▶️ Pandemic rent protections expire Saturday: Here’s what you need to know

Safe harbor protections for renters, put in place during the COVID-19 Pandemic, are expiring in Oregon on Saturday.

“There were several measures taken during the pandemic designed to slow the [eviction] process down,” Sybil Hebb with the Oregon Law Center said. “A tenant would have some hope of accessing translation services, legal assistance, social services, rent assistance in time so they could avoid displacement from their housing.” 

Renters also had a 10-day grace period after receiving a nonpayment eviction notice to find help in avoiding an eviction filing. This grace period is shortening to 72 hours.

Safe harbor periods that protected a tenant’s housing stability while waiting for a rental assistance application to be processed are being eliminated entirely. 

Hebb says Central Oregon is especially vulnerable, with one of the hottest housing markets in the state, low rental vacancies and little affordable housing.

RELATED: Oregon maximum allowable rent increase 14.6% for 2023; Highest this century

“Tenants are in extra trouble if they are faced with an eviction because if they are displaced, the chances of them finding a place that is affordable with the timelines given by the courts are extremely low,” Hebb said.

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., held a conference in Bend on Friday, speaking on affordable housing. 

“We’re looking at ways to get additional help for the renters,” Wyden said. “We have so many renters hurting.”

The Oregon Law Center says evictions skyrocketed in August, with nearly 2,000 eviction filings — a number well above what was reported prior to the pandemic.

▶️ Goats clear dry vegetation in Bend neighborhood to create defensible space

Scott Martin’s herd of goats clear out flammable vegetation for fire-wise clean-up efforts in Bend.

“When they come out of the truck, they go straight off eatin’…” Martin said.

The four-legged living lawnmowers were hard at work at The Parks at Broken Top near Cascade Middle School on Thursday.

The goats munch away on even the thickest foliage.

RELATED: The Great Outdoors: How do we save and protect fire-scorched forests?

RELATED: New Oregon wildfire risk map is coming

Goats offer several benefits over landscaping crews or machinery. They thrive in difficult terrain, are cost effective, make less noise than mowers, weed eaters and blowers, are environmentally safe and extremely efficient. A single goat can eat 2-4% of its bodyweight.

For Martin’s goats, that’s about four pounds of vegetation a day.

For his 150-goat herd, it can clear a quarter to half of an acre in 24 hours, depending on the type of vegetation. 

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Fire Defensible space goats

 

▶️ Bus shortage, miscommunication cancels Madras HS soccer match

A bus shortage led to the cancellation Monday of the first Madras High School junior varsity soccer match of the year. But the match has been rescheduled.

“The district does apologize. The district is sorry,” Communications Coordinator Joey Prechtl said. 

Miscommunication and mechanical issues led to the bus shortage, 509J School District said.

“Buses were being used by our Warm Springs K-8 Academy on the reservation to transport their student athletes, as well as Jefferson County Middle School to transport their student athletes. And then another bus was being used by our FFA program,” Prechtl said. “So we had no more buses available for the students.”

The district also says a couple of buses needed to be worked on and could not be used. One bus was available, but due to miscommunication, the bus that came was too small to accommodate the entire team. 

The match has since been rescheduled for Friday at 4:00 p.m.

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One parent who wished to not be identified does not think rescheduling is enough to remedy the situation.

“I think the kids need an apology from the admin,” the parent said. They were pretty heartbroken.”

The parent also pointed out what she says are inequities between the soccer facilities and the venues for other sports.

“Our fields are lacking. The [football and track field] next to us are way nicer. We don’t have a dressing room. The kids have to dress on the field. It would be nice to be treated equal to other sports.” 

509J did pass a bond in November of 2021 of $28 million. $1.2 million of that is being allocated to the soccer facilities. 

Field lights, a new building including a restroom and changing facilities and concessions are all supposed to be constructed with the funds.

The district did apologize to the players that were affected, saying that it can and will be better and will make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again to the athletes. 

▶️ Central Oregon school districts see slight increase in student enrollment

At least three Central Oregon school districts are reporting a slight increase in enrollment from the last school year.

The Redmond School District reports a 1% increase in enrolled students from last year.

The total: 7,129 students. Up 62 students from 2021-22.

The loosening of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions seem to be a major factor in bringing students back into the buildings.

