▶️ $25/hour wages help Sunriver Resort fill positions; sparks competition

Many businesses right now are having trouble finding employees – for a variety of reasons.

Sunriver Resort had a solution – just pay people more.

And it appears to be working.

Two days after a job fair, where Sunriver resort offered a staggering $25 an hour for housekeepers, the resort says they are now on pace to fill all positions they need for the summer.

A bold, but necessary strategy that paid off, said Damon Runberg, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department.

“Sunriver’s response was well, we will just offer higher wages and see if it makes it less difficult to find workers and it seems like the answer is yes in fact it was easier for them to find workers and address that labor shortage,” Runberg said.

Runberg says there is a record number of job openings in Central Oregon.

“It is likely going to make it so that other accommodations, other resorts are going to have to compete with the wage Sunriver set,” added Runberg.

Eagle Crest Resort officials say they aren’t competing with Sunriver as they are two different resorts in two different towns.

The resort did have trouble hiring employees, but after a $2 wage hike and a focus on younger workers, it’s now filling the positions they need.

“It definitely does increase the competition, increasing that bar that other businesses are going to have to meet,” said Runberg.

Vacasa Vacation Rentals told me it increased housekeeping wages to $25 an hour the day after Sunriver Resort did.

▶️ Sunriver Resort looking to fill 200 positions; new housekeepers offered $25/hour

Some business owners near Sunriver Resort say they don’t see it as competition.

“I think it is a great idea to raise wages, for people who work hard they deserve it and for people who work in this time, they really deserve it,” said Owner of Sunriver Rocks at the Sunriver Village Sean Meehan.

Meehan raised wages in his own store just last week.

“If other places are raising their wages then we should too,” added Meehan. “We want employees that are worth what we are paying them.”

Taylor Hare, one of Meehan’s employees, says she was not enticed to leave her current job to make more money at Sunriver Resort.

“Not even a little bit because I love my job so much,” said Hare. “I love the people that I interact with because we have a very specific customer base that come in and I like working with people, I don’t think I could work alone cleaning all day.”

I talked to several other businesses near the Sunriver resort that said the resort’s rise in wages is going to impact being able to hire employees for their own business.

▶️ Madras, Prineville mayors say their communities can reach vaccination goal

Jefferson and Crook Counties are among the counties needing big boosts in vaccination rates before they can move to the lower risk category.

But leaders in their two biggest towns  – despite some skepticism of the vaccine – say the governor’s goal of 65% is within reach.

“I am just happy that governor Brown is finally reaching out to people and is giving us hope and giving us a chance to heal,” said Madras Mayor Richard Ladeby.

Ladeby says businesses are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I know our citizens and business are waiting to be ready to open up,” Ladeby added.

While Deschutes County is expected to reach the 65%goal by next week, Jefferson and Crook County have a ways to go.

Jefferson County’s vaccination rate is just 46%.

“I think we got some outlying people that are concerned and I think we need to address those concerns instead of ignoring or pushing them,” said Ladeby.

Crook County’s rate is even lower at 42%.

▶️ ‘I think it’s a joke:’ Prineville residents voice hesitations about COVID vaccine

“A lot of people are against getting the vaccine it seems in our county,” said Prineville Mayor Jason Beebe.

Both Ladeby and Beebe say a 65% vaccination rate is attainable.

“I can’t tell business or people what to do personally,” said Beebe. “They have to choose that on their own and I support that because that is our freedom to do that.”

Beebe plans to discuss with City Council and Crook County Commissioners about how to proceed.

“We agree on things as a council and I will support whatever outcome comes of that,” Beebe added.

Ladeby and Beebe say their county’s public health departments do a good job getting the word out about getting the vaccine.

“If people want to get it then I encourage them to get it,” said Ladeby.

Ladeby was not comfortable saying whether he is vaccinated, while Beebe says he’s waiting for more research to decide whether he will get the shot.

▶️ Winter sports in spring? Grateful coaches and athletes will take it

So much has been up in the air for high school athletics this year.

Seasons pushed back, switched around, shortened.

Winter sports like basketball and wrestling are up next, but no one really knew if they would happen this year, until now.

The Oregon Health Authority announced Tuesday indoor full contact sports will be allowed to resume, shocking local athletes.

“Pretty ecstatic,” said Culver senior wrestler Jordan Piercy about being allowed to wrestle this year. “We have all been hoping and dreaming for this. Especially for some of us that haven’t yet won an individual state title and were really pursuing it.”

The Culver Bulldogs have won 12 of the last 14 1A/2A state wrestling titles.

They placed second last year.

This is their redemption season.

