Local News Archives for 2024-03

Prineville Man Arrested For Drug Trafficking

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

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

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

McQuage is charged with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Proposal For Future Of Redmond High Takes Shape

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

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

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

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

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

 

Parolee Housing Program Ends Prior To Launch

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

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

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

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

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

 

DCSO SAR Gears Up For Busy Season

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Search and Rescue is one of the busiest in the state, and calls typically increase over Spring Break. "Just obviously on the basis of the region in which we reside in, and all the activities that, not only do our residents take part in, but the people that come to visit," says Sheriff’s Captain Paul Garrison, who supervises the team. He tells KBND News the SAR unit used to experience down times. But the year-round appeal of our area means there is no longer a slow season, "I would estimate that we are probably 50/50: 50% of our call-outs are to residents that are in need of help, as well as those that are visiting from outside the region."

He expects DCSO's SAR team will see even more calls for service as the weather warms, "As we start to go into the summer, and people are more outdoorsy and they’re climbing Smith Rock or on the back trails or they’re climbing South Sister, we just find folks that find themselves in a difficult situation in need of some help."

DCSO recently purchased Sno-Cat, which Garrison says has been useful during the transition of seasons, when higher elevations still have a lot of snow, "We call it a tracked rescue vehicle. It’s been used several times already to deliver resources to that backcountry area." Last week, it was deployed to help Clackamas County’s SAR team rescue a family of six on Mt. Hood, "The fortunate thing is that this piece of equipment has its own plow blade on the front and it’s able to plow in and make a very travelable area to go through to rescue someone. So, this fulfilled that need and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office was greatly appreciative we were able to send that piece of equipment up to help them." 

Garrison reminds backcountry visitors to dress appropriately for changing weather conditions, carry water and always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return. 


File photo: Deschutes County Search and Rescue and Bend Fire respond to an injured OHV rider in May 2023. 

Redmond PD Identifies Theft Suspects

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Police believe they have identified two people responsible for multiple local thefts that occurred between March 17 and 19. Detectives released photos from surveillance earlier this week, in an effort to track down a man and woman suspected of theft-related crimes at Walmart, Texaco, Wilco and Rite Aid.

RPD now says the two are not from our tri-county area and law enforcement in their hometowns are working to apprehend the pair. The agency has not publicly released the names of the suspects. 

Redmond Police thanked those who helped with the identifications.

Commissioners Consider RV Rental Dwellings Policy

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on allowing RVs to be used as rental housing. County staff briefed Commissioners Wednesday on the challenge of enforcing codes when someone permanently lives in a motorhome or camping trailer.

Commissioner Tony Debone wants to gauge public interest, “I support having this momentum, let's have the discussion, you know, and let's find out how complicated it is or supported it is or, or opposed.”

Commissioner Phil Chang worries about the cost of enforcing new rules, “If this is an opportunity that is important enough for our community, I want to figure out how we pay for it… Clearly, we can't just depend on permit fees to kind of make this all work.”

Commission Chair Patti Adair said it is imperative to get people permanently living in RVs to comply with current code, “That would be the ultimate goal because people don't need any extra stress in their life today. So, if that, if we could help those people, that would be, I would feel like we've done something right.”

State law allowing counties to approve codes for RV rental housing just took effect in January the board also wants to see what other counties plan to do. 

No date has been set yet for the local public hearing, but it will likely be scheduled in the next two months.

 

Paulina Could Get A Small Library

PAULINA, OR -- Paulina could soon have its own library branch. Crook County Library Director Sarah Beeler believes she’s found the perfect location next door to Paulina School. "There is an unused parcel where the school bus is parked that is owned by Crook County," she told Commissioners Wednesday. The triangular lot used to be for the county road department and, at one time had a house on it. But the building was moved off-site and those services shifted to Prineville years ago.

Beeler says the proposed library (pictured above) would be, "About 730 square feet and it is this cute little building where people would be able to use it as a meeting space and we’d have library resources there." She says the area doesn't currently have a good place for the community to gather, "The Post Grange is in a state of disrepair; currently for sale. The store is currently not a viable community option and the Pau Mau Club is for large gatherings and it takes a couple of days to heat that up to make it comfortable for people. So, a small community gathering space - we felt that out in Paulina, they could use that kind of community bonding space."

The vacant lot is across the street from property owned by County Commissioner Susan Hermreck who told Beeler Wednesday, "I think it’s wonderful that you have not forgot about us out there. This, I think, would be wonderful, it would be an asset, it would look very nice, it’s next to the school; people picking up their children could use it. I fully encourage you."

Beeler noted, "I don’t think it would cost terribly much, but then I might be surprised, to build a small branch there. And that would be done through grants and donations."

Commissioners agreed to allow Beeler to enter into conversations with the Road Department and school about the property. The unincorporated community of Paulina is home to fewer than 100 full-time residents.

 

Jefferson County Requests Drought Declaration

MADRAS, OR -- Despite a strong snowpack and recent rain, a county in Central Oregon is asking the Governor to declare a drought emergency. "Bottom line: it’s a horrible situation," says Jefferson County Commissioner Kelly Simmelink. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (pictured), nearly all of Jefferson County is considered Abnormally Dry.

Wednesday, Commissioners agreed to request a state drought declaration, on behalf of the North Unit Irrigation District. Simmelink says, "It’s a 60,000-acre irrigated district, and we probably had about 75% of that that was fallow, meaning not planted." He says agriculture is the county’s main economic driver and the loss of acreage impacts the entire community. Two large farms went under this year, Simmelink says, "Back to back, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s more rearing their head here, shortly. It’s pretty desperate. We’ve got tractor companies leaving town, we’ve got everything that you can possibly conceive that could go wrong - no pun intended, but it’s a trickle down effect."

Local reservoirs are nearly full but he thinks it's too little too late, "When you’ve sucked it dry for six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years now, it takes a while to recover and one good or pretty good - it’s not even great. It’s pretty good - year is just kind of a Band Aid at best." Simmelink tells KBND News, "The crops that are in the ground right now, if we do have those extreme conditions, where it’s too hot or it gets too hot too soon, or whatever the hell it is, where no amount of water’s going to make any difference, what do you tell the guy that’s paying crop insurance that isn’t able to do anything?"

A state emergency declaration would clear the way for state and federal aid, "Whether that’s to help some folks pay their water bill that otherwise won’t be able to or- You know, the last thing I want to do is lose another farm or ranch." Simmelink adds, "If a crop fails, the first question that the feds are going to ask you, or the insurance company is going to ask you is, ‘is your county in a drought?’ And we just know that that’s going to happen." 

He plans to send a letter directly to Governor Tina Kotek to help explain the situation, in an effort to expedite the process, which typically takes a month or more. Last year, Kotek declared a drought in Jefferson County in February. 

 

Fatal Crash Closes Bend Pkwy Wednesday Night

BEND, OR -- At least one person was killed in a crash on the Bend Parkway Wednesday night. Few details have been released, but Bend Police reported the fatal incident at about 9 p.m., in the southbound lanes near the Reed Market Road exit.

The highway was closed for about three hours. 

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 

 

UPDATE: According to Oregon State Police, a southbound semi truck driven by a California man struck and killed a pedestrian in the left lane. The pedestrian was later identified as 75-year-old James Ray Carter, of Bend.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation. 

Sen. Wyden Pushes Expanded Child Tax Credit

BEND, OR – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D) was in Bend Tuesday to drum up support for his proposal to expand the Child Tax Credit.

“We are launching a full-court press in order to make sure that kids and families get a fair shot,” Senator Wyden used basketball terms at the Boys and Girls Club gym to get his point across to the gathered crowd of community leaders, and officials from NeighborImpact who spoke of their own personal experience as parents.

He tells KBND News it is important to hear from working families, "I'm going to take these stories back to Washington and tell them there because there's nothing more important than getting this out of the kind of Washington lingo and a bunch of bureaucratic sounding noise.”

The Democrat wants the Senate to pass his legislation by this year’s tax deadline on April 15th, “For Central Oregon, kids and families, particularly the many who are walking an economic tightrope, balancing the food bill against the rent bill and, essentials, this is absolutely crucial.”

The House passed the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act in January, with broad bi-partisan support.

“In my view, these measures to help kids grow up healthy, produce an enormous amount of value and the multiplier starts kicking in pretty quickly,” Wyden said, adding, “This is really about our values; this is about what we really care about and giving kids a chance to get a little bit of help so they can get started is huge.”

If the bill is passed by the Senate, it would increase the maximum refundable amount per child to $1,800 for 2023 taxes, $1,900 for next year, and $2,000 for 2025.

Employer Sponsors Needed For Workforce Housing Project

BEND, OR -- The next Rooted Homes affordable housing neighborhood is going in near 18th and Simpson, in southwest Bend. Executive Director Jackie Keogh says crews are installing infrastructure for what will eventually be 40 single-family homes. "That site did not have water or sewer, so we’re bringing those utilities to the site. And that typically is the more difficult part of our projects. Once we have that set up, it’s a lot easier to build the homes." They’re accepting applications this week from businesses who want their employees given preference to buy in Rooted at Simpson.

Rooted’s first workforce housing development on Poplar opened last year. Keogh says, "The Bend Chamber and some of their select members sponsored the entire pilot last time, which meant the employers were contributing a lot less." This time, employers will pay more, "Construction costs are still some of the highest in the state in Central Oregon. And, in the state, where we get our funding to subsidize these units, that money hasn’t increased since the 80s. So, because of that, we have this gap."

For this project, near 18th and Simpson, businesses can directly support their employee’s closing costs with a $10,000 donation, "Or, they can purchase - essentially get written into the deed. So every time the home resells, it would go back to that major employer’s employees in perpetuity," says Keogh, "So it would be like a long-term asset that business would have to offer their employees. And that is a cost of $50,000." Companies only pay if one of their employees is selected as a homeowner. 

She tells KBND News it’s a question of economics, "Is the employer interested in paying for continuous hiring, as they lose employees due to the high cost of housing, and retention to keep employees who are unstable in their housing. Or, are they interested in investing in this program?"

Employer applications are due April first. The company’s diversity of workforce must be equal to or greater than the city of Bend, which is just under 91% white. Home buyers must earn no more than 80% of the Area Median Income. 

Rooted at Simpson is expected to open in early 2025. 

 

Redmond Receives Grant For Arbor Month Event

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond is one of six Oregon communities getting grants to help pay for public events during Arbor Month in April. Towns designated as a "Tree City USA" are required to hold a public Arbor Day celebration. Funds from the nonprofit Oregon Community Trees helps cover expenses for some of those events.

OCT's Jim Gersbach says Redmond has been a Tree City USA for about 19 years, "But this is the first time they’re getting an award to boost their Arbor Month celebrations. So, they’re going to be purchasing customized t-shirts." Those shirts will be worn by Heart of Oregon Corps volunteers during an event in the Dry Canyon. "This is a little different, because they’re not planting trees. They’re doing a fuels reduction work party. And, many parts of Oregon, because of fire suppression, there’s been an increase - an encroachment - too many trees crowding the landscape." Gersbach tells KBND News, "Everyone’s always excited to plant trees, and we certainly encourage that and some of the grants will go toward that. But, the ongoing maintenance of trees is also important. And in this case, where humans have changed the natural shape of those forests by suppressing the fires that would’ve naturally gone through these areas, a fuels reduction program is an innovative way to address that imbalance."

Lake Oswego lost a lot of trees in January’s ice storm. That city's grant will help replace some of those, "They’ll be planting a dozen fairly large - 15 gallon - container-grown Oregon white oaks." Gersbach says, "Oregon white oak is really a native tree, it’s part of a habitat that’s highly endangered because of urbanization and agriculture. So, planting those trees helps put a tree back on the landscape that was probably native." 

Dallas received a grant to offer guided two-hour sessions in a local arboretum, "There’s a lot of evidence that something called 'Forest Bathing,' which is spending time in a wooded area, can actually be good for your health, that it actually can lower your stress hormones."

Pendleton will use its grant to purchase a diverse species of trees for its seedling giveaway. Coburg and Rogue River also received funding. 

file photo

Uber Driver Kidnapping Case Dismissed

BEND, OR -- The case against a Bend Uber driver charged with kidnapping has been dismissed. Police arrested 48-year-old Rocky Heath after a 19-year-old woman reported that she ordered a ride home February 13th; but instead of her destination, she said Heath drove her around for about half an hour. 

Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels says evidence was presented to the Grand Jury earlier this month, "Other witnesses testified, police officers testified, for example, about what they found. However, based on all of that, the Grand Jury determined that there wasn’t sufficient evidence; there wasn’t proof beyond a reasonable doubt." Without a Grand Jury indictment, charges were dropped. "From our point of view, the evidence was insufficient to sustain prosecution, which means that there was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Heath committed a crime." Grand Jury proceedings are not open to the public and records are not available to the media. 

