney General and the Democrat Secretary of State are willing to cover for the Democrat Senate President Rob Wagner’s decision to ensure Measure 113 quashes the free speech of minority Senate Republicans as it was designed to do by political special interests. We believe the plain language of Measure 113 allows for members to run again in 2024 elections. We disagree with the Secretary of State’s determination and will challenge it in court."

 

City Committee Wants Input On Housing Costs

BEND, OR -- The city of Bend is looking for input on the cost of housing.

Bend’s Affordable Housing Manager Racheal Egan Baker tells KBND news a meeting Wednesday afternoon is required by the state, “The city of Bend qualifies as one of those cities because we have greater than a quarter of our community severely rent burdened. A household is a considered ‘rent burdened’ if they spend more than a third of their household income on housing costs.  A household is considered ‘severely rent burdened’ if they spend over half of their income on housing costs.”

The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee is made up of members in the housing industry, and public advocates. “The committee and the City of Bend wish to hear about the community's housing experiences and if rent burdened how the households address other needs, in addition to any ideas, they might have to address their rent burden experience,” Baker says.

Wednesday’s public meeting is at 3 p.m. at City Hall and virtually at bendoregon.gov

 

Clean Up Of County-Owned Land In Juniper Ridge Begins This Week

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County officials say the first phase of cleaning up encampments on county-owned land in Juniper Ridge is underway this week. The area north of Bend has long been home to a large houseless community, but Commissioners say the camp poses serious health and safety concerns.

Contractors will install and maintain temporary drinking water stations, trash cans and portable toilets. They’ll also begin clearing debris.

Officials say campers will be allowed to stay while the county explores options for a managed campsite inside Deschutes County's boundary. The county's legal counsel has said a managed camp is required before a camping ordinance could be enforced within the county. 

 

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Pickup Crashes Into Bend-Area Canal

BEND, OR -- A Bend 18-year-old is accused of DUII, following an early morning crash on Innes Market Road. Deschutes County deputies responded to the area just after 1:30 a.m. Tuesday on a report of a full sized pickup into the irrigation canal, with a large amount of debris in the road. 

Deputies say the driver, Cameron Dowling, declined medical attention for his minor injuries. But they believe he was intoxicated at the time of the crash. He was arrested for Driving Under the Influence and Reckless Driving. As of Tuesday afternoon, he is no longer listed as an inmate at the Deschutes County Jail. 

Prineville Man Arrested After Standoff With Police

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Prineville Police first responded to a home near NW Seventh and Ewen Monday evening on a report of an intoxicated man who had shot and killed a dog. He'd also allegedly threatened a neighbor. 

PPD and deputies from the Crook County Sheriff's Office tried to get the 65-year-old man to come out of his home, but he refused. The Central Oregon Emergency Response Team (CERT) responded to the home and established contact with the suspect. He was taken into custody a short time later. During a search of the house, police found several guns and ammunition. 

Jeffery Thrasher is charged with Aggravated Animal Abuse, Unlawful Use of a Weapon and Disorderly Conduct.

Final HWY 20 Medal Of Honor Dedication Saturday

BOSTON, MA -- This Saturday, Massachusetts will dedicate its Medal of Honor Highway, completing the 12-state Highway 20 designation honoring the more than 3,500 congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

“It is a great feeling to set a goal a long time ago and stick with it. Working with people I never knew in all those states. I had to convince them to do it,” says Dick Tobiason, chairman of the Bend Heroes Foundation. He started the project in 2017, hoping to erect signs on the U.S. Highway that stretches from Newport, OR to Boston, MA. “I wrote the legislation for each state and then I had to find a champion to get it through the legislature and get the governor to sign it. So that's why it took five years because there's 12 different states and each have a different way of doing business. It's just a case of just showing up every day and getting the job done.” He’s also pushing for a national designation for the Highway. “People love veterans. Look at how quickly on the day that Senator Wyden introduced the bill on May 9th, Senator Merkley and then Representative Laurie Chavez Deremer and Representative Cliff Benz all signed on,” Tobiason says, adding it could take some time to get that bill through Congress but it’s worth the effort.

