▶️ ‘Tragic’: Redmond food cart owners face 2nd business fire of the year

The Westside Taco Co. food cart at The Vault in Redmond caught fire Sunday night. This is the second time the owners have had to deal with a fire this year.

“The only think we can control at this point is the way that we feel and the way that we act,” said Westside Taco Co. co-owner Amber Amos. “So we’re going to be as positive and determined as we can. It’s one more hurdle, you know, and that’s what we can control.”

The damage to the cart is irreparable. A Gofundme has been created to help the couple during the re-building of their business. 

Redmond Fire and Rescue says the cause is “undetermined” and the investigation is over.

As for the effect of the fire?

“We’re doing everything from scratch. There’s a lot of hurdles to overcome in doing that,” said Aaron Notarianni, co-owner.

RELATED: Westside Local cooking fire leads to $9K in damages

Amos and Notarianni say they don’t know what happened. The night of the fire, two employees closed up. 

“There’s a huge checklist that they go through every night. They sign off on it,” said Amos. “They did everything they do every night.”

A few months ago, at their previously owned restaurant, another fire broke out while the two were out of the state.

This one was less devastating, but still had an impact.

“It was very, very tragic,” said Amos.

The fire department tells us the first incident was a grease fire.

Now, after a second blaze, was this an accident?

“We worked really hard to build these places, and the last thing we need to do is sabotage them. Was it somebody else? God, it would be really, really disappointing to find that out. I hope not,” said Amos.

Accidental or not, the couple is in good hands in Redmond.

“God are we grateful for this community. Jeez. It’s such a great community,” said Amos. 

The pair do plan on re-building their food truck and re-opening. 

▶️ Homeless crisis top-of-mind at Deschutes Co. Commissioner candidate forum

The Redmond Senior Center hosted a forum for the two candidates running for Deschutes County Commissioner Position 3 Tuesday.

Patti Adair, incumbent Republican commissioner, and Morgan Schmidt, Democratic commissioner candidate, both attended.

One of the hot topics of this election season? Homelessness. 

“We have a lot of people that are homeless that are doing terrible things. They’re breaking in, they have substance abuse disorders, they’ve got incredible mental illness, but the people we’re talking about really need to get out of homelessness, especially families with kids,” said Adair.

“The more we can offer people stable locations to be, whether that’s camping, safe parking, or low — shelters or transitional housing. The more they can have contact with service providers and get the help that they need,” said Schmidt.

RELATED: Bend’s unhoused community gets a voice at camping code roundtable

RELATED: After backlash, Redmond Safe Parking program makes changes for new site

Safe parking — a program that allows those currently without a home to park their car or RV in a safe place — has been an ongoing discussion in Redmond. How about the county as a whole?

“These people that are a part of their program really need the help. I am supportive of it,” said Adair.

“I fully support the safe parking programs that are going on both in Bend and now in Redmond,” said Schmidt. 

The Bend City Council is currently considering a camping code on city property. 

“We are actually working on an ordinance currently on what we want to do, but one thing I would make a comment on the Bend code: We need to add storage for those people that are part of a camping situation,” said Adair.

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And Schmidt adding that we need more shelters and safe locations for the homeless.

“I do believe that we need to have more options in place for people before we can really legally enforce people to move or continue going from place to place to place,” said Schmidt.

As fire season comes to an end, wildfires potentially being started by campers was a concern felt by many Central Oregonians.

“I was able to negotiate with the Forest Service and they put a fire extinguisher in each of the campgrounds in China Hat and in Sisters,” said Adair.

“The sooner we can come up with housing options for folks, even if that’s just a safe place to camp that’s low barrier, that’s a place they can go that’s designated, the sooner we’ll be able to have a lot more safety out in our rural lands and out in our forests,” said Schmidt.

Both candidates acknowledged homelessness is becoming a larger issue in Deschutes County, and both are wanting to assist those who have been displaced. 

▶️ Jewell Elementary celebrates solar panel installation

R. E. Jewell Elementary School in Bend celebrated the installations of its solar panels on Friday.

“The school district adopted a new sustainability plan. We’re looking to increase our renewable capacity so that’s one really huge thing that that district is taking a step forward to try and increase our capacity,” said Jackie Mueller, district sustainability and energy specialist. “This is really thanks to funding with Blue Sky and Pacific Power.”