Gunnels believes the process worked as intended, "If the evidence isn’t strong enough, the Grand Jury is required to decline to let the case move forward. And in this case, the Grand Jury has independent judgment about the merits of a case. They heard the evidence in this case and they determined the evidence wasn’t sufficient." He says Heath could be charged again if new evidence comes to light. 

"People need to be aware of their surroundings and pay attention. And make sure that if they tell the cab driver or Uber driver or Lyft driver to go to a particular place, that that’s a route they start to take," Gunnels tells KBND News, "Be diligent about that. But these things are very unusual. I, myself have taken taxis and Ubers many times, depending on circumstances, and nothing odd has ever happened. That’s the norm."

At the time of his arrest, Uber said Heath’s privileges with the company were suspended pending their own investigation. KBND News asked Uber if he’s been reinstated as a driver but has not received a response. 

UPDATE: According to Uber, the company has concluded its investigation and Heath remains deactived as a driver. He can appeal. Uber released this statement to KBND News: "Removing a driver’s access to the Uber platform is a serious decision, and we do not take it lightly. We conducted our investigation and have taken appropriate action."

Redmond PD Searches For Theft Suspects

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Police are investigating a string of theft-related incidents at Walmart, Texaco, Wilco and Rite Aid and now need the public’s help to identify the suspects.

A man and woman were caught on surveillance footage and are believed to have been involved in crimes committed between March 17th and 19th. They were seen driving a red car with a luggage rack.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Redmond PD through Non-Emergency Dispatch at 541-693-6911. 

 

Bend Macy's Burglarized

BEND, OR -- Police are investigating a break-in at Macy’s at the Bend River Mall. An employee received an alarm notification early Tuesday morning and discovered the burglary.

Police responded at about 5:30 a.m. and say they found evidence of forced entry and about $4,000 taken from ransacked cash registers.

Despite a search by officers and a K-9 unit, no suspect was found. 

Parks and Rec Dept. Dealing With Increased Vandalism

BEND, OR -- A fire in the restroom at Miller’s Landing Park is believed to have been arson.  Bend Police are investigating the Saturday incident that also included graffiti totaling an estimated $1,000 in damage. 

Bend Parks Stewardship Manager Jeff Hagler says graffiti and other types of vandalism are growing problem, “If you see something, say something. So, patrons out there could help us if they see something unusual or not. Right. If they do see graffiti in certain areas, please give us a call and we want to take care of that as soon as possible.”

Hagler tells KBND News restrooms are the most common target but playground equipment and signs also see their share of tagging or damage. “Unfortunately, over the last couple of years it's grown and this year in particularly it seems to be worse. Just a lot of graffiti and it's been all over town, not just in the parks.”

 

Health Officials Urge Caution During Prescribed Fire Season

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Ochoco National Forest firefighters plan to ignite burn piles at Skull Hollow Campground on Tuesday. The piles of woody debris are leftover from the construction of a parking lot fence, trailhead expansion and other improvements made to the campground off Lone Pine Road, in the Crooked River National Grassland. 

With prescribed burn season underway, local public health officials urge Central Oregonians to be smoke ready. Whether a fire is a planned event or wild, "Smoke is smoke," says Crook County Health and Human Services Director Katie Plumb. During prescribed fires, professionals account for weather conditions in an effort to mitigate the impact. But Plumb says you should still avoid the small particulates in fire smoke, "Limiting our exposure to smoke is beneficial for our health." She tells KBND News, "For folks who are maybe experiencing heart or lung problems, like asthma or any kind of cardiovascular disease, it’s even more important that we limit our exposure to smoke."

If your home doesn’t have a central air filtration system, you can can build your own. "You can go online and find how you can use a box fan to build air filtration systems in your home, if you don’t already have one," says Plumb. There are also precautions you can take if you’re driving through an area with poor air quality, "Making sure that you have the right settings in your car, so that your car isn’t pulling that air into your cab, where you are. And there are settings to recirculate air internally."

Plumb also recommends parents of kids with asthma or other respiratory issues plan indoor activities to keep kids busy during burn operations, "The really good thing about prescribed burning season, specifically, is it’s typically a pretty short duration and we can plan around it. So that can help you, as a parent, maybe manage that a little bit more."

If you are unable to escape the smoke, "You can also find clean air shelters in your community. Again, I’m speaking on behalf of Crook County, but these shelters are available throughout the state. You can go to 211info.org to find one that’s nearby." You can also get the information by calling 211. And, you can monitor air quality in your area online HERE.

file photo

Washington Man Arrested In Bend For Human Trafficking

BEND, OR -- A 33-year-old man from Vancouver, Washington was arrested at a Bend hotel early Thursday morning, March 21st. Orlando Smith is charged with Assault, Promoting Prostitution and an out-of-county warrant. 

According to Bend Police, a 31-year-old Salem woman texted the National Human Trafficking Hotline to report she was being held against her will and forced to engage in sex acts at the Red Lion Inn & Suites on NE Butler Market Road. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to contact the victim, officers knocked on the hotel room door. When the victim answered, she was evacuated and police took Smith into custody. 

The victim later told investigators Smith punched her in the face several times and forced her to engage in sex acts with multiple men over two days. BPD says officers found an online ad for the victim, and Smith had more than $1,000 in cash at the time of his arrest. 

Bend PD's Sheila Miller tells KBND News it’s an unusual case, "We do not regularly receive tips from the National Human Trafficking Hotline. And it’s super rare to have a case in which the victim is currently being abused or is currently in danger." Officers determined which room to approach, based on information from the hotline and hotel staff, "Hotel workers, especially night hotel workers, are paying attention," says Miller, "They are seeing people come and go. And, to varying degrees, they can be very helpful to us when we’re investigating crimes."

Smith is no longer in custody, and is due in court Friday. 

If you or someone you know is involved in a trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text 233733. Help is available 24/7. 

 

Funding For Central OR Projects In Federal Budget Bills

BEND, OR -- The appropriations package passed by Congress over the weekend, averting a threatened partial government shutdown, includes funding for Central Oregon projects. 

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) told KBND News last week, a primary focus is on mental and behavioral health programs, "You have the St. Charles Health System working with OHSU to establish a psychiatry residency program. In other words, mental health investments." The Oregon Health Authority will also receive $3 million for a 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline awareness campaign, and over a million dollars will help expand Lines for Life's YouthLine. 

There’s also money for a major emergency services project, "You have a million dollars to construct the Central Oregon Ready Responsive and Resilient project, which is essentially a multi-agency emergency coordination for the region." Locally, that project is known as CORE3, and is slated to be built near the Redmond Airport. But Merkley says it'll benefit the entire state, "We know that even an event west of the mountains may make emergency work east of the mountains very important, as well. So, this is a top priority for the area."

 

Smith Rock Way Bridge Replacement Underway

TERREBONNE, OR -- Smith Rock State Park is expected to be a big tourist draw over Spring Break, but visitors may encounter a road construction project in the area. Deschutes County Road Department Director Chris Doty tells KBND News crews are, "Replacing a bridge on Smith Rock Way, just east of the main entrance or turn-off to Smith Rock State Park."

Because of length restrictions on nearby O’Neil Highway, the bridge is frequently used by heavy trucks traveling to and from Crook County. An estimated 900 vehicles travel that stretch of Smith Rock Way each day. The bridge is about 80 years old, although its deck was replaced in 1971, "It’s outlived its useful life expectancy; being replaced as we speak. So that section of road will be shut down for the next couple of months. There will be detours in place."

The two-lane bridge crosses the canal, east of Northeast 33rd. Doty says the work, "Shouldn’t affect a lot of folks accessing the park because it’s on the east side of that entrance. But that’s a project that has an impact, nonetheless, to the traveling public." 

He expects the million dollar project to be complete by June.

photo courtesy of Deschutes County

Bend Transportation Fee To Appear On July Utility Bill

BEND, OR -- Bend City crews expect to conduct around four and a half million dollars’ worth of street preservation work this year. The plan for paving, chip sealing and slurry seals recently approved by the City Council came alongside agreement for the first phase of a transportation fee to help pay for road maintenance. 

"Transportation’s one of the hardest things to fund. The state’s struggling with it. It’s happening across the country. We’ve built all these roads, we don’t have enough funds to maintain them," City Manager Eric King tells KBND News. Bend utility customers will see the transportation fee on their July utility bill, which goes out in August, "We’re doing a three-phase implementation. So, this first phase that Council voted on was approximately a $5 per month charge, for a resident. And then for businesses, it’s a wide range based on their impact." King says, "The next step in that is for us to take this next year and really gather more data from business license registrations. So, on the non-residential it really is more complicated, to really dive into that impact and get more data before we implement phase two, which presumably would be about a year from now." The fee amount increases in subsequent phases. 

King acknowledges billing utility customers doesn’t collect revenue from everyone who uses city streets. "That ordinance was based on a lot of the feedback that we received. So, between phase two and phase three, Council directed me to come back, looking at other tools; including those tools that would assess fees for those using our system that come from outside the city or visitors. Most likely, that’s in the form of a fuel tax or a seasonal fuel tax. There’s variations of that. So, that was the direction- before we go to full implementation with phase three, let’s look at that tool." A gas tax would require voter approval. 

 

HWY 97 at Empire Ramp Closing Briefly Sunday Morning

BEND, OR -- Highway 97 will close for about 15 minutes, between 7 and 8 Sunday morning near the northbound Empire on-ramp. “It's in between the Empire on ramp and 97. So the northbound on-ramp on to Empire at 97 right in that little corner there,” ODOT’s Kasey Davey says crews picked this low-traffic time to blast a deep layer of hard basalt rock, “It's actually safer and more efficient to do it than drilling, which would take a really long time. But when you think of a blast, you know, and dirt flying through the air, it's actually going to be pretty uneventful. We're expecting a little poof of dust, maybe the ground to lift up a little bit. We know it could cause a little bit of a backup. But the reason we're doing it this early in the morning on Sunday is because that's one of the lowest traffic volume times for us.”

It's part of the Bend North Corridor Project, building the new segment of Highway 97 from Empire to Grandview Drive. “We do have to do about four or five more of these in the next month or so. So, we're going to do this and evaluate the impact it actually has to traffic. And if the timing like in the weekend and in the morning works well and then we'll let everyone know before we do any more blasts,” Davey says, adding crews have been working day and night. “This project is on schedule and it's a really big project to deliver and it should be done by the end of the year, which is just amazing and we're so, so happy for that.”

Flaggers and detour signs will be in place Sunday morning while the highway is closed.

 

Local Apartment Projects Receive Big Tax Exemptions

BEND, OR -- Two housing projects are moving forward after getting approved for a Multiple Unit Property Tax Exemption, also known as "MUPTE." This week, the Bend City Council cleared the way for the 246-unit Timber Yards project, while the Redmond School Board provided the necessary approval for the 156-unit Redmond Landing. 

Bend City Manager Eric King says the Council granted, "A 10-year exemption for about 240 units of housing that is planned to be built right near the Box Factory, off of Bond and Industrial Way." But he tells KBND News Timber Yards will be the last MUPTE approval in Bend for a while, "We have four projects that are in the queue, but we essentially last month said we want to be careful and not overuse this program because it does have implications on our future revenue." 

King says the purpose of the exemption is to stimulate housing production. MUPTE applications receive an independent review, and only is approved if that review determines the project isn't viable without the tax break. For Timber Yards, he says, "The return on investment without the MUPTE was like 5%. Bare minimum for projects to move forward is about 6%. Even with this MUPTE, it went from 5% to 5.9%; still just shy of the six, but it was enough to make it happen."

Redmond Landing (rendering pictured above) is planned for near SW Umatilla and Canal Blvd., behind Dollar Tree. Redmond Schools Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline acknowledges approving a MUPTE means a loss in tax revenue. But for schools, the impact is spread around the state, "It hurts the school in the same way that it hurts a school in Portland or hurts a school in Medford. Everybody, if you will, would take a little bit of a bite to that." Cline acknowledges schools aren’t the only entity losing out on the tax money, "Fire department doesn’t get their revenue. Parks and Rec doesn’t get their revenue. And that of course concerns those agencies. In fact, the fire department came out and talked about not approving it just for that very reason."

For a MUPTE to be granted, the developer must get approval from 51% of the impacted taxing districts. The City Council had already agreed to the exemption for Redmond Landing, which Cline says is enough for that project to advance. Its apartments will be restricted to renters earning 60% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI). And, the developer has promised an additional benefit to the school district, "They’re giving us a preference for about 10% of the units, for school district employees," says Cline, "So, folks that work for us, maybe folks on the lower end of our pay scale, like bus drivers and secretaries and instructional assistants. Those folks would have the opportunity to live in this unit at a much lower rate than you would pay on the regular market."