During Saturday’s ceremony at Kenmore Square in Boston, Tobiason will specifically think of Bob Maxwell, a Medal of Honor recipient from Bend who passed away in 2019, “He died knowing that I would keep my promise to him to designate all 12 states.”

The dedication ceremony will include state and national leaders, along with many veterans groups. Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Navy Captain Thomas G. Kelley will represent the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and all 65 living Medal of Honor recipients.

 

CODE Prioritizing Drug Trafficking In Homeless Camps

BEND, OR -- A 31-year-old Bend man is accused of trafficking fentanyl inside the large encampment near China Hat Road, south of town. The Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team concluded its investigation into Harley-Davidson Mann with his arrest Monday. 

Detectives believe Mann imported drugs from the Portland area and distributed them in the China Hat Road camps. He was taken into custody during a traffic stop Monday evening, near China Hat and Sunset View Dr. Mann consented to a search of his gold Oldsmobile after a K9 alerted to the presence of drugs. CODE says they seized a commercial quantity of fake tablets made of fentanyl and separate packages of powdered fentanyl, along with a commercial quantity of cocaine and a large amount of cash. 

According to a new state law passed in the 2023 legislative session, a "commercial quantity" of fentanyl is now 25 or more pills, or five grams or more. In a statement, CODE says it will "continue prioritizing and focusing on drug traffickers, violent crimes, weapons offenses, and fugitives within the homeless encampments around the central Oregon region." 

Accused Burglar Escapes From Ambulance With Hands Cuffed, Quickly Recaptured

BEND, OR -- A Bend teen is accused of breaking into a gun store, and running from police after his arrest. Bend Police responded to Hammer Down Firearms on NE Third Street Monday morning and found a broken window. Employees reported a short-barrel rifle, suppressor and a green dot sight were missing. 

Through surveillance footage, investigators identified 19-year-old Thomas Dillard III as the man suspected of the early morning burglary. Monday afternoon, they found Dillard at a transient camp near SE Second and Aune. Bend PD says he had bolt cutters next to him, and fentanyl and the stolen gun were recovered from inside his backpack.

While getting booked into the jail, Dillard reportedly told staff he'd swallowed 10 fentanyl pills, so paramedics were asked to take him to the hospital. Hands still cuffed behind is back and police following in a patrol car, Bend PD says Dillard escaped from the ambulance, near NE 27th and Rosemary Dr. The officer following the ambulance ran after Dillard and caught him allegedly attempting to jump a fence. He was then returned to jail and booked on a list of charges including Burglary, Escape and Initiating a False Report. 

Smith Rock Footbridge To Close For Six Weeks

TERREBONNE, OR -- The footbridge at Smith Rock State Park will be torn out and replaced. "It was constructed 50 years ago," says Park Manager Matt Davey, "It was reconstructed after a flooding event 30 years ago. And in the last 10, our inspectors have actually seen it warping and overturning, which is a sign that it needs to be replaced now." He says there is a small window of time the work can be done, due to limitations on when equipment is allowed in the Crooked River, "Bracing will have to be placed in the river while they demolish the old bridge and set the new one in place, too. So, we have to be within this in-water work period, per our permit. And then, there’s also raptor nesting season at the park." That season runs from winter through July.  

Prep work is underway now, and the bridge will fully close next Monday, August 14, for six weeks. "We’re discouraging park visitors from wading across the river or hopping on boulders to get across to the other side, because first responders can’t get over to the other side easily, either. So, they won’t have access to the bridge, including our own park staff that will not be able to service trails or maintain the restroom on the other side of the river." He says water levels also change throughout the day, and a person could get trapped on the other side. Davey encourages visitors to enjoy hiking and climbing trails accessible without crossing the river, "We have park staff that will be out and about and educating a lot of visitors that didn’t know about this, about other options for a hike at the park, during this closure period." Flyers are also going up around the park and inside Terrebonne businesses, to alert visitors of the temporary change. 

The new span will be eight feet wide to better accommodate visitors and first responders during rescue operations at the popular park. It’s scheduled to reopen September 22. Updates to the project will be posted HERE.

