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May Election Positions Filed, Some Remain Open

BEND, OR -- A few Deschutes County Fire and Sanitary district positions remain open for May’s Election. Last Thursday was the filing deadline.

Many board candidates including positions with Redmond Schools, and COCC will run unopposed. County Clerk Steve Dennison says this can happen in off-year elections, “We do typically have a handful. I think last time around we had probably somewhere around 5 in 2021, and 2019, I think we had as many as 10 seats with no candidate filed,’’ adding some candidates waited to file, “We did have a lot of filers on Wednesday and Thursday. Some of these seats are tougher to fill, too. These smaller water and sanitary districts tend to have less interest.”

Ballots for the May special election will be mailed next month.

Today, the Clerk’s Office conducted another ballot count from last week’s election to establish Terrebonne’s Sanitary District. Unofficial results show the measure passing 24 to 16. Terrebonne Sanitary District Director has Tim Brown and Guy Vernon both receiving 23 votes.


Redmond Airport Welcomes New Therapy Dog

REDMOND, OR -- The Redmond Airport's newest therapy dog joined the program this week. "Jasper" and handler Beth are among more than a dozen teams regularly volunteering for a few hours a week in the terminal. 

Erinn Shaw helped bring therapy dogs to Roberts Field almost a year ago; she now oversees the program. "Traveling can be stressful for passengers, and sometimes certain circumstances create a little more anxiety than others," Shaw tells KBND News, "And sometimes people leave their dogs at home and they’re upset that they’re going to be missing their dogs. [We] just wanted to provide a sort of comfort and stress relief for our passengers and our staff here at the airport." Shaw says, "Our teams generally try to approach passengers and just ask them if they’d like to pet the dog. And it’s nice because they sit and spend a little time chatting about their journey, where they’re headed or where they’re coming from."

Jasper will, no doubt, become as popular with travelers as Gunner, Tilly and the others. "Passengers love them, kids love them, our staff loves them. They’re a really welcome addition to the airport. Our TSA looks forward to the dogs coming." Shaw says they've become local celebrities, "All of the staff, and even a lot of passengers follow the dogs on Facebook and our social media. Most people even know the dogs by name now." She adds, "You know, there’s a handler that’s a part of the team. Most of the time, people talk to the dogs, they know the dog’s name and they kind of forget about the handler."

Redmond's program is modeled after therapy dog programs at around 100 other airports in the U.S. Locally, dogs are certified through Compassionate Canines of Central Oregon. In addition to the airport, many also volunteer at local schools, libraries, assisted living facilities and hospitals. Training takes six to eight months, and Shaw says the Redmond Airport prefers at least one-year of therapy dog experience after certification.


Bend Opens E-Bike Rebate Application Process

BEND, OR -- Low-income Bend residents can now apply for a rebate to purchase an electric bicycle. There are a total of 75 $2,000 rebates available. Cassie Lacey, with the city, says the amount is designed to make e-bikes affordable for everyone. "When we talked with e-bike retailers, they were suggesting that the average cost of a base model e-bike is around $2,500, so the estimated out of pocket expense for an e-bike would be about $500. That said, there are some that are even more affordable than that."

She tells KBND News the City Council believes it could help ease traffic congestion, "It supports our transportation goals by supporting alternative transportation. It also supports equity goals the city has around supporting vulnerable populations meet some of their basic needs like transportation."

The goal is to build on the popularity of Bend’s e-bike-share program, launched last year, "Compared to other cities of similar size, our usage for those bikes is very, very high, so we know that we have a population that is using those to a great degree." Lacey says researchers looked at the routes taken regularly by users, "And they were able to track how many people appeared to be using the bikes for commuting. We, again, had a very high number."

Funding comes from a $150,000 state Clean Mobility Grant, managed by Pacific Power. "It’s not coming from the City of Bend’s discretionary funds," says Lacey, "So, these are not funds that the city would be able to use on other projects. These are coming from the state, basically, that can only be used for these types of projects."