 

Redmond Man Arrested In Southern Oregon Sting

REDMOND, OR -- A 66-year-old Redmond man is among six people arrested in a statewide cyber-predator sting. The Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team conducted the operation in an effort to identify and arrest predators using the internet to meet children for sex.

Undercover officers posing online as minors were propositioned for sex. Detectives say even after acknowledging the child’s age, the suspects sent explicit messages, photos and detailed requests of acts they wanted to perform.

Steven Newstrom was arrested in Redmond March 13th, and is now in the Jackson County Jail on charges of online sexual corruption of a child and luring a minor.

Other men arrested over the past month are from White City, Central Point, Tigard, Milwaukie and Medford.

Investigators believe the suspects may have other victims. Anyone with additional information is asked to call local law enforcement or the JCSO tip line at (541) 774-8333. 

Commissioners Consider Continuing Funding At Juniper Ridge Encampments

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners heard Wednesday about progress at the houseless encampments on county-owned property at Juniper Ridge north of Bend.

Health Services Director Janice Garceau told commissioners about 20 people live there, with hundreds more on city and BLM land, “It is definitely cleaner; it is definitely somewhat safer and people are definitely making use of resources without damaging them and some people are leaving for regular housing and I would count those things as successes… and I think there are also challenges.”

Since summer, in response to safety and health code vioations, the county has provided sanitation, water, and security in the area, but commissioners must decide if, and how they will pay for the effort after current funding runs out on June 30th.

Commissioner Phil Chang noted the unsanctioned camps are seeing some successes, “I would much prefer to have something more like a complete managed camp for people. But, there's lessons to be learned essentially from this experience.”

“So that means, yeah, we're going to… I would support, supporting people out there at the level we have and knowing that we're in full on code violation. We're not even following our own rules and laws,” Commissioner Tony DeBone said.

Commissioners will get another update in May.

They could fund the $200-thousand project with ARPA money set aside to address homelessness, the General Fund, or put it in the next fiscal year’s budget, which begins July 1st.

 

Redmond Stabbing Deemed Self-Inflicted

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Police now say a man found stabbed on March 14th injured himself. The initial report of an assault in downtown Redmond, near SW 7th and Evergreen prompted a significant police response. 

A week later, investigators say they've determined information of a fleeing suspect was unfounded. No arrests will be made, as they've determined the victim's wounds were self-inflicted. 

As part of that investigation, RPD issued a request for surveillance footage from businesses in the area. The agency thanked those that submitted video to assist investigators. 

They also remind anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or know someone who is, help is available by calling 911 or 988, the National Crisis Hotline. 

Bend Man Accused Of Killing His Mother

BEND, OR -- Bend Police say a 40-year-old man killed his mother Wednesday, during a domestic disturbance. Officers responded to the Legacy Landing Apartments on NE Tucson Way just after 5 p.m. and found a critically injured woman. 

Police performed CPR, but the 59-year-old woman died at the scene. She was identified as Janice Marie Smith. Her son, Joshua Lawrence Smith, was arrested at the apartment and taken to the Bend Police Department. He was later taken to the hospital before being booked into the jail for Murder.

 

file photo

RSD Poll Reveals Support For High School Consolidation Proposal

REDMOND, OR -- Results of a recent Redmond School District poll will help shape a $97 million bond planned for the November ballot. "When people hear that this bond is a renewal bond and it’s not going to raise their taxes, we poll at about 56%, in terms of people being in favor of it," says Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline.

He says there also appears to be support for a controversial proposal to fix the failing HVAC system at Redmond High. Around 400 people took part in the survey. They were presented with two options: House RHS students in portable classrooms during the one-year renovation projects, or consolidate students at Ridgeview High. Cline says, "69% of the people preferred bringing the two schools together. I was shocked." He tells KBND News, "I was shocked by this polling result, just because obviously most people have spoken to me about this really being a bad idea." Poll results were presented to the Redmond School Board Wednesday night.

Cline says the consolidation plan would allow for the necessary HVAC and roofing work at RHS, but the district could indefinitely postpone needed renoations of locker rooms and the theater. He says an alternative high school program could then move in to part of the building; the district office would occupy another section. Community space would open in the center. He says that plan would allow the district to sell the Edwin Brown Education Center and current district office building (pictured). "As the leader of the district, I can’t responsibly not put it out there, because I know that we could serve kids better over time for less money, and save the district a considerable amount of operating money over time."

The bond, Cline says, would then pay for construction of an Advanced CTE building at Ridgeview High, "That whole process to build that building will be around $30 million. We have another $60 million of work that needs to get done, including bringing K-8 back to Tumalo, doing some major modifications on Lynch Elementary, xeroscaping around the district, upgrading our heating systems and insulation, that sort of thing. There’s a hundred different small projects that need to get done." Cline adds, "Actually, we have $300 million worth of work we can do in the district. This bond would raise about $97 million. So, we have to narrow down what we’re going to get done."

The district will get more feedback before finalizing the list of bond projects, "We’re scheduling listening sessions with our staff members. We’ll have some open community listening sessions, where people can come in and talk about this stuff. This would be quantitative data we just did; we’ll go after the qualitative data next."

He expects the school board to vote in July to send the bond to the November ballot. 

 

Parolee Housing Plan Loses Deschutes Co. Support

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County is backing off support of a transitional housing facility for parolees at a Wilson Avenue triplex in Bend. Commissioners approved the purchase of the property in December after holding several hearings on the proposalMore than a dozen people testified over two hours during another public hearing on Wednesday - most opposed to the  Commissioners’ previous decision. 

Lawyer and State Senate candidate Mike McLane told County Commissioners he’s been retained by the person living next door to the triplex. He was frustrated with calls by county staff to be compassionate, "We have compassion for those who are released. But ultimately, I’m here today to say, ‘will you have compassion on a neighborhood that is disproportionately impacted by the decisions of the city and the county?’"

Ashley lives near the Wilson Avenue site and is concerned about registered sex offenders, based on what she found online, "In Deschutes County, there are 65 people; 64 of them are men, 41 of them are reoffenders." But Community Justice Department Director Deevy Holcomb says any new crime marks a convict as a "repeat offender." She told Commissioners it could be completely unrelated to the previous charge, "'Did I commit theft? Did I fail to register as a sex offender when I was supposed to? Did I reoffend with a sexual crime?' It usually includes all of that. Sometimes it’s hard to know what recidivism looks like unless you really dig down into what was the new crime."

Commissioner Patti Adair admitted she's having second thoughts about the plan, "I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, folks. What were we honestly thinking of?’ I find it crushing because I know there’s all those other places there." She wants to sell the Wilson Ave. property, "The buck stops with us, and I am not happy with what I did. And I will be the first to admit it." Her request failed to gain traction, but Commissioners voted two to one to search for a new site in Bend or Redmond. "As someone said, we’re taking months and months to locate our landfill," said Adair, "It may take that many months to locate this."

Adair and Commissioner Tony DeBone voted in favor of searching for a new site, possibly in a new development where neighbors would know about the facility prior to moving in. Commissioner Phil Chang was the lone “no” vote … citing a lack of details. He asked, "Where are we going to find the funds to do this?" Adair responded, "Funds keep showing up all the time. I keep hearing about more and more funds." And DeBone added, "Yeah, I’m not offering that solution at this time. This is just a simple clarity item for the purposes of siting in a future residential neighborhood."

DeBone says renovations continue at the Wilson Avenue triplex, and two people are living there. 

 

One Killed In BPD Officer-Involved Shooting

BEND, OR -- A Bend Police Officer is on paid "critical incident leave," following a Wednesday night shooting. According to the agency, the officer responded to a report of a non-injury crash on the Parkway, near Butler Market Road, just after 8:15 p.m.

Authorities say multiple witnesses told officers they saw a vehicle driving recklessly and speeding, nearly causing several other crashes. Officers found the suspect vehicle and its driver at the scene of the Parkway crash. At about 8:30 p.m., the officer shot the suspect. Despite life-saving efforts, the driver died. 

The incident occurred in the northbound lanes, but the entire highway was closed for more than three hours. Northbound traffic was detoured until about 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

The Tri-County Major Incident Team is investigating; the officer-involved shooting investigation will be overseen by the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office.  

 

AFTERNOON UPDATEThe Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation into Wednesday night's fatal officer involved shooting on the Bend Parkway. Sgt. Jason Wall tells KBND News the man shot by Bend Police has been identified as Gabriel Platz, who was reportedly seen driving recklessly before being involved in a three-vehicle crash, "They responded to a motor vehicle crash. While investigating the crash, they contacted an 18-year-old male out of Bend. During that contact, Mr. Platz brandished a firearm moments before an officer from the Bend Police Department discharged their agency-issued firearm." Wall says Platz was the sole occupant of his vehicle. 

Officers attempted life-saving measures and Platz was taken to the hospital. But he didn’t survive. It's unclear where he passed away. The officer is now on paid critical incident leave.

"The Major Incident Team, which is comprised of all tri-county law enforcement agencies, to include the Oregon State Police, are all coming together and utilizing the full resources of every single individual agency towards investigating this one event," says Sgt. Wall. Bend Police utilizes body-worn cameras, but footage has not been released. 

 

file photo

Underage E-Bike Use Banned At Bend-La Pine Schools

BEND, OR -- After the legislature failed to impose stronger rules for electric bikes in the 2024 session, a local school district will crack down on underage riders after Spring Break. "Any student under the age of 16 will not be allowed to bring an e-bike or e-scooter to any Bend-La Pine Schools campus," says Pacific Crest Middle School Principal Sean Keating, "And that just puts our school district in line with state law around e-bikes and e-scooters."

Keating tells KBND News, "We’ve seen some - let’s just say - unsafe behavior from students. And so we felt the time was right, and we felt there was a great need for this new rule." His school has no students over 16 and there are days when 40 electric devices are parked out front. "We’ve seen students piling on the bike, two or three students at a time. A lot of students not wearing helmets, riding on sidewalks, not obeying traffic laws, going through intersections. We’ve had many complaints from neighbors and also district bus drivers." And, he says, injuries are on the rise, "We had students at school get into crashes. We had a student this year who had staples in his head because he was hit by another student on an e-bike. And we’ve seen more and more of these incidents." Last summer, a 15-year-old student at Mountain View High School died in an e-bike crash.  

While the new rule begins April first, the first week will be spent educating and reminding students. Starting April 8th, violators will get one warning, "And if again that happens for a second time, then we’ll hold the bike for the student and we’ll release the e-bike or e-scooter to the parent directly."

Keating says, so far, parents have been supportive, "They’re seeing this too. They’re seeing the unsafe behavior out in the community; kids on e-bikes just zipping through parks, past younger children who are playing." He adds, "There are probably a few folks who might be a little frustrated, who have spent several thousand dollars on an e-bike. We have not heard from them yet."

To hear our full conversation with Principal Keating about e-bikes and e-scooters, visit our Podcast Page

Prineville Man Killed In Fiery Crash

KENT, OR -- A 23-year-old Prineville man was killed in a Sherman County crash Monday night. Oregon State Police say Jayden Matthew Smith was northbound on Highway 97, just before midnight, when his car crossed into the southbound lane for an unknown reason.

His VW Beetle hit a tractor-trailer head on, causing both vehicles to catch fire. Smith was declared dead at the scene. The other driver was unhurt.

Highway 97 was closed near the town of Kent for more than six hours for the investigation.

Construction To Start On Roundabout Near Bend Airport

BEND, OR -- Road construction season is ramping up. Deschutes County Road Department Director Chris Doty says some work happens over winter, but crews are limited until asphalt plants fire up, "We’re right at that point. I think a few contractors are making mix and so, it’s about to get real."

Prep work is already underway for a major project near the Bend Airport: construction of a new roundabout at Powell Butte Highway and Butler Market Road. "That’ll start in earnest on April first, and it’ll run through the summer mostly, to the end of September," says Doty. 

He tells KBND News, "Powell Butte Highway is a highly used commuter route, anymore. A lot of folks coming in from Prineville. Butler Market Road is kind of that first major intersection that you see as a driver, and that’s always going to be a safety concern: if you’ve been driving on a rural segment for a long time, all of a sudden you have traffic at an intersection." He adds, "A roundabout’s going to slow people down, allow people to access Powell Butte Highway from Butler Market safely, and solve some of the problems that have occurred there over time." Doty says a traffic signal was ruled out as an option, "Signals can sometimes add to safety issues, especially in that rural network, because you’re not anticipating a signal to be there."

The $2.9 million project also includes other work, "In addition, there will be a left turn lane that will be constructed to provide left turn access into the Bend Airport, as well. Another improvement to deal with traffic flow in the area."

 

County Clerk Reminds Voters To Check Status Ahead Of Primary

BEND, OR -- May’s primary election is still two months away, but there are a couple of final deadlines in the next week. Deschutes County Clerk Steve Dennison tells KBND News there will be seven measures on the ballot, and a non-partisan commissioner race with four candidates, “The deadline for measures is the 21st. There are still some measures that are in the works. They are official, they have been circulated but they haven't all come our way yet. And then the other deadline is the arguments in favor and it is Monday.”

