▶️ Green light nears for several Bend transportation bond projects

On Wednesday night, a complex plan took center stage at the Bend City Council work session.

The Transportation Bond Oversight Committee (TBOC) presented a 5-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to use money from the $190 million transportation general obligation (GO) bond approved by Bend voters last November. 

The list of 21 projects was selected after extensive community feedback through the Transportation Plan Update.

“This is a really long time coming where we’re actually going to get started on some of these much-needed transportation projects,” Councilor Melanie Kebler said.

One of the projects slated first is improving the Wilson Avenue corridor.  

“Which projects were sequenced first was where we saw the greatest need,” Councilor Anthony Broadman said. “So far we’ve accepted all of the staff and TBOC recommendations about which projects our community members need the most.”

The Reed Market railroad overcrossing is the most expensive item on the list, set to take up $40 million, but not scheduled for completion until after the 5-year window.

 

“I think there was a little confusion about what the timing was going to be on actually finishing that very large project, and as staff told us last night, there was never any intention that that would be able to be finished in the next five years,” Kebler said.

“We have to do some other projects in order to make sure we’re not cutting off the entire southeast corner of Bend,” Broadman added. “That Reed Market work is going to take probably two construction years, two seasons.

“It’ll be closed for some time, so we need to make sure we have other routes, other detours in place, to make sure that it’s a successful construction project.” 

The plan is just a couple of weeks out from potential approval. 

“On December 15th, our next meeting, our staff will bring back that full package to us as an official Capital Improvement Plan for the next five years,” Kebler said.

“They will make the one change we requested to move some money up into those first five years to accelerate planning for the Reed Market overcrossing, and then we’ll have any further deliberation we want to have at that meeting and then we’ll take a vote to approve that project list.”

Plans for the following five years aren’t in the works just yet.

“I would expect that the planning process for the second five years…will start relatively soon, certainly well before the end of the first five-year period,” Broadman said.

“It’s going to be a work in progress moving forward,” Kebler said. “This was just the way to get started and say ‘here’s right now what we think we can do in the next five years, let’s get moving, and we can always adjust as we go and make any changes we need to.'”

Broadman said the money from the bond is a relatively small part of the amounts they will need for transportation over the next couple of decades.

“We fully expect to use federal dollars and ODOT dollars through the state,” he said. “The bond source of revenue can’t be used for maintenance, so it’s important as we develop the infrastructure that we continue to maintain it at a world-class level, and that’s going to be from other funding sources.”

Some other key priority projects include the Midtown Pedestrian and Bike Crossings, and Butler Market Road and Boyd Acres Road Improvements.

They also include better east-west connections that will reduce drivers’ time behind the wheel and improve Bend’s livability and safety.

Other priority routes targeted for traffic flow improvements include U.S. 97/Parkway, Third Street intersections, Empire Avenue near U.S. Highway 97, Butler Market Road and other key routes.

The committee’s full recommended timeline and list of projects can be found at bendoregon.gov/tboc.

Warm Springs burglary suspect faces federal charges after arrest

A wanted Warm Springs man was arrested Tuesday and faces federal charges stemming from a burglary at the Tribal Utilities Department earlier this year.

Levi Joshline Jim was wanted on two tribal warrants, a Jefferson County felony warrant and a Washington State warrant in addition to being the primary suspect in a breaking and entering/theft case involving a stolen Ford F350 pickup, a utility detector, security system and tools.

Warm Springs Tribal Police Chief Bill Elliott said detectives were in the Upper Dry Creek area on Tuesday and saw a man who was identified as Jim.

When the detectives attempted to contact Jim, he ran but was captured after a brief chase.

Based on the follow-up interview Jim, and other evidence, the WSTPD detectives determined they had enough probable cause to charge him with the theft at Tribal Utilities, theft of the tribal pick-up and other break-ins that had been occurring around the reservation.

Jim’s Jefferson County felony warrant was the result of an indictment for multiple burglaries that occurred at businesses in Madras during the month of October.

He was jailed on the outstanding warrants until formal charges can be made in Tribal Court, and as the theft from Tribal Utilities qualifies as Theft or Embezzlement from a Tribal Organization, a federal offense, this case will be forwarded to the United States Attorney’s Office for review of charges.

 

▶️ Historic Prineville rail line stays on track despite bridge damage

Damage to an almost 80-year-old railroad bridge is not as severe as law enforcement predicted on Monday.

“The City of Prineville is one of the oldest, municipal-owned freight railroads and we are continually operated for over 100 years by the City of Prineville,” said Matt Wiederholt the General Manager of City of Prineville Railroad.

After an RV crashed into one of the support beams of a historic rail bridge, the railroad faced a scary reality.

ODOT bridge engineers surveyed the damage to the bridge, constructed in 1941, almost immediately.

“Tuesday evening, they determined that with speed restrictions and de-weighting the bridge, that we indeed could go over the bridge with rail traffic. So that was the best-case scenario for us,” Wiederholt said.

And a best-case scenario for the 53 clients the railroad serves daily.

