▶️ Citizens rally on Peace Corner for immediate U.S. aid to Ukraine

Activist groups gather on Peace Corner in downtown Bend Saturday evening in support of Ukraine.

The Vocal Seniority and Indivisible Sisters organized the rally as Saturday marked the second year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The group is asking Deschutes County to add their voices to the call for elected officials to vote and speak out for immediate U.S. aid to Ukraine.

“We wanted to just say vote to send money to these people, they need it, we have it, let’s do it,” said Gayle Stamler, Steering Committee of The Vocal Seniority.

The Bend rally is one of thousands that took place internationally under the banner of ‘Believe in Ukraine’.

RELATED: Body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny handed over to his mother

▶️ Snowmobilers of all ages compete in Snowdrags 2024 at Wanoga Sno-Park

Snowdrags 2024 took place at Wanoga Sno-Park on Saturday.

Moon Country SnowBusters brought back the drag races in addition to a poker run.

Around 80 snowmobilers from all over came to take part in the fun family event and compete for best times.

“It is a bracketed race, but the main thing is the benefit, Moon Country, we’re a non-profit, we do all the grooming for all the snowmobile trails and they’re multi-use trails so it helps out dog sledding teams, snowmobilers, cross country skiers, there’s quite a bit of people that use the trails,” said Keith Walos, Vice President of Moon Country SnowBusters.

Moon Country SnowBusters plan to have more events with hopes of them growing bigger each year.

RELATED: Reward for ‘bottom feeding maggots’ who damaged snow shelter, avalanche equipment

RELATED: The Great Outdoors: Meissner Nordic Club keeps popular sno-park groomed



▶️ Measure 110 reform: Potential agreement would criminalize all hard drugs

House Republicans announced a potential bipartisan agreement on reforming Measure 110 this week. The reforms would criminalize possession of any amount of hard drugs in Oregon. 

“Decriminalization of possession of small amounts of controlled substances will be altered, no doubt. But not to the extent that we go back to where we were before M110, which is basically investing in punitive responses without adequately giving people pathways out of addiction,” Director of Deschutes County Public Health Janice Garceau said.

State Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, says the reforms will aim to prioritize addiction treatment. 

“We are attempting to create a tool that law enforcement can intervene and in the moment, confiscate drugs and take those drugs off our street, but making immediate connections to people who are in treatment,” Kropf said.

Those found with hard drugs in their possession could avoid going to court by putting themselves in treatment programs. They would be connected to rehabilitation facilities through state counties and would be given several chances to complete their treatment.

“If you’re unsuccessful after all those different opportunities and all those different off-ramps, then the court does have the authority to impose a jail term for 180 days,” Kropf said.

Garceau says for some, relapsing is a part of the rehabilitation process, hence the several chances drug users would get under the new reforms.

“The judgment that is levied at people in the throes of addiction and the stigma associated with it is one of the biggest contributors to people not seeking treatment. So what each of us could do is find a place of understanding and love and compassion for people struggling with addiction,” Garceau said.

Those who are served a jail sentence for drug abuse would still have the option to shorten their sentence and attend drug treatment facilities, if recommended by their parole officer.

Kropf says he’s optimistic that these reforms will be passed sometime next week.

Lawsuit claims St. Charles failed to provide required financial assistance

St. Charles Health System is the target of a federal class action lawsuit, accusing it of failing to provide financial assistance to a patient who was eligible under Oregon law. It claims her bill was sent to a debt collector, which is also named in the lawsuit.

Law firms Sugarman Dahab of Portland and Terrell Marshall of Seattle are representing Kristine Reiger. 

The suit claims that, under Oregon law, hospitals must provide financial assistance, of varying degrees, to patients with income up to 400% of the federal poverty level. It also requires hospitals to make “minimum adjustments” to a patient’s costs depending on their income level. Reiger’s 2022 income of $25,240.38 would have qualified her for assistance, the suit states.

RELATED: St. Charles awards $80,000 in grants to address loneliness in Central Oregon

The suit also says that hospitals are required to tell patients that financial assistance is available and that the hospital must provide a copy of its financial assistance policy upon request.

Reiger was involved in a crash on May 4, 2022, and received care at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, the lawsuit states. She received a bill from St. Charles the next month for $3,410.66. 

Reiger tried to contact St. Charles to set up a payment plan, but was “never able to reach St. Charles,” the lawsuit reads. It also claims that St. Charles “routinely” fails to screen patients to see if they are eligible for financial assistance before referring unpaid bills to collections.

In March of 2023, Reiger allegedly was contacted by debt collector Ray Klein with a bill for $1,217.35 and indicated interest would be added. The suit says neither a hospital nor a debt collector can charge interest on the medical debt of a patient who qualifies for financial assistance. The complaint also claims St. Charles did not screen Reiger for her eligibility for financial assistance before contacting Ray Klein.

Reiger was hit with a debt collection lawsuit in April 2023, the complaint says. That was allegedly followed by calls from Ray Klein to Reiger, pressuring her to pay. She was eventually hit with a court order to pay. Reiger allegedly made payments to Ray Klein between April and November 2023, losing $1,339.18.