 

More Bend Apartments Come Online Soon

BEND, OR -- Development of multi-family housing is picking up in Bend. Pat Kesgard, with Compass Commercial Real Estate, says around 2,000 units came online over the last few years. But now, "Either just finished or going to be finished in the next six or eight months, there’s another 1,200."

He says many of those projects are considered in-fill - using available land mixed with other commercial uses, "Behind Verizon there at Reed Market and Third Street, there’s some infill going in there of apartments. Over by the Phoenix Restaurant, off of 27th and Highway 20, infill apartments." More than 200 units were just finished on Deschutes Market Road

Kesgard tells KBND News more are coming, "There are a number of large projects that are going through permitting; some of have received permitting. So, like Costco, they’ve received their permits. You’re going to have Costco, you’re going to have some other retail, you’re going to have a lot of apartments." And, "On the other side of Cooley Road, on the north side of Cooley Road, a developer has a couple of hundred acres there tied up for a mixture of single-family apartments, single-family dwellings, as well as a commercial element. Not sure when that will come out of the ground."

The big question to remain: will rental rates come down, with so much new inventory? "From a standpoint of making Bend more affordable, hopefully we’ll have a little bit of rent relief in these new projects," But, Kesgard says, that will depend on how many people move to Bend to live in all those new units. 

 

JCSO To Hire Drug Deputy, Rejoin Regional Taskforce

MADRAS, OR -- Jefferson County got the go-ahead last week to hire a new deputy dedicated to drug enforcement, and serve as detective on the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team.

Sheriff Jason Pollock tells KBND News the combination of decriminalizing hard drugs, and Jefferson County leaving CODE in 2013 has had a negative effect, “I think the community sees that, people in law enforcement see that. My hope is that we can turn it around or at least make it much, much harder for people to buy and sell drugs in Jefferson County.” Rejoining CODE after 10 years away is a goal Sheriff Pollock set when he was elected last year. “It's a big network of, a lot of moving parts. And so, without the right resources, it makes it hard for just one agency or one person to be able to deal with them. So that's, that's why it's important for us to be on the team,” he said, adding he feels good about the prospect of hiring a drug enforcement deputy, “It's not going to be easy work, but in the end, I'm hoping it has a big impact and a big result for Jefferson County and makes a statement on those that want to come into our community and deal narcotics. Pushing them out of here is going to be the most exciting part. This is just the beginning steps of getting where we would like to see the Jefferson County community.”

Sheriff Pollock would like to get a deputy on duty within the next few months.

 

Bend E-Bike Rebate Program Ends

BEND, OR -- Bend’s e-bike rebate program has come to a close after more than 600 applications. "We had 75 residents of the city of Bend receive their awards and go get their bicycles," Commute Options Executive Director Brian Potwin tells KBND News. Commute Options managed the program, distributing $2,000 vouchers to qualified applicants, "They were able to ditch the car and use this as an important feature to be able to get to and from work, to be able to pick up their children. A lot of folks got commuter bikes; some people actually spent a little more money and got cargo bikes. So this is really a mode shift for them." The rebates were funded by a $150,000 Electric Mobility Grant from Pacific Power. 

Potwin says recipients had to meet residency and income requirements, and complete an online electric bike safety class, "We took it upon ourselves to create the E-bike safety course online, to make it accessible to the applicants." That course is also available to the public for free HERE

He hopes the program will return for another round. "We had over 600+ people apply for the funding, so we’re very pleased with the interest level," says Potwin, "Also, this really shows the need for more transportation options within the city of Bend."

 

Bend PD Seeks Tesla Owners' Assistance In Weaver Murder

BEND, OR -- Bend Police continue to investigate the murder of Evelyn Weaver, and are asking for more surveillance footage that could help. 

Weaver’s body was found July 18th, in her Bend home on Northwest Hill Street. Video evidence shows a man parking her 2004 silver Honda CR-V with Oregon license plate 085 BMP, in Klamath Falls three days earlier, on July 15th. 

