BEND, OR -- The City of Bend is poised to sell the former site of the Bend Bulletin -- again. City councilors have approved an offer from Cascade Empire Lodging. The nearly $2.3 million deal is substantially less than the $4.8 million the city paid for the property back in 2005.
City Manager Eric King tells KBND the deal has not been finalized. "Well, they have about 60 days of due diligence, then another 60 days to close on the property, " King says. "So, I wouldn’t imagine any construction activity would begin for at least 6 months."
A year ago, councilors approved a $1.9 million sale to a different developer. King says that company couldn’t make the deal pencil, following the due diligence period.
"The intent is to have a mix of uses, hotel being primary," King says. "But also retail and a housing component and a community plaza as a centerpiece of that development."
The city bought the property eight years ago, with visions of converting it into a mixed-use city hall complex. Wednesday's approval of the deal includes a stipulation that allows councilors to review a conceptual design prior to development of the land.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes National Forest crews are expected to conduct a number of prescribed burns over the next several days. Beginning Friday, crews will spend several days burning nearly 430 acres near Highway 31, south of La Pine, in the vicinity of Hole in the Ground.
On Saturday, fuels specialists will begin burning two areas totaling about 260 acres near the intersection of Highway 97 and Highway 58, as well as another 380 acres 20 miles southeast of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, near Fox Butte.
No road closures are anticipated; however, smoke may be visible in these areas and could drift onto nearby roads.
SALEM, OR -- Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Beaverton) is fine-tuning a new bill designed to increase Oregon's school immunization rate. New legislation would require schools to publicize student vaccine exemption rates, twice a year.
Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) serves on the Education Committee considering the bill, and was troubled that a student who has gotten two-thirds of required shots would still not be considered in compliance.
Sen. Steiner Hayward agreed. "The new requirement calls for the notification to break it out by disease," Hayward says. "Parents are less concerned if students aren't vaccinated against Hepatitis A or B than if a child isn't immunized against measles or chicken pox, which are much more contagious. We thought it was important for parents to know what disease their children could be at risk of being exposed to at their child's school."
Earlier this session, Sen. Steiner Hayward tried to pass legislation that would do away with all non-medical exemptions. The bill failed to get the necessary support. This new bill tries to inform parents about exemption rates at schools, but would maintain current rules around obtaining a non-medical exemption.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County High School will undergo a facelift this summer, and school district officials are expected to name a contractor for the project by Tuesday.
Principal Michell Jonas tells KBND the main focus of the work is to improve security. "When after school has started, we’re redoing the entryway so all traffic flow will come through the high school," Jonas says. "There will be three different doors around the school that will have a key-fob type of an entryway."
Jonas says the changes should allow for increased safety and convenience during after-school activities. During school hours, all pedestrian traffic will be required to enter through a new set of entry doors.
Work is expected to begin toward the end of May, and should be completed by the time students return in the fall. The project is funded with part of the $33 million bond approved by voters in 2013.
"When they did the bond, they allocated different monies based on different needs at different buildings," Jonas says. "This summer they’ll finish the construction on the new Barnes Butte Elementary, then they’ll start the remodel of Cecil Sly – but that’ll last all year, as well – and they’re going to start the remodel at the middle school. Ours is the smallest project."
Additional work is designed to improve efficiencies with the high school's water and HVAC system, as well as upgrade wheelchair ramps attached to portable classroom buildings.
BEND, OR -- Bend firefighters responded to a house fire in Southeast Bend, early Friday morning. When crews arrived on Silver Sage Street at about 3:15 a.m., they discovered smoke coming from the rear deck, and found the fire had spread through the exterior wall and into the garage. Investigators say the fire was caused by the improper disposal of ash from a fire earlier last night.
The Red Cross is helping the six adults who live in the home.
POWELL BUTTE, OR -- Law enforcement has confirmed the body found in a Powell Butte Pasture Wednesday is that of a missing 27-year old woman. Shauna Fowler was reported missing three weeks ago, last seen the evening of March 26th. An autopsy confirmed her identity and determined her death was accidental, caused by hypothermia brought on by exposure to the elements.
Search and Rescue crews looked for Fowler by air and ground for two weeks. Her body was foun a mile and a half from where she was last seen, but just outside that designated search area.
April 16, 2015:
The Crook County Sheriff's office has tentatively identified a body found in Powell Butte as Shauna Fowler, reported missing almost three weeks ago. A Powell Butte rancher reported finding a deceased person in his field, Wednesday afternoon. Deputies, along with the Oregon State Police Crime lab are investigating, and say the state medical examiner's office has yet to make a positive ID.
Fowler was reported missing
in late March, spawning a region-wide search for the 27-year old woman. The Crook County Sheriff's office investigation is ongoing.
MT. HOOD, OR -- Oregon continues to experience an extremely low snowpack, and the latest measurements from a site on Mt. Hood aren't encouraging. Julie Koeberle, a hydrologist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, says the water content is at about a four-foot deficit.
"We measured a record low snowpack, and that's going into spring," Koeberle says. "Today it was 17 inches of water and a snow depth of 3 1/2 feet. Last year, we had 10 inches of snow."
According to Koeberle, typical snowpack would be 12 feet.
Three-quarters of the state's snow monitoring sites are at their lowest snowpack levels on record. It's expected a majority of Oregon's streams and rivers will have below normal flows this year.
REDMOND, OR -- It's been three months since a Subway restaurant in Redmond was robbed at knifepoint, and police have released a sketch of the suspect. Investigators believe the same man is responsible for the robbery on December 23rd and a second on January 12th at the restaurant on NW Fir Ave. Redmond Detectives have been working with a witness who saw the suspect and was able to describe him to a forensic artist from the Clackamas County Sheriff's office.
The suspect is described as an hispanic man in his late teens or early 20s, medium build, 5' 8" to 5'10", with short black hair and dark eyes. Anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to call the Redmond Police Investigative Unit at 541-504-3420.
REDMOND, OR -- A Redmond couple has been arrested in connection with a Tuesday armed robbery. According to Redmond Police, the victim was reportedly robbed at knifepoint in his room at the Village Squire Motel, late Tuesday night. The victim and witnesses identified Kenyon Odoms and Jordan Breshears as suspects.
Officers contacted both 22-year-old Odoms and 23-year-old Breshears Wednesday afternoon in Southwest Redmond; they were taken into custody without incident. Investigators say a majority of the victim's stolen property was recovered at the time of the couple's arrest.
REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Mayor George Endicott delievered his annual "State of the City" addres Wednesday, and says Redmond is headed in the right direction. He said the city has recouped the $5 million reserve officials were forced to dip into during the recession, and property tax revenue is up 7% over last year. Endicott says his concern now is to keep spending in check. "Our economy has gotten healthy. The one thing we really need to watch is that we don't get too carried away. Redmond is very conservative, and I'd even use the word 'frugal,' in the way we spend money. So, we need to make sure we remember that we're taxpayers, too."
City Hall is expected to move into the former Evergreen Elementary building in a year and a half. Endicott says that process so far has been smooth. He noted the city is looking for an entertainment company to purchase the current city hall building.
Mayor Endicott also discussed recent business growth in the area, saying he wants to make sure it continues. "The city does not create jobs- You hear a lot of cities claim that. We create an environment to create jobs. Our job is to help all those people that want to have a business, want to serve people, that we make their life easier." He says he expects the development of businesses like Nosler and Medline will continue to bring more job opportunities in the next year.
Despite the good news, he says heroin use in the city is on the rise, while overall crime and other drug-related offenses are moving in a more positive direction. "We've had a steady decrease, it turns out, in crime in Redmond. We are above the national average, but we're gaining on it, and our [police] chief says his goal is to make us the safest city." Another of his of his main safety goals is to improve the South Highway 97 corridor, which has seen several serious traffic crashes in recent months.
Redmond now claims 17% of Deschutes County's total population, up from 12% in 2000.
BEND, OR -- A Bend woman was rescued from her vehicle following a single-vehicle carash, Wednesday afternoon. The 56-year old woman may have suffered a medical emergency, leading to the crash. According to Bend Police, officers and medics responded to the rollover crash at NE 3rd and Dekalb Ave just after 7 p.m., Wednesday. The Honda CRV sustained heavy damage, as did a power pole at the intersection.