Dennison says voters should check their party affiliation, “If voters are wishing to vote for anything such as President or Senator or anything else that's partisan in the May primary election, they need to update their party affiliation before that close of registration. It's fine for voters to be registered and affiliated however they choose. However, a lot of people just don't really tune in and understand what that means until they receive a primary election ballot and they don't see partisan contests on there.”

April 30th is the last day to change party affiliation. Most ballots will be mailed May 1st, ahead of election day on the 21st.

 

Arson Suspect Arrested After Fire At His Property

BEND, OR -- A Bend-area man is accused of setting his own house on fire an then blocking access to fire crews. At about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 45-year-old David Sheridan called 911. Authorities say he reported he set fire to his house on Alfalfa Market Road.

When crews arrived, they discovered a Toyota pickup on its side, blocking the long driveway leading to the house. Deschutes County deputies say Sheridan then positioned a skidsteer next to the pickup, climbed on top of it and waved at deputies while they attempted to talk to him over a loudspeaker.

Due to the growing danger of the fire spreading to neighboring properties, deputies approached the man, who then surrendered. 

Investigators say no one  else was at the property and evidence confirmed Sheridan started the fire and attempted to impede firefighters from putting it out. He was arrested on charges of Arson, Reckless Burning, Obstructing Government or Judicial Administration and Criminal Mischief. 

Free Preparedness Events Offered Ahead Of Wildfire Season

SISTERS, OR -- Free events planned over the next several weeks aim to help Central Oregonians get homes and property ready for wildfire season. 

The Central Oregon Fire Prevention Cooperative hosts a preparedness fair in Sisters Wednesday evening; it’s the first in a series of five planned for the tri-county region. Presenters will offer tips on preparing for smoke events and prescribed burns, and how to mitigate wildfire risk around homes. Full schedule of preparedness fairs:

  • Wed. March 20, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m., at the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District Commuinity Rm (301 S. Elm St. Sisters)
  • Sun. April 7, 1 - 3 p.m., at Bend Fire & Resscue Station 306 (425 NE 15th St. Bend)
  • Sat. April 13, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m., at the Crook Co. OSU Extension 4-H Clover Building (502 SE Lynn Blvd. Prineville)
  • Sun. April 28, 1 - 4 p.m., at the Jefferson County Fire & EMS Station (765 S. 5th St. Madras)
  • TBD, La Pine

Friday morning, Oregon State University Extension and the State Fire Marshal’s Office begin a series of risk reduction workshopsArial Cowan, a regional fire specialist with OSU Extension, says some of the focus is on defensible space, "We cater the information to this region. And, we also get to talk a little bit about fire resistant plants, which there’s a new updated publication from OSU Extension on that topic."

OSFM fire risk reduction specialist Heather Miller tells KBND News there’s also good info about home hardening, "Keeping the siding maintained, to a point where embers aren’t going to catch and start a fire on the house, to making sure that your roofing is in good shape and resistant to fire."

Cowan says living in such a wildfire prone area can make some feel helpless. But, "Focusing on, not only the building materials of your home, but also the landscaping around your home, that’s where you can have the greatest impact in reducing that risk of wildfire to your home." And, she says, the workshop supplements a professional defensible space assessment, "Even if they do find someone else who’s going to be coming to assess their home, they already have a head start in understanding some of the language, some of the things they can focus on."

This is the second year for the workshop series, "There’s always new research being done and we’re always trying to revise and update our presentations to really show what the latest and greatest information is," says Miller. She adds, "There’s a lot of talk out there about codes and stuff coming forward, and regulations and such. And so, really our goal is to push that to best practices and latest science."

Pre-registration for the workshops is strongly encouraged. Click HERE for more information.

 

Redmond Motorcyclist Killed In Eastern Oregon Crash

MITCHELL, OR -- An 81-year-old motorcyclist from Redmond was killed Monday in Grant County. According to State Police, Louie Warren was riding northbound on Highway 19, when he failed to negoiate a corner, about 14 miles north of Mitchell. 

Warren's motorcycle traveled down a steep embankment and came to rest on rocks about 15 feet below the highway. He died at the scene. 

NeighborImpact Offers Free Diapers

REDMOND, OR -- A new local program is getting free diapers to young children in need.

NeighborImpact Operations Coordinator Lexi O’Neal tells KBND News the diaper bank will help about 600 Central Oregon families, “Right now, we're starting with just Head Start (and) Early Head Start families. So, they must have one child enrolled in either Head Start or Early Head Start. And we will supply diapers for any child in their households.”

On average, diapers cost $1,200 a year for one child according to NeighborImpact. “SNAP does not cover nor WIC and a lot of the other resources do not support diapers. So, it's really a high need that no one's covering in this area,” O’Neal says.

“Anybody who's had babies, toddlers… knows the expense of diapers monthly. So, this is just a huge help for, I think, all of us head start members, family members,” says Duncan, a father with children in Head Start.

Right now, qualifying families get one case per child, per month, but O’Neal hopes to eventually expand the program. “We're going to do community distributions. So, we have one location in Redmond, one in Bend, one in La Pine, and one in Prineville. And those are going to be monthly distributions,” she says, adding in-home educators for Early Head Start will also distribute diapers and pull-ups.

The Diaper Bank at NeighborImpact was made possible by a state grant.

 

Central Oregon's Last Pearl Harbor Survivor Dies At 102

BEND, OR -- A Pearl Harbor survivor who spent his elder years in Bend has passed away at the age of 102. Dick Higgins became internet-famous when his granddaughter launched the Quarantine Chats With Gramps Instagram page in 2020. The account posted early Tuesday morning, in part, "Gramps went home to be with Jesus this morning. He was a humble, generous, funny and loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and friend. This community has celebrated and honored him and we are forever grateful for the impact he has made on all of us."

In December, the Bend City Council recognized Higgins' contributions by issuing a proclamation for Dick Higgins Day. He was Central Oregon's last living Pearl Harbor Survivor.

Redmond Expects State Agency To Deny Groundwater Request

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond officials have been working with a state board to increase its allocation of groundwater to accommodate future growth. Mayor Ed Fitch tells KBND News it appears the request will be denied, "We did get a preliminary letter from the Water Resources Department, saying that it’s unlikely they’re going to approve our permit for additional groundwater. They have offered to allow us a rate increase, which would allow us to pump more water in the summer. But not a volume increase, for the need for water long-term."

Fitch says, "Right now, the city’s in actually fairly good shape, water-wise. We are bumping up against our limit for pumping in the summertime, so that’s why the rate is important. But we have enough water to sustain the city for the next 15 years or so." But under state law, Fitch says, the city is required to plan for water use beyond that. Other Central Oregon cities struggle with the same issue. "We are going to look at convening all our legislators and others with an interest in water in the Deschutes Basin, in May, to craft a proposal to the Legislature that would allow the cities to have certainty of access to water in the future," says Fitch, "And give cities the ability to plan long-term and to assure new businesses, new developers, new people that there will be water available when they come to Redmond or Bend or La Pine or whatever city there is in the Deschutes Basin."

He’s frustrated city water systems are limited by the state, when 17,000 unregulated wells in Deschutes County pump water out with no limitations. Fitch also notes cities in the Deschutes Basin use about 3% of the groundwater; the vast majority of the rest is used for agriculture. 

 

RPD Investigating Stabbing, Seek Witnesses

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Police continue to investigate a downtown stabbing that occurred last Thursday. The victim is recovering. A suspect has not been identified.

Police ask people to come forward, who may have witnessed an altercation around 4:50 p.m. Thursday, possibly in the alley between SW Evergreen and SW Deschutes avenues, east of Seventh Street (pictured), behind Diego's restaurant. Businesses in the area with surveillance video are also asked to contact Redmond PD.

Anyone with information in the case should contact Det. Ben Halsey through non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911.

 

file photo courtesy Google Earth

Two Homes Damaged In Sunday Fire

BEND, OR -- Coals from a backyard firepit are blamed for a Sunday afternoon fire that displaced two families. According to Bend Fire & Rescue, one of the residents disposed of coals into a plastic recycling bin located outside, between the two homes. The ashes ignited the other contents of the bin and spread to the outside wall, eventually catching the other house. 

Firefighters responded just after 4 p.m. and knocked down the flames, but both buildings sustained substantial damage. A vehicled in the driveway also suffered minor damage. Crews remained for an extended period, due to a gas leak at one home. The meter was destroyed and Cascade Natural Gas had to excavate in order to shut off the gas.  

No one was injured, but damage is estimated at $300,000.

 

photo courtesy of Bend Fire & Rescue

Terrebonne Traffic Stop Leads To Drug Arrest

TERREBONNE, OR -- A Bend woman is accused of trafficking drugs in Central Oregon. The Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team arrested 38-year-old Nancy Long during a traffic stop on Friday.

Long was identified by drug agents as a fentanyl trafficker, prompting a short investigation and surveillance operation. Detectives believe she imported signficant quantities of fentanyl from the Portland area for distribution in the High Desert.

Long was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over by CODE detectives and Sheriff's deputies on HIghway 97, just north of Terrebonne. Narcotics L9 "Bonnie" alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle, and a search turned up a "substantial quantity" of fentanyl powder. 

The driver was released without charges. Long is charged with Unlawful Possession and Attempted Distribution of fentanyl. She's also accused of a probation violation and was lodged at the Deschutes County Jail. She's due in court March 22nd.

Six Arrested In CODE Drug Bust

BEND, OR -- Six people were arrested last week in a drug bust that authorities say resulted in the dismantling of a local trafficking operation.

The Central Oregon Drug Enforcement team investigated community tips about a home on NE Moonlight Dr. in Bend and identified the group they say trafficked fentanyl and other drugs. After several weeks of surveillance, detectives say 37-year-old Cailen Mount and 27-year-old Chelsea Kelly were caught selling drugs in a parking lot at Windy Knolls and Twin Knolls Drive.

In a separate traffic stop, they arrested 30-year-old Shamika Alfonso and 24-year-old Robert Sanger as they left the NE Moonlight Dr. house. 

When detectives served a warrant at the house, they say 31-year-old Dana Fetch and 28-year-old Wylon Smith were seen trying to remove evidence. During a searc of the home, authorities say they found commercial quantities of powdered fentanyl, diethyltryptamine - a Schedule One psychedelic drug, cocaine and fake pharmaceutical pills made of fentanyl.

Bend Man Arrested For Threatening To Stab Motorists

BEND, OR -- A Bend man faces several charges after police say he threatened numerous people, Friday afternoon.

According to Bend Police, 31-year-old Arnaldo Lopez called 911 and reported he was standing in the middle of NE 27th and Highway 20, planning to stab someone. Officers responded to the area a little after 1 p.m.

Lopez reportedly blocked a Community Service Officer’s vehicle and threatened to fight her. He then ignored officers' commands and walked toward a patrol car in the middle of the road. Police pepper sprayed the man and took him into custody. No weapon was found. 

Lopez is charged wtih Disorderly Conduct, Coercion, Menacing and a Probation Violation.

JCSO Releases Identity Of Idaho Couple Killed In Plane Crash

MADRAS, OR -- After nearly a week of searching for next of kin, authorities have finally released the identities of two people killed in a plane crash southeast of Madras. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office confirms David and Venita Hagerty were the only two on board when their small plane went down March 10th. 

Bud Pugh is an associate pastor at the Hagertys’ Idaho church and says David flew Venita to Aurora to attend a family member's funeral in Lake Oswego. The crash occurred on their flight home.

Pugh tells KBND News David worked as an IT specialist for NOAA in Colorado, "And [he] was able to work from here but would travel back and forth on occasion, back to Boulder." Pugh says Hagerty volunteered to fly members of his church to a men's retreat, "He's very experienced and very careful, for all intents and purposes. We suspect he probably ran into the weather, or might've been heading into Redmond or somewhere to get out of it." Pugh called the couple faithful, good people. 

The NTSB continues to investigate the cause of the crash. 

 

Redmond Advances Mixed-Income Housing Development

REDMOND, OR -- A mixed-income housing project in northeast Redmond is moving forward. Mayor Ed Fitch hopes builders will break ground on Northpoint Vista - south of the High Desert Sports Complex - later this year.  

"We received now about $8 million from the legislature to put in infrastructure," says Fitch, "We’re working with a developer and with Rooted Homes to do the first phase for affordable housing. It’s going to be a fantastic project. It’ll take a number of years to develop the whole 40 acres."