The lawsuit is requesting a jury trial and an unspecified award for damages plus legal costs. It also calls for St. Charles to implement screening procedures before sending a patient’s bill to debt collectors and for Ray Klein to stop collecting unpaid medical debt and interest from those who qualify for financial assistance.

St. Charles provided a statement when contacted by Central Oregon Daily.

“We have not received notice of this lawsuit being filed and therefore can’t comment on the specifics of the suit. It is important to note that St. Charles caregivers are not represented by SEIU and we are unclear on their role in this situation,” said Kayley Mendenhall, a spokesperson for St. Charles Health System. “We regularly review our financial assistance policies and processes and believe we are in compliance with regulations. Our teams work incredibly hard to make sure patients understand the financial assistance that is available to them. We take our role as a local, community-based nonprofit health system seriously and are proud to provide approximately $120 million annually in unreimbursed care to our Central Oregon communities.”

Reiger St Charles Lawsuit

Crook County Greater Idaho Movement ballot measure filed for May election

Crook County voters will get the chance on their May primary ballot to tell county leaders whether they want to become part of Idaho.

Ballot Measure 7-86 was filed on Wednesday. It asks voters “Should Crook County represent that its citizens support efforts to move the Idaho state border to include Crook County?

It will be the latest county to vote on whether to consider joining the Greater Idaho Movement, which would move the Idaho border to include Eastern and most of Central Oregon. It’s an effort by those dissatisfied with lawmakers in Salem who hope to live under Idaho’s more conservative government. Bend and Sisters would not be included in the move.

The ballot measure is simply to learn whether voters want to make the move. Passage would not automatically mean it would happen. Such a move would require the approval of both state legislatures and Congress.

RELATED: Idaho House votes in favor of talking to Oregon about moving border

RELATED: Breese-Iverson expresses willingness to look at Greater Idaho Movement

Voters in 12 Oregon counties have already told their county leaders they approve of looking to move the border. A narrow majority of voters — 50.9% — approved Jefferson County’s measure in 2020. Baker, Grant, Harney, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Union, Wheeler and Wallowa county voters passed similar measures.

The Idaho House of Representatives passed a resolution in 2023, saying it is open to having a dialogue with Oregon’s legislature on moving the border.

Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville met with Idaho officials last October. She stated then that while she was not sure of the Greater Idaho movement was the way to go, she was “willing to turn over all the rocks possible, for the land and people I love.”

Norman Williams, a professor of constitutional law at Willamette University, has estimated that the Idaho-Oregon border move cost Idaho somewhere in the range of $18 billion to $20 billion. Those behind the movement have disputed those numbers, claiming the cost would be negotiated between the two states. It also says that “Oregon should want to cut their losses because they subsidize eastern Oregon.”

▶️ Local men use police, fire training to save drowning man in Puerto Rico

Three young men from Central Oregon went to Puerto Rico for vacation in November. They came back as heroes after they revived another vacationer who nearly drowned.

“They said he was probably unconscious for 3-5 minutes. His entire body was just blue,” Sunriver Police Department seasonal bike patrol officer Logan Buckley said. “It was scary, I’m not going to lie. Having someone’s life in front of you like that, where you don’t know if they’re gonna make it or not.”

Buckley, 20, Haydon Hossick, 18, and their friend were vacationing on the Caribbean island last year when nearby commotion drew their attention.

“Dozens of people, lined on the beach, just standing still like statues. They were in shock,” Buckley said.

A man named Luis, who was visiting from Colombia, was dragged out of the ocean, unresponsive, discolored with no pulse. Buckley and Hossick say he was clinically dead.

“With drowning victims, drowning is usually silent. You’re not gonna hear it. It’s not like the movies. They’re not gonna be flailing around, screaming for help and slowly sinking into the water. It happens within seconds,” Hossick, a volunteer for Bend Fire & Rescue, said.

When the two realized what was happening, they sprang into action, switching off performing CPR chest compressions until Luis came back to life.

“I only got maybe around 8 or 10 in before he started fully coughing up water and some sand and some other stuff out of his mouth. I immediately stopped doing chest compressions, saw that he had a stronger, steady pulse and that the color in his face was returning,” Hossick said.

They saved Luis’ life, using the training they learned while working with Sunriver Police Department and volunteering with Bend Fire and Rescue.

“He started to wake back up and eventually tried to sit up and stand up and was confused about what was happening. We told him what had happened and he called me an angel, which I think was a bit more credit where credit was due but it was really heartwarming that he said that,” Hossick said.

Paramedics arrived shortly later and Luis was medically cleared. The two say he started smoking a cigar on the beach just minutes after getting his second chance at life.

Buckley says he and Luis still keep in contact over email. Buckley says Luis is happy and healthy, living with his family in Colombia, where he loves taking his granddaughter to soccer matches.

▶️ Bend to hold listening sessions on new transportation fee next week

The City of Bend is planning two listening sessions to get feedback on the upcoming transportation fee, which could cost some homeowners as much as $16 per month added to their utility bills.