Traffic was diverted in the area while Bend Fire medics, police officers and an off-duty doctory stabilized the woman and pulled her from the car. She was the lone occupant of the vehicle, and was transported to St. Charles Medical Center Bend for treatment. Neither alcohol nor speed are believed to have been factors in the crash.
BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff's office has received several reports of people contacted by a man claiming to work for the Sheriff's Office, trying to bilk residents out of money. According to DCSO, the caller identifies himself using various names of Sheriff's Office employees. He then claims the person missed jury duty and has a warrant issued for their arrest. The caller then asks the potential victim to send him money to clear up the warrant, or they will be arrested.
The Sheriff's Office wants the public to know this is a scam, and people should never send money without verifying the information they are being provided. DCSO does not advise citizens they have a warrant over the phone; typically, people would be contacted in person by a deputy with proper credentials.
Anyone receiving calls like this are asked to contact the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office at 541-693-6911.
REDMOND, OR -- The Redmond Proficiency Academy is now one of only two schools in Oregon to offer the new AP Capstone Diploma. Beginning next fall, 25-30 students are expected to participate in a program seen as more comprehensive than the previous AP track. English teacher George Hegarty tells KBND News, "It’s an opportunity for us to develop in sophomores and juniors, young students, the ability to research and think critically about really diverse issues, to ignite academic passions. By the time they’re seniors they’ll have the opportunity to explore something they want to do with a faculty mentor, and use that as a springboard into post-high school education in making academic choices for universities and colleges."
AP Capstone is a two-year plan, culminating with an academic thesis paper. Hegarty says the nature of the program fits well with RPA’s proficiency model. "There’s an exam at the end of the year and that exam grants transferable college credit. So, for students looking to attend schools outside of the Oregon University System, those AP credits are much more transferable, nationally. What we talk to the students about is that preparatory is not only skills – our number one goal is that our students transition successfully to the college level – but then also, it does save a lot of money." He acknowledges the program isn't ideal for every school, "When students, if they’re in a normal schedule – a five-day a week, 7-period day - I think the time would be really cramped to do the level of work Capstone requires. Since we’re on a more college-type schedule, particularly for our upper-classmen, they have the time to immerse themselves in study."
RPA's approval to offer the curriculum followed a one-year application process with the College Board. Corbett High School, in the Columbia River Gorge, is the only other school in the state to offer the Capstone Diploma. This new program is in addition to the Advanced Diploma option already offered at RPA in conjunction with Central Oregon Community College.
SALEM, OR -- State Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) has proposed a bill that would allow pharmacists to give women birth control without a prescription. House Bill 2028 will be considered for debate in front of the Healthcare Committee on Friday.
Rep. Buehler, who is also a doctor, says the legislation would give pharmacists the authority to treat patients, and is similar to a bill passed 12 years ago that allowed pharmacists to provide vaccines.
REDMOND, OR -- It was a very emotional afternoon at the Deschutes County Expo Center in Redmond, Wednesday, as families welcomed home nearly 200 soldiers from Afghanistan. The Oregon National Guard 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry left Central Oregon in June, to support Operation Enduring Freedom. KBND News spoke with Gary Combs as he awaited the return of his son, Philip. "It's been a long time. You can't help but worry the whole time, too; anything could happen. Technically, it's not a war zone anymore, I guess, but it's a dangerous place to be." Combs was one of over 600 who gathered to greet the returning soldiers.
Kathleen Riley spoke with KBND as she waited for her husband, Sgt. David Riley. "It's been a little bit surreal, kind of hard to believe the day's already here. I'm already so excited, it's hard to contain it!" She said she just wanted to tell him one thing, "That I love him, and I'm just glad he's going to be home." The squadron is based in Bend, with companies also located in Redmond, Klamath Falls and Lebanon. Soldiers will spend a month with families before the formal demobiliation ceremony scheduled to be held in their honor, May 16th at Vince Genna Stadium in Bend.
Staff Sgt. Alex Zang had to wait to see his family in Salem but wanted to send them a message: "I miss you guys, sorry you couldn't be here, but I'll see you really soon!" Zang says he's already making plans for the homefront. "I'm active duty Guard reserve, meaning I work full-time. So, I'll take the next month off and then go back to work full time at the Bend Armory." Gary Hunter with the Central Oregon Vet Center says his team is ready to help soldiers re-acclimate to the homefront. "Usually, when we have a group like this come home, the Vets Center starts getting busy anytime from six months to a year afterwards. There's usually a little bit of a honeymoon period for the families, then they start getting into the adjustment of things- particularly soldiers adjusting from a war zone to civilian life." Hunter says job placement and counseling are the main things vets ask for from the Vets Center.
For more pictures from Wednesday's Welcome Home Ceremony, visit our Facebook page.
UPDATE: Sheriff's deputies report the owner of the goat has been located.
SUNRIVER, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff's office is asking for help tracking down the owner of a goat discovered near Sunriver. Deputies found the goat wandering near Spring River Road and transported it to a shelter, Monday afternoon.
Anyone with information on where the goat came from, is asked to contact Lt. Deron McMaster at 541-312-6408; after hours callers can ask to speak with a Sheriff's Office Watch Commander through non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911. Deputies have not released a photo of the animal, in an effort to make sure it is reunited with its rightful owner.
LA PINE, OR -- The Oregon Department of Transportation broke ground on a new traffic signal at Highway 97 and 1st Street in La Pine, Tuesday. Officials say the light will address pedestrian and bicycle crossing safety issues at the intersection. Significant industrial and employment growth is planned for the east side of the city over the next 20 years, which is likely to increase traffic in the area.
The project is a collaboration between the City of La Pine, Deschutes County and ODOT. Commissiones Tony DeBone and Alan Unger were on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony, along with Mayor Ken Mulenex, City Council President Stu Martinez, City Manager Rick Allen, EDCO's Janet Burton and members of the Public Works Committee. Construction begins April 20 and is expected to be complete by August.
BEND, OR -- Two Bend elementary schools are setting an example for others in the district by spearheading sustainability efforts while educating students. District sustainability coordinator Jackie Wilson says Miller and Buckingham Elementaries are two of 10 schools in the district participating in the "We Reduce" program. "The teachers and the students that are involved are really paving way and hope to see it involved in high schools," Wilson says. "We want to start seeing ourselves be a district that recycles as much as possible and really just tries to do a whole lot less wasting."
Miller Elementary recently crated a Radical Recycling Award to encourage students to pick up junk. Buckingham has formed their own unique program. After students asked for more conscientious ways to track food waste, the school began weighing what went in the trash, and worked to decrease monthly waste. Wilson tells KBND News student committees have been a main driver behind the sustainability efforts. "In both [Buckingham and Miller] what they have is an active Green Team," Wilson says. "A group of students working to make some tangible actions. Through the Sustainability Committee we come up with some different ideas for the school, and then they just take charge."
One issue Wilson sees is a lack of student programs in most of the Bend-La Pine middle and high schools. While there is a Roots and Shoots sustainability group at Summit High, it's one of the few. But Wilson says as some younger students, who have sustainability classes and groups in elementary school, could initiate change as they move up to the next level of schooling. "They get into middle school, and start asking, "Wait, why are there not more recycling avenues?' And then they start challenging that."
BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors are expected to vote tonight on changes to vacation rental regulations. The move is an effort to restrict density of the rentals in neighborhoods, especially on Bend's west side. New regulations will only apply to future vacation rentals, not those already approved and established. Fred Johnson, a real estate agent with Duke Warner Realty, tells KBND he has many of the rentals in his own neighborhood. "There was an opportunity, and they're going to proceed with licensing and collecting a tax. The beauty of that is, it allows the program to be self sustaining."
Councilors are not expected to enforce the new regulations for existing rentals out of fear of being sued.
BEND, OR -- Bend Police are looking for people who may have inadvertently purchased stolen items from a garage sale at a local storage facility. According to Lt. Clint Burleigh, a 29-year old Bend man is suspected of at least 32 car break-ins. Lt. Burleigh tells KBND the man kept the stolen property at Clark’s Storage on Southeast 9th in Bend, and sold items to unsuspected members of the public. "You have community members going out and just going garage sale-ing not knowing these items are stolen and they’ve purchased them. Our concern is, we want to make sure if the public did go to a garage sale at this location that they would give us a call, so we can add them to the investigation and try and recover the property for the victims."
