▶️ Plans appear to show Tesla service center in the works for Bend’s north side

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Bend couple Richard and Linda Ingle love owning their two Teslas.

They’re fun to drive, they lower pollution…But getting them serviced?

That’s another story.

“If something were to go radically wrong, having to take it over to Portland is not a good deal,” Richard said. “Driving it or even having it towed a few miles to a service center here would be a game-changer.”

Plans and permits filed with the city of Bend show a Tesla service center is possibly on the horizon in the former mattress factory building on Bend’s north side.

But neither Tesla nor the property broker could confirm the plans.

If things move forward, it could be a game-changer for more than all the Tesla owners here.

“A service center like this is I think one of those checkboxes, like hey I can move to Central Oregon because it has a place, I can get my car serviced,” said Roger Lee, CEO of Economic Development for Central Oregon, an agency that works with businesses to set up shop in the region. “I think this is one of those things that maybe people move to a city and expect it is there and this development I think delivers that.”

For now, the Ingles and other Tesla owners have to travel over the mountains or rely on mobile repair services like the one they had on Tuesday morning.

“We had our maintenance. Changed out the air filter and wiper blades,” Linda said. “He came to us, which was great and that is the only maintenance it has needed.”

And the mechanic seemed to have an inside scoop.

“He said that in a few months there would be a service center in the area,” Linda said. “Having it here. I don’t know why anybody would buy any other car.”

▶️ ‘More confident, more safe,’ Touchmark senior facility fully vaccinated

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

One year into the pandemic and some of the most vulnerable populations are receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Touchmark at Mount Bachelor Village, a senior living community in Bend expressed what it was like to get residents fully vaccinated.

“This last year has been a year of challenge,” said Touchmark Executive Director Scott Neil. “It’s been a year of opportunity; growth and it has drawn us closer together in ways that we did not think were possible and were certainly unexpected.”

Touchmark had 22 COVID cases at its facility, eight of those cases were residents.

“With our first case there was a great amount of fear and trepidations,” Neil said. “It was hard for residents because we had to create that isolation for people.”

Recreational classes were canceled and dining was confined to individual rooms.

“The mental health component, the emotional component is very significant because many people live here because of the socialization,” Neil said.

Touchmark’s last COVID case was discovered on February 4th.

Now, 96% of the residents and workers have had their second dose of the COVID vaccine.

“They feel more confident, they feel more safe, knowing that if there is potential exposure to COVID,” Neil added. “They feel like they have better protection because of the vaccine.”

He’s hopeful some recreation classes and more visitation can return in the next couple months.

▶️ Cideries, breweries worried about bill calling for huge tax increase

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Lawmakers in Salem Tuesday introduced a bill that would increase beer and cider tax by almost 3,000% and the wine tax by nearly 2,000% percent.

The bill would send that money to addiction recovery programs and help reduce underage and binge drinking.

Those involved in one of Central Oregon’s key industries worry it’ll do much more than that.

“We obviously want to support alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers; we do not see this as a correct avenue to do it,” said Avid Cider Manager Lou Crooks.

“Cideries alone will be increased so much that you are going to see a lot of your favorites go down,” Crooks said. “There is no way anyone can withstand this tax increase.”

She believes the impacts of the bill would ripple through the town.

“They don’t just come here to ski and golf and float the river,” Crooks added “They come here to drink, so when they are coming here and our craft is all about bringing in tourism, we are going to shy a lot of that away.”

The winery tax increase would be 1,700%.

Cider companies and breweries like Silver Moon would see a tax increase of 2,800%.

“If you take a brewery like Silver Moon or Crux or Cascade Lakes, any of us that brew anywhere from 8,000-12,000 barrels, it adds up to significant dollars,” said co-owner of Silver Moon Brewing Matt Barrett.

Barrett says the timing could not be worse.

“As a state, we are struggling to get our business back on track and come through this COVID and survive and create jobs,” Barrett said. “To put that kind of burden on a small business just makes absolutely no sense.”

At Avid Cider, Crooks says the bill would force them to increase the price of a six-pack of cider from $12 to $15.

“It’s such a family-owned and operated market here in Oregon … Don’t tax my drink,” Crooks said.

If approved, the bill would go into effect in January 2022.

▶️ While fall sports ramp up, COVID keeps Jefferson Co. volleyball on sidelines

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

If she’s lucky, Culver High junior Lindsey Lamb will get to play just a handful of volleyball games this year.

“I think me and just like the other people here and other players on the team are angry and frustrated with it,” Lamb said of the current situation for athletes at her school. 

High school sports are ramping up across Central Oregon with athletes in traditional fall sports ready to get into the game.

But a mishmash of COVID restrictions tied to a county’s virus transmission level led to some inequities across different sports.

Cross country, soccer, football and volleyball are currently allowed for Deschutes and Crook counties, which this week both moved to the ‘high risk’ level. 

Jefferson County remains at ‘extreme risk’, but Madras and Culver High schools can still play full-contact, full-gear football games.

Volleyball players are still stuck on the sidelines, though, because the sport isn’t allowed in ‘extreme risk’ counties.