Prineville man injured after RV slams into railway bridge abutment

I talked to two clients of the railroad today that told me the service is essential for their timber businesses and in one case, the railroad is the safest and greenest way to move timber from Canada to Central Oregon.

At the bridge, you can still see signs of damage and debris from the accident, including a sizable chunk taken out of one of the support pillars.

“Superficial damage to the nose of the concrete pier that was hit by the RV and then there’s damage to the bearings underneath the steel beams that go over the road,” said Ken Kirschling a Principle Bridge Engineer at Railstar.

The city railroad is quite profitable for Prineville, and with the excess funds going back into the health of the almost 19 rail lines and six miles of yard track trains cross every day, the bridge is still able to be used.

“So in this particular case, because they were reinvesting it, it’s proven to help us and be able to continue to serve our customers,” Wiederholt said.

The driver of the RV crash is alright, and the bridge will get the fixes it needs after the holidays, but for now, business is chugging along as usual.

 

▶️ Ballet shoes to wings: Bend teen takes final bow before joining military

From the ballet studio to laughter-silvered wings.

Certainly the road less traveled for a 19-year-old.

But Kaelin Frick from Bend has learned that when it comes to discipline, character and passion, dance has prepared her for a bold new chapter.

We sat down with her to hear about why she’s making the leap from arabesques to the Air Force.

▶️ City crews, local contractors eagerly await firing up idle snow plows

Except for the mountain passes, there’s been no need to plow snow off city streets or private properties.

And that begs a question: Are people and agencies saving money when there’s no snow to move?

We spoke with public works departments and private contractors to find out.

“Last year this truck was used three times. That’s it,” said Matt Matwich of Four Seasonal Services, LLC.

As a private contractor, Matwich offers snow plowing in winter to round out his landscaping services.

But some winters, his snowplowing equipment sits unused and costs him money.

“A plow will run you $8,000 or $9,000,” Matwhich said. “Snowblowers: $2,000 to $3,000 depending on what you get. Ice melt spreaders will be up around $3,000. That’s a lot of capital to sit on and never use.”

And it’s too early to tell if the City of Bend is saving money.

A massive pile of traction sand just sitting in the city’s public work’s yard is indicative of the snow season thus far.

There hasn’t been any need to spread it on icy roads yet, but it will happen.

Until it does, city road crews are keeping busy on other projects.

“We are still doing asphalt patching and concrete work. We are still sweeping,” said David Abbas, Transportation and Mobility Director for the City of Bend. “We’ve actually still got some paint going on the ground when temperatures allow it. We’re still working, just not on plowing snow.”

The City of Bend budgets about $1.5 million each winter to plow snow.

If it’s not all spent, the savings roll over into the next budget cycle.

But for private contractors who count on snow plowing as part of their annual revenue, the lack of snow is challenging.

“You’ll go months without any snow. You can’t have any employees; you don’t know what’s going on. And then, it will snow, and everybody wants everything done right now, right this second,” Matwich said. “It’s really hard to schedule all that.”

The private contractor wants it to snow so he can get paid to plow commercial parking lots.

The public works director wants it to snow so reservoirs fill and fire danger is reduced.

But for now, they both wait for mother nature to cooperate.

Brown to call special session to protect renters from evictions

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — With winter coming and federal funds drying up, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says she’ll call a special session of the Legislature Dec. 13 to approve state funding for rental assistance and to extend eviction protections.

Brown said it is clear that a state solution is needed to address the urgent and immediate needs of Oregon renters.

She proposed that protections be extended for everyone who has applied for rental assistance, that landlords are paid in full for the rent they are owed, and that up to $90 million in additional rental assistance be provided to low-income tenants through the winter.

“As we enter our coldest months, it is absolutely essential that we take action to ensure no additional Oregon families are evicted when rental assistance is on the way,” Brown said in a statement “I have spoken directly with Oregon renters in recent weeks about the pain and hardship their families have faced due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. We must take legislative action now to approve additional state funding for rental assistance, and to extend eviction protections for Oregonians who have applied for assistance.

“Our federal funds for rental assistance will be nearly spent on December 1. I am continuing to work with federal officials at U.S. Treasury and the White House to secure additional federal emergency rental assistance funding for Oregon, but it is clear that a state solution is needed to address the urgent and immediate needs of Oregon renters. And, we must begin laying the groundwork now for the transition to local eviction prevention services after federal pandemic emergency programs draw to an end.”

The governor’s full statement Tuesday is below:

“As we enter our coldest months, it is absolutely essential that we take action to ensure no additional Oregon families are evicted when rental assistance is on the way,” said Governor Brown. “I have spoken directly with Oregon renters in recent weeks about the pain and hardship their families have faced due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. We must take legislative action now to approve additional state funding for rental assistance, and to extend eviction protections for Oregonians who have applied for assistance.

“Our federal funds for rental assistance will be nearly spent on December 1. I am continuing to work with federal officials at U.S. Treasury and the White House to secure additional federal emergency rental assistance funding for Oregon, but it is clear that a state solution is needed to address the urgent and immediate needs of Oregon renters. And, we must begin laying the groundwork now for the transition to local eviction prevention services after federal pandemic emergency programs draw to an end.”