He says the people who bought the items are also victims, "Because they spent money on an item and that item was stolen. The flip side is, nobody wants to be in possession of property that could be stolen. We want to educate the community, to make sure they know the stuff coming out of that storage facility most likely was stolen from someone else."
The suspect’s name is being withheld, and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone who may have purchased property from a garage sale in front of container #25 of Clark’s Storage, between January and early April, is asked to contact Bend Police at 541-693-6911 or 541-322-2960.
EUGENE, OR -- The University of Oregon has selected its next President. Senator Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) made the announcement on the Senate floor, Tuesday afternoon: "Mike Schill has been the Dean of the University of Chicago Lw School. He's in Eugene today. This ends an 8-month search and I want to congratulate him."
Schill replaces Michael Gottfredson, who was let go by the Board of Trustees last August after just 2 years on the job. UO has not seen stability in the President's office since Dave Frohnmayer retired 6 years ago. The University has also dealt with sexual assault allegations involving students and athletes. 56-year old Schill will take over in July.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday night to extend the Secure Rural Schools Program for another 2 years. Both Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff merkley praised the move. Senator Wyden authored the original S-R-S program in 2000, and said last night "this extension ends months of uncertainly for Oregon's rural communities who have grappled with on-again, off-again funding for roads, schools and first responders."
The extension was part of a larger package to extend the Children's health insurance program and to update the formula for paying doctors and other providers who treat medicare patients. Senator Merkley called the bipartisan vote "good news for Oregon." The bill is now headed for the President's desk.
REDMOND, OR -- The Redmond School Board is discussing significant changes to how the district prepares younger students for the rigors of elementary school. Following a U.S. Department of Education study showing fewer than 25% of Oregon 4-year olds are enrolled in a state-certified preschool, Redmond is looking to create its own early learning center. "We have Terrebonne and Tumalo schools who are dabbling in this effort to create a preschool experience for kids as they come to Terrebonne and Tumalo as our satellite elementary schools, that they would be able to provide some limited access to pre-kindergarten age kids. We think there’s some great stuff going on," Redmond Schools Superintendent Mike McIntosh told KBND News.
He says the biggest shift, though, would be with kindergarten students, beginning in Fall 2016, with the creation of the region's first early learning campus. "What we believe is the Hugh Hartman campus should and will become an early learning center. What that means is that it won’t be a standard K-5, like we have in the rest of the district. We believe – at this point the planning stages are still young – but we believe that school will then house in 2016 all the kindergarten students that are in the Redmond school district, except those that are going to Terrebonne and Tumalo." The Hartman facility currently houses Redmond Proficiency Academy's middle school program, but RPA is moving to a new building after the 2015-16 school year. "What that allows us to do at the Hartman campus, is to provide opportunity for this preschool idea to take root. A pivotal part of this is the partnerships that we develop in our community, with daycares, preschools, with the county, with mental health services, clinics, ESDs, Healthy Beginning and Head Start – All those partnerships that become vital in providing access and services to a collection of families aged 5 and earlier," says McIntosh.
He says the effort is part of state push to better prepare young children for school, and is modeled after similar facilities in other parts of the state. To read about Crook County's efforts, click HERE
BEND, OR -- The recent shooting of a cougar that wandered onto Pilot Butte got mixed reactions in the community- Some supported the action, others didn't. A wildlife activist and filmmaker will show his documentary "Exposed: USDA's Secret War On Wildife" at the downtown Bend library tonight.
Brooks Fahy was invited to Bend by City Councilor Barb Campbell. Fahy feels like the recent case in Bend, too many of these wild cats are being killed out of fear, not for he public's safety. "In this situation nothing needed to be done. Just use calm reason. The animal didn't needed to be killed; it didn't even need to be tranquilized. In 2003 there was a similar incident on Pilot Butte, and they put up a sign and warned people and the cougar wandered off. It could have been handled the same way with no incident whatsoever," he told KBND News.
The documentary begins at 6 p.m. Following the screening, the filmmaker and Councilor Campbell will discuss how to handle cougars that wander into urban spaces.
BEND, OR -- Emergency crews responded to a reported fire at the JJ Court Apartments on Butler Market Rd yesterday afternoon. It was the second fire that day, blamed on an improperly discarded cigarette.
According to Bend Fire investigators, a cigarette tossed onto bark mulch ignited the blaze at about 4 p.m., which spread to the building's exterior walls and eventually into the attic. Crews were able to hold the fire, limiting damage to two units. The Red cross assisted the 10 residents impacted by the blaze.
Yesterday morning, crews extinguished a blaze at an apartment near NW 5th and Portland
. Investigators say a cigarette placed in a plastic container ignited other combustibles and spread to the deck and siding. No injuries were reported in either fire. On average, bend Fire responds to 40 cigarette-related fires each year.
BEND, OR -- Committees from both the State House and Senate held a joint meeting Monday night to consider a handfull of bills that aim to raise the minimum wage. Currently the state minimum wage is $9.25 an hour. Lawmakers are looking at several bills that could raise that rate to as high as $15 an hour by 2018.
House Speaker Tina Kotek was the first to share her thoughts, Monday night. "Because right now there are 150,000 workers who make minimum wage that is $18,925 a year. We all know that's not nearly enough to save for our retirement or for the future of our children." Kotek said statistics show that the average minimum wge worker is 35 years old and 4 out of 10 are the sole bread winners of their families.
The head of Economic Development for Central Oregon, Roger Lee, feels any jump in the minimum wage would hurt the state's economic growth. "The way to better economic prosperity is increasing the skill levels and quality of the type of workers and not just teling employers they have to pay a different wage." Lee believes that tourism and other service industries would be hard hit by the increased costs of raising the minimum wage.
He says in Deschutes County, 40% of the jobs pay less than $15 an hour and increasing the minimum wage would have a negative impact on many of the region's industries.
BEND, OR -- An improperly disposed of cigarette is blamed for a Bend apartment fire, Monday morning. According to Bend Fire investigators, a passerby used water and a fire extinguisher to slow the spread of the blaze at Northwest Fifth and Portland, just before 10 a.m.
Investigators say a cigarette placed in a plastic container ignited other combustibles spreading to the deck and siding on the building. Fire crews were able to quickly fully extinguish the fire at the four-plex, limiting damage to the outside of the building. On average, bend Fire responds to 40 cigarette-related fires each year.
EUGENE, OR -- A 52-year old Bend man died over the weekend after falling from a cliff in the Willamette National Forest, east of Eugene. Joel Martin reportedly was taking photos of Tamolitch Falls along the McKenzie River Trail on Sunday. He fell 45 feet into shallow water and hit his head.
Martin owned Joel J. Martin Construction in Central Oregon, and supervised the construction of multi-million dollar homes.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- Less than a quarter of all Oregon 4-year olds are enrolled in a formal pre-school program, according to a new study released by the U.S. Department of Education. Principal Dave Robinson of Ochoco Elementary in Prineville has seen first hand the importance of a Pre-K education. "Definitely kids who have had some formal school opportunities before kindergarten are better prepared and will be set up for success in kindergarten better." Robinson tells KBND News there are key areas where early learning can set kids up for future success, "A couple things would be some simple math and reading skills, to be able to count to 10, to do some simple addition. And, probably the biggest thing we know from research, is the kids that don’t have a formal background in school before kindergarten have a much lower vocabulary than kids that do."
Robinson is hopeful a new program will help bridge the achievement gap for young students. "We do that with curriculum trainings, where we work hard with preschools to give them materials they need to offer quality programs. We communicate with families that already have kids in the elementary schools and we bring them into the special events we have here like reading nights and kindergarten round ups. During that time we have all our other community partners for our Pre-K services here available with presentations and booths, offering information." Those partnerships are made possible through the Crook County School District P-3 Initiative
, serving families from prenatal to third grade. "We do a number of things. We actually work with doctors in the region after deliveries, to talk to parents, just to let them know what services are available for health screenings as their baby gets older, and try to direct them into those services right away at the earliest possible age." They also partner kindergarten teachers with area pre-schools to offer curriculum and training.
The district just received a $75,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation
to continue the P-3 Initiative for a second year. The comprehensive effort also includes parenting classes and other activities.