“It’s really disappointing that other sports can play but not volleyball,” Lamb said.

If Jefferson County doesn’t move to ‘high risk’ on March 9, there will be no volleyball season.

Lamb’s boyfriend plays football for Culver High.

They have five games scheduled this year.

“I couldn’t really put it together because football is even more of a contact sport,” Lamb added.

Madras High School Athletic Director Mark Stewart says his volleyball players are also disheartened.

“The belief is with indoor sports you can contract COVID more easily and with outdoor sports you can’t,” Stewart said.

Madras and Culver students are back to in-person learning, full-time.

“It’s really hard to explain to the girls and the community how we can be fully in school and all other sports are able to play, but volleyball can’t,” Stewart added.

Students even take part in indoor gym classes.

“We have 23 kids in a PE class right now, but we can’t play volleyball,” Stewart said. “Things just don’t match up with school metrics and county metrics.”

Madras High senior Hannah Holliday was looking forward to this volleyball season.

“I was planning on playing my senior season,” Holliday said, “One last season, but things just didn’t go our way.”

Holliday didn’t want to wait for a season that might never come, so she’s switching to soccer.

“Just ’cause they are able to compete and I really want to compete my senior season,” she said. “I thought if I can’t compete in volleyball, I will go play on another team and compete in soccer.”

March 1 is the competition start date for Oregon high schools.

▶️ Madras in midst of housing boom as Deschutes Co. market skyrockets

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

A few years into a citywide project to increase housing opportunities, the city of Madras is seeing the fruits of their efforts.

“We have had a tremendous year with housing development,” said Nick Snead, Madras Community Development Director.

Snead credits the success to two things: a housing action plan passed in 2018 and creating a housing urban renewal district, dedicated to helping with the cost of construction. 

“In that housing action plan, it calls for the city to help construct 35 new homes a year,” Snead said. “In 2020, we permitted 58 new dwellings.”

There are other developments still in the permitting process. 

“I think we will continue to see demand for residents that are not able to afford homes in the Bend or Redmond markets,” Snead said.

Near the Madras Aquatic Center, 150 units are coming to the Yarrow subdivision.

Development broker Rick Allen said there are big reasons buyers are coming from Deschutes County.

“One, they can’t afford to live there,” Allen said. “They flat out can’t afford it. Secondly, they are cashing out in the boom market.”

Allen said the pandemic also plays a part with the increase in people working from home.

“Now people are saying, ‘Gosh, I can work 50… 100 miles from my job or hundreds of miles, where I couldn’t have done that before,” Allen said.

Allen said Madras is in a “housing sweet spot.”

“People are choosing to move here for various reasons,” he said. “It’s pricing, location, weather, views, quality and it’s just kind of coming together right now.”

Allen and Snead expect the boom to continue as long as Deschutes County prices remain high.

▶️ Crook Co. restaurant employees eager to return, welcome back customers

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

The Horseshoe Tavern laid off eight employees when it closed during the second COVID lockdown in November.

“It was drastic,” Cassey, a bartender there said. “It was awful. It was scary.”

Some good news though on Tuesday as Gov. Kate Brown announced Crook County would move to the “High Risk” category on Friday.

The upgrade means restaurants and bars there can reopen with limited capacity.

“It’s exciting, but still scary trying to get things back up and still the unknown, you know,” Cassey said.

“What’s going to happen later,” co-worker and bartender Summer said. “(Will it happen) Again?”

Horseshoe Tavern Manager Shelley Nelson says reopening with so little notice is not easy.

“Absolutely, there is an extra level of stress,” Nelson added. “I tossed and turned a lot last night thinking, ‘oh my gosh I’ve got to do this and that’.”

Owner of Club Pioneer and Dillon’s Grill Jim Roths is overjoyed with the news.

“Yes,” Roths screamed in joy. “We are opening for indoor dining! I am so excited!”

“It’s the difference between closing and succeeding,” he added.

Club Pioneer, Dillon’s Grill and the Horseshoe Tavern all plan to open Friday.

“Just to be able to work again you know,” Cassey said.

“I love it here,” Summer said.

Deschutes County remains at high risk, Jefferson County extreme.

The next update to county risk levels will be announced March 9.

▶️ Jefferson Co. DA concerned about jump in murder cases; calls for more help

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Jefferson County had one homicide in 2016 and one in 2018.

Last year, between May and December, five people were murdered in Jefferson County.

“It is a big concern to see that much death in your county,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche.

Five homicides in Jefferson County in about an eight-month period.

“What’s really concerning is you can’t really point to one thing in particular that causes it,” Leriche said.

Leriche can only speculate that a general nationwide increase in lawlessness and COVID frustration are partly to blame. 

“There isn’t anything about our cases that can tie in to those types of events,” he added.

Leriche is worried the situation could worsen, with a recently approved measure reducing punishment for possession of hard drugs. 

“Methamphetamine is historically a drug that has been associated with violent crimes in Jefferson County in the past, so for it to be more prevalent is very worrisome,” Leriche said.

He also says changes to measure 11, sentencing guidelines, could also have an impact.