Applicants must make 80% of the area median income or less, live inside the Bend City limits and be a Pacific Power customer. Rebates will be awarded in three lotteries: April 17th, May first and May 15th. After being selected, recipients then must purchase an e-bike from a local retailer. Click HERE for more information, including the application. 


Interior Secretary Announces Oregon Tourism Projects

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler met with recreation enthusiasts, local business representatives, and outdoors-related organizations at Bend’s OSU-Cascades campus Friday to discuss Oregon’s outdoor recreation economy.

Secretary Haaland said it was helpful to hear ideas to increase access to public space, “The horsemen that actually need some parking. They do a lot of backcountry work on the trails and so forth back there, so that’s an issue. We recognize that this outdoor economy just like the mayor said is an important one here in Bend and across Oregon. We got some suggestions. We’ll follow up.”

She noted it was good to hear a local perspective, “I feel that it’s my responsibility when I’m in places like this that I want to listen more than I talk. We got some great ideas about how we can move forward.”

Secretary Haaland said the intergovernmental multi-agency group, FICOR is dedicated to getting more Americans outdoors, “We all agree we need to make opportunities for children to be outdoors so that they can feel that connection at an early age.”

The Secretary’s trip to Oregon also included a meeting with state Indigenous leaders to discuss clean water projects. She also announced federal funding for maintenance projects and wildfire mitigation. 

The Great American Outdoors Act will enable $130-million in deferred maintenance on State public lands. A $45-million project will rehabilitate East Rim Drive at Crater Lake National Park. Nearly $50-million in new allocations from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will support wildland fire management in 2023.


Spring, Summer Paving Projects Planned For Bend

BEND, OR -- Drivers can expect even more road work next month. Bend City Council has approved $3.2 million in contracts for street preservation efforts through the summer. "Some roads, we need to grind out the asphalt and put in a new layer of asphalt. Other roads that are maybe less traveled on, some of the residential roads, we can put on a ‘slurry seal,’ so think like a coat of paint to keep them from getting worse," Bend City Manager Eric King tells KBND News, "About 37 lane mines of the city’s about 800 or so lane miles will be touched; meaning they’ll either get the slurry seal or the grinded inlay, all over town, all corners of the city." 

Asphalt grinding will happen over about 18 lane miles of arterials and collector roads, "There will be projects ranging from 15th Street, in southeast, to Pinebrook, Butler Market, OB Riley, 27th - those are some of the busier streets that will get that kind of overlay treatment. They’ll get the grind of the old asphalt and a new layer of asphalt put on top." Another 19 lane miles of mostly residential roads will get a slurry seal.

Click HERE for a map of planned projects. King says, "Typically, those paving projects aren’t that disruptive. A lot of that work can happen without major closures."


CRR Outbuilding Destroyed By Fire

CROOKED RIVER RANCH, OR -- An early morning fire destroyed an outbuilding in Crooked River Ranch, Saturday. Crews were called just after 1 a.m. and found the small structure fully engulfed in flames.

There were no hydrants in the area, so two tenders brought water to the site. Neighbors reported hearing multiple explosions during the fire. Firefighters later determined multiple propane tanks were stored in the shed.

Crews worked for 30 minutes to knock down the blaze and prevent it from spreading to nearby brush. No one was hurt, but the building was a total loss, including a tractor and flatbed trailer.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Highlights Importance Of Screening

BEND, OR -- A new report by the American Cancer Society shows an increase in colorectal cancer among people under the age of 50. "Overall incidence of colorectal cancer is going down; and they looked at this between the years of 2011-2019. But, interestingly, the rates of colorectal cancer are going up in those under the age of 50," says Colon and Rectal Surgeon Dr. Dave Parsons. In response to those updated stats, the recommended screening age for colorectal cancer was lowered to 45 in 2021. "Colon Cancer is one of the few cancers in humans that can be prevented through screening."