SISTERS, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners finally gave approval for a Sisters-area farm to host weddings this summer. John Shepherd has been trying to get permits to conduct weddings on his property for years. This past week, the permit to designate a portion of his property as a private park was approved late last week. "It took us three and a half years, four applications and $20,000 in fees and fines. It was a huge battle and a lot of obstacles, but we persisted and finally prevailed," John Shepherd tells KBND News. "We'll finally be able to hold private weddings and special events."
Shepherd, who is also a minister, will be allowed to hold 18 wedding on his land, between May and October. There are stipulations: Weddings must take place on weekends and cannot violate any noise ordinances. "We will be opening up land use opportunity that wasn't there before, and that's why it's so important. It's setting a precedent, and that's why Central Oregon Landwatch fought it tooth and nail and used every trick to prevent us from getting this land use permission." He says the first wedding is scheduled for mid-June.
REDMOND, OR -- Three Central Oregon teens will soon head to Washington, D.C. as part of a national youth tour. The high school students each earned a spot on the tour as part of a Central Electric Cooperative competition. Courtney Linville, CECO's regional spokesperson, says the co-op expanded the local contest this year due to the entries.
"We have some great finalists," Linville says. "It was really tough. We had originally intended to just send two students, but the caliber of the applicants was just so impressive that the board decided to send three."
Erin Bush from Crook County High School, Alena Nore from Sisters High School and Lillie Spackman from Bend Senior High all won spots on the tour. They will head to the nation's capital in June, meeting up with other high school students from across the nation to tour utilities, cooperatives and national monuments.
Linville says the students will also be introduced to lawmakers.
"They'll have a chance to talk to our senators and representatives," Linville says. "It's really an intensive tour for one week."
This is the first rural Central Electric youth tour offered since 1992.
All photos from Central Electric Cooperative, LLC
REDMOND, OR -- a Sisters man was killed in a motorcycle crash outside of Redmond, Sunday evening. According to the Deschutes County Sheriff's office, 29-year old Shemaiah Gillan was southbound on NW Helmholtz Way when he failed to negotiate a corner. Deputies say he lost control of the sport bike just after 6:30 p.m. near La Mesa Lane, left the roadway and struck a tree and a fence. Redmond medics pronounced him dead at the scene.
Investigators do no believe drugs or alcohol were involved, but It appears excessive speed was a factor in the crash.
BEND, OR -- Tax Day is right around the corner, and one local tax professional says it’s not too late to buy yourself a little time by filing an extension. However, Evan Dickens with Jones & Roth in Bend tells KBND, an extension does not necessarily put off your financial responsibility. "Here’s the problem – an extension is only an extension to file, not an extension to pay. If it’s possible you’re going to owe tax, you need to have paid it by April 15 or you’ll be subject to a couple of different sets of penalties. The most onerous penalty that the IRS can assess if you don’t extend and don’t file and you owe tax. That’s a Fail To File Penalty, and it’s huge."
Dickens says the new healthcare mandate is causing some confusion for taxpayers, this year, "If there was a three-month gap in your coverage, for example, you may have a little bit of a penalty due for those 3 months – It’s prorated, monthly. But, you need to be honest and clear if there was a portion of the year you did not have health insurance covering you, there’s a tax responsibility for that." Penalties for lack of health insurance will be higher in tax year 2015, then even higher for 2016. Some of his clients choose to pay the fine, because they say it's still less than paying a monthly premium. Dickens also points out that those who qualified for a subsidy but saw an increase in income in the past year, may have to repay some of that subsidy.
The Bend CPA notes that one of the biggest mistakes he sees is from clients who do not have the proper documentation for charitable donations. He says good record-keeping is key to making sure a donation is accepted – especially with non-cash donations to organizations like Goodwill. "If you don’t have a good record of what you donated and a value that you set on it, you could potentially have the entire deduction thrown out. I get handed a stack of Goodwill receipts with no amounts, no items, nothing on them, and it’s not my job to tell you how much you gave or what you gave. If you give more than $500 in non cash donations, you have to report detail of that, including who you gave to, what the dates were." He suggests taking a photo of what you’re donating prior to dropping off the items, as a way of documenting your contribution.
Overall, one of Dickens' biggest concerns for his clients is the risk of identity theft. He encourages eletronic filing, saying the method is much safer than trusting the Postal Service with important financial documents and personal information. And, after you’ve filed your taxes, Dickens says it’s important to keep supporting tax records for 7 years. He says actual tax returns should always be kept.
For more tax tips, listen to our full conversation with Evan Dickens at our Podcast Page
SISTERS, OR -- A U.S. Forest Service employee suffered non-life threatening injuries in an accident west of Sisters, Thursday morning. Deschutes National Forest officials say the man was doing reforestation work in the Sisters Ranger District when the accident occurred at about 10 a.m.
According to Deschutes County Dispatch, emergency crews were called to the Trout Creek Butte area on a report of a man injured by a fallen tree. He was transported by ambulance to St. Charles Redmond.
REDMOND, OR -- The Redmond Police department is thanking the public for its help in arresting a man who lead police on a chase following a March traffic stop. Tips helped identify the vehicle's owner, and evidence recovered from the car lead investigators to 19-year old Kylian Beitz of Prineville as a suspect.
On Monday, Beitz was stopped by police in the same vehicle. He gave the officer a false name, but his identity was confirmed and he was arrested. He was taken to the Deschutes County Jail on charges of attempting to elude a police officer, reckless driving and felon in possession of a firearm. His passenger, Chardae Baird, was arrested for a probaation violation.
SALEM, OR -- Oregon lawmakers are trying to come up with ethics bills to prevent scandals like the one that forced Governor John Kitzhaber to resign. Current Governor Kate Brown, Republicans and the Independent Party of Oregon have all offered bills. Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) told his fellow lawmakers on the Hosue floor Thursday, we have to do better. "Oregon's fourth estate did, the independent journalists and the media did their job exposing the problem and now we need to do ours and fix them. Governor Brown and the Independent party of Oregon all have billls, but the Governor's bill will not protect Oregonians from future scandals."
Rep. Buehler supports a House bill that would require public bodies to retain public records for a minimum of three years. He also plans to introduce a bill that will protect whistle blowers who expose criminal or unethical activity in state government.
BEND, OR -- The cost of college keeps going up at a time financial aid for students is facing cuts. The federal budget just approved by the Senate last week cuts federal Pell grants by $90 million.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley was at OSU-Cascades Thursday talking with students and administrators about this trend. "And Pell grants are a foundation offered by the federal government to students of modest means to be able to pay for college. The budget takes a 31 percent cut out of Pell grants. It freezes them and they're not going up as inflation goes up."
Before the recession about a third of OSU Cascades students used Pell grants that don't have to be paid back, now half the students rely on these grants to be able to go to school.
SALEM, OR -- The State Senate has given the O.K. to continue the Central Oregon Health Council. The public/private government entity oversees those on the Oregon Health Plan and the coordinated care orgnaizations that manage them.
The legislation creating this council passed four years ago and the latest bill, sponsored by Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend), extends it until 2022. The bill was sponsored by Senator Tim Knopp. "This bill extended bill 204 passed in 2011 which adds four members to the Central Oregon Health Council and specifies that people will be reappointed and there is a single advisory council for all CCO's that are a part of it and it clarifies community health assessment and community health improvement."
The Central Oregon Health Council was created to connect patients with providers through coordinated care organizations and to ultimately improve health outcomes in the region. The bill now goes to the House.
BEND, OR -- Students across Central Oregon have started taking their new standardized tests this spring. Smarter Balance aims to be a rigorous testing method to better prepare our kids for the future. Cascade Middle School 8th Grade teacher Michelle Hanford has been teaching in the district for twenty years. She says the students have been handling the change in testing well. "In the end I had a lot of kdis say it was really tough, but I was able to express my ideas as opposed to multiple choice. And I thought that was really cool."
Some of the testing is essay form, so people not machines will be grading them, which will take longer. Smarter Balance efforts to test students critical thinking skills more than previous tests. About 20 states including Oregon are using the smarter balance tests that are closely aligned to the common core state standards.