Recent action by the City Council allows Rooted Homes to apply for more funding for its cottage cluster. Fitch says, "Right now, we’re moving forward with a partition of the property so we can do the first phase. Rooted Homes, which is going to work on the affordable housing tract first, will be submitting an application to the state for some financial assistance, to make sure these housing and these units are affordable in that 80% AMI category." Housing Works also plans a three-story affordable apartment building. "We believe that it’ll help provide housing for those particularly in need who are making the same wages as teachers, nurses, people who work in the retail industry, food and beverage industry. They’re the ones most in need of housing, either rental or buying."

Market-rate homes will be built in future phases. "We do have a stress on affordable housing because of the real estate market and the high prices that now we see in both Bend and Redmond," Fitch tells KBND News, "And the gap between those who can afford to have a home and those that cannot is growing."
The 40-acre parcel was brought into the UGB through an expedited process, as part of a state pilot program designed to stimulate housing development. Redmond was approved for that pilot in 2019

 

Bowman Museum Celebrates New Exhibit Saturday

PRINEVILLE, OR -- The Bowman Museum unveils a new exhibit Saturday, highlighting Crook County’s early days. “Really celebrating the early history of Crook County is really celebrating a lot of what we still see today with the Pioneer Queens Association. We still celebrate the Pioneer Queens today. And that started back then and then also just the medical evolution of the area,” Museum Executive Director Sean Briscoe says the Crook County Historical Society has big plans for the Belknap Exhibit Center, “It opens up the opportunity for us to get a lot more of our artifacts out on display. So, we can show more of what we have in our collection. But also, it allows us to open up for traveling exhibits.”

Saturday’s grand opening shows off the newly renovated house. “Downstairs will be Dr. Belknap Crook County Doctor. So, it's really going to give a highlight of what kind of medicine was used in early Crook County. And then upstairs is going to be focused on our Pioneer Queens,” Briscoe tells KBND News the project has been in the works for years, “The Belknap Exhibit Center features not only one of Prineville’s first doctors, but also his influential wife, “Wilda Belknap was prominent in starting the Pioneer Queens association, which later would evolve into the Crook County Historic Society.”

Tomorrow’s grand opening is from 11 to 4. “We will have historical reenactors floating around. We'll have Mrs. Belknap who will be here and she will be kind of in character,” he says. There will also be historical artifacts on display and guest lectures. The Belknap Exhibit Center is next to the Bowman Museum.

 

Redmond PD Searches For Stabbing Suspect

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Police are investigating a downtown stabbing. A Hispanic man was found stabbed near SW Sixth and Evergreen Thursday, just before 5 p.m. He was taken to the hospital. His condition has not been released. 

Detectives located the knife believed to have been used in the crime, but a suspect has not been identified. 

A "shelter in place" alert was issued but later lifted. Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Ben Halsey at non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911.  

Salem Man Arrested After Sunriver Assault, Standoff

SUNRIVER, OR -- A Salem man spent Thursday night in the Deschutes County Jail, following a more than six-hour standoff in Sunriver. Sunriver Police and Sheriff's deputies responded to a call of an unprovoked assault Thursday afternoon, in the area of 3 Whistling Swan Lane. Alexander Eaton is accused of punching a man and threatening to kill him before running into a nearby vacant home.

When police arrived, just after 2:30 p.m., they issued a "shelter in place" alert to neighbors and tried to convince Eaton to come out. Deschutes County SWAT responded and eventually entered the home, taking the 32-year-old into custody shortly before 9 p.m.

Eaton is charged with Burglary, Assault and Trespassing. He's due in court Friday afternoon. 

Input Sought On West Bend Trails Project

BEND, OR -- The Deschutes National Forest is taking public input on the West Bend Trails project on the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District. A draft Environmental Assessment was just released for the proposal to reroute almost nine miles of trail to improve trail intersections and reduce long-term maintenance. It would also add more than 17 miles of new trails and decommission about 17 miles of unauthorized trails. The 30-day comment period closes April 15th. Learn more about what's planned HERE

The draft Environmental Assessment is available HERE. Comments can be submitted electronically by email or by mail to:

Kevin Stock, District Ranger

c/o Emilie Bedard, Deschutes National Forest

63095 Deschutes Market Road

Bend, OR 97701

Two Hurt In Powell Butte Hwy Crash

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Two people were hurt in a three-vehicle crash on Powell Butte Highway, Thursday morning. Crook County deputies and medics responded just after 7 a.m. and found two cars and a small SUV. One driver was flown to the hospital with critical injuries. Another driver was taken by ambulance.

Investigators say the SUV was eastbound when it left its lane and hit the two oncoming cars. They do not believe alcohol or other impairing substances were a factor, but the investigation is ongoing.

Crook County Schools Choose Superintendent

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County Schools has named their new superintendent. “Unanimously, we selected Dr. Skinner and are currently working through contract negotiations. And when those are final or complete, we will make an announcement of what our next steps are,” said School Board Chair Jessica Brumble during Monday’s School Board meeting. 

Dr. Melissa Skinner is currently the Executive Director of Leadership at a school district in Odessa, Texas. She was chosen from among three finalists who met with school leaders and the community last week. Those groups then provided feedback. The board hired a consulting firm to aid in the search, last year, following the resignation of Dr. Sara Johnson.

“We appreciate all of the community feedback. We have quite a bit. Rob Hess’ firm did a great job with community involvement and those things,” Brumble said at the meeting. Provided contract details are ironed out, Dr. Skinner begins her role as Crook County Schools superintendent this July 1st.

Snowpack Is Strong, But Concerns Remain

BEND, OR -- Oregon ski resorts are thrilled with the snowpack. Mt. Bachelor reports it has received more than 300 inches this season and it plans to operate its full footprint through April 21. Spring operations begin the following day.

Snowpack in the Upper Deschutes-Crooked River basin is now 116% of normal. "In a lot of areas, snowpack levels are where we like to see them right now," says NRCS Hydrologist Matt Warbritton, "Across the Cascades and the central Blues, several of our SNOTEL stations have above-normal snowpack, and some don’t. Some are still below normal, so some areas still need to play catch-up by quite a bit." 

NOAA determined this winter has been the warmest on record, across the country. El Nino conditions brought higher than normal temperatures to Oregon, as well. But Warbritton says Oregon’s snowpack is slightly above normal for this time of year, "And that’s really due to three significant storms we’ve had, from early December to now. If not for even one of those storms, we may not be seeing these elevated snowpack levels."

Some trouble spots remain, like in the South Santiam and Hood River watersheds. "The mid-winter heatwave that we experienced in the second half of January had quite a significant impact on those sites’ ability to fully recover," Warbritton tells KBND News. In Central Oregon, snowpack in the Ochocos is now 116% of what's considered normal for this time of year, "That area’s been doing fairly well and that’s really good news for a region that’s experienced more extreme drought in the last five years." Nearly all of the middle of the state is still considered abnormally dry or in moderate drought, stretching from Wasco County to the California border.

Oregon’s snowpack typically peaks in early April, so we’re still a few weeks away from the end of snow accumulation season. "We’d still like to see that improvement continue into summer," says Warbritton, "And that’s really often going to be dependent on the rate of snowmelt during the spring, and also, temperatures."He is concerned about this weekend’s predicted warm-up, "In March, seeing temperatures above freezing in the mountains is not something we want to see, because then that will promote melting of snowpack. Especially, when you have sunny conditions, as well."

Images: (top) courtesy NRCS-Oregon; (upper right) courtesy U.S. Drought Monitor

E-Bike Bill Could Return In 2025 Session

BEND, OR -- Central Oregon State Representative Emerson Levy is frustrated strong e-bike legislation failed in the short session. But says the bill that passed, defining classifications for electric bicycles, is a step forward. "What we needed to do first and foremost: let’s correct the law; clean up the law. Because, it’s very difficult to operate for our cities and our schools and our police departments, when the law is mud - or, is clear as mud," Levy tells KBND News, "We couldn’t build on anything until we did that."

Her original bill would've created an education program, allowed kids under 16 to ride Class One electric bikes, and imposed penalties for parents of kids who violate the law. But, she says, "Ultimately, there was conflict between the bill and some bike advocates in Portland who wanted more, and less restriction. And that was something I wasn’t willing to compromise on." She adds, "What we ran up against, frankly, is people who don’t live on our side of the mountains saying kids should be able to ride Class Two bikes without restriction and no fines or penalties for - essentially, no fines or penalties."

She named the bill Trenton’s Law, after a Bend teen who died in a crash; he was riding an e-bike underage. His parents testified in support of the stronger restrictions, "Until you experience a fatality, like our community has experienced, and God willing they won’t, it’s hard to really understand what we’re trying to do." 

Rep. Levy says she hopes to revisit the issue in 2025. She’s also looking into a California program where schools require a parking permit for bikes. It's a free sticker applied right to the bicycle, "Regardless of if it’s an e-bike or regular bike, that means you’ve had a safety class and your bike is approved within their limits."

Overall, the Democrat says she wants to help educate parents, "I want families to have conversations no different than, ‘is this cell phone appropriate for my kid?’ These are very powerful machines, and I know people are ignoring the law. So, if that is happening, really be aware of your child’s ability, their education and how well they can navigate the road." 

Photo: Rep. Emerson Levy carries HB 4103 to the House floor, Feb 27, 2024.

With Filing Deadline Passed, Local Races Take Shape

BEND, OR -- Tuesday was the last chance for candidates to file for the 2024 election season, and the race for Deschutes County Commissioner is now a four-way contest. 

Incumbent Commissioner Phil Chang faces three challengers: Small business owner Robert Imhoff, Judy Trego, founder of the Sisters Community Foundation, and Brian Huntamer, an unemployed drug and alcohol counselor.

This is the first election since voters approved changing County Commissioner to a nonpartisan position. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in May, the top two move to the November election. 

No new candidates for Deschutes County Sheriff filed for that race, which means Capt. William Bailey and Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp will appear on the November ballot. 

And, two Republican State Senators disqualified from running for re-election jumped into new statewide campaigns, just ahead of Tuesday's deadline. Dallas Senator Brian Boquist is running for State Treasurer. He’s the only GOP candidate in that primary race. Two Democrats filed to run last fall: fellow Senator Elizabeth Steiner and Jeff Gudman, a financial analyst.

Klamath County Senator Dennis Linthicum threw his hat in the ring for Secretary of State. He’ll face investment broker Brent Barker and market analyst Tim McCloud in the GOP primary. Linthicum’s wife Diane is one of two Republicans running for his Senate seat.

Senators Dennis Linthicum and Brian Boquist were barred from running for re-election due to last year’s walkout. 

file photo

Bend Parks Hosts Women's Hockey Event Sunday

BEND, OR -- A prestigous women’s hockey player hits the ice at The Pavilion on Sunday. “We have Megan Bozek, who is a two-time Olympian, four-time world champion for U.S. Women's hockey. She's going to be coming alongside a woman named Caitlin Parker who works for the Seattle Kraken,” The Pavilion’s manager Clare Gordon says it’s the third year for the Girls and Women "Have the Edge” skill demonstration, “We’re asking girls and women to come out and try hockey. So, this really is aimed to folks who are trying hockey for the first time or beginner level players who want to get a little more introductory work in the game.” Youth and women’s hockey have been offered at the Pavilion since it opened in 2015 but interest has picked up in the past few years.

Bend Parks and Rec took over the popular Learn to Skate program this year after the Bend Rapids hockey club ran out of grant funding. “It seemed such a positive influence on more girls trying hockey that we wanted to continue it this year. So, we kept the name and we're working closely with the Rapids,” Gordon says it will be a fun day for everyone, “Megan is going to be on the ice with all the players. She'll be out there talking to them, giving him feedback. We'll do a meet and greet with Megan for kids, ask questions and adults ask questions and yeah, get to meet her, and then we'll do a barbecue.”

The event will be led by BPRD's Learn to Skate and hockey coaching staff alongside the Bend Rapids youth hockey club. Participants are placed in three age groups starting at five-years old up to adults.  Equipment including skate rentals are provided. The event is free but registration is required. It starts at 3:30 Sunday afternoon at the Pavilion.

Photo credit: Bend Parks and Rec 

Bend Police First In Oregon With "Live 911"

BEND, OR -- A Central Oregon police department is the first in the state to use "Live 911," a new technological tool. "Live 911 is a partnership with Deschutes County 911 and Bend Police Department," says Lt. Brian Beekman, "It’s a software product that can stream the audio of a 911 call, real-time, directly to the first responder in their vehicle."

He tells KBND News it allows officers to respond to nearby incidents even before getting dispatched, "Not all calls, but some calls, seconds really do matter. And if we can shave down our response time from let’s say five or six minutes, down to a minute or two, that changes everything on the call and helps us resolve it more safely."

Officers don't hear every call coming into the dispatch center, only those in close proximity to their patrol car, "The first responder - in this case, Bend Police officers will set up a radius around their car. It’s off the GPS of their car. Let’s say it’s a mile radius. So, as they’re patrolling the city, within a mile of their car, if a 911 call comes in, that audio will be streamed, real time, right to that officer."