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. "Most of us probably know someone who has had colon cancer, if you’ve lived long enough," says Dr. Parsons, "It’s very common. 150,000 people diagnosed every year with colorectal cancer in the United States, approximately." But, when caught early, 9 out of 10 are cured. "We know, overall, that the death rates from colon cancer have been going down. And, it’s presumably due to better screening, for the population that’s getting screened." However, he says only about two-thirds of the people eligible for a screening actually get it done, either by colonoscopy or home test. "I’d like to see 100% of people who are eligible getting screened, because - it may put me out of business - but I think it would be great."

March is colorectal cancer awareness month; the perfect time to start that conversation with your doctor. 

To learn more about the importance of screenings, listen to our full conversation with Dr. Dave Parsons, Colon & Rectal Surgeon for Kaiser Permanente Northwest:


Bend Officials Hope For Funding From State Homeless Pkg

BEND, OR -- Plans to clear the unsanctioned homeless camp at Hunnell Road remain stalled after Deschutes County Commissioners backed out of a deal to help create a managed camp. 

Bend City Manager Eric King says the city doesn’t have the financial capacity to take on such a project on its own, but help could soon come from the state, "There’s some potential additional resources coming from the Governor’s budget and, it might not be the city, but other providers that are trying to expand services." King tells KBND News, "The Governor’s budget dedicated $130 million. It looks like it’s going to pass this week. There’s funding going out to regions of the state, Central Oregon’s slated to get about $14 million. There are some proposals from local service providers to expand capacity in the system."

He says applications are already submitted for that funding, "We hope to hear back by the end of this month, which projects are selected. As I’ve been hearing, the Governor plans to sign - I think it’s passed the House and on to the Senate. I think this is a high priority, so the sense of things is the money will come shortly thereafter, in the next couple of weeks."

Trying to clear unsanctioned camps, like at Hunnell Road or China Hat, without more programs in place just spreads the problematic situation to another neighborhood, says King. It's a sentiment echoed recently by Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang. King says Bend has created more shelter space in the past two years, but not enough for the estimated 100 people living at Hunnell Road, "It’s a very fluid system. So, folks might stay at a shelter one night, they might graduate to a hotel room that’s part of the Stepping Stone shelter, so there’s movement. I think we’d like to see a little more capacity in the system to accommodate folks. But I don’t think it’s possible to construct a space for everybody; we don’t have the resources. And that’s some of the challenge that we are facing at the city."

To hear our full conversation with City Manager Eric King, visit KBND's Podcast Page


file photo

Construction Underway On New Redmond Library

REDMOND, OR -- With a temporary library branch on the south end of Redmond, the new permanent Redmond library is now going up, slightly ahead of schedule. "This is a really exciting moment for us," Deschutes Public Library Director Tod Dunkelberg says, "We’re starting construction this week and that should be opening in early fall of 2024."

The new 40,000-square foot facility is being built on the same property as the previous Redmond Library, which was housed in the historic Jessie Hill School. Dunkelberg tells KBND News he and the library board recognize tearing down the more than 90-year-old building is a loss to the community. They paid homage during the recent groundbreaking ceremony, "We really did a good job of honoring that building. We gave out bricks from the building to people who came, and they really appreciated that." He adds, "Right now, we’re creating a little movie - a little film. We interviewed people all around town about their memories from the building, and we found that will be a nice way to preserve the legacy. But also, at the same time, people are really excited about what’s coming because it’s going to be a real game-changer for Redmond."

The new Redmond branch will be "state of the art," and larger than the downtown Bend location. Click HERE for more details. It's one of four major library facility projects happening now, thanks to a 2020 bond measure. 

Until its 2024 opening, a temporary branch is located on South Highway 97, next to Wilson’s of Redmond. 


Second Deadly Avalanche Strikes Central Oregon In As Many Weeks

LA PINE, OR -- A Bend snowboarder was killed in an avalanche on Paulina Peak Wednesday, east of La Pine. According to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, 33-year-old Erik Hefflefinger was carried over a cliff band by debris, and may have struck a tree during the fall. 