SALEM, OR -- The full State Senate is expected to vote next week on the gun control bill that would expand background checks. Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) opposes the bill and believes it has been rushed through without adequate public input. "I've seen that happen when people have the opportunity to engage, but I diddn't feel like we had the opportunity on this bill. This bill is going to come up early next week and unfortunately it looks like it may have the votes to pass."
Senator Knopp says the bill that would require background checks on private gun sales in the state is scheduled to go before the Senate on Monday. He hopes that a couple Democrats can be convinced to vote against the measure.
SALEM, OR -- The State House has passed Representative Gene Whisnant's bill that aims to make a college degree more affordable. The legislation looks to create a fixed-cost baccalaureate degree in Oregon. Texas, Florida and Wisconsin offer $10,000 four-year degrees.
Rep. Whisnant (R-Sunriver) says one of his goals in the legislature was to make higher education more affordable. "Colleagues, my hope is one or more baccalaureate degrees will be offered beginning in the fall of 2017. I urge you to vote yes on this bill to create an affordable college degree."
The bill tasks the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to identify bachelors degrees or pathways to these degrees that are affordable at a fixed cost. The bill now goes to the Senate.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners are finalizing code for medical marijuana dispensaries in the rural parts of the county. Commissiones embraced the planning commission's suggestion to limit hours for the dispensaries and not allow them on exclusive farm use land.
Commissioner Tammy Baney and the other two commissioners unanimously agreed to their recommendations. "I like the idea of limited hours 10 to 7 and I like the idea not EFU, but I'm open to considering in the future on limiting EFU."
The commissioners are also looking to write into the code that these standards are only for medical marijuana and not recreational marijuana down the road. Tehy are expected to approve final wording on the code on April 22nd.
POWELL BUTTE, OR -- A Powell Butte man was arrested early Thursday morning on attempted murder charges, after he allegedly shot his estranged wife. According to the Crook County Sheriff's Office, 41-year old John Heere fought with the woman over the phone earlier in the evening. When she arrived at the SW Riggs Rd home, the couple argued again, and investigators say Heere fired his rifle toward her vehicle. The shot traveled through the windshield, striking her in the upper arm.
The victim was taken by private vehicle to St. Charles Prineville. Heere was taken into custody without incident at about 1:30 a.m. He faces charges of Attempted Murder, First Degree Domestic Assault, Pointing a Firearm at Another Person, Reckless Endangering, Unlawful Use of a Weapon and Menacing. Bail has been set at $120,000.
BEND, OR -- Seven years after suffering big financial losses during the depths of the recession, Central Oregon car sales continue to rebound. Robberson Ford President Jeff Robberson says he saw new car sales slashed in half in 2007 and 2008. He says new technology is now helping attract new customers. Robberson tells KBND News Internet sales now make up about 30% of total auto sales, but that a physical dealership will never be obsolete. "When Internet sales first came out, that was what everything was going to be. What we found was that most people at some point in the transaction either want to drive the car, or look at interior options; they don’t know if they want a Focus or a Fusion. Then they come in, they’ve dealt with the Internet person, they’ve been communicating with them [online], it’s like someone they know, it’s a very comfortable process. But, I don’t see it going totally to an Internet process."
Robberson also hopes a recently completed $5 million renovation will encourage even more growth. "We actually have just been in here and fully operational for about a month, and so far it’s up over last year. But, we’re looking forward to a 10-20% increase by having a new facility." He says the biggest sales jumps have been with smaller SUVs, as drivers look to balance fuel efficiency with the capability of a truck. Robberson’s renovation more than doubled the size of the new car dealership on NE 3rd in Bend.
SALEM, OR -- Oregon lawmakers are expected to consider raising the minimum wage in the state this session. Legislation introduced would raise the wage to $15 an hour by 2018.
A new study just released by the Oregon Center for Public Policy refutes the claim raising the minimum wage wold hurt small business. Chuck Sheketoff is the Executive Director of the center. "Higher minimum wage means better worker productivity and that means lower turnover and that's a huge cost for employers and that would mean more toward their bottom line. So productivity gains and reduced costs improve their bottom line."
Democratic State Senator Sara Gelser says it's time to think about people. "We've heard a lot about the business community concerns and during this phone call I'm more concerned about the worker. We're all valid. We all contribute to our economy. And the bottom line is a lot of these people working more than one job are not making enough to meet their basic needs."
Senator Gelser believes this study shows that raising the minimum wage can go hand in hand with strong job growth for small businesses. She says reserachers found higher wages yield higher worker productivity and lower turnover.
BEND, OR -- Starbucks announced this week plans to expand the tuition reimbursement program, to provide four years of paid college for employees through Arizona State University's online campus. There are stipulations -- employees must not already have a four-year degree, and workers at Starbucks' inside grocery stores don't qualify.
KBND News spoke with Starbucks customers at the Cascade Village Shopping Center in Bend, Tuesday. Virginia Sponsler of Bend says she likes the idea of patronizing a business that supports its employees.
"Well, I think Starbucks is a good employer and it's an excellent plan," Sponsler says. "I'm in agreement that you don't have to pay it back or work for Starbucks after you graduate. Anything that promotes work and opportunities while going to school, I think that's great."
Another customer, Liz Karkula, agrees. "I think when companies treat their employees right, that makes me want to support that company," Karkula says. "Working so hard to get my education, I definitely support that."
Until now, Starbucks only offered two years of undergraduate tuition reimbursement. Nikki Zink of Bend says her sister works for Starbucks in California and is already planning to take advantage of the program. "I think it's a wonderful program! I don't know the criteria for them. [My sister] just texted me and said she's going back to school -- she wants to study health sciences."
The company's CEO expects to spend at least $250 million to help 25,000 employees get their Bachelor's degree from ASU in the next 10 years.
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Jail Commander Captain Shane Nelson is speaking out about allegations that deputies didn’t take seriously a medical emergency that eventually led to the death of an inmate. In jail surveillance footage from December 14, deputies can be seen mocking Edwin Mays III and laughing at how he was acting in his cell. Hours later, he died of a methamphetamine overdose.
Capt. Nelson, who will take over as Sheriff in July, tells KBND News, "We shouldn’t have made fun of people on the video, that’s a given. And we’ll try and be better. But, in a difficult business, sometimes that dark humor that helps people vent emotion and just try and get through a day, and after dealing with negativity and the bad things in the world, sometimes that bleeds through. All we can do is take a look at it and try and get better."
He says, "We hire human beings; we don’t hire robots. The reason we hire human beings is the same reason we’re good at what we do, and good at having that strong relationship with the community." The Oregon Department of Justice is now conducting an investigation into Mays' death, and reviewing the actions of deputies. Capt. Nelson says he was not on duty that Sunday night, but responded to the scene when medics were called.
The jail is now making changes to how it provides medical care. Capt. Nelson says the increased nursing presence is not in direct response to the Mays death. "It was already on the books, but having an incident like this just helps us make that decision and get that ball rolling, July 1." He says there is always a deputy on-duty trained in CPR and First Aid, but until now, nursing staff has only been available on a part time basis. In July, nursing staff will become part of the full-time employee pool and available at the jail 24-hours a day.
The latest snowpack levels show 76 percent of the state's monitoring sites are at the lowest snowpack levels on record.
This year more than half of all snowpack measurements across the state recorded bare ground on April first.
Snw survey supervisors say at this point in the season, there is no doubt that the majority of streams and rivers in Oregon will have below normal flows this year, due to lack of snow accumulation.
Precipitation since October in the form of rain has been near normal because of our warm temperatures. But our lack of snowpack will mean stream flows this summer will be well below normal.
SALEM, OR -- Both State chambers have passed bills to crack down on so-called "revenge porn." The Senate passed legislation back in February and the House just passed a bill last week. The legislation would make it a crime to unlawfully disseminate an intimate image.
State Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) says a staffer in Senator Hass' office testified before a Senate committee about her experience with revenge porn. "The gal said she went to the police, but they said 'there's nothing we can really do for you.' We are looking to create criminal and civil penalities which will stop this practice."
The penalities for a first offense would be a maximum of one year in prison and a $6,000 fine. Subsequent offenses could include five years in prison and a 125-thousand dollar fine.