At Madras High School, basketball has always been important.

“This COVID is no joke, it is really no joke,” said MHS senior basketball player Jordan Mitchell. “I am surprised we are going to have a season.”

Madras and Culver High senior athletes look forward to proving what they are capable of, this upcoming sports season.

“I took the last years for granted thinking I would have next year and just having the fact that it never is promised,” said CHS senior wrestler Brody Piercy. “I think it is going to make all of us appreciate the sport way more and enjoy every bit of it.”

“If we weren’t going to have a season there was like no way for me to pursue basketball in college because coaches wouldn’t be able to see me play,” said MHS senior basketball player Jayden Davis.

Coaches are more than ready.

“For the seniors, I am just glad they have an opportunity to play one last time together and have some sort of fulfillment of a high school basketball career,” said Jerin Say MHS head varsity girls basketball coach.

“We’re ready to go, we are going to do whatever we need to do, whatever it takes.” said Robert Frasier the assistant wrestling coach at Culver.

“Jefferson County, Madras, Warm Springs has always been a basketball town, basketball county,” added Nick Brown, the head boys varsity basketball coach at Madras. “Basketball means so much for this community.”

The shortened basketball and wrestling seasons start mid-May.

“Everything happens for a reason, and I think this will push us to be better people overall,” Piercy said. “It is what it is, just make the best of what we got.”Additional guidance for indoor full-contact sports from OHA is forthcoming.

▶️ NASA balloon takes flight at Madras airport testing capsule re-entry


To Infinity and beyond! (Or over 120,000 feet and back.)

After two days of delays, a special helium balloon finally launched from the Madras Airport Thursday morning.

The project was meant to see if the space station can drop an item that high and have it land safely down to earth.

“The goal was to mimic a re-entry, the last part of a re-entry, to see if we could activate the capsule and more specifically transmit the data, so we could look at it,” said University of Kentucky Professor Alexandre Martin.

That data-filled capsule is a key piece of equipment scientists need to get safely from the International Space Station to Earth.

A group of students from the University of Kentucky, with help from Martin, designed and conducted the experiment. 

They chose Madras because of the geography and weather and they needed a large open area to the east for the capsule to land.

If it proves successful, it could mean astronauts send the capsule back by way of an interspace trash chute, of sorts.

“It is going to de-orbit, and our capsule will be with the trash,” Martin added. “So, as everything goes into a giant ball of fire, our capsule is equipped to resist that, it has a heat shield, that is what we are trying to test, so it will survive the breakup event and start separating from the giant ball of fire and re-enter and start transmitting data.

The test flight was delayed for multiple days due to high winds.

“If the wind speeds are a little too high we can endanger the balloon envelope, it is very fragile once it is attached to the earth,” said Near Space Corporation President Kevin Tucker. “Once it is up in the air it is fine. We just want to make sure there is no damage to that and can do everything successfully.”

Even with calmer winds Thursday morning, Tucker says the launch was still a bit tricky.

“What you may not have seen is right at the last minute the wind direction shifted very slightly, which is typical with low winds,” Tucker said. “So, we actually reversed our launch direction by 180 degrees in a few minutes and then we went.”

So, was this test a success?

“We did receive the data this afternoon when the capsule finally dropped and everything seemed to be working exactly like we intended, which is good news because we are nearing our next flight,” Martin said.

Their next experiment involves three capsules launched from the International Space Station in August, re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere in November.

▶️ Titles, rivalries, undefeated season: Big weekend for CO high school sports


This might be the biggest weekend for high school sports in a long time.

Title games, rivalries, undefeated seasons are on the line.

There were times last year when it seemed we might not see any of that, but now these athletes get their chances in the spotlight.

“It feels pretty good to know that we wanted it enough, put in the work and that we deserve to be here,” Ridgeview senior Scout Bale said about playing in the teams Intermountain Conference league title game Friday.

The Ridgeview girls team went from not knowing if they would have a season, to winning two league overtime playoff games, to now fighting for a chance to bring home a league title.

This weekend is extra special for athletes considering COVID kept many of these students from a chance to compete at all last year.

“I always believed we would make it this far, I am really, really excited and thankful that we even got to play this season and that we did make this far because we deserve it,” said Ridgeview senior Marcella Franco.

The Ridgeview girls aren’t the only Ravens playing in a league title game against Hood River Valley.

The boy’s soccer team is also playing for a conference title at Hood River Valley, also on Friday.

For volleyball, Ridgeview travels to Crook County for their league title game Saturday starting at noon.

“I think that is pretty amazing for our school,” Bale said about how many Ridgeview teams are competing for IMC league titles.