Investigators say Hefflefinger and two friends used snowmobiles to access the area, then made their final approach - Hefflefinger on a snowboard and the other two on skis. The two skiers went down one side fo the slope and Hefflefinger followed on the other side. The avalanche started on his descent. All three were wearing safety equipment, including avalanche safety gear. Just before 1 p.m., the International Emergency Coordination Response Center notified DCSO of an SOS alarm from a device, and provided GPS coordinates. About 10 minutes later, one of the skiers notified the IERCC there was an avalanche and one person was not breathing; they were performing CPR.  

DCSO Search and Rescue arrived via Airlink helicopter and reached Hefflefinger at 4 p.m. They took over life-saving efforts after discovering a faint pulse. At 5 p.m., it was determined he was "beyond help" and his body was transported to the 10-Mile Snow Park. 

Avalanche Danger Persists

It’s the second time this month, a local avalanche has claimed a life. A Bend man was killed in a slide while skiing at Black Crater. Prior to March second, it had been nine years since DCSO last responded to an avalanche-related death. 

"I think it’s probably a combination of factors, Gabriel Coler tells KBND News, "And, the most obvious factor that’s kind of undisputable, is just how many more people are in the backcountry." Coler is a forecaster with the Central Oregon Avalanche Center, which rates the current risk as Moderate (pictured), "We forecast avalanche danger for Central Oregon Cascades, which is a zone roughly from Mt. Bachelor up to Santiam Pass. We don’t currently forecast for Paulina Peak. That Moderate danger does not apply to Paulina Peak. None of our forecast team has been there recently to assess the danger."

Even for areas included in their forecast zone, Coler says skiers, snowmobilers and snowboarders need to heed warnings, "I think they often look at the danger rating and they just judge, ‘okay, what level is too scary for me?’ Or, ‘what level am I likely to get killed in?’ But it’s more specific than that. There’s actually advice that goes with each danger rating. And avalanches are possible under all of the danger ratings." He says an avalanche can occur on any snow-covered hill with a pitch between 30 and 45 degrees, "But, for a lot of people, that steepness - like a 35-degree slope - is a really fun slope to ride on. In the Venn Diagram of what is fun for some people and what is dangerous, there’s definitely a lot of overlap there."

For more information on the danger scale and avalanche risk, visit the Central Oregon Avalanche Center's website


Deschutes County Dissolves Drug Court

BEND, OR -- After more than two decades, Deschutes County’s Drug Court is ending. It provided drug offenders with court-supervised treatment. District Attorney Steve Gunnels is disappointed, "I was the prosecutor who was originally part of the planning process, and I have been the drug court prosecutor now for 23 years."

He tells KBND News dissolving Drug Court wasn't a choice anyone wanted to make, "That’s really a result not of a decision by the court to end the program; although, ultimately, that’s the decision they had to make. It’s a decision that was based on the fact that we could not find a treatment provider for the participants in the drug court program, or a coordinator." Gunnels says the coordinator position was lost when the salary offered was not enough for someone from out of the area to find housing. And, past treatment providers are no longer available, "The rules about what has to be offered by the treatment provider have been very stringent and nobody in Central Oregon is capable of meeting all of those standards at this time." 

He says many offenders took part over the years, "Typically young people who have drug addiction issues and children, and try to get them turned around, get them into drug and mental health treatment and parenting classes. They have to stay clean and sober, they have to get a job and they have to reestablish their relationship with their children, which is oftentimes the motivating factor." And he considers the program a success, "Some people have had their lives turned around from really miserable paths that they had chosen with their drug addiction, and they are now productive members of society who are raising their children and living good lives."

Drug offenders will now only be prosecuted in the traditional way, and a judge could order treatment as part of a sentence or settlement. Gunnels hopes the re-start the program in the future. 

Visit our Podcast Page to listen to our full conversation with Deschutes County DA Steve Gunnels. 

Bend Approves Houseless Fund

BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors have approved the creation of a Houseless Fund, within the city’s budget. City Finance Director Jeanette Townsend told the Council Wednesday it changes how revenue and expenses are tracked. "Creating a separate Houseless Fund will improve the transparency of the houseless operations and promote control and accountability over those resources," she said, "The Houseless Fund will include revenues and expenditures related to owning and operating shelters, managing the right of way and other related services, as well as support provided to the community along the housing continuum."

