Local News Archives for 2023-12

Law Enforcement Increases DUII Patrols For New Year's Eve

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County deputies are taking extra steps to watch for people Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants over the New Year's holiday weekend. Sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Wall says 2023 DUII arrests are level with 2022 for his agency, "Last year alone, there were 270 arrests made for DUI. That is everything that encompasses driving under the influence of intoxicants; it’s not just alcohol. For this year, for 2023, we have 257 arrests made. So, we’re definitely creeping up on last year’s numbers."

An increasing number of those arrests involve cannabis, "Approximately 25% of our DUIs result in maybe alcohol plus THC or just THC, or other narcotics in their system as well."

Wall says it’s a crime that’s completely preventable, "It probably sounds like a broken record, but if you’re going to imbibe or if you’re going to ingest intoxicants - whatever that might be - please get yourself a designated driver." He tells KBND News, "As Bend grows, and as the population here grows, we have more drivers on the road at all times of the day and night. With that, comes the added benefit of rideshare - Uber, Lyft and companies similar. There really is no reason to get behind the wheel if you’re under the influence."

Several local agencies use state overtime grants to pay for extra DUI patrols, as part of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, which runs through Monday. 

Oregon State Police report troopers arrested more than 2,600 people statewide for driving under the influence, between January first and the third week of December. While OSP is increasing DUII patrols on New Years Eve, troopers will conduct targeted operations in southern Oregon, where they say impaired driving has become a prolific problem. In Jackson and Josephine counties, so far this year, OSP has arrested 355 suspects for DUII. 

 

Scam Calls Again Claim To Be From DCSO

BEND, OR -- Several Central Oregonians received calls Friday from someone claiming to be from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, demanding payment to clear up a warrant issued after the person missed jury duty. In at least one case, the caller said the warrant could be cleared with pre-paid gift cards.

DCSO reminds everyone this is a common scam. Law enforcement never asks for phone payment to clear up a legal matter. If someone has a warrant, an officer or deputy will likely visit in person with the proper credentials. 

Anyone who receives a call from an unfamiliar person asking for money whould be skeptical of the person's legitimacy. 

Housing Will Again Be A Priority For Deschutes Co. In 2024

BEND, OR -- Housing projects funded with grant money distributed by Deschutes County in 2023 are starting to spring up around the area. County Commissioner Phil Chang says, "Money that the county contributed to affordable and workforce housing projects, the American Rescue Plan, start to get put on the ground. And there are hundreds of units of housing that are under construction because of those public investments that the county has made." Chang adds, "Other funds that the county invested is going into land purchases across Bend, Redmond, Sisters."

Now, he says, he's looking ahead to more housing in 2024, "There’s a lot of focus on affordable housing - we’re certainly not producing enough of it. But there’s also a real need for this missing middle housing, as well." Middle housing is often called workforce housing. It frequently refers to townhomes, duplexes and tri-plexes, as well as cluster cottages. Chang tells KBND News, "The county decided to invest a million dollars over a two year period in missing middle housing. So, housing for homeownership that’s available only to people in the 80-120% of Area Median Income bracket."

 

Bend Pair Arrested In CODE Team Operation

REDMOND, OR -- Two men from Bend were arrested after a brief chase northeast of Redmond Thursday night. The Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team reports it was the result of a longer-term investigation.

In collaboration with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, the CODE team tried to pull over a vehicle near NE 33rd and Smith Rock Way Thursday, just after 10:30 p.m. Detectives say the driver refused to pull over, but eventually hit a bump and went drove off the road near NE 33rd and O'Neil Hwy. The vehicle hit rocks and debris and got stuck. 

The driver, 48-year-old Andrew Giordano, and passenger, 47-year-old Eric Reinwald, were uninjured and arrested. Detectives searched the vehicle and Giordano's Bend home and say they found commercial quanities of fentanyl and methamphetamine, cash and other evidence related to drug distribution. 

Both men face numerous charges, including drug possession and delivery. 

 

Photo provided by the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team

Redmond's Oasis Village Nears Opening

REDMOND, OR -- Oasis Village is set to open by January 10th. Finishing touches are being made this week to the shelter on East Highway 126.

"We've got the vast majority of stuff done for the community building. They're putting appliances in but water, electricity, sewer have all been hooked up. We're looking at certificate of occupancy late next week,” Project Chair Bob Bohac says residents will move in immediately, “We're starting with 15 (bedroom-shelters), we have concrete pads poured for an additional nine or 10 more which we anticipate will be building next year because we're starting with a waiting list.

Residents will also have access to a community space, along with health and social services. 

Bohac tells KBND News construction has been a collaborative effort from public and private groups, “Civic groups, Rotary among those, they're important in my mind because they're the ones who donated the first $10,000 to build our first unit that we could show and, and now it's going to be housing someone. The community stepping up and really, really helping, and supporting what we're trying to do. And that just means an awful lot to all of us who have been so involved with this.”

He also credits Hayden Homes, Redmond High School, and Heart of Oregon Corps in playing a big role.

The project was partially funded by a state grant, which mandates the facility has to open by January 10th.

 

Mild Winter Poses Different Challenges For SAR

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Search and Rescue has been less busy this early winter than in recent years. But Sgt. Jason Wall warns the mild weather can be deceptive, "These types of winters can be the most dangerous. It’s very easy to become accustomed to this warmer weather. We maybe don’t grab that extra jacket, or the hat or the gloves."

He tells KBND News, "Keep in mind, we still live in the mountains; this is still a mountain town. Weather can move in at the drop of a hat. And I know people who have lived here for three days or 30 years, they know this - but it just bears to be repeated: If you’re going in the backcountry, go prepared." That preparation should be for the worst conditions, not the best, "It happened to me not too long ago. I decided to wear only a fleece, and I got caught in some weather; albeit not terrible weather. But I was very uncomfortable for a few hours."

Related: Stranded Motorist Rescued From Deep In The Ochocos

Sgt. Wall says you can't count on passersby to help, if you get stranded. "Let people know where you’re going. Take a fully charged cell phone; take a charger with you, maybe some snacks that might get you through if you run out of gas or if you have a catastrophic failure of your vehicle and you need to walk. There are a lot of people out on the roads these days, but you would be surprised. You drive the highway up to Mt. Bachelor, or the backside of Mt. Bachelor, parts of the highway that are still open, you can find yourself up there for a few hours before someone drives by." He adds, "Because there hasn’t been an excessive amount of snow, we don’t have the plow drivers moving through those corridors on a regular basis. Whereas, a heavy year, you might see two or three plows go through, or a sander or someone who’s de-icing. With this mild weather, it may not be the case."

File photo

Oregon Ski Season Off To Rough Start

BEND, OR -- If you plan to hit the slopes over New Year's weekend, be sure to check the conditions first. Warm temperatures and rain are hallmarks of El Nino, and they’re wreaking havoc on mountain resorts. Snowpack around the state remains well below what's considered typical for the start of winter.

Timberline will have its lowest snow base for a New Year’s Eve in almost 35 years. It's about 50" below average for this time of year. Conditions at nearby Mt. Hood Meadows have also been less than ideal. It plans to start two more lifts Friday, but officials say opening the newly constructed Leitner-Poma lift will have to wait for more snow.

In Central Oregon, Mt. Bachelor has yet to open four of its lifts. "We need a major winter storm to open Northwest, and to open Summit and Outback," Bachelor's Lauren Burke recently told KBND News, "We’re getting there. But we need another couple feet in order to get some of that upper mountain and westside terrain open."

Outside Sisters, Hoodoo Ski Area has yet to open its season. Webcams from the mountain show numerous bald spots, with little snow at the summit. Hoodoo’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration was canceled due to lack of snow. 

 

Photo: Hoodoo's Easy Rider webcam shows bare dirt; Friday morning, 12/29/23

Highway 26 Closed North Of Madras Thur. Morning

MADRAS, OR -- Highway 26 closed Thursday morning about three miles north of Madras. Oregon's Department of Transportation reports a semi crashed, blocking both directions of the highway. Photos provided by ODOT show the truck on its side, with workers cleaning up spilled fluids.

The highway reopened around 3:30 p.m.

 

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

Scouts Pick Up Christmas Trees This And Next Weekend

BEND, OR -- Time to consider how to dispose of that dying Christmas Tree. You can drop it off to Knott Landfill or any transfer stations for free through January 31st.

Central Oregon Scouts BSA are picking up Christmas Trees for recycling this weekend, the 30th and 31st, and next, January 6th and 7th. The annual community service project also serves as a fundraiser for camps and equipment. Scouts are going door to door this week putting out flyers with instructions. You can learn more at takeyourtree.com

Deschutes County Solid Waste Director Tim Brownell tells KBND News you can also cut up the tree for the yard debris bin, “We just want you to take off anything that's not natural. So, tinsel… make sure you remove all of the ornaments or other accoutrements that might be on your tree that are plastic or another material.”

He says the county will take wreaths, certain wrapping paper, and string lights, “We accept tissue paper and wrapping paper as long as you take off the ribbons and it can't be the wrapping paper that is metallic size, so really shiny with a lot of glitter on it. It has to truly be a paper product. Christmas tree lights are recyclable. You just bring them to the recycling portion of our transfer station or the Knot landfill.”

 

Stranded Motorist Rescued From Deep In The Ochocos

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Two people were rescued Wednesday after spending a cold, wet night in the Ochoco Mountains. Crook County 911 received a call from a person who hiked three miles in bad weather to find cell service. They reported their vehicle had broken down and they were unable to get to safety. 

Crook County Search and Rescue responded with a small team. Officials say they moved quickly because the subjects were not dressed for the conditions and there was little shelter available. After a one-hour drive, SAR reached the pair. They say conditions deteriorated rapidly; roads were slick with ice and snow, with mud in low-lying areas.

The pair was wet, cold and dehydrated. SAR brought them back to Prineville, where they'll make arrangements to recover the vehicle. 

Missing Bend Man Found Alive In Drain

BEND, OR -- A Bend man reported missing on Christmas Day was found alive Wednesday afternoon, trapped in a dry well several blocks from his home.

John Michael McLerran reportedly left his house Monday to get coffee but never returned. A community member called 911 just after 3 p.m. Wednesday after they found McLerran six feet below street level in the parking lot of Norton Street Storage, which is a gated site.

Bend Police and firefighters responded and pulled him out of the drain. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation, but in good condition. Bend PD says investigators are reviewing surveillance footage to ensure "he was not the victim of a crime and to try and figure out how he ended up in there."

Death Investigation Underway In Madras Homeless Camp

MADRAS, OR -- Madras Police are investigating the death of a 36-year-old man whose body was discovered Tuesday morning in a homeless camp near Willow Creek. His identity has not been released.

Investigators arrested 54-year-old Johnson Heath, Sr. a few hours later. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon on Manslaughter and Homicide charges.

Sgt. Steve Webb issued a statement Wednesay, saying, “Madras Police Department was successful in this case due to partnerships and assistance from several including Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Prineville Police Department, Warm Springs Police Department, Oregon State Police Crime Lab, Faith Based Network Warming Shelter, City of Madras Public Works, and members of the public. In this small, tight-knit community, we count on each other. Especially in a difficult situation like this, working together produces a quick resolution for the affected family and our community.”

Redmond Schools Sees Stagnant Population Growth

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Schools expects to have a budget problem very soon. State funding is based on the number of students attending district schools. But Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline says student numbers remain flat, while expenses increase. "The student population in Redmond is not growing. And that’s really hard for people to wrap their heads around," he tells KBND News, "Everybody’s like, ‘Well, we’re growing like crazy, so certainly our kids are growing as well.’ But people are ignoring the fact that we have lots and lots of retired people who move in to Redmond."

And, Cline says, state lawmakers may cut some of its funding, "What we’re hearing is that they’re tired of increasing K-12 budgets and that they’d like to start spending money on other things, which I understand. And that means that over time, we’re going to have to reduce."