Beekman credits Live 911 for the swift arrest of an assault suspect after a fight in downtown Bend, last month. And, he says, it helped save a man involved in a January domestic dispute, "Unfortunately, he was in mental crisis. He decided to try to harm himself. He decided to try to take his life. If someone didn’t intervene within seconds, his life would’ve been taken, based on his actions. That officer arrived on scene within two minutes of the call being made to 911, provided medical care to that person. That person is alive today."

Bend PD and Deschutes County 911 tested Live 911 over the past year and now plan to continue it for the long-term. "Our City Council, right now, has a public safety goal around using pieces of technology to help the first responders, to help us resolve calls in a more efficient way, use our staff more efficiently," says Beekman, "And that’s what we’re doing here with this tool."

 

One Killed In Sisters-Area Crash

SISTERS, OR -- The driver of a pickup was killed in a crash north os Sisters, Tuesday evening. Deschutes County deputies responded to the intersection of Wilt and Hinkle Butte roads just before 8:30 p.m.

Investigators say the Dodge Ram Pickup was found resting on its side on the shoulder of the road, and no other vehicles were involved. 

The name of the driver has not been released. 

 

UPDATE (2 P.M.): The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office says 65-year-old Kevin Gast, of Sisters, was the driver killed in Tuesday night's rollover crash

New Drug Laws: DA Gunnels Looks Ahead

BEND, OR -- The Governor is expected to soon sign HB 4002 - one of several bills changing Oregon’s drug possession laws. Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels is pleased with the bill and its multiple opportunities for defendants to get into drug treatment instead of jail. "The system is bending over backwards to get them into treatment," he tells KBND News, "And if the person has any internal motivation to get into treatment, they will do it." Gunnels adds, "And, if they need the push of a judge telling them, "Look, if you don’t go to treatment, I’m going to put you in jail for six months.’ That is also available in this bill. So, I think that’s a positive thing for public safety in Oregon."

Prosecutors also pushed for what was called the Boyd-Hubbell fix. "There was a case that came out of the Oregon Supreme Court a few years ago that really made it difficult to prosecute Delivery of Controlled Substances, delivery of drugs in our communities," says Gunnels. Essentially, the ruling meant dealers could only be prosecuted if caught in the act of a drug sale. Under HB 4002, he says his office will again be allowed to prosecute dealers for possessing large amounts of controlled substances, even if not observed selling. "That is generally - that’s probably 90% of the cases we get are people who are in possession of drugs, they’re on their way to deliver them or they’re in their pockets and they’re going to deliver them." Gunnels says, "Under this new statute, it will be easy, because that is the new definition of Delivery, that covers what we thought Delivery meant for a number of years."

HB 4002 will take effect once it’s signed by the Governor. "There were a lot of people, a lot of entities that were approaching this bill - pro and con - to try to get various things inserted in it. And that’s why it’s a little bit complicated," says Gunnels, "But, at the end of the day, the re-criminalization of drugs will be a positive thing for the people who are addicted to drugs."

A separate bill increases criminal penalties for someone caught using drugs on public transit. 

file photo

Defensible Space Incentive Now Available For Some Communities

SALEM, OR -- Money is now available to help Oregonians in the most wildfire-prone areas improve their property's defensible space. The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office calls it an incentive for people to get a free Defensible Space Assessment. Assistant Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Chad Hawkins tells KBND News, "Through the Community Wildfire Risk Reduction Funds that were part of Senate Bill 762, back in 2021, there was a small pilot funded that allocated funds for folks to be able to request those assessments."

OSFM is now sending $250 Visa gift cards to property owners and renters who complete an assessment and live in one of 50 eligible cities, including Redmond, Prineville, Madras, Terrebonne, Culver, La Pine and Warm Springs. Hawkins says the list includes communities primarily in Central and Southern Oregon, "Obviously, where a lot of our high wildfire risk is, inherently, based on those fuel models, the weather and topography." He adds, "Those residents could really use some assistance in improving their defensible space. Again, it’s all contingent on them asking for that assessment, us coming out and doing the assessment."

Assessments are available from OSFM or a number of local fire agencies. Hawkins says, "We’ll do the assessment and if we find two or more deficiencies - maybe some trees that need limbing up or some of that dead and dying material on the ground needs to be cleaned up - if we click two or more of those recommended boxes, then on the back end, OSFM would send out that Defensible Space Incentive Reimbursement card."

For more information, click HERE.

Crook County Abolishes County Court Governing Style

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County is now operating under a new form of government. Until last week, Crook County was one of the last places in Oregon still governed by a County Court with a full time County Judge and two part time Commissioners.

Interim County Administrator Andy Parks says the move is to three Commissioners with equal weight, "And that process, per this order, you are moving forward with what would be called a Commission-manager form of government, with a manager that is ultimately hired to carry on the administrative functions of the organization." That manager would run daily operations whil Commissioners provide the long-term vision, direction and oversight. 

Commissioner Susan Hermreck led the charge to convert to a Board of Commissioners with all three members working full time. She says she already works more than 40 hours a week, "We need to be realistic, and we need to be honest to the people. We need to have three full time commissioners; we need to get a county manager on board." Hermreck also told Judge Seth Crawford and Commissioner Brian Barney the current system isn’t working with the interim Administrator, "You guys let him run wild and we need to just get a county manager in." She acknowledged abolishing the Judge position didn’t sit well with Judge Seth Crawford, "I know you’re concerned about the County Judge title. Quite frankly, we need three full time commissioners. All that County Judge thing is, is a title."

The shift also allows the Board to decide on who serves as Chair, with that title rotating each year. "I’m 100% with Susan on this," Commissioner Barney said at last week's meeting, "And who better to make the choice on who’s going to be the chair than the governing body themselves?"

Crawford was the lone vote against the change, "I think that people in Crook County enjoy the name ‘judge.’ I enjoy the name ‘judge.’ That’s not the most important thing about this conversation." He believes it gives too much power to a hired manager instead of someone elected by voters. 

Public comment at last week’s meeting was overwhelmingly in support of the change, with one resident telling Commissioners, "Whether or not we like it, growth is happening here. And we’re not managing it; you’re sitting here quibbling over a name change, instead of looking at how are we going to address this growth? How are we going to plan for this growth so it doesn’t change why we all live here right now?"

Until the next election, Crawford will serve as board chair. They are now looking for a permanent county manager and will discuss Commissioner and Chair roles and responsibilities at Wednesday's meeting. 

 

Idaho Couple Killed In Madras-Area Plane Crash

MADRAS, OR -- The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says no one survived a Sunday evening plane. Frontier Regional 911 received a report of the crash at 7:40 p.m. in a remote area about five miles southeast of Madras. Deputies and medics responded and discovered the crash scene with the help of the power company. Due to the extent of the crash, there were no survivors.

Investigators say the plane departed Aurora, OR and was en route to Idaho. The names of those on board have not yet been released.

The Sheriff's Office expects a lengthy investigation with the NTSB and FAA. 

 

UPDATE (3/11/24 11:45 a.m.): The NTSB confirms the plane was a Piper PA-32. No other information has been released. 

 

UPDATE (3/11/24 7 p.m.): The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office confirms two people were on board the plane; both died in the crash. The couple was from Caldwell, Idaho and appear to have been heading home. Their identities have yet to be released. 

 

GOP Senate Candidate Still Shaping Campaign

BEND, OR -- Michael Summers announced last week he’s running as a Republican for Tim Knopp’s local State Senate seat, just seven days ahead of the filing deadline. "It was something that came out of the blue, kind of unexpected," Summers tells KBND News, "I felt prepared for it but I wasn’t seeking it. So, I was really humbled to be asked to do it." The filing came days after the Secretary of State's Office disqualified the only other GOP candidate for failing to meet residency requirements. 

Summers currently chairs the Redmond School Board and says he was asked to enter the Senate race by a fellow board member who is running for the State House. "Keri Lopez was one who - and Tim [Knopp], obviously, was the other," says Summers, "I think they sent Keri as the ice-breaker." He says both he and Lopez plan to stay on the school board if elected to state office, "That was one of my main hang-ups, honestly. One I got the green-light from my wife and she was on-board and excited, that was the other thing. It’s like, ‘Oh, if I had to step out of the Redmond School District, out of the board there, I’d be pretty sad about that.’"

Given his last minute filing, Summers says he hasn’t had a lot of time yet to consider his policy positions, "The top of mind for me is education, because that’s what I’ve spent the last two and a half years digging into and diving into." He adds, "Making sure I’m not a legislator that makes good sounding policies that actually is very difficult and sometimes impossible for a school district to carry out."

He also says he wants to reach across the aisle, "How do we disagree well? Because the world is not doing it well. Nationally, not going well. And the incentive is to get votes through fear and anger and frustration and wedges. And that is just not who I am." Summers says, "I’m not naive, I know it’ll be tough, especially coming in - if I get elected - as a new senator. Good things only come through relationship, and that takes a little bit of time to build."

If no other candidates file before Tuesday's deadline, Summers will face Democrat Bend City Councilor Anthony Broadman in the November general election.

Photo: Senate candidate Michael Summers talks with KBND News via Zoom, March 8, 2024.

Vacant County Building Damaged By Fire

BEND, OR -- A vacant county-owned building in downtown Bend was heavily damaged by fire early Sunday morning. Firefighters responded to Northwest Lafayette at about 3:30 a.m. and found fire in the attic of the nearly 90-year-old structure.

High winds fanned the flames, but crews were able to stop the fire from spreading to a neighboring church. Damage is estimated at $100,000.

Investigators determined the blaze started on the outside of the former home, in an area where someone was hanging out, likely to avoid the wind and cold. The Sheriff's Office has jurisdiction for county-owned buildings and is investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911.

The house was built in 1935 and converted into law offices in the late 1990s. Deschutes County purchased the property in September of 2022. 

New Design Needed For Terrebonne Intersection

TERREBONNE, OR -- Deschutes County’s Road Department wants the public to weigh-in on the future of an intersection located between Terrebonne and Crooked River Ranch.

"The intersection of Lower Bridge Way and 43rd is a fairly busy intersection on the County Road network. There’s about 8,000 vehicles a day going through this intersection." But County Engineer Cody Smith says that doesn't include the cyclists on the Sisters to Smith Rock State Scenic Bikeway, "That goes from Smith Rock State Park all the way out to Sisters. So that recreation corridor exists out there."

There are three concepts under consideration. Smith tells KBND News, "We’ve developed a very low-scale right turn lane concept, that’s kind of a low order-type project. We’ve designed a concept for a realignment of Lower Bridge Way and 43rd, that would include a left turn lane. And then, we’ve also designed a roundabout concept." The cheapest option is the dedicated right turn lane. But Smith says, "Cost isn’t necessarily the only thing driving our decision. There’s a lot of other things we’re looking at, in terms of right-of-way constraints, in terms of safety and operations at that intersection."

A virtual open house is online through April 19, for those who use the intersection to provide feedback. Smith says they don’t just want to hear from drivers, "One thing we want to get input on too, in particular, is from the bicycle community and then bicyclists who frequent and use that Sisters-Smith Rock State Scenic Bikeway, and get their thoughts on what they want to see happen at that intersection." 

Work wouldn’t begin at 43rd and Lower Bridge until at least the latter part of 2025, because the county would need to acquire rights of way to increase the intersection footprint. The adjacent property is owned by the Bureau of Land Management. 

 

Oregon Research Shows Spike In Pediatric Fentanyl Exposure

PORTLAND, OR -- Oregon researchers say young children are getting treated for exposure to fentanyl at an alarming rate. OHSU’s Oregon Poison Center saw 16 cases of fentanyl exposure in kids under age six in 2023. In 2021, the number was just two and in 2020 there were zero.

Poison Center Director Dr. Robert Hendrickson studied the data going back to 2016 and says it mirrors a national trend, "I think this is related to fentanyl being available to the community. We didn’t see pediatric fentanyl cases until fentanyl was introduced in the illicit drug market." In Oregon, 93% of pediatric exposures to illicit fentanyl occurred in the child’s home. 

While fentanyl is extremely dangerous for adults, he says it’s even more deadly for children, "A child who ingests 3,000 or 4,000 micrograms of fentanyl is 50 times the dose they should get, which is different from most other people." The effects of fentanyl exposure on kids include loss of consciousness, stopping breathing and brain injury. Dr. Hendrickson says anyone using fentanyl or other opioids should have a Naloxone kit, "I would not hesitate for a second to give the exact same dose to a child that you’re giving an adult or to use an adult Naloxone kit."

Dr. Hendrickson urges parents to lock up medicine, drugs and other poisonous substances.

 

Shepherd's House Brings On Nurse

BEND, OR -- Shepherd's House now has a Residential Nurse working at its shelters.

