Madras animal shelter to shut down after failing to reach contract with county

A Jefferson County animal shelter is closing its doors after failing to reach a deal on a new contract with the county.

Rockn EZ Rescue Ranch announced Friday it failed to reach an agreement with county officials and will have to close its shelter in Madras by June 30 when the current contract ends.

The non-profit says it will start to reduce shelter capacity and limit animal intakes as it prepares for the closure. It’s urging the community to come and adopt one of the 98 animals currently in its care.

RELATED: Madras animal shelter fights for contract extension

The shelter had been seeking an extension on its contract with the county, along with an increase in pay.

“The abandoned and stray animals in Jefferson County are the responsibility of the county to find a solution to. We wanted to come to the table to help them for the welfare of the animals. But that’s very different than you will assume all financial responsibility,” said Jan Forrester of Rockn EZ Rescue Ranch.

Central Oregon Daily reached out to the county for comment Friday, but did not hear back by the time this article was published.

▶️ 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.

▶️ Lady Buffs defeat Crook Co. on senior night to win Tri-Valley League title

It was simple when it came to the stakes of Tuesday night’s game between the Madras girls basketball team hosting Crook County.

The team that wins is the Tri-Valley League champions.

Madras took an early 7-o lead to start the game, but Crook County took a 29-19 lead at the half.

The White Buffs held the Cowgirls to four points in the third quarter to help secure the 53-45 second-half comeback.

RELATED: Madras boys, Crook Co. girls hoops stay on top in Tri-Valley Conference

RELATED: Summit basketball stays on top of IMC, Ridgeview boys upset Wolfpack

The Lady Buffs host a playoff game on Saturday; the time and opponent are still to be announced.

Crook County also made the postseason despite the loss to the Madras.

Who and Where they play is expected to be announced soon.

High Desert Happenings: Feb. 16 – 18

It’s a big weekend in Central Oregon, with plenty of events to warm yourself up from the ice and snow. Here’s a look at what’s happening around the High Desert. 


Free Ski Wax with REI at Bevel Craft Brewing from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

IPA-3 Throwdown at Boneyward Brewing from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Oregon Winterfest at The Old Mill District starting at 5:00 p.m. (ALL WEEKEND) 


Paint and Sip at Faith Hope & Charity Vineyards from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Zwickelmania at participating breweries from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

Central Oregon Winter Beer Fest at Deschutes Brewery Tasting Room from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.


Bingo with Think Wild at Cascade Lakes Pub on Reed Market from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Open Mic Night at Silver Moon Brewing from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Sunny Sweeny at Volcanic Theatre Pub starting at 8:00 p.m.

▶️ Museum at Warm Springs closed until further notice due to HVAC issues

The museum at Warm Springs announced Tuesday it would remain closed until further notice for the installation of its new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

You can read the release in its entirety below:

The Museum at Warm Springs Extends Public Closure Until Further Notice for Installation of a New Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System

(WARM SPRINGS, Ore., Feb. 12, 2024) — The Museum at Warm Springs has extended its public closure until further notice for the installation of a new Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. 

The “30th Annual Warm Springs Tribal Member and Youth Exhibit,” which was originally extended through March 6, has closed. “Due to the ongoing HVAC installation process, we made an administrative decision to close the exhibit and return the artworks to the artists,” said Museum Executive Director Elizabeth Woody. “The Museum holding their artworks for such an extended period beyond March 6 is too long for any artist. We are grateful to have the agreement for the first-time extension.”

The Museum’s staff is working during the closure so Warm Springs Tribal members who need ceremonial items from The Museum’s Gift Shop during the public closure will be able to purchase them as needed.

“I am very pleased to report that although the installation is not going as quickly as we originally hoped, it is going extremely well,” said Woody. “We are looking forward to having a brand new system soon.”

Madras neighborhood told to ‘shelter in place’ Monday for despondent person

A “shelter in place” order was given for residents in northeast Madras Monday night for reports of a “despondent” person who had fired shots inside a home, Madras Police claim.

According to a release from the police department, 911 received a request for a welfare check at about 6:25 p.m. at a home located in the 400 block of Northeast Cedar Street, just east of Safeway. The caller told dispatchers a male in the home had harmed himself and had fired shots, police said. Everyone else in the home got out and went to a safe location.

Arriving officers from multiple agencies evacated nearby homes and tried to contact the person inside, who did not respond, police said.

At about 7:16 p.m., firefighters detected the smell of natural or propane gas. Police said Cascade Natural Gas was called in to shut off gas to the area as a precaution. A shelter in place notification was sent to neighboring homes, police said. 

After a search warrant was issued, officers entered the home around 8:20 p.m. and the subject was taken to St. Charles Hospital to be evaluated, according to police. They did not say what condition the person was in at the time.

The shelter in place order was lifted. 

“From beginning to end, officers kept the safety of all, including the person experiencing crisis, at the forefront,” Police Chief Tim Plummer said in the release. “Dispatchers did an outstanding job, neighbors did exactly what officers asked, and all law enforcement teams worked together flawlessly. While the incident caused some temporary inconveniences to the neighbors, the inconveniences were necessary for everyone’s safety.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, help is available nationwide 24 hours a day by dialing 988.

▶️ Madras boys, Crook Co. girls hoops stay on top in Tri-Valley Conference

The Madras boys basketball team hosted the Gladstone Gladiators Friday night and earned a 64-43 victory.

The Buffalos are now 14-5 over, 7-0 in Tri-Valley Conference play. They travel to The Dalles, Molalla, and Crook County in their next contests.

The Crook County girls also remain unbeaten in the TVC. They defeated Molalla 52-29 Friday at home.