“Now that we have loosened an amount of those, I think people are making choices based on what they really want for their students,” Redmond School District Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline said.

RELATED: Applications open for vacant Bend-La Pine School Board seat

RELATED: Coaches, players react to shot clock coming to Oregon high school basketball

Crook County School District is reporting an even higher increase of 2.6%.

Current total enrollment for Crook County stands at 3,313 students, adding 83 more students from last year.

Bend-La Pine Schools also reported a slight increase at a board meeting last week. 

“In our schools, the actual enrollment is above projections by about 40 students,” Chief Operations and Financial Officer for the district Brad Henry said.

Bend-La Pine says that these numbers are subject to change through October 1 when it officially submits its student numbers to the state.

 

▶️ Bend Chamber expects mayor forum to be welcoming of all candidates

After a candidate said she felt heckled by an opponent’s supporters at a forum for two Oregon state house races last Wednesday, the Bend City of Commerce expects a different response from the audience for Monday’s City Council and Mayor Forum.

“We’ve had to stop some of the presentations sometimes in the past this year and in past campaigns, and ask folks to be courteous,” Bend Chamber of Commerce CEO, Katy Brooks said. “That’s really what we’re going to do, tonight. We’re going o try and set the table so everyone feels welcome.”

Brooks says that Monday’s event is totally non-partisan and that the event is set up to hear from the candidates, not the audience. 

RELATED: State Representatives candidates square off at forum in Bend

▶️ Judge places foster child with biological relatives until next hearing

A judge placed a foster child with her biological relatives in an emergency hearing, today. 

The custody battle between a foster family that has raised the three year old girl for her entire life and the biological aunt and uncle that vied for adoption when she was an infant was supposed to be in court on Wednesday for a permanence hearing.

Due to scheduling issues, that hearing was suddenly postponed. The court and the Oregon Department of Human Services motioned to place the child with her aunt and uncle. Attorney for the child, Peter Deuel, filed for an emergency hearing to take place, hoping to convince the court to keep the child with the Burnsons.

The judge ultimately denied, placing the child with her relatives until the rescheduled permanence hearing.

“I am overwhelmed with emotion,” Uncle to the child, Tige Nishimoto said. “This has been a three year long battle for our niece and to be able to finally bring her home makes our entire family so excited.”

The Nishimoto’s hope they can heal with the Burnsons.

“We want the Burnsons to be a part of our family and to heal the relationship.” 

The permanence hearing has been rescheduled to take place in mid-October. 

▶️ Cedar Creek Fire fight price tag: $57.9 million

The Cedar Creek Fire has burned for six weeks and has blackened 92,596 acres, drawing a massive response. 

“We have 92 engines, 39 crews, 113 types of heavy equipment, and 19 helicopters working on the fire,” said Joan Kluwe, Public Information Officer for the Alaska Incident Management Team.

The current total cost to fight the fire, maintain and operate the machinery and take care of the personnel: $57,946,000

RELATED: Cedar Creek Fire: Deschutes National Forest closure expands

Wanoga Sno-Park on the way to Mount Bachelor is being used as a staging area for just some of these resources.

“All the equipment comes in here, gets checked in and gets inspected before it goes out to the fire,” Kluwe said. “It’s on standby here until it gets assigned to work.”

Crews use yurts as bases of operations to coordinate the movement of the equipment.

“So we have all our drop points on the maps,” Alaska Team Ground Support Unit Leader Dane Smigleski said. “So when operations calls staging, they let them know ‘Hey, we need a masticator at drop point 640.’ So we’ll go ahead and set it down where it needs to go.”

RELATED: Fire crews anticipate weekend rain will help fight Cedar Creek Fire

The Cedar Creek Fire is expected to burn until a season-ending event occurs. In other words, a weather occurrence when a substantial amount of rain or snowfall is able to douse the flames. These kinds of weather patterns usually begin in Central Oregon in early October.

Shaded fuel breaks along Cascade Lakes Highway

One way firefighters are working to protect communities and improve fire lines is with shaded fuel breaks along the Cascade Lakes Highway.

Fire managers say it works as an indirect containment away from the fire perimeter.

Firefighters get rid of fire hazards on the side of the highway. When finished, it can help stop the fire from spreading east.

▶️ ‘I would need a second job’: Oregon tenants react to 14.6% rent increase cap

The state of Oregon has set next year’s maximum allowable rent increase to 14.6% next year, the highest jump in the 21st century.