Under the current system, homelessness programs and services are paid for through the general fund, "The proposed budget adjustment moves existing appropriations relating to houseless operations from the general fund to the new Houseles Fund," said Townsend, "There’s no new funding or expenditure appropriations in this proposed budget. It is simply a move from one fund into a new fund."

Several people testified in opposition to the fund because they disagree with how the city is managing the homeless crisis. Council reiterated the Houseless Fund doesn’t change how or how much they spend on homelessness programs, only how those expenses are tracked.

Townsend says creating the fund before the next budget is approved will make it easier to prepare for the next biennium, "Having this fund in place now allows us to budget for those houseless activities in this new fund, so that when that proposed budget comes before you, I think it will further promote that transparency in monitoring of the houseless expenditures."

Revenue, expenses and all financial tracking for those programs will be relabeled under the Houseless Fund at the start of the new fiscal year, June first. 

Gun Stolen From Unlocked Pickup At Bend Bottle Drop

BEND, OR -- Bend Police say a man stole a flashlight and loaded pistol from an unlocked pickup last week.

On March 7, Bend Police responded to a report of a vehicle break-in at the Bottle Drop on NE Second Street. The Ford Ranger pickup was unlocked in the parking lot. The vehicle’s owner reported that a variety of items, including a flashlight and a fully loaded 9mm pistol, were stolen from the truck. 

Officers reviewed surveillance footage and identified a suspect who first entered the Bottle Drop, then entered the Ford Ranger through the driver’s side door and took items before leaving the area in a mid-2000s red Kia Spectra. Investigators determined the suspect was 27-year-old Dakota Jess Tittle of Bend. Tittle is a convicted felon who is not allowed to possess or own a firearm. 

At about 1:15 p.m. on March 14, officers saw Tittle’s car in the parking lot of the Westside Tavern on NW Galveston Avenue. As he drove the car out of the parking lot, officers blocked it in and conducted a high-risk traffic stop. Tittle was arrested without incident. 

A firearm believed to be the one stolen from the pickup was found in a backpack in Tittle’s car. Its serial number was scratched off and it had been repainted. The stolen flashlight was also recovered.  

Bend Police reminds the public to never leave a parked vehicle unlocked. When parking their vehicles, people should HIDE their belongings, LOCK their vehicles and TAKE their keys with them

Bend Woman Accused Of Stealing Car Left Warming Up In Parking Lot

BEND, OR -- A Bend woman is accused of stealing a car from a local restaurant, then driving while under the influence of drugs. 

Bend Police were dispatched to a report of a stolen vehicle in the parking lot of Burger King on North Highway 97, just after 11 p.m. Tuesday. The vehicle’s owner had been warming up the purple 2008 Hyundai Elantra. The car was unlocked and keys were in the ignition. 

Officers interviewed multiple witnesses who saw a woman acting erratically near Chevron and Burger King  moments before the vehicle was taken. One witness had video of the suspect. Officers recognized the suspect as 34-year-old Maritza Ivy Gomez. She'd been trespassed earlier in the night from Best Western on Grandview Drive.

They found the vehicle and Gomez in the parking lot of the Best Western. The vehicle was released to the victim at the scene. Gomez was arrested for DUII – drugs and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and taken to jail. She was also cited for a violation for possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine.

The Bend Police Department reminds everyone to never leave a car running and unattended. Remember when you park your vehicle to HIDE your belongings, LOCK your vehicle and TAKE your keys with you.

BPD launched the Hide, Lock, Take initiative this week. 

BPD Launches Theft Prevention Initiative

BEND, OR -- A new Bend Police initiative launched this week aims to reduce the number of property crimes in the city. "People tend to leave valuables in their cars here; it’s a safe community, so they feel their valuables may be safe left in their car," Police Chief Mike Krantz tells KBND News, "We have reports of wallets left on seats, computers left in bags, purses left and leaving the cars unlocked." But he hopes the "Hide, Lock, Take" initiative will help. It was created by a BPD officer who saw many thefts from vehicles were crimes of opportunity.