There's another issue, as well, "We’re in a real demographic decline right now; people are just having fewer children over time. One great example of this is when Ridgeview was built in 2008, there were roughly 29,000 people in the town, and we had roughly 2,200 high school kids. Now, we have almost 40,000 people in Redmond right now. And ,if you add up Redmond, Ridgeview and RPA - the proficiency academy, we have about 2,200 high school kids." Dr. Cline doesn't believe the equation will change much anytime soon, "Our demographic projections - we hired a professional company on this, Davis Demographics - and they’re telling us, ‘Over the next ten years, you’re going to grow about 500 kids. It’s going to be at the elementary level. And you’re actually going to lose 2% of your students at the high school, over time.’"

As KBND News reported last week, RSD is considering a proposal to consolidate Redmond and Ridgeview high schools, in an effort to reduce costs and manage renovations needed at RHS. Dr. Cline says other cost-cutting measures are also on the table, and voters will be asked to approve a bond measure in November of 2024 to pay for construction projects. The district plans to poll the community in January, to gauge support for the various proposals. 

 

Visit Bend CEO Dugan To Be New Travel Oregon VP

BEND, OR -- Kevney Dugan, President and CEO of Visit Bend, says he’s stepping down to take a position with Travel Oregon.

He tells KBND he’s excited for his new opportunity as Vice President of Destination Stewardship beginning in February, “When I saw this come out, I was like, ‘man, this is all the work I really love and this is where I want to grow into’ and it just seemed like such a natural fit. And luckily for me, I think Travel Oregon saw it the same way and said, you know, the work that I had been able to achieve here with the team in Bend was some of the work they wanted to see brought into their organization.”

He says it’s a recently developed position, “One of the new silos within the organization was this destination stewardship area where all their grant giving, the regional cooperative tourism program, the destination management studios they operate, all sort of fit nicely under this silo.”

Dugan has been with Visit Bend since 2010, and CEO since 2017. He’s pleased with his efforts to steer Visit Bend out of the great recession and the pandemic. “Thinking back about the amount of work we went through to do our jobs and introduce this community to new people and how successful those efforts were,” he says.

Dugan plans to continue working from Bend, but says he looks forward to guiding all parts of the state's tourism efforts, “Getting out to the Baker Cities and really understanding what a community like Baker City wants or does not want and helping them evolve… or the Oregon Coast. I'm really eager for that diversity of ideas and the diversity of concepts that I'll be able to work in because every community is going to want something different. And I think that's the most exciting part; to bring the strategy to achieving what those communities want.”

Dugan says he will remain based in Bend.

 

Suspected DUII Driver Arrested For October Quadruple Fatal

BEND, OR -- The driver believed to be responsible for a Highway 97 crash that killed a Troutdale family October 12 is now in custody. Oregon State Police say 43-year-old Jesse Ross crossed into oncoming traffic, north of Redmond, sideswiped a semi then collided with an SUV. That vehicle caught fire and four members of the Rutledge family died. Authorities later said the family was headed to Klamath Falls to view the October 14th eclipse. 

Ross, from Montana, was hospitalized for serious injuries. He was booked into the Deschutes County Jail Tuesday night on four counts of First Degree Manslaughter, Reckless Driving, Recklessly Endangering and DUII. He's scheduled to appear in court Wednesday afternoon. 

Women Killed In SE Bend Home, Son Arrested

BEND, OR -- Bend Police are investigating the city’s third homicide of the year. A woman was stabbed to death Tuesday morning inside her home. The victim, 60-year-old Rene Carlson lived with her son, who is now accused of murder.

"Our officers responded to a report of a domestic dispute at around 9:20, in the 300 block of SE Lee Lane; kind of between Third and Fourth on Lee," says Bend PD's Sheila Miller. "Officers arrived within one minute and contacted and detained a suspect at the residence." That suspect was later identified as 37-year-old Theodore Bowser. Miller tells KBND News, "Officers then attempted to render aid to the victim, but that person sustained fatal injuries and was dead at the scene. And so, at this point, the incident is being investigated as a homicide."

Bowser was booked into the jail Tuesday night following an evaluation at St. Charles. At that time, Miller told KBND News, "Detectives are now on scene; OSP crime lab is also now on scene, and the scene is shut to foot traffic and vehicles, likely through the night. So, both Lee and Woodland Boulevard, between Third and Fourth will remain shut, probably through the night."

Bowser is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday afternoon.

 

ODOT Reduces North Corridor Speed

BEND, OR -- Changes are coming this week to Highway 97 on the north end of Bend. In an effort to increase safety for drivers and crews working on the North Corridor Improvement Project, the Oregon Department of Transportation will reduce the speed limit to 35 miles per hour, from 45.

Restriping will occur next week, along with installation of recessed reflectors, so drivers can better see shifting lanes. They’ll also replace plastic delineators used to close areas to left turns. They were torn out by vehicles driving through them.

The current lane configurations will remain until April.

Climate Friendly Areas Report Heads To State Officials

BEND, OR -- Bend’s new study on Climate Friendly Areas will be sent to the state this week. Associate Long Range Planner Elyse Vukelich says it’s mandated for cities in Oregon over 50,000 people, as part of the state's Climate-Friendly and Equitable Communities program. "This study is a starting point for this process. It’s essentially the background work that we had to complete prior to eventually designating Climate Friendly Areas. And that comes with changes to the city’s development code." She adds, "We anticipate between 2025 and 2026, City Council will actually make changes to the development code to implement these CFAs."

The goal is to reduce carbon emissions by allocating urban spaces where people can live, work and recreate without a vehicle. "Climate Friendly Areas have to be a certain size. In Bend, they have to be between 275 and 350 acres," sayd Vukelich, "That’s dependent on a couple of different policy choices regarding land use." She tells KBND News, "What we’ve done in this study is identify 10 different areas throughout the city. Total, these are about 1600 acres, so we don’t need all of this land. Our goal was to really just to identify as many areas as possible and learn more about them."

The study also looked at people most likely to be displaced by the process, "So, people with lower incomes, who are more vulnerable; maybe in precarious housing situations. We actually came up with a list of strategies to mitigate displacement."

Vukelich acknowledges it's a novel concept for some people, "It’s a change, potentially, in the way that land is developed in the city of Bend. And sometimes that can be scary. But Climate Friendly Areas are very similar to places that we already have in Bend. If you think about downtown Bend: it has businesses, it has housing, it has access to parks, it’s easy to walk around; that’s kind of what a Climate Friendly Area would look like." She says residential neighborhoods won’t see much impact, since CFAs are intended to be urban centers. 

 

Bend PD Sees Increase In Scam Reports

BEND, OR -- Bend Police have seen a big increase in scam reports. "We’ve had 336 reported, so far this year, to us," says Chief Mike Krantz, "We had 253 all of last year. So, we have nearly 100 increased just for calls." He says the number of victims or near-victims is likely much higher, since not everyone calls it in, "Could be because they didn’t consider it a big enough of an issue, or maybe they didn’t get fully scammed, or maybe they’re embarrassed."

In some cases, those loses aren't small, "We’ve had people lose upwards of $100,000 when they report it to us, by the time they stop the scam and report it to us. Some people catch it upfront and realize it’s a scam, and they don’t proceed. They don’t buy gift cards or go to a Bitcoin ATM or transfer money or wire money, which are all ways it gets done." 

Recently, fraudsters even posed as the chief, "We had some calls of people claiming to be me, and calling people and telling them that if they didn’t pay a fine immediately over a wire transfer, then they would have a warrant for their arrest. I am not calling people asking for money transfers."

Krantz says out-of-the-blue requests for wire transfers or payments via Zelle or gift card should always be questioned. "You should get numbers and call back. You should call the police, if you have a question about it. But never give money, never go to the bank and withdraw money and send a wire unless you know exactly what you’re wiring to and who."

And if you think you've fallen victim to a scam, Krantz urges you to report it to law enforcement. 

 

ODOT Urges Caution Around Snowplows

BEND, OR -- With a near-record number of people hitting the road for Christmas and the possibility of mountain snow Friday through the weekend, Oregon's Department of Transportation urges drivers to take it easy around snowplows.

"Almost every year, we have at least one or two crashes that occur from someone trying to be impatient and pass that snowplow," says ODOT's Mindy McCartt. She reminds drivers it’s illegal to pass a plow on the right in Oregon, "Because snowplows, especially on the right side of them, have these things that we call wings. They stick out more than 8’ from the right front edge of the truck." Those "wings" are part of the scoop pushing snow. "The snow being plowed off the roads can contain rocks and other debris that will damage your vehicle; let alone, the risk of all that snow blowing up into the air," says McCartt, "You can’t always see those wings. So the likelihood of you possibly hitting one or swerving around them when you do see them, you could run off the road." 

McCartt says passing on the left is also not recommended, "Only pass if the plow is not maybe in service. If it’s just getting to a location, you can obviously pass on the left." She tells KBND News, "Behind a snowplow is one of the safest places on the road. They’re chewing up all that ice and snow in front of you. So, be patient."

After warning budget cuts would reduce the amount of plows out this winter, ODOT received an influx of state money earlier this month. "So, with that, you’re going to see a level of service, just about at the same level as you did in years past," says McCartt. "ODOT workers do focus on those higher trafficked highways like I-5, 84, 26, 97 in Central Oregon. But with that increased maintenance budget, we are even looking at those little bit less-traveled highways and making sure they’re clear. But we’re out there. We’re out there, we’re watching, we’re paying attention."

She says the extra $19 million over two years will cover overtime shifts for plow drivers this winter. It also allowed ODOT to purchase a couple more plows. Although, McCartt says those won’t be in service until next winter.

 

Deschutes County Expresses Support For Comprehensive M110 Change

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners are sending a letter to the Governor and the local legislative delegation, expressing support for a plan to revamp Measure 110. The District Attorney presented the proposal last week, created by several state law enforcement groups. 

Commissioner Tony DeBone explained Wednesday, "So, in the letter, the three topics are fully fund probation departments, prioritize adequate and sustainable funding for specialty courts, and establish authority to utilize welfare holds up to 72 hours." Click HERE to read the full letter approved Wednesday. 

Commissioner Phil Chang said the plan is a step in the right direction, "I think it was a really good effort to approach our substance use disorder and addiction issues in our community in a comprehensive way." DeBone agreed, saying restoring some criminal penalties for drug possession provides accountability, "Charging options of Class A Misdemeanor and Intent to Distribute concepts. And just having those other opportunities - hooks in the system to be able to hold on to the fact that there may be some bad things going on and we’re not just letting it go."

Chang acknowledged the criminal justice and behavioral health systems could work together to get people into treatment, "This proposal includes a whole bunch of specific ideas about how to increase our treatment capacity, and to - again - drive people to treatment." He added, "So that they can successfully get through recovery, not be public safety menaces to the community and hopefully lead productive lives after that."

But, Chang worries about how the state would pay for the changes, "For Deschutes County alone, it would cost tens of millions of dollars here. So, a great vision and strategy. And without bipartisan support from the Legislature, I’d be concerned not all pieces of this package are going to move forward."

Commissioner Patti Adair says Oregon’s addiction crisis has led to too many overdose deaths, "It’s just such a tragedy, what’s happening. And, I just feel like we’re taking more time to change the course of what’s happening in Oregon."

 

SE Bend Neighbors Frustrated With Parolee Housing Plan

BEND, OR -- Neighbors in Southeast Bend are complaining to County Commissioners about a plan to convert a triplex on SE Wilson into transitional housing for people on parole or probation. 

"In just six days, over 500 petition signatures have been gathered in opposition to this," Ryan Rudnick told Commissioners Wednesday, "Not the idea of providing a solution, but in opposition to this as the location, given the risks that it poses to children." Rudnick owns a neighboring triplex. He says the risk to children is from convicted sex offenders potentially being housed at the location.

Rudnick also complained about the outreach done before approval, "Adjacent property owners were not notified and several of even the neighboring tenants were not notified. Only one of my three tenants was notified." He added, "There are families that live in the existing triplex that are being displaced to house felons and sex offenders. It just feels like a serious injustice to the neighborhood that’s there."

Last week, Commissioners approved sending state housing grant money to the nonprofit Free on the Outside to purchase the triplex and run the facility. The board said it will keep parolees from becoming homeless, and make it easier to provide supervision. "If the county is truly not concerned about this and the risks," said Rudnick, "It should stand behind this and officially accept liability for any damages, crimes or injuries that may result from establishment of the shelter here."