Also in volleyball, the Sisters Outlaws are playing for a 4A title against Sweet Home, which is Saturday at Pleasant Hill, starting at 4 p.m.

“This is kind of like the game of all games,” Sisters senior Ellie Rush said about playing rival Sweet Home. “This is who is going to take it all. I am really excited to play them and hopefully it will be a really good game.”

“We are super grateful we even got to play this season after everything that has gone on and we’re super appreciative of our coaches, school, and staff for helping us get here and of course our teammates and everything for support,” Sisters senior Sophie Silva said.

In football, the Mountain View Cougars have a chance to do something teams rarely achieve.

“Anytime a group has a chance to go undefeated it’s special,” Mountain View Athletic Director Lance Haas said.

Mountain View (5-0) will look to remain unbeaten as they take on their Lava Bear rivals at Bend High Friday.

The game is scheduled to start at  7:15 p.m.

“It would be a great accomplishment for our kids and attribute just to their mental fortitude, their mental effort and our coaches and their sticktoitiveness,” Haas added. “To be in this spot and then to do it, is just a great accomplishment in an unheard of environment.”

Saturday is the last day for fall sports.

Spring sports competitions start next week.

▶️ Back to the drawing board as Bend looks for new spot for homeless shelter


The Bend City Council will go back to the drawing board after canceling plans to turn a local motel into a homeless shelter.

The proposal was part of Project Turnkey, a state funded-grant program to help communities address homeless situation. 

After the termination of a purchase and sale agreement with Old Mill and Suites, the council directed staff to begin pursuing and evaluating other hotel properties that meet the criteria for Project Turnkey.

“The city’s commitment to establishing more shelter beds in the city of Bend has not changed,” said Economic Development Director for the City of Bend, Carolyn Eagan. “All seven councilors support that, the city manager and the executive management team of the city support that endeavor. So, we are not taking our foot off the gas.”

The city’s goal is to enter into a new agreement by the end of April, whether it is at the Old Mill and Suites or a different location.

“We are absolutely committed to finding a property for the Turnkey grant funds and we will pursue that to the last day it is available to us.”

The deadline to apply for Turnkey funding is June 30.

▶️ Grant money to help City of Bend buy motel for future homeless shelter

Riese Sullivan’s job with COVO is to get veterans off the street and into houses.

“Any way to get more individuals off the street and into somewhere stable, where they can continue to recover and have a spot they can call their own,” said Sullivan. “Any base landing point that can have is going to be an assistance or help to them.” 

Sullivan said new homeless faces and new homeless camps are popping up every day.

“This isn’t a problem that is going away soon,” he added. “This is the time to come together as a community.”

In the meantime, the City of Bend will move quickly to find the right property for a temporary homeless shelter.

“We want to make sure the property we do acquire for this purpose first and foremost, meets the needs of the humans in the community that will want to use it for housing and also meets our obligations to our taxpayers of the City of Bend that we buy a good property,” said Eagan.

▶️ Bend City Council to vote on contract for police body cameras


After months of trial and error with different devices, Bend Police have settled on a body camera provider and expect the City Council to approve the contract next week.

“It is an investment by the community, an investment by city council and we appreciate that the community and council supports us with this money,” said Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz. “It is not cheap but is also well worth it in what it brings to our law enforcement and to our trust in the community.”

The body cams will cost $1 million over five years. 

“We are really excited to have this final opportunity and to implement this program,” said Krantz.

Krantz believes body cams are a useful tool for capturing evidence.

“But also, for really a transparency and accountability for the work we are doing and also for accountability on the community’s part in confrontations and contacts that may not always go that well,” Krantz added.

Officers tested two types of body cams earlier in the year and decided to go with the technology offered by the brand Axon.

“Ultimately it showed that it was the best, most superior product for our needs and for our community’s needs,” he said.

He hopes the department will roll out the body cams to patrol officers by late Spring or early Summer.

In February, the Deschutes County’s Sheriff’s Office announced it would start using body cams by May.

Deschutes Co. Sheriff’s Office to launch new body-cam system in May

▶️ Crowd rallies for Madras bakery after online rumors


A popular Madras bakery found itself at the center of online rumors, Friday.

Eagle Bakery was packed with people that morning who wanted to stop OSHA from taking action against the business.

A Facebook posted Thursday night said, “the owner has been informed OSHA will attempt to serve the business at 9:30. We are calling for a show of support so that OSHA knows we have the backs of our local businesses.”

“We’re here today to support him,” said Scott Stuart with “We the People.” “We are not here to physically stop anybody, but we are here to peacefully non-comply with these illegally mandates and unconstitutional laws.”