Krantz says officers are now distributing free signs, "In certain areas where there’s more parking or more people tend to park their vehicles - maybe a business area, park areas, apartment complexes where there’s more groups of parking - and encourage people to either hide their items or take their items, and lock their cars." Officers are also meeting with business owners, apartment managers and others in the community who can help educate drivers.

"Our highest crime categories are typically property crimes, in the city - car thefts and thefts from cars. Those typically lead to ID theft, forgery, because people take those credit cards, they take checks, they take personal identification immediately; and go on a fraudulent run with it, until the credit card gets turned off," says Krantz, "This kind of hits multiple areas where we’re really trying to keep people safe, trying to keep people’s credit safe and we’re trying to keep their items safe by just encouraging some very small, basic crime prevention."

To listen to our full conversation with BPD Chief Mike Krantz, visit our Podcast Page


Stevens Ranch Library Plans Released

BEND, OR -- Plans for a new Stevens Ranch library in southeast Bend are taking shape. Deschutes Public Library Director Todd Dunkelberg says at 100,000-square feet, it’ll be the district’s largest branch, "his building will have a cafe, which was the number one thing that people asked for when we went out and talked to people across the county." He says it'll also be the first three-story library in the region, "One whole floor will be dedicated to children, one whole floor dedicated to adults, and then we’ll have a great lobby where people can come in; that’ll be where our big meeting spaces are and where our cafe will be, as well."

Dunkelberg adds, "It also will house all of our centralized services for the entire county. So that will actually free up space for us in our downtown Bend branch, and we’ll be expanding the public space in that building by about 25%."

The Stevens Ranch branch will be built on the east side of SE 27th Street, south of Stevens Road. An open house this week allowed neighbors a chance to check out the design and ask questions, "I heard from a lot of people, especially from people who live on the east side of Bend, that they really don’t have services like this," Dunkelberg tells KBND News, "So, they’re really excited to have this facility coming."

Construction is slated to begin in February of 2024, and Dunkelberg expects it’ll open by January of 2026. The $138 million project will be paid for through a bond approved by voters in 2020. 


Comm. Chang Speaks Out On County Homeless Plan

BEND, OR -- A week after the deal to develop a managed homeless camp in Bend fell apart, Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang believes there may still be a path forward. He was the lone Commissioner opposed to backing out of the plan, "I think that there is a major strain between at least two of the Board of Commissioners and the Bend City Council," Chang told KBND News Tuesday, "And, we’re going to have to mend some fences, build trust, communicate a lot and come up with some well thought out partnership plans in order to patch that up."

After initially agreeing to help secure a service provider to manage the city's planned camp on Murphy Road, Commissioners Tony DeBone and Patti Adair voted to back out. Chang says, "I don’t think that they are entirely closed to the idea of managed camping or safe parking anywhere in the Bend vicinity. But, they did not indicate a willingness to proceed with seeking developers and operators on Wednesday. My hope is that there will be some movement, maybe when emotions cool a little bit."

He believes a managed camp can work. Chang points to Medford, where he says a managed camp is helping protect campers and neighbors, "It’s got a fence that is closed at night. It has some temporary carport structures over wood shipping pallets that people can set tents up on, water tank, porta-potties. So, basic infrastructure. But what’s really, really important about Medford Urban Campground #1 is that it has 24/7 management." Chang says that management includes established structures, pre-screening and rules. And, space for service providers to help campers take steps out of homelessness. 

Chang says in the past few weeks, he's heard from dozens of people; some oppose the proposed Murphy Road location, others worried about the current sanctioned camp at Hunnel Road - a site that needs to be cleared for road construction, "I have heard from people in the China Hat area who are concerned that dispersing people from Hunnell Road will send more people to China Hat Road." He believes that’s exactly what will happen without a plan, "When you close one unauthorized homeless encampment without presenting people an authorized, planned, developed, managed, serviced place to go, they just go some other place that’s unauthorized."