“More drugs and changes of serious criminal sentencing laws,” Leriche said. “Those cause concerns for myself and other DAs.”

With the increase in homicides, Leriche wants more help for the county.

“Makes me think that perhaps our community needs to consider finding more resources to increase law enforcement in our county,” he said.

Leriche says there were around 10 murders in his first two decades as DA. Now five more have been recorded, just since may.

▶️ Jefferson Co. kids send letters to boy with cystic fibrosis battling COVID

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

A 5-year old Yuba City, Calif. boy born with cystic fibrosis is currently hospitalized, battling COVID-19.

Noah Schneider has asked people to send him stickers and notes of encouragement.

Students at the Kids Club of Jefferson County don’t know Noah, but they heard his story and were inspired to help.

So they wrote letters and drew pictures to send to him.

“To make stuff that make him the most comfortable like trains or just special poems,” said sixth-grader Amanda.

 “I think it will make him feel happy and make him feel at home,” Brynlee said.  

“I feel like he would maybe love the ocean and like sea horses and stuff in the ocean,” said Bailey about the card she made for Noah.

“He’s kind of sick right now and I hope this makes him feel better and I heard he likes Toy Story,” Riley added.

“I hope you feel better,” first-grader Aubree said.

Noah’s mom Haley saw on social media what these kids are doing and responded.

“You guys are making me tear up and they haven’t even arrived yet,” Haley Schneider wrote on Facebook. “We Love this! These Hand made cards are so special! We are displaying them in his room and we plan to scrapbook everything.

The Kids Club of Jefferson County sent the letters out Friday.

If you would like to send Noah a letter yourself you can mail the note to:

Sutter Medical Center

ATTN: Noah and Haley Schneider

2825 Capitol Avenue

Sacramento, CA 95816

▶️ Some parents conflicted as Redmond students return to class

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

The Redmond School District is gearing up for the return to in-person instruction next week. 

Tucker, a second-grader at John Tuck Elementary is excited to get back into the classroom again to do some of his favorite things.

“Learning, making new friends, and PE,” Tucker said.

But he is not excited for everything.

“Ummm terrible,” Tucker said when asked about having to wear masks all day, every day.

But, he admitted the mask is worth wearing if he gets to see friends.

His mother Jody Johnson has two kids at John Tuck and one at Elton Gregory Middle School.

“We are very excited that they get to return to school,” Johnson said

She feels her children will be safe.

“Every school seems to have a lot of safety measures in place,” she said. So, we are not nervous at all.”

But not all parents are as comfortable.

“Some days I’m like yay and other days when you start thinking about it, it’s a little worrisome, said Michelle Orsborn, a mother of Redmond seventh-grader. “I’m really juggling what’s best for them. It’s really hard to know, really scary.”

Orsborn is worried for her seventh grader’s mental balance.

“Is it worth going back to school part-time, when in a week maybe they are going to have an outbreak and they are going to be sent back home,” Orsborn asked. “Is that going to affect their mental health even worse?”

She doesn’t know if she is making the right decision.

“Should we wait?” Orsborn added. “Should we just wait until next year, until we know things are better, people are vaccinated or do we send them back for two days then say just kidding, you don’t get to go back. I feel like that is almost worse.”

Redmond middle schoolers will go back in cohorts for two full days a week; high schoolers four half-days a week.

Tucker and other elementary kids return to full-time in-person learning on March 1.

 

▶️ Winter storms causing product delivery delays in Central Oregon

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Severe storms continue to impact much of the Pacific Northwest and the winter conditions across the state are having a ripple effect here in Central Oregon.

At Central Oregon Locavore, a shipment of products was delayed several days.

“We are definitely feeling it, we are ready for that shipment and ready to get that product out,” said James Gray, market director at Central Oregon Locavore.

Customers are waiting for items that still haven’t arrived.

“Those products usually run out or run low by the time we are ready to get them, so we have been out of some of those products for a couple days now,” Gray said.

They might not get those products until Wednesday.

“It is unfortunate because it does affect business for us,” he said.

Oil delivery company Mid Columbia Producers has also seen it firsthand.

“The ripple effect, it did cause some trouble, there’s no doubt about it,” said Rob Rash, divisions manager at Mid Columbia Producers.

MCP (Mid Columbia Producers) has a location in Bend that gets most of its oil from Portland.

“There’s places that look like an atom bomb went off,” Rash said. “I mean there is not a tree standing, there’s power lines down all over heck.”

“Typically, you can make a round trip to Bend in 10 hours,” he added. “In some cases, these guys were on the road for 14, 15, 16 hours.”

Bend Operations Manager Joe Carlon says they were prepared for the storms.

“Over the years we learned to keep a lot of inventory in the winter time, so we can make it a couple of days if we can’t get resupplied,” Carlon said.

Carlon says there were a lot of internal delays, but they were still able to supply oil to all customers.

At Central Oregon Locavore, Gray says delays are a nuisance but understands.

“I think it is good that companies are keeping their drivers safe,” Gray said.

Gray and Carlon say they think the worst of it is behind them.