Commissioner Phil Chang responded to the comments, saying he’s worked a lot with the Kids Center and learned, "Almost all cases of child abuse and child sex abuse are committed by people who are close family relations to the child." He added, "The danger is not so much about physical proximity or distance. The danger is associated with your relationships to potential offenders." He also noted the courts decide who is a good candidate for parole, not the county.

To hold on to the state funding used for the purchase, the transitional housing program must open by January tenth.

 

RSD Considers High School Consolidation Proposal

REDMOND, OR -- Rumors are swirling about future plans for Redmond High School. Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline acknowledges the district is considering a proposal to deal with major renovations needed at the campus on Rimrock Way. 

Dr. Cline tells KBND News water pipes are crumbling in the ceilings, surrounded by asbestos. "Our contractors are telling us to repair that space, we’re going to need to open up that entire area, mitigate all the asbestos, and then replace all that piping," he says, "It’s going to take, they’re estimating, a year of the building being shut down to students for us to do that work. And these are 50-year-old pipes."

There is room at Ridgeview High for RHS students to shift for that year. Cline says the district could save money by making it permanent. A bond committee is considering how to pay for the project, including transferring Redmond High-specific programs, "One of our ideas is about consolidating the high schools. It’s not the only idea, but it’s one of them. What we would do with that is basically, we would go and build a high-tech, career-tech ed center. We would use part of this bond, spend about $25 million, build next to Ridgeview High School." RHS would then be renovated and repurposed for other district needs.

Cline admits the idea is controversial, but notes it's still very early in the discussion process, "After our first meeting, we kind of laid out all the problems. It was clear to us just how much we’re proposing to band-aid things together. So this Ridgeview consolidation idea is really question of, ‘How do we not band-aid things together? How do we actually solve some problems over time?’"

The district will ask for feedback next month, in what Cline calls a scientific poll. Then, the bond committee will decide next steps, "Depending on how it polls, if we were to put it out there, our school board would have to vote on it and say, ‘this is the approach we’d want to take.’" Voters will then get the final say in November 2025. If initial social media reaction is any indication, the community is not supportive of the consolidation idea, "The way people tended to react to it, is we get a lot of emotion up front," says Dr. Cline, "And then they listen to the rationale and the reason and by the time we’re done talking, they go, ‘Oh. Well, that makes sense.’ That doesn’t mean that’s the way people vote, what makes sense. Sometimes people vote on emotion."

School board member Keri Lopez released a statement saying, “Community trust is only built through transparency and inclusion. I am calling on renewing this promise as we move forward.” Lopez is also running for a seat in Oregon's House. 

Tune in Tuesday morning (Dec. 26) at 8:40 a.m. for our full conversation with Superinendent Charan Cline about the upcoming bond and the future of Redmond High. 

BPD Arrests Ten Suspected Impaired Drivers Over The Weekend

BEND, OR -- Bend Police say ten drivers were arrested for DUII in a 48-hour span over the weekend. They stretch from 1 a.m. Friday through just before 7 p.m. Saturday.

In one case, a suspected impaired driver nearly hit a Bend Police car head-on near 8th and Bennington Way, just before midnight Friday. Another driver almost hit a school bus, Friday afternoon, ending up on the sidewalk.

One of the suspects pulled over early Saturday is just 17 years old. An 18-year-old from Sunriver was arrested early Friday for driving the wrong way on Bond St.

BPD has logged nearly 600 DUII arrests in 2023. Bend officers are working grant-funded overtime patrols, in an effort to combat impaired driving over the holidays.

Prineville Man Killed In Eastern OR Crash

NYSSA, OR -- A crash in Malheur County, along the Oregon-Idaho border, led to the death of a Prineville man and his passenger. According to Oregon State Police, 48-year-old Tad Stringam was driving east across the Nyssa Snake River Bridge at about 7 a.m. Tuesday. His pickup slid into the path of a westbound  commercial vehicle. The other driver reportedly swerved but could not avoid the collision.

Stringam was thrown from his truck and pronounced dead at the scene. A 48-year-old Bend woman traveling with Stringam was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries. Traffic on Highway 20 was impacted for about three hours. 

OSP was assisted on-scene by the Nyssa Police Department, Idaho State Police and others. 

ODOT Plans Hwy 26 Work In Downtown Prineville

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Oregon’s Department of Transportation is preparing to start a project in Prineville, along Highway 26. Much of it is aesthetic streetscape work. "This is going to improve a bunch of sidewalks, they’ll have new ADA ramps and some more safe pedestrian crossings, as well. So, it’ll really enhance your experience if you’re driving or if you’re walking or biking through downtown Prineville." ODOT’s Kacey Davey says crews will also upgrade traffic signals in the stretch between Meadow Lakes Drive and Combs Flat Road. "It’s really going to be a nice facelift for downtown Prineville, to improve all the sidewalks and all the intersections, and everything."

ODOT has budgeted $10 million for the project, "And $3 million of that’s coming from the House Bill 2017 funding," Davey tells KBND News, "The other seven- that’s usually identified through the city’s or ODOT’s money, or grant funding."

Click HERE for more project details. Davey expects work to begin in January, "And that one should take just a year to complete. So, it should be done by the end of next year."

 

Mt. Bachelor Opens First Six-Pack Lift

BEND, OR -- Mt. Bachelor opened its first new lift in seven years, Tuesday morning. Skyliner Express replaces the original four-seater Skyliner lift built in 1989. "It is very difficult to get the parts that you need, if ever something goes wrong on that chairlift," says Bachelor's Lauren Burke, "So it really was the right decision to upgrade as we move into the future of our lift infrastructure."

Skyliner Express is the mountain's first six-pack chairlift. Burke says it increases uphill capacity and the heavier chairs provide better stability, "So, during high winds, the lift can run; whereas some of the other lifts will either need to go on wind hold or slow down." She tells KBND News, "You know, these six-pack lifts are becoming a lot more common. If you look across the industry, this season, there’s a number of high-speed six-pack lifts being put in. So it’s exciting that we were one of those resorts, as well. And, Doppelmayr is a great partner of ours who produces the lift."

Deconstruction of the old lift and construction of Skyliner Express began in May. "Our entire team, the entire construction process, it just could not have gone better. It opened four days earlier than we had initially planned," says Burke. Original four-seater Skyliner chairs were auctioned off to raise money for the nonprofit Vamanos Outside.

When Skyliner Express started spinning Tuesday at 9 a.m., the first chair was occupied by people who won Golden Tickets during a Sunday scavenger hunt. "We had six locals get it," says Burke, "We had a mid-week passholder, we had a mountain bike athlete who found that, a father and son who found two different ones, which was great."

The last new lift at Bachelor was Cloudchaser, which opened December 30, 2016.

Photo courtesy of Mt. Bachelor

Hermreck Sworn-In As Crook County Commissioner

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Susan Hermreck was sworn-in as Crook County’s newest commissioner Tuesday.

After taking the oath of office conducted by county clerk Cheryl Seely, the former Planning Commission member got down to business, as the County Court approved the community development strategic plan.

“Do I need a number like in planning or how…? I make a motion to adopt the community development strategic plan as presented today. …Did I do OK on my first time?” she said as the motion passed unanimously. Judge Seth Crawford and Commissioner Brian Barney selected Hermreck to fill the vacancy created when Jerry Brummer stepped down in October, citing health reasons.

Eight candidates applied for the position.

During public comment, Crawford and Barney were asked if they followed the correct procedures in selecting Hermreck.  Crawford said they would provide a written response.

 

Commercial Fire Slowed By Sprinkler System

BEND, OR -- Bend Fire & Rescue credits a sprinkler system for slowing the spread of a fire in a commercial building Monday night.

An alarm company called in the fire just after 9:30 p.m. As firefighters were responding to NE 18th, the business owner reported seeing smoke on security cameras.

When crews arrived, they found the blaze controlled by one sprinkler head that activated inside an upstairs bathroom. Flames were contained to that area and the two businesses in the building were able to reopen Tuesday afternoon.

Damage is estimated at about $10,000. The cause of the fire is under investigation. 

Crook County School Board Makes Decision On Brumble Complaint

PRINEVILLE, OR -- The Crook County School Board voted at a special meeting Monday to have board chair Jessica Brumble receive training on board members’ roles and responsibilities, following a parent complaint made against her last month.

After a two-hour executive session to determine the course of action, board member Scott Cooper presented a motion to release some details of the complaint, “Madam chair, I moved to authorize the district administration to release a copy of the investigator's report to the public in compliance with the Oregon Public records law, after redactions are made in compliance with COPPA”. [Ed. Note - Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act]. The motion passed unanimously with vice-chair Jennifer Knight, and board member Steve Holliday. Two other motions on addressing the complaint did not pass.

Cooper said the incident is a learning opportunity, “This whole incident is regrettable very much…for the pain that caused various people. I do know that everybody is doing their best. So, trying to figure out a new situation with new players, new rules, how we all navigate with this, with each other. So, I hope everybody can find ways to demonstrate grace along the way, none of us are perfect, mistakes happen.”

Brumble and board member Cheyenne Edgerly recused themselves from deliberations, but were present at the meeting to hear the decision.

 

Warm Springs Man Struck, Killed In Redmond Crash

REDMOND, OR -- A Warm Springs man was struck and killed, overnight Monday, in a crash on Highway 97 on the north end of Redmond.

Just after midnight, Deschutes County 911 received a report of someone sitting on the median in an unlit section of the highway near the Maple Avenue bridge. A short time later, 52-year-old Corey Smith was reportedly in a northbound lane, where he was hit by a pickup. He was declared dead at the scene. The driver and passenger were unhurt, and are cooperating with the investigation. No citations have been issued. 

Northbound 97 was closed for three hours early Tuesday morning, for that investigation.

Electrical Wiring Blamed For Redmond House Fire

REDMOND, OR -- Firefighters responsed to a home on NW Xavier Ave. in Redmond, early Tuesday morning, after a report of smoke in the crawl space. Crews arived at about 1 a.m. and noticed light smoke coming from foundation vents under the house, and determined there was, in fact, a fire.

Redmond Fire and Rescue cut multiple holes in the floor of the home to locate and put out the blaze. No people or animals were injured. 

Investigators say the fire was caused by an electrical wiring failure in the crawl space. Damages are estimated at $85,000. 

New FAFSA To Be Released For College Financial Aid

BEND, OR -- It’s time for college students to gather documents and be ready to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for next fall. But this year’s FAFSA is a little delayed because of changes, "The Department of Ed has told us that that application will be available by December 31st," says Central Oregon Community College Director of Financial Aid Brianna Sylwester, "So, I would make it your New Year’s resolution to get online at StudentAid.gov the first week or two of January and get that FAFSA completed."

She tells KBND News, "They’re actually making some pretty significant improvements to the FAFSA application this year. And so that is causing a little bit of a delay, but we’re very hopeful and excited to see this overhaul that we’ve needed for a little while. So hopefully, as families and students, you’re going to see a much easier, streamlined, more user-friendly application." 

Sylwester says the new form shouldn’t be as arduous as it used to be, "More simplified, fewer questions, more mobile friendly; so it’s going to be a little easier to complete." It’ll also link directly to the family’s tax information from the IRS - if you grant permission. "There’s a lot of intimidation around the FAFSA application, and it really isn’t as bad as people sometimes have thought in their minds, and also as it used to be. It has gotten a lot easier."

But it’s still important to allot appropriate time to fill it out, "The worst thing is to sit down and think you’re going to have the application completed in five minutes. The Department of Education has said to allow yourself about an hour."

In January, both COCC and OSU Cascades plan to host events for students needing application help. Click HERE for COCC's schedule.

 

Oregon's Snowpack Suffers After Rainfall

BEND, OR -- Despite recent storms, Oregon’s snowpack is well below normal for this time of year. A series of four atmospheric rivers moved through the state in late November and early December. "This was a period where we have a lot of precipitation accumulating, but at least in some regions, not a lot of snowpack," says Associate State Climatologist Nick Siler. He says temperatures during that same time were about four degrees warmer than normal. 