SALEM, OR -- The Oregon House just passed legislation that will increase access to experimental drugs for terminally ill patients. The legislation is called "Right to Try." Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) sponsosred the bill and believes it will give these patients more options. "I cannot describe how difficult it is for a doctor to tell a patient there's nothing more we can do for you. Right to Try gives them more options It's consistent with Oregon's leadership in healthcare innovation and will help the most vulnerable citizens in our state."
Many patients cannot participate in clinical drug trials since there is limited availability and usually travel requirements. Right to Try gives these families of terminally ill patients, more treatmnet options. The bill now goes to the Senate.
SALEM, OR -- The full Senate will soon vote on whether to require background checks to include private gun sales in the state. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the legislation Monday and sent it on to the full Senate. The vote was along party lines, with the three Democrats voting for it and the two Republicans voting against it.
The carrier of the bill, Eugene Democrat Senator Floyd Prozanski was relieved a Republican lawmaker decided not to add an amendment that would require the DMV to mark the licenses of felons. "It does appear that background checks have worked for 25 years in this state and they work very well and it's much more efficient. So as I said, they've worked well, we just needed to close the loophole."
Democratic leaders in the Senate are confident the bill will pass in the full Senate, unlike measures in 2013 and 2014. Republican lawmakers say they may seek to pass a substitute bill on the floor.
BEND, OR -- St. Charles Medical Center is updating more than one hundred of their patient rooms. The hospital showed off the first 13 remodeled rooms on the third and fourth floors, Monday. Project Manager Jim Walker says the improvements will make for better care. "Our existing rooms are really quite small especially when you consider the nursing needs. So we brought them up to modern code and really refreshed them. And part of the features are new exterior windows that are larger than the old ones and the westside windows highlight the Cascade Mountains very nice."
The remodel is part of a nearly $28 million project. The rooms will be larger as will the bathrooms to meet ADA requirements and electrical, plumbing and ventilation systems are also being updated. A total of 110 rooms be revamped during the project, which will take 2.5 years to complete.
Governor Kate Brown has declared drought emergencies in Crook, Harney and Klamath counties.
These three counties requrested the declaration due to low water levels and record low snowpack.
The drought continues to have significant impact on agriculture, livestock and natural resources in the state.
Last month, Governor Brown declared drought emergencies in Malheur and Lake counties.
These declarations allow for more flexibility in how the state's limited water is managed.
The group opposing the westside location of the OSU Cascades expansion should hear by the end of the month the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals Decision on their appeal.
Truth in Site appealed to LUBA challenging the OSU Cascades location on Bend's westside, approved by an independent hearings officer and the Bend City Council. The group feels the area is too congested and not the best location for the university.
Bend City Councilor Sally Russell was part of the council that approved the site, but she knows there are issues.
"And they did the best they could with what they had, but I think we're in a sticky place for OSU Cascades. And many of us wanted the university, but because we lost the vision, lost the buy in, understanding. There was huge excitement when this started out."
LUBA is scheduled to release its decision on the appeal by April 29th.
Depending on the decision, the case could still go to the Oregon Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court.
BEND, OR -- The covered bridge at Bowery Lane, just north of the Bend city limits, is closed after suffering heavy damage. It appears an oversized vehicle hit the bridge sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning. The Deschutes County Road Department is helping residents who live in the area until a final decision can be made on what to do with the bridge, however the structure may be a total loss.
The neighborhood is still accessible via Rogers Road and the Old Bend Redmond Highway.
MADRAS, OR -- U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley offered constituents an opportunity to discuss topics ranging from education to sage grouse protection to Medicare funding, during a stop in Madras yesterday.
Sen. Merkley tells KBND one of his worries for rural Central Oregonians is recent cuts to the Senate budget. "The budget that was just adopted by the Senate proceeds to cut early childhood education -- that's Head Start -- and a massive cut to Pell Grants," Merkley says. "That's a 31 percent cut to Pell Grants. College has just been growing in expense so quickly, it's just closing doors for our children. Cutting Pell Grants is the last thing we should be doing."
He also voiced support in efforts to preserve sage grouse habitat. "If we can develop strategies to stabilize the numbers of sage grouse, we can hopefully keep Oregon out of the national listing," Merkley says. He added that he's ready to advocate for more protections, if needed.
Merkley said he is focused on making sure recently passed Crooked River Legislation is implemented "effectively." At the Madras event, several communtiy members shared their support for the legislation approved in December. That bill aims to open up water rights for Prineville data centers and fishermen.
During the town hall, Merkley heard from a man who was denied Medicare coverage for hip therapy, as a substitute for surgery. "He was raising questions of why it isn't approved for Medicare, and I'm certainly going to be looking into that," Merkley said. "We want the most cost-effective strategies. That means better quality of life for our seniors and less impact on the budget. That was a completely new issue."
Yesterday's event kicked off a series of stops in the High Desert, ending with Senator Merkley's stops in Prineville and La Pine on Wednesday, and a stop at Bend's OSU-Cascades campus on Thursday.
SUNRIVER, OR -- South County residents have an opportunity to share opinons on whether a community sewer system should be approved. Deschutes County, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Land Conservation and Development will hold several community meetings over the next couple of weeks.
Wastewater Specialist Bob Baggett will answer questions at the meetings. "This was actually one of the recommendations that came out of the South County Steering Committee a few years ago. They met for three years, looking at solutions for the groundwater contamination problem down there." That contamination problem comes from some of the septic systems in the area. Currently, sewer systems are not allowed in unincorporated partss of the county; the region would need to get a state exception. Deschutes County Commissioners are expected to consider the issue later this summer.
The first of a series of open house meetings is today at Sunriver's SHARC facility, from 1-3 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Another is scheduled for April 30th at the La Pine Senior Center.
BEND, OR -- Thirty-one-year-old Brett Vanscoy was arrested Saturday morning, after his ex-girlfriend reported he held her against her will and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. Bend Police Nick Parker tells KBND News, "It had been going on since February 28 of this year. Officers investing the case determined Vanscoy had held the unnamed female victim in a residence against her will at one point. Over that time, he assaulted her, he strangled her, forcibly raped her and then committed additional sexual-related offenses."
The investigation is ongoing and Parker says they are talking to witnesses. The 35-year old woman had filed a restraining order against Vanscoy, but he had not yet been served. Vanscoy faces a number of charges, including first-degree rape, kidnapping and strangulation.
LA PINE, OR -- Law enforcement in the La Pine area are asking for help in finding whoever is responsible for starting a series of wildfires, last month. Nine fires were sparked on or around March 9th off Forest Road 21, and law enforcement says the fires were human-caused.
U.S. Forest Service investigators are asking anyone who may have seen anthing suspicious in the area on March 8th or 9th, or with other information to call Captain Dan Smith at 541-383-5798, or the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 877-876-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous and may be entitled to a cash reward.
PRINEVILLE, OR -- Prineville's labor market has shifted in the few months following major layoffs from Woodgrain Millwork, which left more than 200 people in the low-paying timber industry without work. But as the market transitions, local public officials are optimistic about the potential for job creation at local data centers. In the recent February unemployment report, Crook County saw a slight decrease in unemployment. However, regional economist Damon Runberg is skeptical about actual improvement. "Crook County has seen an actual decline in their labor force," Runberg told KBND News. "It could be folks retiring, people moving out, looking for work in other places."
But, despite the area shedding 30 jobs, recent legislation still has Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe relieved. "We have avoided harm," she told KBND news. Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 611 into law, Thursday, allowing data centers to avoid paying property taxes based on the "value of the brand."
Prineville has been transitioning its economic growth model from mills to data centers, since Facebook's facility opened five years ago. Apple followed, two years ago. When the centers relocated, the City of Prineville negotiated special tax rates. In exchange, data centers agreed to pay a mandatory minimum of 150% of the average local wage, and hire a minimum number of people.
With the growth of Prineville's data centers, the Oregon Department of Revenue began looking at imposing property taxes based on the value of the companies, which would have charged arger companies potentially millions more dollars per year. For the data centers currently in the Enterprise Zone and receiving tax benefits, the result could have been disastrous to keeping the centers local. Roppe says the impact could have caused the city to lose data centers, following December's victory with Crooked River legislation, which opened up water rights for data center expansion. "What we had heard from our local data centers was that they were planning to increase their footprint," Roppe said. "And that they would not do that [if the property taxes increased]. They did not have to be in the state of Oregon. They have other data centers."