Amber Knapp has been stationed at the Franklin Avenue facility since January 31, and says she hit the ground running, “It's been kind of a whirlwind so far. And then we're also working with the state to increase our harm reduction program here. We're trying to get Narcan, wound supplies, and hygiene supplies. We've just seen an increase in overdoses. So, we're trying to make sure people have Narcan on hand in case that happens.” Knapp tells KBND News one of her main tasks is coordinating medical care, “You know, I have a hard enough time myself with doctor’s appointments and I don't have barriers. Our patients have a lot of barriers and getting their medical appointments organized, can be a lot, and that can be a lot to remember.”

The Bend native felt compelled to help her hometown after getting her nursing degree. “I worked at the county for three years and I did work a lot with our unhoused population. We'd go out to camps and see patients and I just really enjoyed it and felt like they were just really underserved in our community. There seems to be a big stigma against our unhoused population. And so, I just have a heart for it,” she says.

Funding for the nursing position comes from a two-year grant provided by Pacific Source Community Solutions, and a match from the Central Oregon Health Council.

Shepherd’s House Ministries operates shelters in Bend and Redmond.

 

Bend Could Revisit Gas Tax Question In Three Years

BEND, OR -- Later this month, Bend City Councilors are expected to deliberate on a new code implementing a utility fee to pay for transportation operations and maintenance. Mayor Melanie Kebler acknowledges charging utility bills for wear and tear on city streets has its limits. For example, drivers who live just outside the city limits and use those roads every day won’t pay into the fund. "We can put it on the utility bills for the accounts that we have," she says, "And we don’t charge utilities to someone who lives outside the city of Bend. We can’t; we don’t have a system out there." 

If the transportation fee is approved, it would be phased in over several years, starting after July first. Kebler expets the code to include a provision to look at other funding sources in the future, "Before we get to the third year of implementing this fee, we are directing the City Manager to come back and talk to us, and have a real discussion about whether we also need to consider a fuels tax, which can capture folks who are coming in - either they live outside of town and come in and get their gas in Bend, or they’re visitors." 

A local gas tax would require voter approval. But, Kebler says they’re all aware a similar proposal failed at the ballot in 2016, "By a very large margin. So, we’re a few years out from that. And I think part of the discussion council will need to have is, ‘can we pass a gas tax?’" Kebler tells KBND News, "That’s something we wanted to commit to discussing and making a decision in the future. I don’t know what that decision will be, but we have put that in the code that we are going to have that discussion before we get to year three of implementing this, because it’s important and the community has raised it as a concern."

To hear our full conversation with Mayor Kebler, as she explains how the transportation fee would be rolled out and how much it would cost utility ratepayers, visit KBND's Podcast page

Armed Man In Crisis Prompts Lockdown At Bend Shopping Center

BEND, OR -- A mental health crisis led to the lockdown of several businesses inside the Forum Shopping Center in northeast Bend, Thursday. 

Bend Police responded just after 1 p.m. to a report of an employee in crisis with a gun. Negotiators were able to talk to him by phone and convince him to exit the business without the firearm. Officers then took him to the Deschutes County Stabilization Center. 

The incident prompted a large law enforcement presence, several businesses in the area were locked down as a precaution and Bend Fire medics staged away from the scene, in the event anyone was hurt. 

Officials say he didn't commit a crime during the incident and no injuries were reported. To protect the man's privacy, no further details will be released.

 

file photo

 

Redmond School Board Member Launches Senate Bid

BEND, OR -- Redmond School Board Chair Michael Summers has thrown his hat in the ring for State Senate. He also owns Summers Flooring and Design, in Bend.

According to state records, Summers filed as a Republican for the District 27 race on Tuesday, four days after the Secretary of State disqualified GOP candidate Shannon Monihan for failing to meet residency requirements.

Summers declined KBND's request for an interview Wednesday. 

He’s the only Republican to successfully file for Senate District 27, so far. The deadline is Tuesday. 

Local Veterans Advocate Honored By State Legislature

SALEM, OR -- State lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution this week, thanking a local veterans advocate for his ongoing work. 

"This honors an amazing Oregonian: Dick Tobiason," Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) said during his floor speech, Wednesday, noting the importance of honoring key Oregonians while they're still alive. "I think it’s great that we’re honoring Dick for all his efforts to honor veterans over the last 20 years. He’s basically spent his retirement honoring veterans and the veteran community." Earlier in the session, Tobiason spoke to a legislative committee about the resolution. 

He served two tours in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart. "His second tour was in 1972 and ‘73," said Knopp, "And he was an advisor to the South Vietnamese government." After retiring from NASA, Tobiason created the nonprofit Bend Heroes Foundation. "He’s helped adopt many laws, honoring nearly half a million Oregon veterans who have served during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the Afghanistan and Iraq War."

Previous Coverage: Deschutes County Honors Longtime Veterans Advocate

Tobiason is largely responsible for the designations of highways around the state honoring vets from various conflicts. And, was a driving force behind Highway 20’s designation as the national Medal of Honor Highway, "It wasn’t enough just to have these honors for Oregon, and he stretched across the United States, honoring veterans on a major highway." Knopp added, "Dick is also responsible for getting things going as it relates to housing for veterans, Central Oregon Veterans Village. It’s a rest village that helps homeless veterans that we want to get to permanent housing and stable employment."

File photo: Dick Tobiason at a 2023 ceremony 

Deschutes County Looks Toward Future Developments

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County commissioners tackled several development issues Wednesday. They approved the first reading of the Transportation System Plan, focused on County roads as well as bicycles, pedestrians, transit, and other modes through 2040. Commissioner Tony DeBone says it sets the county up to send a funding request to the legislature next year, “So, just acknowledging a lot of great projects in here, remember that, we've got a big, big number, big list of projects, safety improvements, capacity improvements.” The second reading for the new ordinance will be March 20th.

Deschutes County will pursue an Environmental Protection Agency Grant that would put millions of dollars into South County projects. “There's a criterion that has to be met in terms of addressing clean air. So, there's building rehabilitation opportunities, NeighborImpact has been doing this for years in this region. So, there's some synergy there,” said Community Development Director Peter Gutowsky who told County Commissioners money might also be used for reducing wildfire fuels on private land.

Commissioners have been considering Fort Thompson Road as a potential site for a county-owned RV Campground. While they agreed to pursue a State Parks Grant, board chair Patti Adair expressed concern over zoning in that area off of Highway 97, “It really seems like in order to be successful with this project, we really need to work on the legislators to add the UGB on the north end of Bend in order to bring all this property in.”

Bend City Council Signs Historic Agreement With Tribal Council

BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors have approved a special agreement between the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the city. The goal is to coordinate on matters of common interest, like use of water resources from the Deschutes Basin, land use, protection of cultural resources and sustainable economic development.

City Manager Eric King says plans for future joint meetings are already in the works, "We are tentatively planning a date in June for the City Council to go to Warm Springs and participate in an abbreviated harmony workshop, as well as some tours and maybe some food, and potentially some other activities." 

The Memorandum of Understanding is the first of its kind for the Warm Springs Tribal Council. But Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler says it probably won’t be the last, "This is historic for us, but I think there are many other governments that are on the ceded lands of the tribes that could maybe take this as an example of how to work together and try to build that relationship."

Kebler also read a statement from Tribal Council Chairman Jonathan Smith, "He said, ‘As the original stewards of this land, we know that caring for and preserving our shared natural resources requires strong partnerships with other governments. We see this MOU with the city of Bend as the first formal step in forging an important partnership, and as an example that we’d like to replicate with other governments in the region.'"

 

Suspected DUII Driver Crashes Into Bend Apartment Building

BEND, OR -- A 41-year-old Bend man is accused of impaired driving and a hit and run that damaged a local apartment building late Wednesday. When Bend Police arrived at the complex on Northwest Newport, they found damage to a wall, a broken gas line, a detached bumper and a trail of fluid leading away from the scene.

Less than a mile away they located a parked car with a missing bumper. Officers contacted Christopher Kobernick walking down the street and confirmed it was his car. He was arrested on numerous charges.

Authorities say eight people were inside the building just before midnight, when the crash occurred, including a child asleep just on the other side of the wall damaged in the impact. The crash sheared off four natural gas meters and severed the main line. Officers evacuated the building and Newport was closed for about an hour while the fire department and gas company secured the scene. 

 

Photo courtesy Bend Police

Public Safety Council Reacts To M110 Reform Pkg

BEND, OR -- Governor Tina Kotek has yet to sign the drug possession bills reforming Measure 110, but Central Oregon law enforcement leaders are already making plans. At Tuesday's meeting of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC), Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson said the Deschutes County D.A. is committed to deflection and diversion programs, "And through every step of the way, whether it’s through deflection or diversion or probation, there is always the focus and opportunity for treatment."

Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz believes the bills provide useful tools for law enforcement, "But, there’s a lot of questions, too. How is the county impacted? How is the county going to step up with deflection options? And, how is that going to work?" He also wants a tri-county sobering center. "That’s, I think, one of the most important things we can focus on next, is getting state money and state funding to assist us in creating that sobering center," said Krantz, "Right now, we have an emergency room. And yes, we have the Stabilization Center, but it’s not the same. It is not for people who are coming down off meth. We need a secure, safe, sobering center that’s functional."

Deschutes County Health Services Director Janice Garceau says the bills don’t address racial disparities and worries about local communities of color, "They are still housed at lower rates, they are still employed at lower rates, they are still sometimes experiencing increased consequences in the criminal justice system." But, she's pleased our region will receive additional state funds, "Dollars did get identified, and that is a hug positive. But we are probably way far from where we would need to be for robust treatment courts and deflection programs. And again, we’re going to work together; we’re going to do what we can."

Community Justice Director Deevy Holcomb also acknowledged the need to ensure the new "unclassified misdemeanor" for drug possession is applied equitably. But she is optimistic about provisions aimed at getting addicts who are on parole or probation into treatment, "A returning of the ability to provide a very person-centered supervision to those whose risk and needs really mean that they will be helped by being in our system."

 

Bend Man Dies At Mt. Bachelor

BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of a man at Mt. Bachelor. Just after 2 p.m. Tuesday, deputies responded to a reported unresponsive person found in the West Bowl ski area.

A citizen began CPR until Ski Patrol and Bend Fire medics arrived. They took  over life-saving efforts and transported the man to Bachelor’s on-site medical facility, but he did not survive. 

No further details have been released. 

 
UPDATE (03/06/2024) -- The victim in Tuesday's incident on Mt. Bachelor has been identified as 58-year-old Robert Harrington, of Bend. According to the Sheriff's Office, Harrington was an avid skier and was wearing a helmet. He was found unresponsive by a citizen about 30 minutes after riding the Northwest Express lift. Investigators believe he suffered from the effects of snow immersion suffocation. 
There was no evidence of trauma and the helmet was not damaged. 
 
file photo

Monihan Deemed Ineligible For Bend Senate Race

BEND, OR -- Another Republican candidate for Bend’s Senate seat has been deemed ineligible by the state Elections Division. Incumbent Senator Tim Knopp can’t run due to last year’s walkout. He endorsed Shannon Monihan, but the Secretary of State’s office now says Monihan hasn’t lived in the district long enough. 

In December, Monihan moved from Senate District 28 into District 27’s boundary. She announced her intent to run for Knopp's seat in early January. However, a candidate must live inside the district for one year prior to the election. That means Monihan moved six weeks too late to quailify for the 2024 election, according to a letter from the Secretary of State’s Office dated March first, obtained by KBND News. 

Monihan was the executive director of the Downtown Bend Business Association. But, a note on their website says she no longer works there, effective February 29.

Bend City Councilor Anthony Broadman is now the only candidate officially in the race for Senate District 27. He's running as a Democrat. Broadman tells KBND News, “Nothing really changes for us. My job is to fight for working families, ensure public safety, ensure our region is safe from catastrophic wildfire and crime. I've been in the race since September." He adds, "I'm focused on doing the job that the voters put me in place to do on the city council and doing the job that I hope to do for Senate District 27 in Salem.”

Monihan did not respond to a request for comment. However, a spokesperson from her campaign says she doesn't plan to appeal the Secretary of State's ruling and Republicans are focused on finding another candidate. 

The filing deadline is Tuesday, March 12th. 

 

Redmond Fire Gets New Chief

REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Fire & Rescue welcomes a new Chief on March 18. Ryan Herrera (pictured) was appointed, following the retirement of Chief Pat Dale. Herrera comes to Redmond with 30 years of Fire and EMS experience in Washington.

Chief Dale’s last day was Thursday, February 29; although, the department didn’t announce his departure until Monday, saying he left an "impacting legacy of excellence in leadership." Dale arrived in Redmond in 2022, after retiring from the Graham Fire Department in Washington. He spent a total of 42 years in the fire service.