Siler says those warmer temperatures are due to the El Niño weather pattern,  "We see pretty much across the board, with the exception of a couple of basins in SW Idaho and SE Oregon, we see significantly lower percentiles of snowpack than we do of precipitation."

Overall, Oregon's snowpack is between 20% and 80% of what's considered normal for this time of year. As of Monday, the Deschutes Basin is 46% of average. "I would like to emphasize, it’s still early in the accumulation season, so there’s plenty of time to recover from this snowpack deficit," says Siler, "However, if we look at the seasonal forecast from the Climate Prediction Center, we see that above average temperatures are likely across the Pacific Northwest, for December through February." He adds, "This suggests an elevated risk of snow drought, meaning low snow-water equivalent values, independent of what happens with precipitation." That means, "Even if precipitation is close to normal, especially at the lower elevation sites where snow tends to fall closer to the freezing point, we’re likely to see lower than average snowpack accumulation."

And that could prove problematic for summer irrigators and recreators who count on the snowpack to melt off and slowly replenish Oregon reservoirs.

 

Bend To Sell Surplus City-Owned Parcels

BEND, OR -- City-owned property in Juniper Ridge and near Bend Senior High are about to hit the market. "We don’t sell land very often," says Bend's Real Estate Director Matt Stuart, "Because most of our land is used for civic purposes - whether it’s roads or utilities, or just our functioning as a city."

But the surplus land has a very specific purpose now. Stuart tells KBND News the 3.4 acres near SE 9th and Glenwood (pictured) was identified for housing several years ago, but it’s taken time to get the vacant lot ready for sale. "It doesn’t necessarily need to be affordable, it doesn’t have to be defined as ‘middle.’ It could be market," says Stuart, "It can be any sort of housing. We’re sort of looking or any sort of proposal to come forward that can bring housing into this central area of Bend, here. Because it is a great infill piece that’s right in the middle of town."

On the north end of two, two parcels are available in Juniper Ridge, totalling about 200 acres. Stuart says they could be sold separately or together. They're zoned for industrial use, "Juniper Ridge has been identified as the area where we want to see employment growth; a place where we’d like to see new businesses, existing businesses grow." Stuart says the right buyer will have a plan to develop or subdivide the lots, so construction could begin as quickly as possible, "We’re bringing land to market that has the roads platted. But we’re asking the developer, ‘In exchange for this sale of land, you’re responsible for building all that infrastructure.’" He adds, "There is a lot of pressure on existing industrial space in town, with the low vacancy rate. So, there is demand. And currently, we as the city, are holding a lot of the land that’s zoned industrial. So, this is our opportunity to sort of try to help bring this to market. We’re just selling the land and allowing the development community to bring us proposals to what it is they think they can do in the timeline."

Stuart says the sales will contribute millions of dollars to the city’s general fund, but the proposals aren't just about the right price. Developers must also show their plans fit the city’s timeline and benefit the community. Click HERE for more information. Proposals are due January 31st. 

 

Christmas Tree Project Seeks Volunteers

BEND, OR -- A week away from December 25th, The Christmas Tree Project of Bend needs help giving fully decorated trees to families in need.

The local non-profit provides families with physical or financial limitations with fully-decorated trees. “It takes a village to be able to make anything work and it is our volunteers that make the difference that actually allow this to happen.” Founder Lindsay Greco tells KBND News they have enough trees for the 100 or so families they serve, but they need help making them festive, “I am in need of Christmas tree stands and lights. Each year, there are always shortages in certain categories, and certainly stands and lights are kind of the highlights right now,” she adds they need volunteers too, “If individuals have access to trucks or are willing to help out with the loading of trees or families and picking out their decorations…Always so grateful to receive the help.”

Greco started the project nine years ago and says they deliver nearly 100 trees each year. “Families from all over our region are continuing to find this project when really realizing that they may not be able to otherwise have a tree over the holidays,” she says.

Learn more at ChristmasTreeProjectofBend.org

 

Two Killed In Hwy 97 Crash

REDMOND, OR -- Two people were killed in a collision south of Redmond that shut down Highway 97 for several hours Saturday evening. According to State Police, 23-year-old Redmond man was northbound when, for an unknown reason, his van drove onto the shoulder, then veered across the highway into oncoming traffic, where he collided with an SUV. The van’s driver, Ghandi Lakshmi Satya Sai Yerramsetti, and a passenger from the SUV, 29-year-old Christy Lee Bigelow, died at the scene. The SUV's driver, 32-year-old Nicholas Husted, of Bend, was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. 

During the investigation, a 33-year-old Bend man was arrested for DUII after crashing into an ODOT vehicle blocking the highway. Sheriff's Deputies took Nicholas Jason Cardone into custody, while the ODOT driver was evaluated at the hospital. 

Another driver, 20-year-old Lylliane Walczyk, is accused of causing another crash in the area at the same time. She was also arrested for DUII.

Redmond Pair Arrested In Fentanyl Bust

BEND, OR -- Two people from Redmond face drug charges, following a monthslong investigation by the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team and Redmond Police into fentanyl possession and distribution.

Detectives arrested 55-year--old Thomas Andrews and 49-year-old Melanie Doherty during an early morning traffic stop Thursday in Bend.

A Bend Police K-9 alerted to the odor of drugs and officers found about a half pound of fentanyl powder and pills in the car.

Andrews is charged with Felony Unlawful Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance and Attempted Delivery of a Schedule II Controlled Substance. Doherty is accused of Misdemeanor Unlawful Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance and Conspiracy to Commit Delivery of a Schedule II Controlled Substance.  

OSU-Cascades To Run Snowboard Business

BEND, OR -- OSU-Cascades will soon operate a for-profit snowboard company, and offer a class to go with it.

The owners of Bend-based SnoPlanks are donating the company to OSU.

They met with OSU Business instructor Todd Laurence last spring.

“That was the genesis of the idea. And as a working group we've been figuring out exactly how to do something that's never been done before by a university,” Laurence says.

He tells KBND News it’s a unique educational opportunity, “It could be baked into the learning experience for students, not just within outdoor products and business, but really across the entire student body. Because there's lots of ways that students can be involved in running this business.”

Instructor Geoff Raynak says students in his Outdoor Products Degree program will learn the difference between assignment due dates, and business deadlines, “We're basically going to treat it as the way that almost every business that creates product here in North America works.”

Students won’t manufacture the boards, but will be involved in design, sales, and finance. “The work that we're doing here is effectively teaching every single student the go-to-market process. With the idea that you can be an entrepreneur and run a business in the outdoor industry,” Raynak says.

Laurence says the program will benefit students, and the community, “All the business leaders that we've spoken to are super excited to have students graduating from college with real world business experience.”

Raynak says there is already tremendous excitement in the program, which is still in development, “I think it really speaks to how students want to learn. Right. We're not changing the content that they're learning; we're changing the way that they're learning it. And I think that that's really the fundamental shift that's going on here.”

The SnoPlanks Academy program is still in development; a student leadership team will be formed in the coming months, according to a press release provided by the university.

 

Deschutes D.A. Supports M110 Reforms

BEND, OR -- Groups representing Oregon District Attorneys, Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, along with the League of Oregon Cities, say they’ve created a comprehensive plan to address the failures of Measure 110 and the ongoing drug crisis. 

Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels presented the the 11-point plan to County Commissioners this week. He says it's not a perfect fix, "But, I believe if all or most of these proposals were set into law by the legislature, they would improve our situation in Oregon."

Among the recommendations: reclassifying simple drug possession from a violation to a Class A misdemeanor, "A misdemeanor is a crime for which a person could spend up to a year in jail, but cannot go to prison," says Gunnels. "And, realistically, you’re not talking about a year in jail for drug possession." They also want to re-criminalize public use, in line with state laws prohibiting open use of alcohol and marijuana. And, the plan outlaws drug use in an enclosed public space, "So, if somebody is in a bus - for example, a transit bus - and they start smoking fentanyl or injecting fentanyl, they could potentially be arrested and prosecuted for this crime, in addition to the possession of the drug or public use."

Gunnels also wants the state to restore a statute allowing prosecutors to charge drug dealers even if caught before a sale takes place. He says the recommendation is to, "Redefine delivery to include Possession with Intent to Distribute, which is modeled on the federal statute for delivery of a controlled substance." The plan also includes renewing an option for diversion programs for addicts, "We used to have a statute called the Conditional Discharge Statute, here in Oregon. It allowed for people who are arrested for simple possession of drugs to be on probation with drug treatment. And if they did everything they were supposed to do, at the end of their probation the charge would be dismissed." 

They also want funding for so-called "drug courts" and other specialty court programs, and to supervise parolees convicted of theft or other property crimes tied to drug use, "That addresses a pretty glaring hole in our supervision matrix, where people are not properly supervised in the community who are drug addicts, and they’re harming businesses, they’re harming their neighbors by stealing from them." 

Click HERE for a look at the full 11-point plan proposed by state law enforcement groups. Gunnels told Commissioners, "All of these are designed to get people into treatment and not just put them in jail."

The legislature is expected to take up the issue of reforming Ballot Measure 110 in the February session.  

 

Seniors Invited To Holiday Hangout To Combat Loneliness

BEND, OR -- Special holiday hangouts are happening at the Larkspur Community Center, in an effort to help seniors connect with social activities. Leigh Lehman, with the Bend Senior Center, says about three-dozen people took part in the first event Thursday, "Frosting cookies, and petting therapy dogs, and coloring, and writing out holiday cards to loved ones, and socializing, and playing Jenga, and drinking coffee, and having fun."

Lehman tells KBND News the goal is to combat loneliness over the holidays, "This time of year, it’s especially crucial for seniors who don’t have family around or live by themselves, or otherwise have a harder time connecting, to really have that social opportunity."

She says Bend Parks & Rec also wants to reach out to people who may not realize they’ve become isolated from the community. "I see a lot of older people who are really starved for conversation," says Lehman, "Perhaps their spouse has recently passed away, or they’ve had to move or downsize recently, and so they’re sort of lacking that connection; or their circumstances have changed."

On Thursday, "There was a lovely woman who came in," says Lehman. "She’s a Russian woman and this was her first time to the senior center. And she sat down, and she frosted cookies and she wrote holiday cards, and it was so great to have her."

The next free holiday hangout at the Larkspur Community Center is Thursday, December 21, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. 

 

Photos courtesy Bend Parks & Rec

Bend Man Arrested In Large Pot Bust

BEND, OR -- Nearly a dozen local, state and federal agencies and divisions took part in a large drug bust in Bend this week. Early Tuesday morning, detectives searched three properties on Tumalo Road, Tumalo Place and Logan Avenue, and seized 330 marijuana plants, about 100 pounds of processed pot, 50 grams of psilocybin mushrooms and a firearm.

Among those involved: The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Team (DCIMME), Redmond and Bend Police, the DEA, Oregon Army National Guard and SWAT.

They arrested 39-year-old Kelly King for manufacturing marijuana within a thousand feet of a school. Authorities say they also found dangerous electrical wiring, an infestation of black mold and marijuana mites, and groundwater contaminated by pesticides and fertilizers.

Bear Creek, SE 27th Slated For Bike & Ped Upgrades

BEND, OR -- Planning is underway to redesign Bear Creek Road and 27th Street in southeast Bend, as part of a city-wide goal to create safer and more accessible bike and pedestrian routes.

Bend city staff will host an open house on Tuesday, December 19 to discuss potential designs. That event is 5-7 p.m. at the Municipal Court (555 NE 15th St. Bend). Information is also available online HERE. The city is also asking for public feedback through an online survey, through December 26. 

Project Engineer Sinclair Burr says Bear Creek is a better option for bikes and pedestrians than other nearby east-west routes. "This route is slightly lower volume of traffic than both Highway 20 and Reed Market, and it simply doesn’t have many facilities on it," he tells KBND News. He says SE 27th Street is similar.

Burr says the design of multi-use paths is not yet finalized, "Bear Creek, it’s looking like the north side is much more logical. So we’ve come up with some alternatives for Bear Creek, with a shared use path on the north side. And then, for 27th Street, we’re kind of looking on either side; and then closing the sidewalk gaps that exist on the opposite side, where the shared use path wouldn’t be constructed." There’s also a much more involved - more expensive option, "Which would be close to what we’re planning for Butler Market, what we’re planning for Olney, those type of similar improvements. But they’re far outside of our existing budget for the project."