“Our detectives are asking Tesla owners or drivers who might have been in Bend on July 14th between 3 and 5 PM to review that video,” Bend PD’s Sheila Miller tells KBND News people may not be aware their camera recorded something important, “We're trying to reach out to all these different groups and Teslas happen to have this video surveillance technology that may really help us.”

Authorities want video from these areas: 

- NW Florida Avenue between Chamberlain and Hill streets

- NW Chamberlain, Sisemore, Harriman and Hill streets between NW Florida Avenue and NW Arizona Avenue

- Southbound Bend Parkway

- SE Third Street 

Investigators have already asked the public for surveillance video taken between Bend and Klamath Falls on Highway 97. 

If you locate any video of interest, please contact Bend Police Detective Sgt. Tommy Russell at 541-312-7955 or trussell@bendoregon.gov.

Detectives have determined the cause of death, but Miller says that’s not being released.

Bend Police Use Drones As First Responder

BEND, OR -- Gresham Police said last week it was the first in the state to use drones as first responders. However, Bend Police now say it has been testing its own such program since March. 

Lt. Brian Beekman manages the team and says drones provide important information to responding officers before they arrive in their patrol car, "If a drone is immediately able to launch, it can go directly to a call at a speed of 20-30 miles an hour, except no traffic lights, no congestion, no pedestrians. It can just go directly to the call and figure out what’s going on." He tells KBND News, "In a hazardous or dangerous situation, if you can get a drone to the scene that can see in real time what is happening, is there a weapon involved, is there not? Is the suspect on scene; are they not? If we can get that information immediately to first responders, that makes the call safer for everyone and makes the outcome better."

Beekman says Oregon has strict privacy rules for drones, and the camera can only operate over a scene when it can be justified as a law enforcement purpose. Bend PD's drone program began in 2016.

Bend isn’t using drones as frequently as Gresham, partly because it would require an officer be stationed in one location and maintain visual contact with the drone, as required by the FAA. GPD uses City Hall as its launch point. But Bend’s footprint is bigger than Gresham. And Beekman says that makes it more difficult to decide where that station would be. "27th Street by the dump, I don’t think that’s our priority. But Franklin and Wall? Okay. That’s a priority. So, we’re trying to work all that through and just have a really sound program that serves public safety well and so we’re not rushing into this."

Lt. Beekman says the FAA has waived the “line of sight” requirement for at least one police agency in Texas, using special technology to detect potential aerial hazards. That could prove useful in Bend in the future. "But we’ve been able to test: how quick can our response time be? How beneficial is it to have a drone function in the role of a first responder? And that will set the stage for us to articulate, ‘yes, this has a lot of value, this works, this will help our community, this will make calls safer.’ But we just want to take that officer back, so to speak, and put technology in place to fulfill that role."

Click HERE for more on BPD's drone program, and data showing how often it's used. 

file photo: A drone searches for a suspect running from Bend Police officers.

Bend Adds Tech Tools For Tracking Parking, Police

BEND, OR -- Bend launched two new high tech tools for the public this week. One is an online dashboard to track police calls. Mayor Melanie Kebler says the goal is to make information easier to find. "Now you can go to our dashboard, and it will show you types of calls, how many calls they’re receiving in the past few years, where those calls are happening. And you can actually take a map and highlight your neighborhood to see generally where calls are happening." She tells KBND News, "And there’s also some representation of data about mental health calls and how those are being responded to. Since we’ve implemented some crisis response calls to divert those calls away from police, we’ve seen less police response to mental health calls, and that’s what we want to see. We want the right resource going to those calls."

The data is updated daily from the 911 dispatch system. Individual addresses are not listed on the map, nor are certain types of calls like domestic abuse and rape. Click HERE for details. 

There's also a new pre-paid parking option for the downtown parking garage for special events. "We want the parking experience to be easy so you can go enjoy the rest of your time downtown," says Kebler. "You can actually use our parking app to prepay and come on down and park in the parking garage. And that will get you in and out much quicker. You know that you’ve got a spot reserved because you’ve paid for it and you don’t have to worry so much about parking. You can get out of your car, get around downtown and have fun."