“I’m super anxious, worried, concerned… confused,” local tenant Maggie said. “I already work over 50 hours a week and I would need to do more than that. I would need a second job, I would need a raise. I would need to move.”

Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., says the cap helps prevent price gouging. He also says he does not think landlords could justify raising rates to the full amount.

“I think it’s an important law,” Merkley said. “I think most families would say ‘14% would really hurt us.’ Raising rates to anywhere near that would be abusive.”

RELATED: Oregon maximum allowable rent increase 14.6% for 2023; Highest this century

Evictions are also up across the state.

“Eviction rates are off the charts,” Kim McCarty with the Community Alliance of Tenants said. “We’re at 119% increase in evictions over last year. Over 2,000 people just from August face an eviction. We believe the leading cause of houselessness in Oregon is cost of housing.”

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis says the policy is to prevent tenant abuse.

“Maybe an apartment complex is bought or sold, and then the new landlords come in and double or triple the rent over night, effectively evicting everybody out,” Josh Lehner with the OEA said. “That was some of the policy goal at the time, or the legislative intent.

The OEA says this cap does not mean everyone’s rent will increase. 

If you want to calculate how much your rent could potentially rise, you can use the Community Alliance of Tenant’s rent calculator here.

▶️ Fire crews anticipate weekend rain will help fight Cedar Creek Fire

Fire managers on the Cedar Creek Fire are looking to the skies for some help. Specifically, rain.

“We are expecting the potential for some rain this weekend which will hopefully help minimize some of the fire activity,” Incident Meteorologist Chris Foltz said Tuesday.

The fire has grown to more than 92,500 acres. It is 0% contained.

“The fire’s still growing,” Foltz said. “It will continue to grow based on the amount of fuel it has available to it, but thankfully we aren’t expecting any significant growths.”

RELATED: WATCH: Video of Cedar Creek Fire map shows daily growth

RELATED: Cedar Creek Fire grows to 92,000 acres; Cooler temperatures rolling in

Foltz aiding incident command teams and firefighters to better understand how weather patterns can effect fire behavior.

“Our goal as an I-MET, is to really help the incident command teams understand what that weather could possibly causes the fire to do,” Foltz said. “So they take the expected weather patterns into account as they’re planning out their operations for the day.”

Weather will likely not have a significant impact on the fire’s behavior until early October. Foltz says they are not seeing any indication on what they call a “season-ending” event — a significant precipitation event that helps douse wildfires. 

Fire crews are hoping the current weather holds out so they can maintain their defensive perimeter along the Cascade Lakes Highway.

Cedar Creek Fire Cascade Lakes Highway

“If we can keep the weather like it is right now, then we have good potential to continue to produce the kind of line we have along Highway 46,” said Chuck Russell, Incident Commander for the Alaska Incident Management Team.

The goal is to keep the fire on the east side of the highway.

Foltz says he is not anticipating the kind of growth we saw from the fire last week and into the weekend when winds caused the fire to more than double in size in a matter of two days.

▶️ Goodbye, summer: School year begins in Central Oregon

School is back in session this week, leaving kids, parents and staff excited for the new school year. It comes after two years of disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re super excited,” Cassi Ryan said. “Our little guy is going into kindergarten. He’s so bored at home. We’re ready.”

Redmond School District Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline agreed, saying Redmond schools are ready to welcome students back into the buildings and work on establishing relationships with them.

But some parents are taking another route to education — bypassing the public school system.

“We understood what public school was and what we got out of public school, and we don’t like where public school’s been going,” Laura Wegner said.

RELATED: Hey drivers! 20 mph school zones back in effect as the school year begins

RELATED: Crook County Schools keep one key thing from COVID-19 pandemic: Technology

Wegner, who has a child going through a home school program, disagrees with what she says is being taught in the public curriculum.

“The things that public school teaches are inaccurate,” she said. “You know, Columbus was not the first person on the continent.” 

Wegner went on to praise the Forsight Home School Program for its hands-on approach it takes to educating her daughter.

“She’s active most of the day,” Wegner said. She’s not made to sit all day long and do her studies. They can move around. They can be themselves. They’re outside.”

Whether it’s public, home or private school, most children in Oregon will be back in classrooms of one kind or another by the end of the week.