Other work is also included in the project, "We’re also planning a roundabout at the intersection of Bear Creek, Pedigrew and Purcell."

Maps and plans will be available at Tuesday's open house, "People can come and find out ‘what does this mean for my house?’ ‘Are we going to take any land for it?’ The answer to that is generally ‘no.’ We’re just trying to share information and get feedback on what we’ve developed."

 

Redmond Leaders Concerned Over Water Use Permitting

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond is leading an effort to stop implementation of a proposed statewide water rule. “All the cities are working on it in central Oregon through the central Oregon Cities Organization. Redmond is kind of at the lead because we have a current permit with (the Oregon) Water Resources (Department),” Mayor Ed Fitch says his city learned a standard application to access more groundwater would be rejected under limitations proposed by the Water Resources Commission, “We have objected to that, and we have come up with a plan that would allow cities to access groundwater they need for the future with strong measures of conservation.”

Fitch tells KBND News he understands ongoing drought makes it necessary for the state to protect some shallow aquifers in other parts of the state, but not here. “Deschutes County is unique in that our aquifer is five times or more bigger than any other aquifer in the state,” he says adding many stakeholders are concerned, “It's a big issue that's being played out. The legislature is being involved; the governor's office is involved. So, we're hopeful that we can reach some type of rational accommodation on making sure that we have access to water. But doing it in an appropriate manner.”

City leaders met Wednesday to review the local proposal before presenting it to the state.

Parolee Housing To Open In SE Bend In January

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners formally approved a plan this week to open a housing facility for parolees in a triplex on SE Wilson in Bend. Funding to purchase the property comes from a state grant.

Commissioner Phil Chang acknowledged concerns from the public. But said it comes down to a choice between providing stable housing with management and reliable contact with probation officers, "Or, if we release these people back into the community and they cannot find a place to live, it’s very possible they could end up homeless, interacting with all kinds of individuals who may not have the most positive influence. And that person could be showing up in your neighborhood." Chang said, "I believe that the first scenario is a much better scenario for both public safety and for reintegrating people into our community."

Commissioner Tony DeBone agreed, "These are folks that have gone through an adjudicated system, been exposed to a lot of positive opportunities to move forward. So getting somebody landed in this environment is really a positive situation." He added, "I know it’s scary and awkward, but this is going to be the grounding place to really blossom new positive things."

DeBone believes it’ll also help the neighborhood, "This is an opportunity to improve the exterior and the landscaping and just the look and feel of that property, which could really be a beacon for the other properties in the area."

Commissioner Chang also noted there will be county oversight, "I would encourage anyone from that neighborhood who has concerns to contact the Community Justice Department to talk out in greater detail the supervision framework for these individuals."

The nonprofit Free on the Outside will own and operate the transitional housing facility for up to 50 people on supervised release. The property purchase is expected to close this week, with the site scheduled to open in early January. 

 

Bend Man Convicted In Double Murder Case

BEND, OR -- A Bend man convicted of killing his two roommates in 2021 now awaits trial for another murder. Randall Kilby was found guilty by a jury earlier this week, for the murders of Jeffrey Taylor and his brother Benjamin. Kilby is also accused of causing the death of Daphne Banks, but that case is on hold, "We recently had a ruling from the court suppressing his statements to the police, regarding that incident," says Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels, "So, we’re examining what our next steps are legally; whether we file an appeal, which is likely, or potentially go ahead with the trial with the evidence as it is, without his statements to police." Banks was assaulted on Christmas Day 2020 and later died.

Gunnels says the case against Kilby for the Taylor murders went to the jury much faster than he expected, partly because the defense presented no witnesses, "We expected it to be a two-week trial, and it ended up being a seven-day trial." He tells KBND News the prosecution’s case was strong and there weren’t any big surprises, "We knew that we were going to present enough evidence and the jury listened very carefully. They deliberated for six hours and came up with what I believe is the correct verdict."

The two men were killed with a hatchet inside the home they shared with Kilby and his mother, in March 2021. Gunnels admits prosecutors had a tough job presenting such a gruesome crime to the jury, "Because we have to present the evidence, including all of the photographs and the forensic evidence. And I know that it’s very difficult for family members to hear that and to see some of that evidence in the courtroom."

Kilby’s sentencing has not been scheduled. 

Image: Randall Kilby, following his 2021 arrest.

City Replacing Downtown Bend Holiday Lights

BEND, OR -- City crews are busy putting holiday lights back up in Downtown Bend, after business owners and residents complained they were missing. Strings of lights were removed when tree branches were trimmed earlier this Fall.

“All the trees downtown had to be trimmed for quite a while. They were very overgrown. And why it connects to the parking guidance system is that we knew the trees needed to be trimmed. We aligned it around that project to not spend money twice and to spend money once,” the city’s Parking Services Manager Tobias Marx admits they made an error not getting them back up sooner, “We are replacing all the twinkle lights. And by the end of this week, a lot of trees will be back with twinkle lights. And then over the following week, we are going to catch up to make sure that all the other trees that used to have twinkle lights, and actually probably a few more will have twinkle lights in them again. We have crews working on that with the exact same materials and type of light that was installed before,” He adds the newly installed parking space availability sensors aren’t affected by the lights. “… there is no reason that the parking guidance system can't have twinkle lights.”

Businesses and shoppers voiced their disappointment in the lack of lights over the past several days.

“We realized that we made a mistake on that. We thought it a much easier process because we have traditionally not handled the lighting of the trees,” Marx says. The lights are managed by the Downtown Bend Business Association. KBND News reached out to the organization, but they did not want to comment.   

Crook County's New Commissioner Ready For Work

PAULINA, OR -- Crook County’s newest Commissioner won’t be sworn in until next week, but Susie Hermreck says she’s ready to get to work. "I have resigned from the Crook County Planning Commission, which I did for eight years. I definitely thought a lot about this position in losing that position," Hermreck tells KBND News, "I’ve also resigned [from] the Crook County Fair board. And I’m on the OSU Advisory Council and I’m also on the Crooked River Roundup Foundation board." She believes that involvement and experience set her above the seven other candidates interviewed for the County Court vacancy.

Hermreck’s appointment comes amid a proposal to change Crook County’s government to include a County Administrator, similar to Deschutes and Jefferson counties. She acknowledges it's a controversial conversation and says she hasn't yet decided if she's for or against restructuring, "I am going to have to go back to college, basically, and start studying, because I’ve decided to go into this with an open mind." Hermreck says she wants to study the budget impact of such a change. "They say that there’s only seven counties in Oregon that don’t have a county administrator. That doesn’t mean anything to me. We’re unique, and I will be for what I feel is the best. And right now, I don’t feel I have enough education and learning to do that."

KBND News was initially told Hermreck is the first woman to sit on the Crook County Court. However, historians at the Bowman Museum confirm Frances Burgess holds that distinction, serving as a Commissioner in the 1970s and '80s.  

As the second female Commissioner, Hermreck hopes to provide a different perspective, "I think as women, we bring a little bit more - not that they’re not compassionate and good men - I think we bring a different aspect to the board." She adds, "I have made it very clear that I am not a ‘yes girl.’ I went to CalPoly in California and I was a Biology major, so I’m kind of a scientist by nature. And I look at the facts."

Hermreck and her husband live on a ranch in Paulina, and has lived in Crook County for 18 years. She replaces Jerry Brummer in Position One, who resigned in early October.

 

Bend PD Warns Against Winter Thefts

BEND, OR -- With cold weather settling in for the season, it’s not uncommon to see empty vehicles running in driveways, warming up for the morning commute. But, "That is not a very great idea," says Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz, "We did a lot of analysis around our data on stolen cars and, not surprisingly, found out that the number one way vehicles are stolen in our city are by the use of the key."

Krantz says it not only happens often, it's a crime that's completely preventable, "People leaving it running in the morning, warming up, or even leaving it running while they run into a convenient store or something else; and then some people just leave the keys in the car when they’re not driving. So, all three of those really, if someone has easy access to get into your car and there’s a key and it’s running, that’s really easy to drive away on." He adds, "If someone happens to be on the street who is looking for a car to steal, or maybe looking for a warm place, or just sees something that they’re likely to engage in criminal activity and they see a car started and no one’s around it, it’s an easy opportunity crime."

Krantz says porch package theft is also an easy crime of opportunity this time of year - both deliveries left on a porch and gifts left inside a parked car. Whether it’s your keys or recently purchased gifts, Krantz says valuables should never be left in your vehicle. And, if you receive a delivery when you're not home, ask a neighbor to hold on to it. 

 

Crook Co. Among Oregon Schools Receiving Hoax Bomb Threats

PORTLAND, OR -- The Crook County School District now says it was one of almost a dozen Oregon districts that received e-mailed bomb threats Monday. Officials say the message from a "nerdmail.co" account landed in a spam folder and wasn’t discovered until Tuesday.

Bomb threats Monday caused evacuations, and in some cases school closures around the state. The FBI now says the hoaxes were widespread. "We had over 18 incidents of threats being conveyed to some nearly dozen school districts across the entire state, three synagogues, as well as two of our smaller regional airports and even a small regional airline," says Kieran Ramsey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Portland office. He says clusters of threats are a big drain on law enforcement resources, "We have to assess whether these threats are credible every single time they come in. We can’t simply discount any threat on its face as a nuisance."

The FBI is working with local, state and federal partners, "To determine, ‘Okay; where did this threat originate from? Is there any further potential credibility behind that threat? And, how can we hold them accountable?’" So far, Ramsey says investigators have determined similarities. "Some of the threats used very, very similar language, if not verbatim. In some of the cases, too, we were able to identify an IP address located outside the United States." Although, it’s too early to know whether the person or people responsible are outside the U.S. or just hiding behind the foreign IP address. "We’re early in the investigation, but certainly, some are connected, given the verbiage used and perhaps the commonality of this IP address. Obviously, further investigation will help us suss out whether they are all in fact connected or not."

Ramsey says at least two other states also reported hoax threats Monday, "We know there were a number of incidents out in Ohio and down in Texas. We do not know if those are related, but we’re seeing this across the country."

Ramsey encourages anyone who sees suspicious activity or threats to report it to local law enforcement or the FBI. School threats can also be reported to the Safe Oregon tipline or website. Those caught making hoax threats could face federal charges, punishable by up to five years in prison. 

Redmond Council To Recognize RHS Students For Oasis Village

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond High School students will be recognized at Tuesday’s city council meeting for their contributions to the Oasis Village shelter, which is set to open next month.

RHS Construction Technology Instructor Alan Wheeler says student learned important skills, “We did the siding, we had window installs, we had door installs, we did insulating. So, there was a lot of trades that we touched on as we were going through, from the bottom up.” He added the project also taught them lessons beyond the classroom, “The biggest thing is connecting with their community, knowing that their work was going to be somewhere that they're going to be passing by on occasion and be able to look at that and say, 'I was part of that, I built that and I made my community a better place.’” 

He says some even worked over Thanksgiving break, “The kids came in on their holiday and they've helped finish them up. That speaks volumes as well when you have those students who are so excited about it. And, you know, they’ve bought into it that they're showing up on their day off to make sure the project gets done.”

He tells KBND News since the start of the school year about 40 students worked on four of the 15 bedroom-shelters installed at the East Redmond site. Nine students will attend Tuesday’s City Council meeting. 

Wheeler believes the project will have a lasting impact on the teens, “You're getting involved in your community, you're fixing and solving a problem, and this is one step toward it and the kids have been asking now about the students have said, 'hey, are we going to do another one?' I go, 'Absolutely’.”

Heart of Oregon Corp and Hayden Homes are also included in the council’s recognition.

 

CCSD Launches Superintendent Survey

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County’s School Board is looking for community input on the type of person the district should hire for its next Superintendent. "We’ve opened up an online community survey that’s available to our district staff, our families and then all general community members who live in Crook County," says the district's Jason Carr. The survey is available HERE through January fifth. 