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) received $289 million in federal rental assistance funds to help Oregon renters impacted by COVID-19.

As of last week, OHCS and their local partners had paid out close to $150 million in federal emergency rental assistance to over 22,000 households––with Oregon ranking eighth in the nation for federal funds paid or obligated.

OHCS and its partners have received more than 25,000 additional applications and continue to review and approve thousands of those applications each week. Nearly $20 million was paid to renters over the previous two weeks.

OHCS has calculated that all remaining federal rental assistance funds will have been requested by December 1.

After conversations with legislative leaders, stakeholders, landlord associations, and housing advocates, the Governor is proposing the following framework to prevent further evictions:

  • Extend eviction safe harbor protections for each individual who has applied for rental assistance.
  • Ensure landlords are paid in full for the rent they are owed.
  • Provide up to $90 million in additional rental assistance to ensure low-income tenants access through the winter.
  • Provide $100 million to transition from large-scale pandemic-related emergency rental assistance to long-term, locally-delivered eviction prevention services.

The package would address the immediate needs of Oregon renters through the winter months. Legislators may also be asked to take on additional time-sensitive issues during the special session that require action before February 2022.

▶️ Prepare to spend a little more on your Christmas tree this year

According to the Oregon Christmas Tree Growers Association, Christmas tree inventory is down by as much as 10% in Oregon.

Oregon produces more Christmas trees than any other state – 31% of all the holiday trees in 2020 – and the higher prices will be felt by customers.

“We’re just a little low this year. We’ve seen less competitors. A few competitors have dropped out this year. So there’s fewer stands as far as I’m aware of,” said Carson Dedmon, a salesman at Candy Cane Christmas Trees.

Candy Cane Christmas Trees sold their 6 to 7-foot trees FOR $70 last year.

“This year we’re looking at around the $85 range. $85 to $90,” Dedmon said.

The price hike is due to a number of factors impacting the supply chain like previous fires burning supply and folks simply leaving the tree farming business.

All of those factors together led to fewer trees at a higher expense.

Coming Soon
Where are you getting your Christmas tree this year?
Where are you getting your Christmas tree this year?
Where are you getting your Christmas tree this year?

At the Central Oregon Adult and Teen Challenge’s Christmas tree lot, the effects are similar.

“So even though we might not have a huge price jump, there’s a price gap that didn’t previously exist,” said Micah Tappero, the Campus Director for Oregon Adult and Teen Challenge.

That gap is attributed to the lack of Douglas Firs available.

Oregon Adult and Teen Challenge’s tree lot has more noble firs, a pricier type of tree sold at $65 compared to a $45 Douglas Fir.

“It’s a bit of a bummer sometimes because people are trying to spend money on presents and different stuff like that for their families and don’t want to dedicate as much of the cost to the tree,” Tappero said.

If you’re one of those folks hoping to not spend an arm and a leg, tree lot salesmen I talked to suggested going for a shorter tree and shopping around to find the best price.

Another option is to buy a $5 permit with the Deschutes National Forest Service to cut your own tree.

“When you’re out there you can grab a tree of any species, as long as it’s under 12 feet tall,” said Jaimie Olle of the Deschutes National Forest.

If you do choose to grab a tree from the forest, make sure it’s not in a recreation area, near a road or body of water.

 

87-unit ‘workforce housing’ project in the works near St. Charles

The City of Bend is in the public comment stage for an 87-unit “workforce housing development” near St. Charles.

The Mosaic Conners Apartments would feature six, three-story walkup apartment buildings with one and two-bedroom units accessed via interior stairways.

According to the city’s permit portal, the apartments will be factory-built modules and assembled on site.

The location is 2365 NE Conners Ave. – just north of the hospital and the Pilot Butte Medical Center.

Bend Senior Planner Karen Swenson said the 14-day public comment period for the project closes on Dec. 6th.

Of the four submitted comments so far, all are in favor of the project, Swenson said.

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Pedestrian struck, killed by car while crossing Highway 97 near Redmond

A woman trying to cross Highway 97 near the Redmond airport exit Saturday night was struck and killed by a car, according to Oregon State Police.

OSP responded to the accident around 10 p.m. and learned a pedestrian, 44-year-old Kara Shepherd of Redmond, tried crossing four lanes of the highway when she was struck by a northbound Lexus.

Shepherd sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the car was not injured and remained on the scene and cooperated with the investigation, OSP said.

OSP was assisted by Redmond Police Department and ODOT.

Mount Bachelor delays opening, again

Another delay for skiers and boarders itching to hit the slopes.

Mount Bachelor has postponed their targeted opening day of December 3. 

The Saturday announcement cited consistently warm temperatures and the lack of snowfall as the reason.

No new date was set for when the lifts might start spinning for the resort’s 63rd season.

The webcams showed little snow and plenty of bare patches around the hill on Saturday morning.

Those that purchased lift tickets, rentals, or lessons for days the mountain will not operate will be given a refund.