The Listening Sessions will take place on Monday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Thursday, Feb. 29 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Both meetings will be hybrid and will be held in Council Chambers at City Hall, 710 NW Wall Street. Livestreams are available here: Monday | Thursday.

The city says the fee will be used for things like fixing potholes and other pavement restoration, snow removal, signs, striping, sidewalks and other concrete work.

In the first year, the fee would cost single-unit utility bill account holders $5.60 per month. People in apartments and other multi-unit areas would pay $4.15/month.

RELATED: Bend transportation fee could begin in July, reach up to $16 per month for some

A rate structure proposal presented to the council in January said those could rise to $11 per month in the second year and $16 in the third year for single-family units. Multi-unit dwellers could see bills of $8 per month and $12 per month in the second and third years, respectively. But nothing has been finalized and that information is not on the city’s FAQ page.

The first bills could go out on July 1.

Unlike the $190 million transportation bond voters passed in 2020, voters will not get a say on the fee. The city says it’s not a tax.

▶️ Madras considers fining stores when their shopping carts are stolen

The City of Madras is proposing a new restriction on shopping carts that would fine grocery stores for carts stolen off their property. Many of those carts are ending up near homeless camps.

Stores in Madras who spoke to Central Oregon Daily Tuesday agree there’s a problem, but there’s no consensus on how to fix it.

“We’ve had close to probably 70 to 100 carts stolen in the last two years,” Ericksons Thriftway co-manager Kevin Eidemiller said. “At least once a week to every other week, we go hunting for our own carts.”

The City contacted grocery stores late last year requesting action to keep carts on property.

“When we started to see the relationship between shopping carts not being kept on the retailer’s property and then being used in ways that weren’t intended, we thought we needed to start figuring out a way to solve this problem,” Madras Community Development Director Nicholas Snead said.

RELATED: Madras animal shelter fights for contract extension

It says there’s been no improvement, leading to a new proposal.

“If the shopping cart is not on the property, it’s a $100 offense,” Snead said.

“If you have your own private property, you shouldn’t be fined for it being taken off your own premise. It seems pretty excessive,” Eidemiller said.

For Ericksons Thriftway, a mom-and-pop grocery store in the heart of town, there isn’t a quick fix.

“We looked at interlocking systems to try to keep them in our parking lots and they are highly costly. We just can’t simply afford to be able to do so,” Eidemiller said.

Is the proposed solution fair to grocery stores?

“Well, I don’t know that it’s fair. I think it’s a complex problem,” Snead said.

The city is holding an open house Monday to discuss ideas with retailers. Eidemiller would like to see them approach what he sees as the root cause.

“Once we can figure out a way for a homelessness to stop, which I think is what the city’s biggest issue is, then I think it will all ease up and then there won’t be any shopping carts (taken),” Eidemiller said. “We didn’t have this problem until we’ve had so much homeless.”

“Ideally, the city wouldn’t adopt these regulations that we’ve come up with a solution that both the retailers, city staff and community can get behind… that would be certainly ideal for everyone,” Snead said.

Monday’s open house is 2:00-3:30 p.m. at City Hall in the City Council Chambers located at 125 SW E Street.

▶️ Deschutes County sheriff candidate forum Monday in Sunriver

The two candidates for Deschutes County Sheriff will participate in the first candidate forum of the election season Monday.

Capt. William Bailey and Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp are campaigning to succeed retiring Sheriff Shane Nelson.

The forum will be held at the Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Monday. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. Voters are invited to attend in person or watch online at this link

To submit questions, email decision@connectcentraloregon.org.

RELATED: Vander Kamp, Bailey talk about candidacies for Deschutes Co. Sheriff

The forum is being hosted by Sunriver Republicans. The producer of the event says it will be facilitated in a non-partisan format by Connect Central Oregon co-founder Jim Fister.

The primary is set for May 21. If fewer than two candidates file by March 12, then the contest goes straight to the November general election.

▶️ VIDEO: Pride flag repeatedly taken from downtown Bend coffee shop

The owners of a LGBTQ-friendly business in downtown Bend say they are being targeted after having their Pride flag stolen at least seven times since last summer.

Surveillance footage from Turtle Island Coffee Shop Feb. 4 and Feb. 18 shows someone taking the flag that was hanging outside.

“I think the majority of folks definitely like alcohol substances are involved. I also don’t think that that is like a free ticket to hate,” co-owner Beth Brady told KOIN-TV.

Bend Police say it is investigating.

“We’re currently working on developing a suspect in this particular case. The theft would be a third degree theft,” said Bend Police Communications Manager Sheila Miller.

RELATED: Bend man charged with manslaughter, assault, DUII in fatal 2023 crash

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The shop opened last June.

“More or less seven times in about six and a half months,” Brady said.

Police say it has taken at least three reports from the shop. It’s also looking at whether this is considered a hate crime under Oregon law.

“Oregon has specific statutes regarding bias crime, which is basically Oregon’s version of hate crimes,” Miller said. “And so in this particular case, a second degree bias crime would be a crime in which someone damages or steals property because of the perception of the owner’s race, sexual orientation, gender identity, color, religion, that sort of thing.”

“I don’t think anybody tears down a flag without some feeling behind it,” Brady said.