Students were given a lesson on renewable resources and solar energy. 

“It is really very fascinating, and I just found it very interesting and cool,” said student Madison Jordan.

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The kids even wanted to show off what they learned.

“Solar energy is a lot better because it is a … I forget what it’s called … but we have it forever instead of coal or things that we burn like fossil fuels,” said fifth grader Alia Coursen.

Students got time to learn outside of the classroom as well, applying solar energy to a toy car each of the students built. 

“I thought it was cool how the sunlight connecting to this tiny little solar panel can make it go super fast,” said Addie Pennock, student. 

Just like the toy cars, J

“It’s approximately 4,000 kilowatt hours annually, and we’re looking at three to five thousand dollars annually,” said Mueller. 

Jewell isn’t the first Bend-La Pine school to use green energy.

“Miller Elementary School and Roselin both have solar panels. Lava Elementary School had a huge grant where they got a big solar panel array,” said Mueller. 

And it wont be the last.

“We’ll start looking into some others as we go down the line,” said Mueller. 

▶️ Bend’s unhoused community gets a voice at camping code roundtable

The Bend City Council held another roundtable meeting regarding the camping code draft Thursday morning. It was the second one this week.

This meeting included nonprofit service providers, business and community groups and unhoused people were able to voice their concerns. 

“A camping code that is doable and can lead to successful outcomes is necessary and can be a powerful tool,” said China Hat Road resident Linda Long. 

Long has been homeless since April 2, 2020 after moving from Minnesota to Portland for a job to — ironically — work on the homeless situation there. 

Shortly after she moved, the pandemic hit and she found herself homeless. 

Long agrees a camping code should be implemented.

“We need to build into the camping code the solutions,” said Long. 

RELATED: Bend City Council mulls camping code during round table meeting

However, she takes issue with the consequences the camping code could bring. 

“Why are you going to give a $400 citation to someone who can’t afford breakfast?” asked Long. 

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Another consequence: those who have found a spot to camp being asked to leave and having to abandon their shelter or items they need to survive. 

“That requires an enormous amount of energy, which most people living outside don’t have any extra of,” said Long. 

The council addressed all questions, concerns and comments made at the roundtable. 

Long said she hopes her voice has a positive impact.

“If we create a camping code that’s not just punitive, but also helps build a structure for helping people get out of houseless-ness, then you have a successful effort,” said Long.

The next Bend City Council meeting on the camping code will be held Wednesday, Oct. 5.

▶️ ‘Unprecedented’: Oregon Medicaid waiver brings more funds for food, housing

The federal government has approved Oregon’s Medicaid waiver, giving the state $1.1 billion in new federal funds.

This includes “first-in-nation” Medicaid funding for food and housing, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

“The fact that there’s this acknowledgment that if you don’t have housing and you are having medical problems, you have even more of a challenge of getting better. And so acknowledging that housing, food, these difficult social impacts are connected to your health and your care is unprecedented,” said Elaine Knobbs-Seasholtz, Director of Strategy and Development for Mosaic Medical. 

Those facing medical problems will be assessed for “health related social needs.”

The Oregon Health Plan — Oregon’s Medicaid program — will help those who qualify with housing needs for up to six months.

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Food assistance will be another recognized social need.

The other big change: continuous coverage for kids just born to six years old.

“When a community health care worker is able to enroll a child continuously until their sixth birthday, eliminating the need to re-enroll between visits or verify eligibility or meet with that family again in tough circumstances, it means the child is more likely to meet the recommended screenings, well-child checks during a time in their lives when these are most frequent,” said Danielle Sobel with the Oregon Primary Care Association.

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Extended eligibility for adults will also be included.

As for how these needs will be assessed and funds distributed?

“How that is going to be implemented and operationalized and administered, we don’t know yet,” said Knobbs-Seasholtz.

The approved Medicaid waiver will incorporate these changes over the next five years. 

To learn more about who qualifies and the next steps for the approved waiver, you can visit the Oregon Health Authority at this link.

▶️ Bend City Council mulls camping code during round table meeting

The Bend City Council held a round table meetings Tuesday and is holding another one Thursday to discuss a potential camping code to address the homeless issue in the city.

“We’ve never had a meeting, that I know of, where all of our boards, committees and commissions can come together with council to discuss a topic. So, I am really excited to see how it works,” said Bend Mayor Gena Goodman-Campbell.