He says he sent a letter to each of the people who reach out to him, explaining his position and what he believes the city and county can accomplish (below) . Chang told KBND News, "I would love for the county to be a partner with the city in both developing the places for people to go and also providing the wrap-around services that are necessary for people to take steps out of homelessness. We need them both."

Dear constituent,

Thank you for contacting me about homelessness in the Bend area, Hunnell Road, or a proposed managed camp at Murphy Road. As you may have heard, in a 2-to-1 vote the County Board of Commissioners withdrew from a planned partnership for a managed camp with the City of Bend on Wednesday and did not seek to identify other locations for a managed camp. I wanted to share my perspective on homelessness in our community and the role of managed camps in reducing it. 

Unauthorized, unmanaged homeless camping has reached unacceptable levels in our community. Unplanned camps like Hunnell or China Hat Road were not deliberately established to shelter people and do not have appropriate infrastructure or services for people to be living there. These places do not offer a pathway out of homelessness and do not serve anyone – not the community, not nearby residents and businesses, and not the homeless themselves.

Hunnell Road needs to be cleared and closed to camping. But we need appropriate places for people to go when that clearing happens. Ideally we would have enough affordable housing, indoor shelter, and transitional housing and adequate supportive services to offer to each person who is ready to take the pathway out of homelessness. Until we have enough of these indoor options, we will need managed camps and safe parking as interim solutions.

A managed camp is not what we see at Hunnell Road. Currently, there is no managed camp to look at as an example in Central Oregon. One of the better examples in Oregon is Medford Urban Campground, a facility operated by Rogue Retreat in Medford: https://www.rogueretreat.org/housing-shelter/

This facility offers basic sanitation, dry sheltered tent sites, and is fenced and gated. To be allowed to stay at Medford Urban Campground, people go through screening, agree to follow site rules, and sign up for a progress plan. 24-7 site managers and a range of service providers help residents move forward with their progress plans and to take steps out of homelessness. The site managers ensure residents are following the rules and keep the camp safe.    

If the City of Bend or Deschutes County clears people from an unauthorized location like Hunnell Road without appropriate housing, shelter, managed camps, or safe parking sites lined up we are not solving a problem, we are just moving unauthorized camping to a new location and causing stress to a new set of nearby residents and businesses. 

We need to get serious about developing the managed camp and safe parking sites our community needs to reduce unauthorized camping and provide people real stepping stones out of homelessness. The city-owned property at Murphy Road was just one option for a managed camp. On Wednesday March 8th, the Board of County Commissioners had the opportunity to request proposals from community service providers to develop and operate managed camps or safe parking sites anywhere in the Bend area, not just Murphy Road. My fellow Commissioners chose not to request any proposals for any Bend area locations on Wednesday, not just to withdraw County partnership on Murphy. They chose for the County to do nothing about homelessness in the Bend area.

I will continue to push for the County to play an active role in helping to create the affordable housing, indoor shelter, transitional housing, mental health and addiction treatment facilities, managed camps, and safe parking that our community needs to reduce unauthorized camping and unsheltered homelessness across the entire County. 

With the right support services and places to temporarily live there are many people in our community who can transition out of homelessness – youth and families with children, working people who can’t afford rent, seniors with chronic illnesses, and veterans. The vast majority of our local homeless population are long term Central Oregonians. If we dramatically reduce the number of unsheltered homeless in our community by providing real pathways out of homelessness, the remaining homeless population will be much easier to deal with.     

Thank you again for contacting me and I hope you will continue to be part of the discussions and planning efforts to develop the facilities and services we need to reduce homelessness in our community.



Madras To Use Goats On City Property

MADRAS, OR -- Following successful programs in Redmond and Bend, Madras is using goats to clear hazardous fuels from city property. Starting Wednesday, about 150 goats will converge on a section of Willow Creek Trail, east of First Street and north of "B" Street. They’ll graze on overgrown brush and weeds for about a week, and then move to the north side of the "M" Hill Trail.