Drivers create an account on the Pango App or the website Mypango.com, select the event they’re attending - like First Friday - and pay in advance. A QR code allows access to the garage. Or, if the permit is linked to the license plate, you just drive in. 

 

COIC Mulls Proposal To Support Houseless Response Office

REDMOND, OR -- Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council is considering bringing Deschutes County's Coordinated Houseless Response Office under their operational umbrella.

COIC Executive Director Tammy Baney told KBND News the regional council of governments would help the nearly one-year-old office meet its goals, “They will remain their own autonomous organization, meaning that they will have their own governing board, which is the current board. They will have their own bylaws, they will have their own budget, and we will provide the support staff that will help them to achieve their strategic plan,”

Baney says COIC staff it would help provide better overall regional planning, “They would be working with strategies such as identifying resources, aligning current service provider efforts, working with the elected governments to determine what it is that they can be seeking in terms of additional funding or budgeting for.”

Baney says it’s a partnership that makes sense, “What we're trying to do is align efforts among many of these organizations, and the CHRO office included, in achieving very similar, if not the same goals, which is, how do we get ahead of this crisis? How do we make a meaningful impact in the shortest amount of time while not duplicating efforts?”

An intergovernmental agreement would be formed if the COIC board approves the plan for bringing in the Houseless Response Office.

 

Knott Landfill Fire Leads To Diversion Of Some Services

BEND, OR -- Bend Fire & Rescue responded to a fire at Knott Landfill Wednesday evening, in the compost facility. County officials say firefighters worked with Republic Services and county staff to knock down the flames, and no buildings were impacted. After investigation, the most likely cause of the fire is spontaneous combustion.

The fire continues to smolder, and smoke remains visible in the area. Knott Landfill will remain open to the public. However, yard debris, wood waste and sod collection will be temporarily diverted from the composting facility to another portion of the landfill.

For more information about landfill hours and operations, visit www.deschutes.org/sw.

 

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HWY 97 Redmond To Bend Safety Project Progressing

REDMOND, OR -- Work on the Highway 97 Redmond to Bend Safety Project is planned through 2028. That includes installing medians, removing left turns, and creating ‘J’ turns along the nine-mile stretch between the two cities. 

ODOT Regional Director Gary Farnsworth says people who live or work along the highway have, for the most part, been very receptive to changes, “There are some specific concerns about public safety, getting access for emergency services, ambulances. Those are the kinds of things that we're hearing more about, but not so much the issue of out of direction. And one of the reasons why it's not that big of a deal anymore is because they have to wait anyway.” ODOT is telling people who live and work along the highway what to expect, “We've been sending mailers chased by phone calls with many people that live in, and operate or own property on either side of the corridor.”

Farnsworth says they let people know what is going on, but when it happens is dependent on budget, “We in region four, we do get an allocation of safety-related funds. We would do more, faster, but we're really looking at the timing of when funds will be available to do a lot of this work.”

Farnsworth also said he expects work just west of Bend to be completed soon. “We expect to be finished up on all of the US 20 corridor between Bend and Tumalo, four roundabouts and other improvements we're making on the corridor within another month or so. It's gone really fast.”

 

Three People Hospitalized After La Pine Crash

LA PINE, OR -- Three people were hurt in a head-on collision in La Pine, just before 1 p.m. Wednesday. According to the Sheriff's Office, 66-year-old Virgina Charlton, of La Pine, was eastbound on Burgess Road, when her car crossed over the center line near Old Stage Road, and hit an SUV. 

Charlton was flown to St. Charles Bend in serious condition. The driver of the SUV, a 62-year-old California man, and his passenger were taken to the hospital by ground ambulance, both with non-life-threatening injuries. 

The investigation is ongoing. 

DCSO Says Florida Woman Thought It Was Legal To Sell Drugs From Redmond Motel

REDMOND, OR -- A Florida woman was arrested in a Redmond motel this week on a long list of drug charges. According to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Street Crimes Unit, 41-year-old Aundria Bass moved to Oregon because of Measure 110 and believed she could sell illegal drugs from her room at the City Center Motel.