Redmond Family Rescued From China Hat Butte Snow

BEND, OR -- A Redmond family was rescued after their pickup got stuck in three feet of snow near China Hat Butte. A good samaritan reported the incident Sunday afternoon, after trying to help dig out their pickup.

The family had no shovels or recovery gear, no food, no water and no cell service. It was about 18 degrees and snowing, and their exact location was unknown. 

Deschutes County Search and Rescue deployed a Tracked Rescue Vehicle (pictured) and a tracked Polaris Ranger. About three hours after the initial report, the SAR team located the two women, two kids - ages six and four - and three dogs. All were cold but otherwise okay.

They were provided with food and water and loaded into the heated TRV. The family was taken to a waiting vehicle and given a courtesy transport to their home in Redmond. 

Deschutes Co. Delays Decision On RV Rental Code

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County is considering rules for allowing motorhomes and camping trailers to be used as permanent rental housing. But County Commissioners aren’t yet ready to move forward. 

Commissioner Phil Chang tells KBND News RV rental housing is allowed under a bill passed by the 2023 legislature, "This bill authorizes rural property owners in Rural Residential areas to host one RV on their property near their permanent dwelling, year round, as a rental." But, he says, "The Board of Commissioners decided not to proceed to a public hearing to create a program right away. We had a lot of questions that we want answered before we either decide to move forward with a program or not. It’s optional. The state authorized it. But a county can decide to opt out."

Commissioners are waiting for more information about what infrastructure improvements might be needed for safety, like a roofing structure to protect the RV from snow, concrete parking pad, and electrical, water and sewer connections, and what impact those improvements might have on property tax assessments. There are also concerns about how the increase in tenants might increase the strain on septic systems and firefighting resources. 

"I think that this is a really important opportunity to expand the housing and the housing options that we have in our community," says Chang, "But it will be complicated to implement."

Commissioners will discuss the possibility of moving forward after more research by county staff.

 

New MAC Rec District Question Goes To May Ballot

MADRAS, OR -- Jefferson County Commissioners have approved a ballot measure to create a new recreation district for the Madras Aquatic Center.

Following two public hearings, voters will make the final decision in May.

“It's an opportunity for folks to weigh in. And if they are willing to continue supporting the district at the same level they have for the last 12 years, they should consider voting in favor of it. If they don't want to continue supporting the MAC at the level that they have, then they should probably vote against it,” MAC Executive Director Courtney Snead tells KBND News the current taxing district must be dissolved and a new one formed, “There's quite a bit of maintenance that needs to be done in the facility. We are a 17-year-old facility and for many that's not that old, but we have pumps and motors and filters that run 24/7 that have not had the preventative maintenance they should over the years.”

She says that will allow them to combine three taxes into one, taking advantage of current bond revenues to generate $1.6-million FOR funding current operations and needed repairs. “So if there's a no vote, we are in the process of developing the budget for next year and we would probably see a 25 to 50% decrease in our hours at the Madras Aquatic Center, we would have to lay off a good portion of our staff. To me it’s a nuclear scenario if our financial situation doesn’t improve,” she says adding keeping the facility operating at full capacity benefits the local economy, “We've had a lot of positive feedback from folks who are involved in our recreation programs as well as use our swimming pool and just how important this organization and what we do is.”

 

Construction Begins Tuesday On Sisters Roundabout

SISTERS, OR -- Construction begins Tuesday on a new roundabout in Sisters, at Highway 20 and Locust. East/west traffic on Highway 20 will stay open. Cascade Avenue will also remain open during construction but North Locust close through the end of May. Other closures are expected later this summer.

ODOT hosts an open house Monday afternoon at Sisters Elementary from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., to talk about detours and other impacts of the work. Click HERE for more information.

The majority of the project should wrap up around Memorial Day, although some work will continue into fall. 

Suspected DRW Intruder Arrested

BEND, OR -- A 46-year-old Bend man faces numerous charges after the Sheriff’s Office says he broke into a home in Deschutes River Woods early Sunday. The homeowner on Agate Road called 911 just after midnight and reported a man had entered the home while holding a knife. The intruder left without hurting anyone. 

An emergency message went out telling neighbors to shelter in place, as law enforcement converged on the area. Others spotted the man, later identified as Nicholas Kendle, walking through yards. Another homeowner was armed as she challenged Kendle through her front door, providing deputies with a precise location.

He was arrested without further incident. Kendle is charged with Burglary, Attempted Burglary, Attempted Unlawful Entry into a Motor Vehicle and Criminal Trespass. 

Three Arrested In Prineville After High Speed Pursuit

PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County Sheriff's deputies and Prineville Police took three men into custody Sunday night after a high-speed chase. It started a little after 11 p.m. when Jefferson County deputies spotted a Chevy Camero racing through Madras at 130 miles an hour with no lights on. 

As the car headed into Prineville at 100 miles an hour, law enforcement called off the pursuit for safety reasons.  Shortly after, law enforcement found the Camero parked at NW Campbell Ranch Road near Elliott Lane; but it was empty.

A K9 team and a drone were deployed, helping to locate three men hiding behind a building. They were taken into custody; their names have not been released. The driver was booked into the Jefferson County Jail. 

M110 Reform Bills Await Governor's Signature

SALEM, OR -- Oregon’s Senate suspended rules Friday to get Measure 110 reforms up for a vote the day after the package passed the House. Again, both the policy bill creating an unclassified misdemeanor for drug possession and the corresponding $211 million spending bill passed with broad bipartisan support. 

Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) said Friday, "I’m glad to stand on the Senate floor today and report to Oregonians: you won." He says the $211 million spending package puts an important focus on kids, "We have set aside money for prevention and for identifying drug-endangered children."

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner (D-NW Portland) says it’ll also pay for workforce training, public safety and 400 more treatment beds in 16 counties, "We are investing in every corner of this state so that people can receive care for their addiction close to home." She adds, "In Madras, we’ll see Oregon’s first ever treatment facility solely for Latina women. Klamath County will have new capacity for residential treatment and crisis stabilization. Ontario will have a new integrated behavioral health facility with supportive housing."

Eastern Oregon Sen. Lynn Findley (R-Vale) is pleased to see funding headed to rural areas. He says under the current model, his constituents must drive hundreds of miles to access drug treatment, "The people of Ontario, Prineville, Madras, Terrebonne, Burns, Baker City, John Day, Lakeview, Nyssa, Long Creek, as well as 90 other communities in my district have a right to the same amount of public safety as the people in Portland, Salem or Eugene. The citizens in my district have the same right to mental health and addiction services as the urban areas of this state." 

Opposing the bills for not going far enough to repeal Measure 110, Senator Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls) invoked memories of an old PSA of an egg in a frying pan, "This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs. And, what we’re trying to do with all of these monies is put the fried egg back in the broken shell, the broken body of a former person who could’ve had a healthy life."

Others expressed concerns over racial equity. And Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) is frustrated the newly created unclassified misdemeanor for drug possession doesn’t have an expiration date, "It does re-criminalization of possession of a user amount of controlled substances into perpetuity. It is here to stay."

They now head to the Governor’s desk and would take effect when signed.

 

La Pine Woman Killed In Klamath County Crash

GILCHRIST, OR -- A 37-year-old local woman was killed in a Thursday morning crash that closed Highway 97 south of La Pine for several hours. According to Oregon State Police, a semi truck was southbound, when the driver lost control and jackknifed in the highway. The truck crossed into the path of an SUV, driven by Elise Farrens, of La Pine.

Farrens was declared dead at the scene. Her passenger, 23-year-old Daviana Trussell, also of La Pine, was critically injured. Authorities say Trussell suffered a miscarriage as a result of the crash.

The semi driver sustained minor injuries. The investigation into the crash continues. 

Saturday's Polar Plunge Benefits Special Olympics Oregon

BEND, OR -- The annual Polar Plunge is Saturday. Sunriver Police officer Kecia Weaver started the fundraiser in 2007 when she was with Bend PD, “So, this will be our 18th year plunging in central Oregon and all the other Oregon polar plunges just copied us. So that's something that we're pretty proud of.”

Snow and rain are in the forecast. Weaver says they have had winter conditions in the past, “Remarkably, most of the rest have been pretty pleasant but the snow is welcome. It adds to the fun.”

“We love to have the friendly competition and invite other agencies or any first responders to try to beat one another out for who can raise the most money,” They’ve raised more than $42-thousand dollars so far. “Law enforcement has a long history of supporting the Special Olympics. And one of the ways that we do that is through Polar Plunge, which is raising funds so that people with intellectual disabilities can participate in Special Olympics at no charge to them. So, law enforcement is part of raising the awareness and then the fundraising as well. So polar plunge is a crazy and fun way that we do that.”

Along with the plunge there is a 5K run, costume contest, and a Puppy Plunge. “It's a lot of fun. It's just a unique event that we can do in central Oregon,” Weaver says

Registration starts at 9 am Saturday at River Bend Park. Plunging begins at 11.

 

OR House Passes M110 Reform Package

SALEM, OR -- Followin several hours of debate, Oregon's House passed a package of bills related to reforming the state's drug possession and treatment laws. All three pieces of legislation were approved with broad bipartisan support. 

Rep. Greg Smith (R-Umatilla) called House Bill 4002, "A delicate balance of mercy with justice." It creates a new Unclassified Misdemeanor for drug possession, which supporters say provides law enforcement with flexibility to get addicts into treatment instead of jail.

Many spoke on the House floor Thursday saying the bill is far from perfect. "I’m a yes vote on this bill today," said Rep. Bobby Levy (R-Echo), "But I recognize the major gaps that remain. And I mourn the premature and unnecessary loss of life as a result of the policies that remain in Oregon." And Rep. Cyrus Javadi (R-Astoria) issued a call to the Governor, "It’s incumbent upon us to hold the Governor accountable for the effective implementation and adjustments proposed in this bill. The stakes are too high and the consequences too severe for passive oversight."

Seven voted against HB 4002, three Republicans and four Democrats. Rep Travis Nelson (D-N. Portland) worries creating an unclassified misdemeanor and options for court-ordered treatment will disproportionately impact people of color, "I was also disappointed to hear that BIPOC stakeholders felt left out of the conversation in the final weeks of negotiation." Lawyer and State Rep. Jason Kropf (D-Bend) helped craft the bill and says there are safeguards, "We have built into this package, not only robust data collection - who’s being arrested, who’s being offered deflection, who’s being successful, who’s not successful? But we’ve also built into this package report-backs to the CJC - the Criminal Justice Commission - about what those programs look like."

Rep. Khanh Pham (D-SE Portland) also worries about racial equity and the expense of creating a new system, "Without enough public defenders, our judicial system is going to be under tremendous strain and will need a lot more funding for prosecutors, public defenders and probation officers."

Rep. Ed Diehl (R-Turner) said, "House Bill 4002-A, in my opinion, is now the most anti-crime, pro-law enforcement bill this legislature has sent to the House floor in years. It gives law enforcement many of the tools they’ve asked for to deal with this drug crisis. However, it also has serious flaws that will limit its effectiveness."

Following the bill's passage, Rep. Emerson Levy (D-Central OR) issued a statement saying, "The voters were clear when they passed Measure 110: getting people into recovery is the top priority. But, what we’ve experienced since the implementation of Measure 110 is unacceptable. HB 4002 is a comprehensive plan to address our state's drug and addiction problem and gives our law enforcement the tools they need to confiscate hard drugs and get people off the street and into recovery." 

Along with HB 4002, the House approved a companion spending bill, with two Republicans voting against it. HB 5204 funds related programs like youth education and drug prevention and workforce training for behavioral health providers. It also sends money to sobering and stabilization facilities around the state, including $1.5 million for Deschutes County’s stabilization center.

Also advancing to the Senate, a bill bolstering specialty treatment courts. "Ultimately, the barriers facing each drug court are unique and there are some constant themes," House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) said Thursday, "And right now, at a time when the addiction crisis is at a high, we see some drug treatment courts starting to shut down: some in Benton County, some in Deschutes County." 

Rayfield explained, "House Bill 4001 sets up a process to build a model that best meets the needs of communities across the state, by establishing a task force. The task force will answer key questions, to make sure our work in this space leads to intended outcomes, giving communities the tools they need to maintain and grow their specialty courts. Specifically, the task force will examine our existing specialty treatment court funding structure, eligibility criteria and accountability mechanisms in place, so we can identify a consistent system across the state. " He says the bill would, "Ensure that we are providing high functioning, effective diversion opportunities for people who will benefit from them most. These programs are also proven to significantly reduce recidivism if done correctly."

Rep. Kevin Mannix (R-N. Salem) says it could also lead to other creative solutions, "The long and the short of it is, this opens up the door for a robust discussion about what we can do at the local level to enhance the courts, along with the specialty courts that we need in the state." HB 4001 unanimously passed the House.

All three bills are now in the Senate and would take effect if and when they’re signed by the Governor. 

 

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