Carr tells KBND News the results will be released to the public, "They’ll be presented to the board, and then made available on the superintendent search webpage that we’ve created. So, there’ll be some transparency around what people are looking for." But, he says, the school board has a general idea of the desired characteristics, "We’re certainly in an era, especially after COVID, where families and people are just more interested in what’s happening with public schools. And so, the next Superintendent I think really needs to be an advocate, somebody who listens well, communicates well, and just has a lot of passion and energy around wanting to interact with our staff and community." That means, the district wants, "Somebody who is relational, who can build really good partnerships and relationships with the community, the school board, our administration, teachers." 

Applications for Superintendent candidates will be accepted through January 20th. "Once that is complete, then we’ll have an initial screening committee that will pare down the applications." Carr says that screening committee is not yet finalized. "And then from there, there will be interviews with the board directly, and also an opportunity for meet-and-greet with community members with the finalists." The first round of interviews is scheduled for early February, with final interviews and community meeting s planned for early March.

Crook County Schools hopes to announce its new superintendent by March 11th, to start work on July first. 

 

New Tetherow Home Damaged By Fire

BEND, OR -- Bend Fire responded to the Tetherow neighborhood just after 10:30 Monday night. The owners of a new house on McRoberts Lane heard noise coming from the attic and discovered a fire. Everyone got out safely and fire crews stopped the flames from spreading into the livable area.

According to Bend Fire & Rescue, the homeowners had just moved in a week ago and were still unpacking. 

Losses are estimated at around $225,000. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

 

AFTERNOON UPDATE: Investigators now say the fire started behind the gas fireplace, either from a malfunction or failure of the installation or assembly. The three family members are working with the insurance company to secure housing during the rebuild process. 

Crook County Selects Commissioner To Fill Vacancy

PRINEVILLE, OR -- The two remaining Crook County Commissioners say they have selected Susan Hermreck to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Commissioner Jerry Brummer. Hermreck is the seond woman to serve on the County Court. 

Judge Seth Crawford and Commissioner Brian Barney interviewed eight candidates for Position One last week. In a statement, Crawford said, "Susan Hermreck will be a great fit for this position. She has been an important part of our community and understands the issues that Crook County is facing. I am especially excited for her knowledge of roads and business." Commissioner Barney added, "Susan's perspectives coupled with her extensive experience, maker her an outstanding choice to contribute to the growth and progress of Crook County. 

Her appointment is expected to become official at the December 19 County Court meeting.

 

A previous verson of this story reported Hermreck as the first female to serve on the Crook County Court, based on incorrect information provided to KBND News. Frances Burgess was, in fact, the first woman, serving from 1974-1987. KBND News regrets the error. 

Three Arrested After RV Fire, Shooting Near China Hat

BEND, OR -- Three people face numerous charges after the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office says they tried to steal an RV parked in a transient camp off China Hat Road over the weekend. The vehicle belonged to a man who had recently died and was unoccupied.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the trio was in such a rush to take the trailer, they didn't retract the stabilizing jacks or slides and, "The recreational vehicle became stuck while attempting to navigate the narrow winding paths" off China Hat Road. At that point, two other campers jumped into the bed of the pickup. Rosey Olson reportedly broke out the rear window and threw things out of the truck bed, in an effort to stop the suspects. One person inside the truck began firing shots from a handgun, striking Olson in the shoulder. 

Investigators say the RV was then lit on fire as the suspects unhitched and drove off. Olson was taken to the hospital where law enforcement was notified and began investigating. She was later released. 

Edward Baer, Kayla Grigsby and Tristan Hoelscher, all listed as transients, are accused of Robbery, Assault, Theft and other charges. They were arrested at a home in La Pine. 

 

file photo

OSP, ODFW Investigating Cluster Of Poaching Incidents

SALEM, OR -- Oregon State Police fish and wildlife troopers are investigating almost a dozen poaching incidents reported in the past two months. Included in the tally are a bighorn sheep, two black bear cubs, seven elk and two black-tailed buck deer, all killed illegally and left to waste.

"Oregon has a poaching problem," says Yvonne Shaw, with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It’s too early to know if this is a higher than normal number of incidents. But Shaw isn't surprised by the timing, "Hunters are out in areas in Oregon that are normally not accessible. So, we always have an uptick in reports at this time of year because they’re discovered by hunters." But, she says, hunters are rarely responsible, "In fact, hunters are great conservationists and they are the ones who are turning in these incidents."

Shaw says State Police take cases seriously, "We have 128 troopers across the state, and they are great at finding these cases and intercepting crimes while they’re happening." But, they can’t be everywhere, "Because there is so much land to cover, we do rely on the public to be aware and, if they see something suspicious, to turn it in."

ODFW launched a campaign with OSP earlier this year to better educate the public about poaching and its impacts. Shaw is hopeful the recent increase in cases is because of increased awareness. Suspected poaching can be reported by calling *OSP (*677) from a mobile phone or 800-452-7888 from a landline. Reports can also be emailed to TIP@osp.oregon.gov or by filling out the form at ProtectOregonsWildlife.com. "No tip is a bad tip," says Shaw, "And we rely on tips from the public to solve these cases." She adds, "People can turn in poachers anonymously. And, if their tip leads to a citation or an arrest in the case, they qualify for cash rewards or hunter preference points."

 

Neff + Purcell Intersection Opens Monday 12/11

BEND, OR -- The northeast Bend intersection of Neff Road and Purcell Boulevard reopens Monday at noon, after a 10-month closure. 

Mayor Melanie Kebler says work to update the intersection took three months longer than expected because crews ran into several challenges, “So if anyone's had the experience of like doing a home project, you open up a wall and you find some stuff that you didn't want to be there. That was the experience with this project.”

They found old unmapped utility lines at the intersection that serves as a major east-west route to St Charles Medical Center. “Every time we got in the ground, we found things that we didn't know were there, and weren't supposed to be there. There were just a lot of, kind of opening up a can of worms that happened throughout the project, but really proud of the staff of working through that,” Kebler says adding she’s proud of the contractors’ extra efforts, and is glad the intersection is finally ready, “…Making sure to get everything right. So that'll be open noon on Monday and I think everyone in town is going to be really excited for that.”

In addition to work at Neff, Purcell north from Full Moon Drive to Courtney Drive was widened, and now has sidewalks and bike lanes. 

Drivers still need to watch for flaggers, and designated pedestrian access, as finishing touches are put on sidewalks and landscaping. That work should be complete by the end of the month according to a City of Bend press release.

 

Bend Approves First Multi-Unit Property Tax Exemption

BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors have approved the first property tax exemption for a multi-unit housing project, through a program created last year to incentivize high-density residential development in certain areas. Cate Schneider, with the City Manager's Office, told Councilors last week the Platform project will replace the now vacant Les Schwab Tires facility on Franklin Avenue, in Bend's Central District, "It is two new five-story multi-family buildings, with 199 residential units." 

Platform qualifies for the Multiple Unit Property Tax Exemption (MUPTE) and was not opposed by the taxing districts, including Bend Parks and Rec and Bend-La Pine Schools. In addition to that hurdle, the developer also had to show a community benefit and prove the project was not financially feasible without the tax break. "Just to give you a sense for what this 10-year exemption would mean for this project," said Schneider, "We estimate that it would be an approximately $4.4 million exemption over the 10-year term. The project will still pay property taxes on the land value. We estimate it will still pay $1.2 million in property taxes during that exemption."

Caroline Baggott, with the developer Project PDX, says it’ll also include a public plaza, "This is featuring native landscaping. There’s going to be benches and gathering spaces, a firepit, opportunities for pop-up events and performances. We have planned for power outlets incorporated into the space, and things like that. Again, providing connectivity to the planned Franklin Ave. upgrades. Open 24/7 to the public." She told Councilors, "The plan for our project is to demolish four of the existing warehouse buildings. The former Les Schwab tire shop will remain and be remade into a commercial use." Because that last building is not residential, it doesn’t qualify for the property tax exemption. 

 

Grants Address Loneliness In Central Oregon

BEND, OR -- St. Charles Health System recently awarded more than $80,000 in grants to eight local organizations combating loneliness. Community Benefits Manager Carlos Salcedo says pandemic lockdowns exacerbated an already growing problem, "A lot of those individuals went home, stayed home and never came back. So, we’re supporting those programs that are building programs and trying to get those people to come back, and building community."

Salcedo tells KBND News social engagement is an important component to overall physical and mental health, "And more and more data’s coming out that’s helping identify the fact that it does have a negative impact on individual health. And I think, as we move forward, what people are starting to realize is that it’s not just about the health of the individual that’s impacted. But it’s the health of a community."

Grant recipients include La Pine Middle School, SriPonya Collective in Warm Springs and the Redmond Senior Center. Trust for Public Land will use its grant for a community schoolyard at Madras Elementary. "Oregon Adaptive Sports, we’re supporting that. And that’s just about building the space for individuals to come together that are being served by those programs," says Salcedo. "We’ve funded the Council on Aging of Central Oregon, and they have programs that are helping connect senior citizens to individuals that can provide them ongoing conversation." Money is also headed to the National Alliance of Mental Illness of Central Oregon and Shepherd's House Ministries. 

This is the first round of St. Charles grants targeting loneliness, "We funded this in the fourth quarter of this year. We’re going to look to fund three more cycles in 2024, and then in 2025 again." But Salcedo says every individual can help prevent loneliness, "Saying hi, having conversations, reaching out, being friendly, being kind." And, if you’re struggling, reach out. "There is help out there. That’s the one thing to know. There’s more people that are kind than are not kind. It’s just that we’re afraid to engage."

 

Bend Council Mulls Updates To Development Fees

BEND, OR -- The Bend City Council received more information this week about a proposal to update development codes and fees, in an effort to manage continued growth. The city is reviewing its System Development Charge methodology and codes. Mayor Melanie Kebler tells KBND News changing how SDCs are applied will help create more affordable housing, “This is just to make it easier to build those smaller types of homes, which can be more affordable and can help us do some of the infill that we want to do. Instead of sprawling, we want to make sure we're filling in inside of our boundary so that we're leaving our wild open places intact outside the city. So, this is just one part of that strategy to do.”

She says this review was necessary as some of the methodology for applying impact fees hadn’t changed in 20 years, “We also wanted to take a look, especially at how we were charging SDCs for housing, new housing and try to make them proportionate to encourage smaller housing and not have a barrier. it doesn't make sense for a 3,000 (square) foot home to pay the same price as an 800 (square) foot home.”

She acknowledges that proposed updates to non-residential SDCs couldmake commercial construction more expensive, “We are still hearing feedback from folks about this. This methodology is out for comment for a while more before we make a final vote. So, we’d love to hear from folks about specific instances. These are the one-time fees when something's built. So, not an ongoing cost and we're hoping to calibrate it to represent the impacts that growth has on our city.”

A public hearing is scheduled for January 17th.

Councilors also want to streamline how the city handles contracts with utility companies that use city infrastructure.

“So, we have been individually negotiating agreements with folks to put their stuff into our right of way. And we are moving to develop just a code that will apply to everybody, and kind of have a more fair approach,” Kebler said, adding they’re meeting with utilities next week, and will vote on the proposed code at a meeting next month.

 

Redmond Woman Killed In Wednesday Crash

REDMOND, OR -- A 30-year-old woman was killed in a head-on crash south of Redmond, Wednesday afternoon. The incident shut down S. Canal Boulevard for more than two hours, south of Helmholtz.

According to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, the woman was northbound on Canal, when she collided with a southbound pickup. Paramedics say she died at the scene

Witnesses reported the woman's car was in the oncoming lane. The driver of the pickup, a 42-year-old Bend man, told investigators he was unable to avoid the collision. DCSO says he was not hurt and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

MOCU Identity Theft Protection Seminar Dec. 12

BEND, OR -- Identity Theft remains a growing problem. 33% of Americans will face some sort of the crime, according to the national council on identity theft.

Mid Oregon Credit Union’s Kyle Frick tells KBND News those chances increase this time of year, “People are ordering things online, they're tracking packages, they get a text to track a package, click on this and it's not for their package. It's for someone to be able to track, to get their information.”

Those tips and more will be given at next week’s identity theft seminar.