Detectives say she was making and using crack cocaine inside the room and had a large quantity of meth. Bass also had an outstanding warrant from Florida. She's charged with Manufacture of a Schedule II Controlled Substance (Cocaine), Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance (Cocaine), Manufacture of a Schedule II Controlled Substance (Methamphetamine), Distribution of a Schedule II Controlled Substance (Meth) and Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance (Meth). 

While executing a search warrant Monday, detectives also arested 35-year-old John Johnson of Redmond on an outstanding Deschutes County warrant. 

ODFW Offers Free Pheasant Hunts For Kids

MADRAS, OR -- Kids can sign up now for free pheasant hunts in Madras and other cities, offered by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Participants must be 17 or younger and have completed hunter education by the time of the event.

The Madras pheasant hunt is September 16 and 17, with two hunts each day. Other locations include Eugene and Klamath Falls. The hunts are free, though participants need a valid hunting license ($10 for youth 12 and older, free for age 11 and under) to hunt. Youth hunters age 12-17 also need an upland game bird validation ($4). Purchase before the event, online or at a license sales agent. Licenses and validations will not be sold at the events.

See page 26-27 of the Oregon Game Bird Regulations for more information, or visit https://myodfw.com/articles/youth-pheasant-hunts for the local contact for each hunt.

BPD Warns Of Scammers Posing As Officers

BEND, OR -- Bend Police received multiple reports Wednesday from people receiving calls or emails from someone claiming to be from the department. They use the names of real officers, including Captain Nick Parker and Deputy Chief Paul Kansky, and demand the victim pay a fine for missing a court date.

BPD reminds everyone the agency is not in charge of court dates, and will never demand money over the phone, especially with gift cards, Bitcoin, payments through Zelle or other apps, or other unconventional forms of payment.  

If you receive an email or phone call like this, BPD says please do not provide any personal information or money. Hang up and call nonemergency dispatch at 541-693-6911 to report the incident. 

A few reminders of how to protect yourself from scams: 

  • Scammers almost always operate under pressure – there is a problem or a prize, and scammers will push you to act quickly to solve the problem or claim the prize. As a consumer, you should slow down and take your time. Take a moment to think about what the person is asking of you and to do some research. 
  • Scammers will want you to pay in a certain way that legitimate agencies or businesses would never require. A sign that it is a scam? They’re asking you to provide money in the form of gift cards, cryptocurrency or wire transfer. Others will send you a check, ask you to deposit it and send them the money. 
  • Scammers typically pretend to be from an organization you know – Medicare, Social Security Administration, etc. They may spoof a phone number to show that organization’s name, or create an email address that looks very similar to an official one. Ask to call back, or examine the email address to see if it’s real. 
  • Never give your personal or financial information in a call or other contact that you did not initiate. Don’t click on links in a text or email. Call the actual organization or bank back and ask whether the organization contacted you. 
  • And if you’ve been a victim of a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Call Bend Police, who can advise you of your rights and provide you with additional resources.

Bend, Redmond Councils Jointly Discuss Homelessness

REDMOND, OR -- Bend and Redmond city councils held a joint work session at Redmond City Hall Tuesday, sharing progress on issues and initiatives affecting both cities: homelessness, highway traffic, and community engagement.

Bend Councilor Megan Perkins reported on the Houseless Response Office possibly moving under the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, “One of the reasons why we're excited about this potential is COIC already is doing this work with homelessness and they have a lot of experience, this is what they do. They do regional solutions and a regional approach to this work.”

Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch spoke about plans for a managed homeless camp, a safe RV parking area, and the East Redmond Campus attached to Oasis Village, “Hopefully with all three in place, we would be able to accommodate most if not all the homeless in Redmond, along with the shelters like Shepherd's house and Bethlehem Inn.”

Fitch says they need more affordable housing, “So I think our biggest challenge is somehow getting more opportunities. A lot of it is going to take public investment in the land and then working with builders.”

Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler told Councilors about progress made in her city, “We've had good success with our safe parking sites, which I think Redmond has experienced as well. So, I think we're on the same page there is that is a relatively low barrier tool.”

Councilors also discussed ways to get the public involved in, and aware of city business.