The council has released a draft of the rules that would determine time, place and manner for camping in public rights-of-way. 

“We want to get as much input from service providers, from community members, community groups and tonight from other public agencies,” said Mayor Pro-tem Anthony Broadman. “Really, this has got to be a holistic approach to make sure that we are fairly and equitably regulating space in the city of Bend.”

Who is taking part in the roundtables?

“Advisory boards, committees and commissions for the City of Bend, members of our public that are living with houselessness, members of our business community and our service providers,” said Councilor Megan Perkins. 

RELATED: ‘Urgent’: Bend City Council holds Q&A on homeless camping codes

They will answer questions like:

“What are the specific things about time, place and manner that we need to be thinking about as we move forward? What parts go too far? What parts don’t go far enough? And to me, the most important thing that I would like to get out of it is can this code even be followed?” asked Perkins. 

To be clear, these meetings are not deciding whether the camping code will go into effect. It is a chance for the Bend City Council to hear from stakeholders and to make adjustments to the draft based on feedback given to them. 

Perkins said this would have an impact on those living on Hunnell Road, so Central Oregon Daily spoke with locals there. 

“These streets belong to you, me and every other taxpayer who has paid any taxes or is still paying taxes,” said Smokey, a Hunnell Road resident. 

If the draft of the code were to be implemented right now, most of those living on Hunnell Road would be in violation.

Justice, who is unable to move her trailer or tow it, would have to abandon the only shelter she has.

“I mean I’d probably have to pack a couple bags and and leave the trailer here unfortunately,” said Justice. 

Smokey says public rights-of-way are for public use and should stay that way. 

“They don’t own this strip. You and I do. They don’t have the right to tell us when and where we can stay,” said Smokey. 

Perkins says the public is deciding on how city owned and controlled land should be used. 

“This is about a community agreement about how we use our public rights-of-way,” said Perkins. 

Perkins wants to make clear that this code is not meant to “punish” the homeless, but that it is also not a solution to the houseless population in Bend. 

▶️ Latino Community Association receives $95,000 for Workforce Program

Central Oregon’s Latino Community Association has been given three grants to be used towards its Workforce Program.

The grant money is from:

  • $75,000 from the Northwest Area Foundation
  • $10,000 from U.S. Bank through its Community Possible giving platform
  • $10,000 from Wells Fargo Foundation

According to a report from LCA, there are around 20,000 Latinos living in Central Oregon. 

“There’s about 25% of that 20,000, so 5,000 roughly, that are recent immigrants from Latin America,” said Brad Porterfield, executive director of LCA. 

RELATED: Latino Fest returns, in person, to Central Oregon

The Workforce Program offers many resources:

  • English classes
  • Tutoring
  • Computer training
  • Resume assistance
  • Business advice
  • Job placement
  • Job referrals

You do not have to look far to find someone who has benefitted from this program. Working in the office was Pilar, a woman who was assisted by LCA after moving to Central Oregon. She is from Peru and has a masters degree with a background in higher education. 

Pilar just moved to the area and was looking for a job,” said Carolina Afre, work force program navigator. “We created her resume and I helped her apply for a couple jobs.”

With the grant money recently given, this has opened up a new position at LCA.

“It also gives us some extra income to hire a new position that we’re looking to hire which is a workforce education coordinator,” said Porterfield.

After Pilar was helped by the program, she was hired on to help other Latinos looking to obtain employment or increase their income. 

▶️ 2022 election nears, but Central Oregon clerks still get requests about 2020

The 2022 midterm election is seven weeks away. And while local elections offices are trying to get ready for that, they are seeing a trend.

Not about 2022. But about interest — still — in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

“The records requests have really increased since November 2020,” Deschutes County Clerk Steve Dennison. “They started in December 2020. We’ve had requests for voter files, voter records as well as information from our voting system.”

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan says these record requests, which have increased all over Oregon, are about “the big lie” — the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Dennison says the concern is that these requests will take the focus away from the election this November: “All I want to do, all we would like to do, is move forward.”

RELATED: Flood of record requests hamper Oregon election officials

The clerk says he is happy to answer public records requests, but also wants to bring the attention to this next election. 

As for that election, Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day. A few minutes of your time is all it takes to make sure you can fill out a ballot in November. 