“It's going to be presented by the Bend Police and the Deschutes County Sheriff's forensic team. So they see this stuff all the time. They're reacting to it and they're going to share some information on how you can protect yourself,” Frick says adding, “Anyone who has a cell phone or who has a bank account is definitely vulnerable. So, yeah, you should definitely learn about these things.”

Thieves target all ages. “30 to 39 year olds were the most victimized. And what we usually hear is about Seniors that get taken advantage. Well, it's not so much anymore,” he says

Mid Oregon Credit Union hosts a free seminar December 12th , discussing ways to prevent ID Theft and what to do if it happens. You’ll find details on the credit union’s website

Concerns Raised Over Bend SDC Proposal

BEND, OR -- The city of Bend is considering changes to how it calculates System Development Charges (SDCs) - those are fees paid by developers to cover the cost of increased demands on infrastructure, like roads, water and sewer. But Brian Fratzke, of Fratzke Commercial Real Estate, worries it will slow the pace of development.

It would increase water SDCs "For new medical buildings by 100%," Fratzke tells KBND News, "And if you want to do an indoor athletic facility - crossfit gym, pickleball court, indoor volleyball, the fees are going up 371%." He adds permit fees have also increased, "Even if the cost of construction went flat and labor went flat, it’s still really tough to get a building to pencil. We did an analysis: a new 7,000 foot medical building in Bend, the dirt costs less than the fees that are charged to build a building."

Other changes are proposed for transportation and sewer SDCs. The city has said revisions are needed to stimulate housing development and be more fair to high-density projects. Fratzke worries about the future impact on non-residential buildings, "Those fees, they think, ‘oh, the developer will pay them.’ Yeah, the developer’s going to hand them over to guys like you and me that are leasing the space. Our medical rates are already high. At some point, what I think will happen is people will say, ‘I can’t afford the rent.’ And you’re going to see a slowdown in construction."

A public hearing is scheduled for the January 17 Bend City Council meeting.

 

102-Year-Old Pearl Harbor Survivor Honored In Bend

BEND, OR -- Central Oregon’s last living Pearl Harbor survivor was honored by the Bend City Council Wednesday night. Councilors proclaimed Thursday Pearl Harbor Remembrance and Dick Higgins Day, in recognition of the 102-year-old.

Councilor Barb Campbell recounted Higgins’ bravery on December 7, 1941, "Immediately after the attack, Dick Higgins helped salvage PBSA aircraft, so that some would quickly become operational." She also noted his continued efforts to honor his fallen comrades, "Higgins visits the Erickson Aircraft collection in Madras, Oregon, during annual airshows, educating the public on the Pearl Harbor attack and the gift of freedom."

Campbell’s grandfather was also at Pearl Harbor. She got emotional while reading the city's proclamation, "The City Council encourages the citizens of Bend to honor those Americans who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor by flying American flags at half staff." Click HERE to read the full proclomation. 

Dick Tobiason, head of the Bend Heroes Foundation, reminded Council the attack propelled our country into World War II, "There are only 75 Pearl Harbor survivors left in the United States. Dick represents all of those. He represents all of our World War II veterans." He says 60 million Americans went to war; 407,000 didn’t come home, "On a smaller scale, here in Bend, a city of 10,000 people when the war started, 3,000 young men went off to war; 72 did not come back alive."

Following the presentation, Higgins’ granddaughter Angela Norton thanked the city for its ongoing support for veterans, "They gave so much for us. Grandpa always says freedom isn’t free. And there’s a lot of lives lost in World War II and on that day, especially, in Pearl Harbor."

Higgins moved to Bend to be closer to family after his wife of more than 60 years passed away. He will also be recognized in a special assembly Thursday morning at Bend Senior High.

Photo courtesy of the City of Bend.

Visitors Urged To Respect Wildlife Winter Closures

SISTERS, OR -- The Forest Service reminds people motorized vehicles are not allowed where Wildlife Winter Range closures are in effect. Areas closed for wildlife include Cabin/Silver Lake, Metolius Winter Range, Opine Travel Management Area and Tumalo Winter Range. "They are gated," says Kassidy Kern, with the Deschutes National Forest, "Don’t swing your bike around them, don’t try to drive around them. Really respect those wildlife areas because, while we have a home to go to, that’s their home and we’re in it. So we need to be respectful when we’re there." She tells KBND News the areas are set aside to protect deer and elk at lower elevations, where food is not covered by snow.

"From 2004-2021, we have had a 56% decline in our mule deer populations," says Kern. Many are lost to human disturbance, "That disturbance looks like: we’re smashing them as they’re crossing the road; we’re cutting up places where they might’ve had a migratory path, and now it’s a big subdivision." She adds, "We see so many deer in town and we think, ‘Oh. Well we don’t have a deer issue here. I see them all over my community.’ But you have to understand that the reason we have issues with residential deer is that somewhere along the way the fawn’s mother very likely got hit by a vehicle. And now they don’t know what their migratory path is, so they’re stuck."

Winter Range closures remain in effect through the end of March. Click HERE for detailed closure maps. "This is just one of those things where we love living next to the forest. We love living among the trees," says Kern, "There are some things that we need to be watchful for. And one of those things is making sure that our deer and elk populations can stay at sustainable levels."

 

OSU Extension To Update Food Preservation Curriculum

CORVALLIS, OR -- Oregon State University’s Extension Service will use a new federal grant to expand food preservation classes in tribal communities. 

For more than 100 years, OSU Extension has offered food safety classes based on scientific research. But Food Security and Safety Program Manager Jared Hibbard-Swanson says it excluded knowledge developed over hundreds of generations, "In certain communities, when we come from the scientific perspective and say ‘this is the right way to do things; this is the only safe way to do things,’ that can sometimes clash with traditional practices and traditional knowledge." And, he says, much of the USDA research used for the curriculum was developed in the 1940s and ‘50s in Georgia. "There’s not a lot of foods specific to the Northwest that are mentioned in there."

Danita Macy is the Extension Service's Urban Native Indigenous Programs Manager in the Portland area. She says food preservation techniques developed by tribal communities are safe and should be recognized, "Traditional ecological knowledge is science. It’s just called by a different name in different groups." She notes the major time commitment required for the Master Food Preserver course puts it out of reach for many in outlying areas. It's also only offered in a handful of locations once a year, making it inaccessible to many of Oregon’s indigenous people, "They also have the right to the certifications and knowledge that everybody else has. But because we were put on reservations so far from everywhere, it’s hard to gain access when those classes are available."

Oregon State University received an $833,000 grant to develop new, more inclusive curriculum for Oregon's tribal and Pacific Island communities. Olivia Davis, with the Jefferson County and Warm Springs extension office, says they're working with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Culture and Heritage Committee to customize lessons for its people. "Every tribe has a different feeling and guidance on what you do with your traditional foods," says Davis, "And Warm Springs doesn’t share that out with non-tribal members."

Hibbard-Swanson says there has been a push in recent years to update curriculum and make it more accessible. "Home canning, home food preservation is not just a hobby for the affluent who want to give nice stocking stuffers. It actually is crucial to food security, to food sovereignty, to people having access to the foods that are healthy, nutritious and significant to them." He says this new grant will help instructors strike a delicate balance where, "Traditional practices are celebrated and respected. And, at the same time, as those food types change and technologies change, there’s a question about safe adaptation of tradition, as well." 

 

Shepherd's House Plans First Big Event At Redmond Shelter

REDMOND, OR -- Shepherd’s House Ministries plans to host a Christmas dinner at its new Redmond shelter later this month for participants in its low-barrier services. "We’re also opening this Christmas event to the public, for anyone who doesn’t have a place to go for Christmas dinner, or who wants to see our facility or wants to check out our services," says Director of Development Shelly Gibbs. 

The nonprofit is now collecting donations of holiday foods - like potatoes, yams and other fresh vegetables, rolls, butter, ham and pies. "We are wanting to do a beautiful spread that will have appetizers, the main meal and desserts, as well as beverages," says Gibbs, "So those can be donated and dropped off at either location: our new Redmond Center or our regular donation center, which is actually our men’s center, at 1854 NE Division Street."

Volunteers will also distribute gifts of toiletries, socks, gloves and hats to residents, "The community can be a part of that in any capacity, whether they want to volunteer in the kitchen - they want to help serve food, whether they want to partner with us with an in-kind donation or financially."

Gibbs tells KBND News this will be an annual event for the Redmond center, "This is an experiment. We haven’t even been open a month. We’ve never hosted an event in Redmond, so we’re starting with a meal and gifts and seeing how the community responds; seeing how we can best serve this demographic of guests." She adds, "That transition from winter shelter to full-time shelter is a new experience and throughout this time, we’ve discovered the deep need for that. So, we’re wanting to create an event - just like we do for Thanksgiving here in Bend - we are going to be doing an annual Christmas meal every year in Redmond."

Christmas dinner will be served Friday, December 22nd, from 2-4 p.m. at the Redmond shelter on South Highway 97, just north of Veterans Way. 

 

Downtown Bend Parking Availability Signs Now Operating

BEND, OR -- The City of Bend activated a new Parking Guidance System Tuesday in downtown.

“First, when you drive into downtown, either on Wall or Bond Street, you see these big signs that have real time numbers of what parking is available in downtown on our paid lots, the south and the north Mirror Pond lot, the Greenwood lot, as well as in the parking garage, and as well as on-street,” Parking Manager Tobias Marx says information is sent from high-tech imaging devices, “The optical sensors, there's 54 installed in downtown including the parking lots. They do still images. And then the computer analyzes the images for what's in the spaces that are marked in the frames of the sensors.”

The displays are highly accurate, “On the street, we were about 100% accuracy, depending on the timing, meaning there is about a 30 to 40 seconds delay in the latency because the sensors need to communicate. On the lots, we were probably at around 96% which in, at 80 or 90 spaces per lot that's still very close within the margin that we feel comfortable about it,” Marx says adding for now, information is only sent to the digital signs, but future applications could let drivers look for parking with their phone or vehicle’s navigation system.

Installation of the Parking Guidance System cost the city roughly $304,0000, and was paid for with parking fees, subscriptions, and citations.

Mt. Bachelor Aims To Reopen Friday

BEND, OR -- Mount Bachelor isn’t expected to reopen until at least Friday. After opening the 2023-24 season for just one day last Saturday, the resort says heavy rain and warm temps melted off a foot of snow from the base.

Cooler weather and more snow is expected by the end of the week. The goal is to open Little Pine and Sunrise lifts Friday morning and then additional lifts and terrain as conditions allow.

The National Weather Service issued a Hydrologic Outlook for Central and northeastern Oregon through Wednesday, due to the massive rain forecast for the area. West of the Cascades, flood watches and warnings are in place. On Tuesday, flooding closed portions of Highway 101 near Seaside and Highway 6 in Tillamook. Some areas saw as much as six inches of rain in 24 hours. Farther inland, Willamette National Forest engineers are working to repair a Forest Service Road near Terwilliger Springs, where a landslide blocked access. 

Redmond Celebrates New Downtown Businesses

REDMOND, OR -- Downtown Redmond boasts 15 new businesses this year, although commercial occupancy is down three percent. Chuck Arnold, the city's Urban Renewal Program Manager, says, "94% last year, down sliding a bit to 91%, really keeps us above that very healthy downtown of 80-90% occupancy."

New tenants range from dining to retail, along with a play place for kids and an exotic pet shop, "The changes that have been happening have been really good for the diversity of options, which is what we’re really excited about, and really is a bellwether for the health of the downtown," says Arnold, "There are now so many more choices of different types of things to do."

Arnold tells KBND News the city, "Provides some incentives to help improve buildings, and that really makes a big difference. We also see this critical mass of the investment made by the community with the hotel reopening, and some of the other businesses that have opened downtown because of the hotel, have started to make this momentum that’s really palatable." One of those grants was used to renovate what’s now the Blacksmith Public House, which opened at Third and Evergreen in April, "That was a conversion of an old industrial building that was really just one welding shop. And that got converted into this center now, where there’s just activity going on all the time. There’s a coffee shop there open in the morning, taphouse at night, live music, food trucks."

He says the focus in 2024 is on creating more downtown housing, "We have 150 units of housing in downtown right now; we’d like to see that grow by a good 10%-plus a year, if we can continue to work on incentivizing that. So, we’re working actively with the development community."