It was the first meeting between the two councils in 40 years. Both cities agreed to hold joint meetings in the future.

 

Risk Of Wildfire Increases This Week

BEND, OR -- With containment increasing on the Golden Fire in Klamath County, the incident management team has turned over command to a local team. But, with the nearly 11,000-acre Bedrock Fire, east of Eugene, still sending smoke into Central Oregon, we’re far from the end of fire season. That fire is just 5% contained. The National Weather Service also predicts an increased threat of thunderstorms beginning Thursday, which could significantly increase the risk of wildfire in Central Oregon. 

Jaimie Olle, with the Deschutes National Forest, says federally managed lands in Central Oregon have seen an uptick in human-caused fires, "We’ve seen 95 human-caused starts this summer, in comparison with 28 lightning-caused starts. Most of those, she says, are completely preventable, "We have had a number of abandoned or escaped campfires across the area."

Under current restrictions, campfires are only allowed in certain campgrounds, "If you are in a designated developed campground and you had a campfire, make sure that campfire is dead out before you head out. That means it’s cold to the touch, you’ve stirred water under it together and there’s not a single ember left." She tells KBND News, "In addition to campfires, it’s all of those normal fire precautions, like not driving on dry or dead vegetation, properly discarding smoking materials, things like that. Anything that they can do to help prevent a spark, can help prevent another human-caused wildfire."

The Forest Service frequently refers to this as "Dirty August." it’s Central Oregon’s driest month and the time we see the most new starts and reduced air quality. "As folks will well note, we haven’t had any rain in the forecast for quite some time, so conditions are very dry; particularly those fine fuels like grasses and brush have really dried out," says Olle, "So, if you’re out recreating, anything you can do to help prevent a spark is going to help our firefighters be successful this season."

Jayson Prentice, Air Resources Advisor on the Bedrock Fire, says the smoky pattern will continue at least another day, "In the morning, [we] see that smoke drifting to the southwest, impacts areas - especially Oakridge in the morning hours. We do have some along McKenzie Road and out towards La Pine and Bend that kind of settle in the morning. Those conditions will improve gradually throughout the afternoon." He adds, "Most areas should see good to moderate air quality for the afternoon hours. Then, as we get into the evening again, we’ll see the smoke start to drift out to the east/southeast, with those northwesterly winds, and we’ll see more smoke impacts for La Pine and other areas into the overnight again, potentially reaching up to unhealthy at times." La Pine’s air quality has dipped into the “unhealthy for everyone” category several times in recent days. You can check air quality in your area, and see the latest advisories HERE.

Photo: The Bedrock Fire, as seen from the Little Cowhorn Lookout, 07/28/2023

NE Redmond Brush Fire Under Investigation

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond firefighters responded to the area near NE 17th and Hemlock Tuesday night, after multiple people called 911 to report a large brush fire. Arriving crews determined about two acres of grass and junipers were burning, with flames moving south. 

They were able to stop its progress within a couple of minutes, with the help of firefighters from Bend, Crooked River Ranch, Cloverdale and the BLM.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. 

Former Priest, Deschutes County Sex Offender Dies In Prison

SALEM, OR -- A convicted sex offender from Deschutes County died Sunday, while incarcerated at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. According to the Department of Corrections, 75-year-old Roger Alan Sinclair was at a Salem hospital receiving "comfort care."

Sinclair was arrested in 2017 for sexually abusing a disabled man Redmond Police considered "incapable of consent." He was convicted on two charges in 2018, sentenced to more than six years in prison and required to register as a sex offender. His earliest possible release date was May 20, 2025. 

According to reporting by the Associated Press, Sinclair was was a priest in Pennsylvania in the 1980s, but was removed in 2002 after allegations emerged he had abused at least one teenage boy decades earlier. He was never charged in that case. 