“Today is a great day for voters to go online and verified that they are, in fact, registered to vote,” said Dennison.  

You can check your voter status by visiting Oregonvotes.gov, and you can register by filling out a registration card. These cards can be found at the county clerk’s office. 

Everyone Central Oregon Daily spoke with in Downtown Bend said they were registered and up-to-date with their information. 

“We are registered to vote and all of our information is up to date,” said Martin Luber. 

“I actually went online yesterday to make sure I was registered to vote and to see if it was up to date, and it was so I am registered,” said Carrie Woolard. 

“I am registered to vote and all my information is current,” said Rick Burton. 

The last day to register is October 18. 

▶️ After fatal crash on Highway 97, what safety improvements is ODOT planning?

A 16-year-old Redmond girl was killed last Friday after crossing onto oncoming traffic south of Redmond. The crash, which involved four vehicles and a total of seven people, once again has people in the area wondering what can be done to make Highway 97 safer.

The crash happened near Tomahawk Ave. five miles south of Redmond.

In addition to the teen who was killed, four of the people involved in the crash were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

After this tragedy, many took to social media to question the safety of the stretch of US 97 between Redmond and Bend. 

RELATED: Redmond teen girl killed, multiple others injured in Hwy 97 crash

Central Oregon Daily News reached out to the Oregon Department of Transportation to see what it has done and what it plans to do to improve safety for those traveling that portion of the highway.

Following a 2015 study, the safety improvements implemented include:

  • Deceleration lanes at Quarry Avenue and 61st Street from US97 southbound
  • Acceleration lane from 61st Street to US97 southbound to provide greater merge distance
  • Rock outcropping removal near the edge of the roadway for improved visibility
  • Median barrier installation south of the Tumalo​ Road Interchange, and a turn around from US97 southbound to northbound
  • Reflective pavement markers added for improved lane separation ​

The accident occurred north of Tumalo Road, where the median is not present. 

David House, a spokesperson for ODOT, says that while medians do not prevent serious crashes, it can lessen them. 

“What a median does is it gives further separation to oncoming traffic, so a little more space and essentially that leaves a little room for error if you veer off and have a lane departure situation, then a head on collision is less likely,” said House. “Now, it doesn’t prevent all collisions. It doesn’t prevent all crashes, but it helps improve the odds.”

The next phase of safety improvements will begin in the next funding cycle during 2024-2027, according to ODOT.

A median for the upper portion of the Redmond-Bend corridor of US 97 will be included in the next phase. 

▶️ Elk Lake Resort: We’re still open despite Cedar Creek Fire closures

As the Cedar Creek Fire continues to burn, the Deschutes National Forest has released an expanded emergency closure area. This includes trailheads, lakes and other day-use areas.

But Elk Lake is not closed and Elk Lake Resort says the closure signage is confusing people — and hurting business.

“It has affected our business. Not a lot of people have been coming in,” said Elk Lake Resort bartender Lauren Farmer. “They see the sign that it’s cut off at Hosmer. It’s just south of Hosmer that it’s cut off at. We’re actually right there on the border of it.”

The Lake is on the literal border.

Elk Lake Trailhead, right across the street from Elk Lake Resort, is closed, but the resort still has its gates open. 

RELATED: See the list of expanded emergency closures

But will it shut down soon?

“Absolutely not. It’s a little windy today but no, it’s not bad. There’s no smoke really in the air. It’s a pretty day, great for sailing too. It’s just that people don’t know we’re open,” said Farmer.

RELATED: Alaska resources arrive to help Deschutes Co. side of Cedar Creek Fire fight

RELATED: New video from Cedar Creek Fire fight

A few customers and lake-goers said the same about the smoke.

“Well, we watched the weather and knew that fire was going to be coming up, but we wanted to rest out a kayak because my friends are visiting from out of town. And so we got here about 10 and it was really calm and it actually got more clear and crisp,” said MaryLynne Jones.

“We were surprised because we’ve been watching the smoke and where it’s going for the last week while we’ve been up here and we thought it would be a little hazier than it is. It’s actually pretty blue sky,” said Steve Daschel.

“The air looks really clear except where the fire is. It’s been a delightful time here,” said Allegra Andersen. 

When asked about the signs, everyone Central Oregon Daily News spoke with said they are familiar with the area, but could see how newcomers might be confused.