 

NeighborImpact Sees Growing Food Insecurity Numbers

REDMOND, OR -- A local food pantry says the need for food assistance is at the greatest they’ve seen. “Our demand has gone up two times, 2.5 times what we experienced during COVID. And before COVID, we're looking at three times the amount of food needed,” NeighborImpact’s Food Program Director Carly Auten tells KBND News all Central Oregon counties are affected, “The average food insecurity rate across the nation is 12.8% and we are seeing higher numbers than that in Jefferson County, and similar numbers in Crook and Deschutes County.”

40% of Oregonians can’t meet basic food and housing needs. “We know that at this point there isn't really an end in sight. I mean, we just hope for things to level off, but we haven't seen that yet,” Auten says.

NeighborImpact receives state funding to buy food, but it doesn’t go far enough. She says they rely heavily on monetary donations from the public, “The biggest value for the dollar is for us to be purchasing truckloads of food because we get it at bulk pricing.”

Neighborimpact is also building a larger warehouse in order to stock more food and other supplies.

Maragas Winery hosts a Christmas Eve fundraiser to benefit NeighborImpact. Donations will be collected during an open house at the winery in Culver from 11:30 am to 3 pm. 

photo: Future Warehouse Rendering

Bend Parks Apologizes For Winter Registration Issue

BEND, OR -- Hundreds of people trying to sign up for Bend Parks and Rec activities Monday morning ran into issues including transactions that timed out before completion and a frozen website. Monday was the first of a three-day registration period for winter and early spring recreation activities. 

Director of Recreation Services Matt Mercer said Monday, "We feel very terrible for the experience that people have had and we’ve worked hard to improve it over the last year. And, until today, we’ve been able to deliver on that. But today we weren’t."

Registration opened at 6 a.m. for enrichment activities and no-school-day programs, but by 7 a.m., dozens had taken to social media complaining they had classes in their online "cart" but couldn't finish the process. Mercer tells KBND News the problem was resolved by 8:45, but by then, many popular programs had filled. "We have identified that there are around 50 people that attempted to register for a program, and tried to register for a program on a return visit and were unable to get those programs." He added, "We’ve certainly had some people call, and we’re working with people who had that experience and doing our best to accommodate them."

Mercer says the system is constantly updating, just like our phones and computers. On Monday, "An update in our security/anti-virus software ended up affecting registration. It’s something that was unknown to us. And the challenge that we face is being able to truly load-test our system at the level that it experiences - the volume it experiences on the first day of registration." The update caused to a glitch with credit card processing. He says, "Over the last year, we’ve optimized the system where we have been able to have 100 people on per minute, very successfully. We were dropped all the way down to 15 people per minute. We ended up registering, actually, more people than we did last winter. It just took a lot longer to do that."

Registration continues Tuesday for swim lessons and Wednesday for sports leagues. Mercer does not believe those sign-ups will be impacted.

 

Commissioners Consider Deschutes Parole And Probations Property Purchase

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners will discuss Wednesday whether to purchase Bend property to house Parole and Probation clients.

Community Justice Director Deevy Holcomb tells KBND News the facility on Southeast Wilson, set to open next month on the 10th, would allow shelter for about 50 parolees.

“I think it's going to probably be double than what we had initially anticipated, which also means we're going to be serving hopefully a wider range of people on supervision for different types of crimes or different offenses or with different kinds of conditions that they have to meet,” Holcomb says, adding the housing will help about 50 convicts meet the conditions of their parole or probation, “I'd say about 10% of the supervised-population in Deschutes County is homeless. And then there are different types of homelessness, different levels and different lengths of time that people can be homeless. So, we're going to try to focus on those who are chronically homeless.”

She says providing a place for them to stay benefits everyone, “Basically as a way to provide an elevated level of supervision and public safety in the sense that we can know where people are, they are not moving transient from one place to one place each night or each week or that sort of thing.”

Free On The Outside, an Oregon City organization operating 20 similar sites around the state is contracted to manage the site. 

Holcomb says they notified neighbors it should open next month, “Just wanted to start out being as good neighbors as we could. And we had some people go to all the adjacent properties. I think we went to about 25 residences around the proposed property.”

A $1,078,518 10-year state grant will fund the program.

 

Mt. Bachelor Ops Suspended For Rain

BEND, OR -- After more than a week's delay, Mt. Bachelor opened Saturday at 9 a.m. But the celebration was short-lived.

A storm delivered plenty of snow for the opening, and skiers and snowboarders were welcomed by a foot of fresh powder, free beer from Deschutes Brewery and live music.

However, operations were suspended Sunday, when rain moved in to the mountain and officials worried about possible flooding in some areas. Heavy rainfall is expected to continue through Wednesday.

Mt. Bachelor's Lauren Burke issued a statement, saying in part, "In order to preserve our snowpack for the season ahead, we will be limiting all disturbances on the snow surface and suspending operations through Tuesday." Conditions will be assessed each day, with the goal to reopen Wednesday morning, if possible. 

 

Work To Finally Begin On Highway 97 In Terrebonne Next Spring

TERREBONNE, OR -- After years of negotiations with Deschutes County and the Terrebonne community, the Oregon Department of Transportation will soon start work on Highway 97 improvements at Lower Bridge Way. The project includes a new “dog-bone” interchange, designed to provide safer access to Crooked River Ranch. "US 97 will essentially be a bridge over the roads that go underneath, with on and off-ramps," says ODOT's Kacey Davey, "So, that’s a really good safety feature and something that’s going to help traffic flow through the area."

ODOT initially wanted to split north and southbound traffic with a "couplet" on 11th Street, in an effort to increase capacity and reduce congestion. But the plan was scrapped after outcry from several Terrebonne businesses. Davey now tells KBND News, "There will be two-way traffic on US 97, just as it is now. So, we’re not going to split and do northbound one way, and then another block over do southbound."

Davey says the goal is to instead keep traffic moving with other improvements, "There’s going to be an easier way for people to turn left onto 97. People who are coming from east of the highway - So, say you’re coming from Smith Rock - you’ll be able to go to this interchange and have a safe and easy way to merge onto 97, instead of having to wait and dart out across traffic as you’re trying to go southbound."

Some local roads will also get upgrades, through a partnership with the county, "There will be improvements to 11th Street in Terrebonne, which is that other parallel street. But that’s just going to be streetscaping and sidewalks, and making that area nicer for local traffic." Davey adds, "Smith Rock Way will also get improved. It will have a little wider travel lanes, and it will have bike lanes and sidewalks, as well." Work on the $30 million project should begin in Spring and finish by the end of 2025.

ODOT will discuss the design, detours and schedule at 5 p.m. Monday at Terrebonne Community School. Another open house is Wednesday at 5 p.m., at the Crooked River Ranch Administration Building. Click HERE for more information on the meetings and project. 

 

Pair Arrested In Sunriver Following Theft Of Bend Truck, Trailer

SUNRIVER, OR -- A Washington County pair was arrested Friday morning south of Sunriver, after allegedly stealing a truck and trailer from separate locations in Bend.

The trailer's owner said a tracker on the vehicle showed it was south of Sunriver.  A U.S. Forest Service officer found the vehicles and provided surveillance until Sheriff's deputies arrived just after noon. The two suspects took off in a car, but were arrested a short time later in business park on Venture Lane.

During the search for the suspects, Three Rivers School was placed in "Secure" status, where the doors are locked but classes continued.

Jason Carlson and Jasmine Diab were arrested on unrelated warrants and other charges. The truck and trailer were returned to their owners.

Bend Proposes SDC Updates

BEND, OR -- The City of Bend is considering changes to its System Development Charges that pay for water, transportation, and sewer.

City Management Analyst Sarah Hutson says a methodology update will create more consistency in the fee structure, and lower costs for smaller housing units, “We’re going to a tiered structure for single unit detached homes and middle housing, so two to four units like duplexes and triplexes and quadplexes. That fee will be based on square footage rather than one uniform rate for single family homes.”

She tells KBND News there are other proposed changes, “We’re also looking at expanding exemptions for childcare facilities. So right now, child care is exempted from transportation SDCs. Under the proposed structure they would be exempted from water, sewer, and transportation.”

The city is keeping home affordability in mind. “We’re looking at how do we increase housing affordability while still getting revenue that the city needs. You’re looking at lower SDCs for residential units that have a smaller footprint so it helps with that density that is a really big part of the city’s goals,” Hutson says adding, some places won’t see much change. “Lower fees for smaller homes, and higher fees for higher square footage homes. So, because of that tiered structure, it really depends on the type of development.”

A public work session next Wednesday December 6th. A public hearing will be held January 17th.  You can view the proposals at the city’s website.

If accepted, the changes would take effect next July.

 

Redmond's Ice Rink Opens Saturday

REDMOND, OR -- Thanks to the return of winter weather, Redmond's = ice rink opens to the public Saturday, December 2nd, at 2 p.m. It's located on Seventh Street, betwee SW Deschutes and Evergreen Avenues. 

The 4,000-square foot rink operates seven days a week, through March, weather permitting. Skate rentals are available 3-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 2-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2-9 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $2 with your own skates, $6 with skate rental.

Free skate is open for those with their own skates Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.,  and Friday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. During those times, the ice surface may not be groomed and ther rink closes if there's snow on the rink, the ice is too soft or other safety hazards exist. 

More information is available at the Redmond Area Parks and Rec website

 

file photo

Bend Man Accused Of Trying To Lure Kids On Social Media

BEND, OR -- Bend Police say a 26-year-old Bend man wanted to meet an underage girl for sex, offering to supply her with "magic mushrooms," alcohol and condoms for the encounter. The person Hunter Nash met online earlier this week wasn't a 16-year-old girl, though. It was a BPD officer working undercover to find adults who try to lure minors through social media and online dating sites. 

Investigators say after Nash learned the person he was messaging was 16, he sent explicit photos and pictures of bags of psilocybin mushrooms. He agreed to meet the girl at Ponderosa Skate Park in Bend Tuesday evening. When he arrived, officers took him into custody. They say they found  condoms and a 12-pack of White Claw in his car. More than 28 grams of psilocybin was also recovered from his home. 

Nash is charged with Attempting to Furnish Liquor to a Minor, drug possession, Attempted Delivery of a Schedule I Substance to a Minor, Luring a Minr for Sexual Conduct, Online Sexual Corruption of a Child, Attempted Sex Abuse and Endangering a Minor. 

Lawsuits Over La Pine Ambulance Service Dropped

LA PINE, OR -- The four-year fight over ambulance service between the La Pine Rural Fire Protection District, St. Charles Health System and the La Pine Community Health Center is over.

"We have had some disagreements over how billing should be handled for medical transports from healthcare centers," says Courtney Ignazzitto, with La Pine Community Health Center (LPCHC). The dispute was over who should pay for transporting patients to the hospital in Bend from either St. Charles' La Pine clinics or the LPCHC. In 2019 and 2021, the fire district passed ordinances allowing it to bill clinics for all ambulance rides resulting from a La Pine clinic calling 911 for a patient. 

Ignazzitto tells KBND News all sides have agreed to drop their lawsuits, and outstanding invoices for medical transports from clinics to the hospital are forgiven. The deal also includes other changes, "Our providers, when they’re on-boarded, have meetings with the fire department, with those that are making those medical transports and understanding what are the challenges they face here in La Pine." She adds, "St. Charles, La Pine Community Health Center and the fire district will sit down regularly and discuss areas that can be improved on each person’s part, and create a plan." And, "There’s one more ordinance in place that allows the billing of these transports from clinics to the hospital. That is being withdrawn." She notes that process could take several more months.  

According to Ignazzitto, the amicable resolution is in large part due to a recent change in leadership at the La Pine Rural Fire Protection District, which provides ambulance service in South County, "It’s almost a completely new board. And then, we have a new fire chief, Chief Eric Holsey. He is just a great advocate for our community."

Overall, she says, the goal is to improve communication on all sides. "Being able to put this behind us and just move forward with a fresh start is going to be really great for just that relational aspect between caregivers and first responders," says Ignazzitto, "Because they are so vital for our community." 

File Photo

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