Officials say the animals are safer, cheaper, more effective and quieter than using heavy equipment.

While the goats are working, the area will be sectioned off with electric fencing and the herd will be monitored 24/7 by a human goat herder and guard dogs. The section of affected trail will be closed during the operation and people are asked to stay clear during these time periods. The City will post notices at the affected trailheads and on Facebook.

“We’re really looking forward to this pilot project,” Public Works Coordinator Michel Quinn said in a statement. “This type of program has been highly successful in other areas and if it works well for us, it’s something all of us on the team are willing to utilize for future projects.”

Crews from Jefferson County Fire & EMS will perform tree removal and tree limbing to further reduce fuels and enhance training opportunities for their staff. In addition, a work crew from Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council will take out dead brush material not edible by the herd.

Once the goats have cleared the areas, Public Works will treat for noxious weeds and cheat grass to encourage regrowth of native and perennial grasses. 

Another Member Of The "Redmond Five" Granted Parole

BEND, OR -- Two members of the infamous “Redmond Five” have now been granted parole, and two more could be out by summer. "It’s a devastating decision for the family of Barbara Thomas, who thought that they had closure to this horror story," Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels tells KBND News, "Every time one of these young murders comes back for a resentencing or a parole hearing, the family has to relive what they went through in 2001." Despite his original life sentence, the Parole Board approved Justin Link's release earlier this month.

"Justin Link was 17 years old at the time," says Gunnels, "There was an 18-year-old, another 17-year-old, and two 16-year-olds who were involved in the murder of Barbara Thomas in 2001, out on the Old Bend-Redmond Highway." One of the killers, Adam Thomas, is the victim's son. "These five wanted to take her car. Instead of just taking her car, they decided to murder her so she wouldn’t be a witness and they wouldn’t get caught."

Because four of the five killers were minors at the time, Gunnels says their life sentences were reduced a few years ago, "Justin Link’s sentence was subsequently reduced to 30 years to life, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision held that a true life sentence - a life sentence without the possibility of parole sentence - was unconstitutional for juvenile offenders." But, he didn't have to wait 30 years for a parole hearing. Before Gov. Kate Brown left office in 2022, she commuted the sentences of a number of juvenile offenders, allowing them to go before the Parole Board after just 15 years. "Justin Link has now served approximately 22 years, so he was eligible to go before the Parole Board," says Gunnels, "The Parole Board held that he was eligible for parole because he had not been getting in trouble in prison. And, the only thing they’re really asked to consider is whether the disciplinary record indicates the person has matured while in prison and has been rehabilitated." Link is expected to be released late next month.

One of the two 16-year-old girls involved in the case is already out on parole. Gunnels says hearings for two others are scheduled for April and May.


City Council To Look At Bend's Tree Code

BEND, OR -- Bend City Council will discuss preserving tree shade, at a work session Wednesday. Updating the Urban Tree Canopy code has been on the list of Council goals since 2021, according to Mayor Melanie Kebler, “I heard in the 2020 election about this. And then of course, it was still an issue that community members are concerned about now. When you visually see a lot where a bunch of trees have been cut down, I think there is concerns about shade and heat effect. There is concern about carbon sequestration. There is concern about the value of large trees.  And so, we just want to get the process started on finding out where council is at. What kind of action do we want to take, and how do we direct staff to take the next step.”

Kebler tells KBND News it’s important to find a balance for sustainable growth, “I don’t want to do any policies that are going to block needed housing that we really need right now. That’s a number one concern of our community. But at the same time, I think there may be some changes we can make to help promote the urban tree canopy as a whole.”

“Personally, I would love to see something in our code about replanting. If you do need to take trees down, either you replant new trees, based on how many trees you cut down. Or even pay into a fund that we can use to plant trees maybe in another place,” the mayor said.

Wednesday's work session starts at 5 pm, ahead of the regular council meeting.


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