SB 611 now forces the Department of Revenue to keep the property taxes for data centers low, in what Roppe believes will be an economic boost. "We believe it will be of great value of us, for bringing new businesses to the community," Roppe says.
When it comes to the unemployed lower-wage workers, Roppe doesn't want the future of the city to completely depend on data centers. The city has been brainstorming ways to bring back and expand local timber and tire products. But Mayor Roppe says the centers are a way to attract higher-paying, education-based jobs. "Jobs are of upmost to the City of Prineville," Roppe says. "And we want to diversify. We want to have many more avenues of revenue. This gives us a means of doing so."
SUNRIVER, OR -- More than 250 disaster preparedness officials from city, tribal and non-profit agencies around the state converged on Sunriver this week. Andrew Phelps, Director of Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management, says the 2nd annual "Oregon Prepared" workshop was a chance for leaders to address threats and hazards specific to each region, and statewide - especially in rural areas where emergency management is often only one person. "Local jurisdictions don’t always have the resources, the capabilities or the training to handle every emergency that they might have. You can look at 9/11 as a perfect example – there’s no city that’s more prepared for a catastrophic event than New York, and they were completely overwhelmed. So, you can look at a community like Bend and realize that a big raging wildfire, Bend Fire and Deschutes County fire resources aren’t necessarily going to be able to deal with that. So, making sure that we can coordinate with state entities and federal resources to come to these communities and mitigate the damage."
Phelps says a big focus this week was on developing the "Cascadia Playbook" - a plan that would guide jurisdictions in the first 14 days after a catastrophic event, like a large coastal earthquake. "Working with folks in the Cascade region – Central Oregon, and even along the eastern side of Oregon – to build partnerships so that we can share resources, because we know a lot of the resources are going to be out on the coast. But, also prepare those communities for the influx of folks leaving the tsunami inundation zone. A lot of them are going to end up in the valley, but that’ll get overwhelmed as well. So, you’ll have folks coming as far east as Bend and Redmond." He says the Redmond airport is already designated as a staging area for federal resources during a disaster, until those resources can be directed elsewhere.
He says other agencies are already learning from Central Oregon’s example. "One of the big components of reducing the impact of disasters is mitigation planning. The Deschutes County Emergency Manager Nathan Garibay just completed the Deschutes County Hazard Mitigation plan, and a component of that is looking at all hazards. It’s not just wildfire, but flooding, snowstorms, severe weather, things like that – things we can do to reduce the impact of these hazards." He says planning is key to moving forward after an event. "We can’t eliminate all hazards, we just can’t. But, we can prevent those hazards from becoming disasters."
BEND, OR -- State Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) has launched a coalition for the Mirror Pond project. He has introduced legislation that would provide $5-million in state funding from lottery dollars for the project. Rep. Buehler talked about the vision for the future of the pond at last weekend's Bend town hall. "In addition to improving the flow and making the river healthier, it will increase recreation along the river and turn some of the unused land into economic development."
Some of the community organizations supporting the Mirror Pond project include Bend Parks and Recreation, the Bend City Council, the Bend Chamber of Commerce, Deschutes River Conservancy and The Environmental Center. Rep. Buehler is asking coalition members to be ready to speak in Salem in support of his legislation asking for state funds.
BEND, OR -- A Texas-based marijuana dispensary company has announced plans to relocate its corporate headquarters to the High Desert. The President of Med-Cannabis Pharma, Inc and one of its investors have already moved to Bend. Graciela Moreno tells KBND she wanted to move her company to Oregon, and other parts of the state just didn’t fit her vision for the future. "I think that Bend actually has quite a bit more to offer our company and also our employees. I think it offers a great balance of work life and recreational and family life, as well. It’s an up and coming city and I just really enjoy the people here and I think that we can find some great employees."
She says the region is ideal for the company's plans for growth around the state, as they look forward to the legalization of recreational pot, in July. "We’ll be expanding here and I know that Redmond soon is probably going to open up. We’ve got an eye out there and some of the moratoriums that are being lifted in the coming months, so we’re looking to expand retail outlets. We’re also looking to start our grow facility in Central Oregon, in Bend."
Moreno says Med-Cannabis Pharma is still looking for office space, and admits some realtors and landlords are reluctant to discuss a lease. "I’ve talked to several landlords, several different city ordinances and trying to find out more information and presenting who we are. We’re running things on a corporate level; we also have the business mentality, as well. We want everything to be safe access, but there is some reluctance, even to lease space to us." The company will soon be looking for warehouse space in or near Bend, to open its own grow facility, and plans to eventually launch its own product line. Med-Cannabis Pharma is a publicly traded company with several medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon, including one in Bend.
BEND, OR -- Central Oregon Landwatch claims a recent study they conducted shows climate change may decrease water levels so much in Tumalo Creek, it would threaten the city's water pipeline project. Bend City Councilor Casey Roats is skeptical of the findings of just one study and is waiting for the results of larger study funded by federal and state money. Councilor Roats says it's been difficult dealing with Central Oregon Landwatch. "You have environmental groups that have a value set and don't want us to be taking anything out of the Tumalo Creek - And there's no city in their right mind who would give up water rights from the turn of the century. If you do that you move to the back of the line instead of the first in line."
Central Oregon Landwatch has appealed last December's federal court decision to allow the pipeline project to go forward. That appeal is now headed to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Roats says the $5-million the city has spent on fighting the group would have been better spent elsewhere. "You know when you get the lawyers involved, it gets expensive. And, that's money that would half gotten us halfway toward the goal of piping everything. But Central Oregon Landwatch and Oregon Waterwatch in Portland - it's been shameful that people in our own community are doing this, when there are solutions and no end user has to be out of any water."
BEND, OR -- The Bend City Council agreed to push ahead with amendments to the city code regulating vacation rentals. Councilors spent several more hours, Wednesday night, discussing options like limiting the number of short-term rentals allowed in a neighborhood, and restricting the transfer of operating licenses. Councilor Barb Campbell explained why they wanted to declare the issue as an emergency, to move quickly. "It was the difference between 2 weeks, being able to start writing the papers to implement, and 6 weeks. Even with those of us who had differences, for whatever reason, we felt the greater good was to get something done, tonight."
Campbell added that last night's unanimous approval of the first reading of the amendments means "that 2 weeks from tonight, we can enact the measures that we have voted upon. Otherwise, it was going to be, wait another month after that, which put us so far out into this coming summer. Myself, I just didn’t want to do that to those residents. That was going to mean how many more summers of this." They discussed Monday’s seven hours of public input, and clarified recommendations from the vacation rentals task force and city staff.
Councilors are expected to approve the provisions at their April 15th meeting.
SALEM, OR -- It was a packed hearing Wednesday before a State Senate committee considering a new gun control bill. Senate Bill 941 would expand background checks on all private gun sales.
Some of the most emotional testimony was from supporter Robert Alan Yule, whose wife Cindy, died after being shot at the Clackamas Town Center in December 2012. "I'm here today for Cindy because since her death I and her stepdaughter have worked tirelessly to require background checks because they work. It is the single best way to reduce gun violence".
SB 941 would ban felons and others with criminal backgrounds or a history of severe mental illness from buying a gun. The Oregn Republican Party has come out strongly against the bill. Kevin Starrett with the Oregon Firearms Federation also strongly opposes the bill and testified on Wednesday. "The bill is not intended to stop crime, but create more cost and inconvenience for gun owners in a massive registration. There was the gunshow loophole. Now there is the private party loophole and soon we will have the first cousin loophole."
Opponents argue requiring these bckground checks on private sales would place a big burden on gun owners.
PORTLAND, OR -- A Warm Springs man will spend a little under two years in federal prison for domestic violence. 44-year old William Clements pleaded guilty to beating up his wife, last May.
Craig Gabriel with the U.S. Department of Justice says, "I think the message here is the epidemic of domestic violence has to stop. It has caused serious and dangerous impacts to tribes, families and the entire community."
After Clements completes his 21 months in prison, he must serve three years of federal supervised release. He must also attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation and successfully complete a domestic violence counseling program.
SALEM, OR -- A bill that will allow terminally ill patients to try experimental treatments that haven't been approved yet, is on its way to the full House. The House Healthcare Committee approved the legislation this week. State Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) spearheaded the bill. "The medicine or device would have to have completed a phase one study. And another restriction we agreed on is we changed the age to 15 and older."