Friday morning, inside and outside the building filled with people in anticipation of the rumored OSHA visit.

“I am here to support the bakery because I do not believe in all this nonsense our fine governor is doing to us,” said Prineville resident Pete Sharpe.

At about 9:30 a.m., someone did show up with a paper in hand and he was driven off by the crowd.

Aaron Corvin, with Oregon OSHA said that person was not with his agency.

“It was absolutely not Oregon OSHA,” said Corvin. “Not at all. That is wrong. Incorrect.”

Corvin says OSHA launched an investigation in January, following COVID-related complaints, but would not provide specifics due to the ongoing case.

“We have not issued any citations with respect to this employer,” said Corvin. “There is a lot of speculation and rumor these days including on social media.”

Corvin notes, the business owner would not get advance notice of an OSHA visit.

“If we are going to open an inspection, we are going to do that unannounced,” added Corvin.

“Rumor or not we are here to support the local businesses that want to be open, and don’t want to be forced to give up their rights, and so we’re here in support of that effort,” said Prineville resident Jack Rabenberg.

Friday morning’s crowd dispersed after about an hour.

Eagle Bakery refused our request for comment.

▶️ Redmond Chamber of Commerce puts on St. Paddy’s Day pub crawl

Local businesses plan to take advantage of eased COVID-19 restrictions, this St. Patrick’s Day.

In Redmond, revelers are encouraged to move from bar to bar, during the city’s first “St. Paddy’s Day Pub Crawl”. 

The Redmond Chamber of Commerce is putting on the pub crawl, which starts at Wild Ride Brewing or at Grace and Hammer, from 2-6 p.m.

Ten different Redmond businesses are participating in the crawl from pubs, to breweries, wine bars and taphouses.

“So far there is a lot of chatter, so I think there is going to be a pretty good turn out,” said owner of The Vault Tap House, Steve Anderson.

Redmond’s Chamber of Commerce created the event to increase revenue as the pandemic continues.

“It honestly stems from supporting our local businesses now more than ever,” said Redmond Chamber of Commerce Events Coordinator, Kara Roatch.

Participants buy a 15-dollar passport and receive discount drink tokens as well as entry into a drawing.

“We are selling very limited passports,” Roatch said. “We are only doing 225 because we didn’t want to overload the already popular business.”

The event is also a fundraiser for Redmond’s Downtown Business Association.

Masks are required unless eating or drinking, and are available at registration.

The event does make some businesses nervous.

“As long as we are enforcing the guidelines, we are hoping everywhere else will as well,” said Wild Ride Brewing Staff Leader, Cassidy McCombs.

“In the past year after most holidays we have seen an increase in cases, so as we are in moderate risk and want to stay there, we encourage everyone to stay safe this St. Patrick’s Day,” said Morgan Emerson with Deschutes County Public Health.

You can buy passports online until 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

“Just come out and have fun in Redmond,” Anderson said. “This town is completely revitalized and there is a lot of great places here now, so come and enjoy it.”

At sundown Grace and Hammer will have a St. Patrick’s Day light show.

▶️ City of Bend to consider permanent parking restrictions near McKay Park


McKay Park is a hot spot along the Deschutes river for tubers, surfers and, more recently, campers setting up shop on the roads nearby.

But parking spots were being taken up for long periods by tourists – sometimes for days.

“We just had some long-term individuals staying here and not necessarily being nice to the area,” Structure Development, Interior Developer Maricass Cerny said.

Cerny has worked near the park for Structure Development for eight years.

She saw the problem firsthand.

“A little bit of littering and harder to find parking at that time,” Cerny said.

The City of Bend launched a pilot program in 2019 to limit parking in the area.

“What if we do some timed limited parking for four hours,” Parking Services Divisions Manager of Bend, Tobias Marx said. “It should give people enough time to park here.”

The change was immediate.

“It made a difference right away in that first summer,” Marx added. “With the signs that were installed, people followed them.”

On Wednesday night city councilors will consider making that change permanent.

The goal will be to help the overall parking situation in the area, not just eliminate overnight camping. 

Local and frequent surfer Malcolm Major knows how busy the park gets in the summer.

“There could be a super long line with a bunch of people waiting and especially here, there is a lot of tubers,” Major said. “The whole park is just completely full.”

“I think it is a good system,” Major added. “It kind of cycles people in and out so other people can enjoy the park and I think that is definitely special.”

The pilot program also helps surrounding businesses’.

“It is beneficial in the summer because our clients can pull up in front of the building and it is easy for them to find us,” Cerny said.