Bend Parks Credits Enforcement With Curbing Large Parties

BEND, OR -- A coordinated effort to reduce alcohol consumption at Bend parks and on the river seems to be working. Bend Parks and Rec parks stewards made around 120 contacts in July for drinking, "That’s almost double what they did last July," says the district's Julie Brown, "And I actually think that is a good thing. It means, because we’re paying attention to this, and we’re trying to be deliberate on trying to improve this behavior, we are making a bigger impact." She tells KBND News, "We’re not seeing the big groups of people and bringing drinking games to the park at this point in the middle of the summer, that we were seeing at the beginning of the summer. So, I think that’s actually going well."

The increased enforcement is a partnership between the parks district, Bend Police and the Sheriff’s Office, "Trying to curb some of this negative behavior that’s dangerous for individuals, and it just kind of takes away from the overall experience of enjoying the river," says Brown. 

Drinking alcohol is not allowed on parks properties without a special permit, nor while floating the river. "The goal that we’re trying to do in working together this summer is to really educate people about what is not allowed, and it is making a positive difference. And I do appreciate the partnership and collaboration with all of the agencies involved, because I do think it makes our communities safer."

file photo

More Volunteers, Less Trash At River Clean Up Day

BEND, OR -- Even with more river usage, it appears less trash is ending up in the Deschutes.

Kolleen Miller with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council tells KBND News 15 divers took part in Saturday’s annual clean-up, the most since 2019, “We have some divers who have been with us every year since, gosh, I think 2010. ...Based on what they've seen, what they've found, what they've experienced pulling out of the river. There's definitely less in-stream debris than they've seen in the past… So that was very encouraging for us.” 

“The city of Bend deposited 1,960 pounds of garbage, which also included litter and weeds from the stream banks to the landfill. It's two full large dump trucks,” said Miller, adding the annual event saw one of its best-ever volunteer turn-outs with 240 people collecting mostly bottles, cans, and sunglasses at La Pine and Tumalo State Parks, 1st Street trail, Farewell Bend Park, and River Bend Park.

Miller points to the Watershed Council’s Enjoy-Protect-Respect awareness campaign as one of the ways helping responsible river usage, “There are definitely more folks using the river, recreating on and around the river than ever before. That's based on, of course, just our community observations. But also, the Bend Park District does their best to track the number of floaters. It seems like people are either just recreating more responsibly or just paying a little bit more attention to what they're bringing with them when they are floating on the river.”

Deschutes Co. Fair Opens Wednesday With Expected Traffic Delays

REDMOND, OR -- Fresh off complaints about massive traffic jams after the FairWell Festival, the Deschutes County Fairgrounds is preparing for a slightly smaller crowd when the fair opens Wednesday. 

Director Geoff Hinds acknowledges the location of the fairgrounds makes traffic flows tricky during big events, "There are some constraints, just because of the design of the roadways we have to utilize to get people in and out. But I think we do a tremendous job flowing people past those constraints as quickly as possible."

He tells KBND News the traffic team - made up of the fair, county road department, Redmond Police and others - has put a big effort into relieving congestion on Airport Way over the past two years. "It was one of those things that just continued to grow, and grow out of control in prior years. So, starting in 2021, when we reopened after COVID, we made it the most important initiative we’ve worked on in order to manage those traffic strategies, in order to get people not only here but also back home as quickly as possible." Hinds believes it's working, "Those multi-hour long waits that we saw during fair in the past, really have been reduced significantly." He says last year's delays were closer to 30 or 45 minutes. 

The busiest time is 4-6:30 p.m., as people come to the fair after work. "We’re employing flaggers and parking staff to get vehicles into the parking lots and parked as quickly as possible," says Hinds. After the nightly headliner concert is also expected to remain busy, as throngs of attendees try to leave at once. Hinds says managed trafic flows will return, "We include road closures, in order to do one-directional traffic, in order to expedite traffic back onto Highway 97 and/or into Redmond."

Hinds suggests concert-goers find activities to enjoy afterwards, like the new nightly drone light show. He says you’ll probably get home around the same time as those who sit in the line of cars, "When the concert ends, there’s so many other things to continue to do, and it allows us to measure out that exiting."

If you’re looking for the smallest crowds, arrive early on a weekday. The 103rd Deschutes County Fair runs Wednesday through Sunday and opens at 11 a.m. each day. 

 

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