The girls play at Gladstone and Estacada in their next two games.

RELATED: Summit Girls Cross Country continues 15-year state dominance with young team

RELATED: Summit basketball stays on top of IMC, Ridgeview boys upset Wolfpack

On Saturday, the Intermountain Conference swimming district tournament is at Juniper Swim and Fitness.

Crook County High School hosts the 4A Special District 4 Wrestling Championships at 10:00 am – Adults $10, Students $5.

▶️ Bend woman gets 25 years for crash that killed Warm Springs woman, 2 teens

A Bend woman was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison for a collision on Highway 26 that killed a woman and two teens from Warm Springs in 2022.

Audrey McHugh, 30, pleaded no contest this week to charges of manslaughter and driving under the influence. She could have faced as much as 61 years and $1.1 million fine.

The November 16, 2022, crash killed Jessica Johnson, 15; Jesiah Johnson, 13; and their aunt, Saralee Spino-McCormack, 29.

RELATED: Bend woman charged in head-on crash that killed Warm Springs woman, 2 teens

Oregon State Police said the crash happened on Highway 26 near the Madras airport. OSP said a preliminary investigation found that a Toyota Tacoma, driven by McHugh, was passing several vehicles in the fog when it collided with a westbound gold Chevrolet Malibu, driven by Spino-McCormack.

Spino-McCormack and Jesiah Johnson, who was a passenger in the Malibu, died at the scene. Jessica Johnson died later at the hospital.

A dashcam video was played in court. It showed the moments before McHugh attempted to pass another vehicle, leading to the crash.

A visibly shaken McHugh sat in court Friday, listening to impact statements from family and friends of the victims.

“I can’t speak for my community, Audrey, but as my family, we choose not to forgive you. And my only hope is that your sentence will keep you incarcerated long enough, you will never have the opportunity to be a mother,” one said.

“Ages 13, 15, 27. They’re gone because of you,” a grandmother of the two younger victims said. “We don’t believe she cared then. Why would she care now? She didn’t lose anybody. We did. Our people, you can see from all the people here, we lost our children.”

McHugh also spoke.

“I wish I could trade my life for theirs. I wish I didn’t survive,” McHugh said. “To have another’s life… death on your hands is a heavy mark on the soul. I guarantee it will haunt me for nothing short of a lifetime. I’m so sorry to everyone in this room.”

The defense argued that McHugh’s previous character and remorse following the accident warranted a sentence just under 19 years. The judge ultimately sided with the state, which asked for 25 years.

COCC receives $300,000 grant to help expand Madras campus

Central Oregon Community College is receiving a $300,000 grant to grow its Madras campus.

The Roundhouse Foundation gifted the cash to help with a new building planned. It will house early childhood education and other health related programs. It will also have a child care center that can serve up to 100 kids.

COCC hopes to break ground this spring and have the expansion completed by fall of 2025.

RELATED: COCC saves bee hive as tree is removed from campus

RELATED: Local college-bound families left in limbo as financial aid rollouts delayed

Here is the full announcement from COCC:

Central Oregon Community College’s (COCC) “Growing Together” fundraising campaign has received a major grant of $300,000 from the Roundhouse Foundation to support the college’s long-planned and shovel-ready Madras campus expansion. The significant investment will help COCC’s development of a 24,000-square-foot building designed for early childhood education programs, registered nurse and other health career pathways, and a 100-capacity child care center to serve the community.

Groundbreaking for the new Madras campus facility is expected this spring, with completion anticipated by the fall of 2025.

COCC’s expansion project in Madras is a response to Jefferson County’s needs related to early childhood education and health care workforce gaps, along with a major shortage of child care options in the region. Learn more at together.

“This gift from the Roundhouse Foundation will directly impact individual lives and families while strengthening the well-being of Central Oregon communities,” said Tim Green, co-chair of the “Growing Together” campaign and a trustee of the COCC Foundation. “We are profoundly grateful for this grant as we build momentum toward the site-development phase.”

The Madras campus expansion will be funded through a mix of federal, state, institutional and other public resources. The COCC Foundation is seeking the remaining funds from private philanthropy and grants.

“Roundhouse Foundation and COCC share a common goal of empowering rural communities through access and opportunity,” said Erin Borla, executive director and trustee of the organization. “We are excited to be a partner in this facility for the region.”

The Sisters-based Roundhouse Foundation, a private family foundation, began in 2002. It has since distributed more than $43 million to over 800 organizations throughout rural Oregon.

For more information, contact Zak Boone, COCC’s chief advancement officer and executive director of the COCC Foundation, at or 541-383-7212.

▶️ Jefferson County receives new fire engine from Oregon Fire Marshal program

Jefferson County Fire & EMS took delivery Wednesday of a new Type 3 fire engine, courtesy of the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s (OSFM) Engine Program.

The engine was the second one delivered under the program. The first one went out this week to Central Cascades Fire & EMS in Klamath County.

The program is aimed at boosting capacity and modernizing firefighting equipment across the state due to the growing threat of wildfires.

OSFM says 76 engines and water tenders are set to be delivered through 2024. The $25 million program was made available through 2021’s Senate Bill 762.

Here is the equipment Central Oregon is set to receive.

Crooked River Ranch Rural Fire Protection District

  • Type 3 Engine

Bend Fire Department

  • Type 6 Engine

Cloverdale Rural Fire Protection District 

  • Tender

Jefferson County Rural Fire Protection District 1

  • Type 3 Engine
  • Type 6 Engine

La Pine Rural Fire Protection District 

  • Tender Engine

Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District 1

  • Type 6 Engine