But Steve Buckstein with the Cascade Policy Instiute feels the bill should include children. "House Bill 2300 would give adults that right, but not children under the age of 15. Those who favor Right to Try let their state legislators know that faced with a terminal illness, children should have the same right to try as adults do."
The FDA approval process is very expensive and can take up to ten years to complete. This allows terminally ill patients to try the drugs before they're approved for market.
BEND, OR -- Emergency crews rushed to Alfalfa Market Road Wednesday morning, on the report of a serious crash. But, Sara Crosswhite with Deschutes County 911 tells KBND it was an apparent April Fool's prank that got out of hand. "The caller reported a motor vehicle accident with a female that was potentially unconscious in the vehicle – a single vehicle rollover in an unknown area, so we were just going on the basic street she gave us with no cross streets known. We were just going blindly to the location to try and find an accident that occurred." She says there was initially no indication that the report was fake.
The woman who called 911 reported the crash in good faith, thinking she was passing along legitimate information, according to Crosswhite. "We ended up dispatching Deschutes County Sheriff's units, with three different deputies responding to the call. We also dispatched Bend Fire and they had, it looks like, one or two units responding to Alfalfa Market Rd. And, at that point, they’d asked us to dispatch Air Link, so we were calling the helicopter to fly up in the air to try and locate the motor vehicle accident." She says that was when the caller received a text saying it was all a joke, and the woman immediately notified dispatchers about 10 minutes after the initial report, before dispatchers launched the helicopter.
Crosswhite says the biggest concern with such a hoax is the danger posed to first responders as they speed to a non-existent emergency during the morning commute. "In the 17 years I’ve been with the agency, I don’t recall a prank of this magnitude on April Fool's Day. Every once in a while we’ll get people to call in false calls because somebody played a joke on them, misled them- not on April Fool's Day. This was a rare one for us." She says the county takes false reports very seriously and the Sheriff's office expects to follow up on the incident.
BEND, OR -- The Humane Society of Central Oregon is working to find homes for pets recently left abandoned outside its Bend shelter. Less than a week ago, a woman left a Jack Russell Terrier in a crate at the front doors of the shelter, 40 minutes before it opened. A few days before that, Lynne Ouchida says a pair of guinea pigs were left at the back door. "It was interesting that people that it was OK to abandoned an animal at the shelter."
She tells KBND leaving an animal in any location violates state law, "Well, the Oregon state statute states specifically, the person commits the crime of animal abandonment if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence leaves a domestic animal or equine at a location without providing minimal care. It is no defense that the defendant abandoned the animal at or near an animal shelter, vet clinic or other place of shelter if the defendant did not make reasonable arrangements for the care of the animal." The shelter is not pursuing legal action in the two recent cases, Ouchida says they just want to make sure the animals can quickly find a good home. "If the dog or cat or any kind of animal comes in, the more information you provide the better we can treat it. Whether they have medical issues, behavioral issues, maybe it does/doesn’t do well with cats or kids." She says that information helps find the best new family for an animal.
Ouchida says there is no fee to relinquish a pet, however they do request a voluntary donation. "We do ask questions, and the questions are why you are relinquishing it – the first questions are how can we help you keep your pet? If you have come to the decision that you can’t keep it, then absolutely, we’ll take that animal, that’s what our services provide. We do ask you to fill out information about the animal so that we can place it in an appropriate home." Animals that are not properly relinquished must be held as a "stray" and aren't available for adoption for a number of days.
SALEM, OR -- The Oregon House passed the $7,255 education budget pushed by Democrats, this Tuesday. It's $600 million more than the last biennium and should allow most school districts to fund all-day kindergarten. However, State Representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend) voted against the budget. During his House speech, he told lawmakers it doesn't adequately fund education for students.
"I agree with [Bend-La Pine Superintendent] Wilkinson," Buehler said. "It's time to reprioritize education and not only fund it more, but [do that] by enacting reform in the state." Buehler says the funding level would mean an $83-per-student decrease in the Bend-La Pine School District.
Rep. Buehler adds, "The first step is to make education funding a priority before low carbon fuel standards or corporate giveaways. We need to address the unacceptable dropout rate and ensure third grade reading proficiency, and return from the shortest school year in the nation."
Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) is co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee. He agreed the budget isn't enough, but said it's the best they could do given other funding needs. The spending plan now moves on to the Senate.
BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors heard seven hours of testimony Monday night on proposed rules for vacation rentals. The marathon hearing was a precursor to tonight's meeting, when councilors are expected to vote on those rules.
Former Bend Mayor Bruce Abernethy was among those who testified. He tells KBND News he believes the proposed rules don't go far enough, given the heavy concentration of vacation rentals in a couple of west side neighborhoods. He says the new rules wouldn't effect those properties.
"So, basically, if you're in a neighborhood with a high concentration already, you won't get more," Abernethy says. "But there's no guarantee it will necessarily go down to a more reasonable level."
City councilors will consider whether old vacation rentals will be phased out. Current Mayor Jim Clinton tells KBND, "One way to do that is at a certain date these agreements automatically disappear. It's an onerous deal and it gives rise to claims. The less onerous way, where there appears to be some support, is to make the older permits non-transferrable."
Currently, permits are attached to the property, but councilors will consider whether to keep permits for short-term rentals with the homeowner.
REDMOND, OR -- The University of Oregon is partnering with the City of Redmond to improve livability and sustainability in the city. After similar partnerships in Medford, Springfield, Salem and Gresham, this is the first time the “Sustainable City Year Program” has ventured over the Cascades.
Oregon associate professor Nico Larco is cofounder of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, and says there is already a lot of involvement.
"The way the program works is, we have somewhere between 25 to 35 courses across the university working on specific projects that, in this case, Redmond has identified that they want to move forward on," Larco says. "Projects range from everything from looking at the airport campus and looking at design guidelines for that, to looking at south 97 corridor and thinking about an urban design for that and development standards, to thinking about street tree programs," he told KBND News.
Larco says the program chose Redmond based on its outstanding application. "A combination of their commitment to sustainability, a really interesting project list – I mean, they’re really thinking broadly about all the pieces where they can work with us and move the dial – and just a great project team from within the city, and private sector partners and organizations. It just seemed like a great fit."
He says students are excited to get started in Central Oregon, next week. The program typically will work with the city over the academic year, starting in August or September and lasting through June. This year, there was interest in starting the bike course before that date.
"We’re kicking things off early," Larco says. "This one class is going to be happening this term. Then, after that, everything else will be starting up really in August and September."
BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners have said "no" right now to allowing the Central Oregon Irrigation District to pipe the Pilot Butte canal in northeast Bend, without public input. But neighbors are prepared to continue the fight, if needed.
Homeowner Tom Hignell has lived along the canal for 20 years. He tells KBND News that they've been fighting COID for years as the company has tried to pipe the canal to help raise more revenue through thehydroelectric plant downstream.
"COID built Juniper Ridge hydroelectric plant," Hignell says. "They used $27 million of taxpayer money. And their GM Criag Horrell has said they're already profitable. And only their customers benefit. How much money until they're satisified? Where's the greater good for the community here?"
Hignell does approve of the commissioners decision not to approve the COID piping without a lengthy public process. But he says he's not letting his guard down.
"I think we do feel confident at this point." Hignell says. "The momentum seems to be going along with the public and neighbors. We're pleased with the results, but we're ready whatever is necessary to protect our property and homes and the canal."
COID is still planning its next course of action. One of the future goals will be piping more of the leaky canals in order to conserve water.
BEND, OR -- People had an opportunity to offer input on proposed new rules for vacation rentals in Bend Monday. Committees have been working on coming up with the new rules for the last several months and the city council heard from them.
City Councilor Victor Chudowsky thinks the city can strike a balance. "The key is to stop the concentration in certain parts of town, while still honoring people's property rights. For instance, if you have a permit now for a vacation rental you can keep it, but not to have any more located in such a small area of town."
"It's going to be very difficult. We can't make everyone happy. People are concerned about neighborhoods being pulled out from under them and I'm sympathetic to that. I have vacation rentals in my own neighborhood and I know people are not happy about it."
The city council will vote on the rules at their council meeting, Wednesday night.