▶️ Kotek declares Jefferson, Crook County drought emergencies

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek on Thursday declared a drought emergency for Crook and Jefferson counties. The executive order directs state agencies to coordinate and prioritize assistance to those Central Oregon counties.

“While this is the first drought declaration of the year, Central Oregon has been facing persistent drought for years due to the ongoing impacts of climate change,” Kotek said in a statement. “This is already looking like another challenging drought year for the state, which brings higher risks of wildfires and water shortages. I am committed to ensuring that our agencies are working closely with all partners to get those who are most impacted the help they need.

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Crook County declared its own drought emergency a little more than one month ago. Despite near normal snowpack in the Ochocos, streamflows and reservoir storage levels are at record lows due to persistent drought conditions.

Kotek’s office says the state declaration “unlocks a number of drought-related emergency tools for water users, including assistance to local water users. Drought declarations also allow the Water Resources Department to expedite review processes and reduce fee schedules.”

Most of Central Oregon is in Severe, Extreme or Exceptional Drought status, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“The Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index, a metric to measure drought conditions, indicates the 36-month average ending in January 2023 is by far the worst on record,” Kotek’s office said regarding Crook County’s drought status.
In regard to Jefferson County, Kotek’s office said, “Natural flows and reservoir supplies are at or near all-time lows affecting water users and impacting drinking water, fish, wildlife, and instream uses.”

▶️ 7 pounds of meth found after traffic stop in Madras

Two Central Washington state residents were arrested in Madras after an Oregon State Trooper allegedly found seven pounds of methamphetamine in their vehicle.

OSP said it happened Sunday night around 7:20 p.m. on Highway 97 near E. Street. The vehicle was pulled over for speeding.

State Police say the trooper “noticed signs of criminal activity” which led to the search of the vehicle.

Luiz Maria Ramirez-Gutierrez, 42, of Yakima and Reyna Paola Marin-Ramirez, 20, from Kennewick were taken to Jefferson County Jail for Possession of a Controlled Substance, Manufacture of a Controlled Substance and Attempted Distribution of Commercial Quantities of Methamphetamine, OSP said.

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▶️ Madras PD at 50% staff last 6 months during meticulous candidate search

Help wanted. 

It’s still on plenty of signs in business windows across Central Oregon, but when it’s a police department, that impact is more significant.

Madras Police Department has been operating at half staff for more than six months. Their normal staff of 12 has been reduced to six officers and no police chief. 

Director of Police Services Steve Bartol said recruitment and hiring has been the number one focus of his duties since he was hired six months ago. 

“I think right now almost all departments across the state, I know very few that would say that they’re fully staffed,” Bartol said. 

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Recently, six officer candidates and one police chief candidate failed to pass background checks. But Bartol said the hiring delay is about much more than that. 

“We’ve really tried to focus on process and making sure that we are really scrutinizing and trying to do the best job we possibly can to hire the best candidate for the city of Madras,” he said. “And I think that the reason we do that is that the troops that still work here deserve that. And more importantly, the community deserves that.” 

He said the department has really tried to raise their standards for hiring in anticipation of changing regulations from the state. 

Operating with a staff of six is tough, even for a small community like Madras. But other local agencies are helping response times remain consistent.

“If we have an officer that’s on duty and he’s tied up on a call and there’s another call, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has been awesome about coming out and helping us solve those circumstances,” Bartol said. “Or if it’s a call that demands more resources. Likewise, OSP, the Bend Area Command has been awesome in making sure that they’re paying attention to this area as well and helping us out with things like traffic enforcement.” 

Other law enforcement agencies in Central Oregon have a different hiring story to tell, including the Bend Police Department. 

So we’re at a 100 [sworn] officers, and if we were at 100%, we’d be at about 103,” said Sheila Miller, the Communications Director for Bend PD. 

She said that was certainly not the case during the pandemic and increased hostility toward police officers following the death of George Floyd in 2020. 

“I think that led to a sentiment around law enforcement that may have prevented young officers from applying,” Miller said. “I think it also may have contributed to people taking a look and saying, maybe this isn’t what I want to do anymore, or officers who are eligible to retire, retired during that period.” 

At their lowest point, they had 27 vacancies at the department. 

The Redmond Police Department reported a similar story. 

“When we are fully staffed, we have 66 total employees. Right now we have 65. So we have 51 sworn officers and we have another 14 support staff,” said Lt. Jesse Peterson. 

Their one vacancy is for a lateral officer position. 

“We have applicants that don’t pass background checks,” he said. “We’re very stringent in who we pick up because we want to make sure that they’re fitting the culture and the community that we have here.” 

Madras PD hopes small-town life and adding several steps to the pay scale this year will draw better candidates in the future.  

People can apply for those officer openings at any time, and the police department will then create a list of 6 to 10 people and set up a couple of days of interviews. 

They will interview specifically for the police chief position at the end of this month.

Jefferson County Little League allows Culver back in district lines


Jefferson County Little League has reversed an earlier decision and allowed Culver back within its district lines.

The Little League board voted last year to remove Culver, leaving players there in limbo over their future. That led to an emotional board meeting Tuesday night where public comment was heard.

That was followed by an executive session in which the board decided to let the Culver kids back in rather than re-drawing the boundary.

You can read the full statement here:

The boundary for JCLL will return to its original boundaries prior to 2023. Culver and outlying communities are back in the boundary with a unanimous board decision during an executive meeting on February, 7th 2023.

By-laws will be revised to include a Culver position on the board. We are JCLL, there will be no Culver specific teams. JCLL will be asking for help for field days at Juniper Hills. We will need help cleaning up. This goes for the Culver fields as well. We need to get them ready to play. Expect that announcement in the coming weeks. Expectations, we work together, we play together… We are Jefferson County.


Current fees will be reduced to:
T-Ball- $75
Rookies- $75
Minors- $90
Majors- $105
Juniors- $120

If you have already paid, you can expect a refund for the difference. If you wish to waive the refund. The board will decide if the money will go into a general fund for 2023 season or registration sponsorship for 2024 season.

– 5 new board members including 2 designated Culver Representatives. One being the Vice President of JCLL.
Community emails are listed below. With active board positions and email access if they choose to have it.

▶️ Future of Culver Little League unclear after board meeting

The Jefferson County Little League board held a special hearing Tuesday night with a focus on an open comment session regarding a potential decision for the city of Culver. Parents voiced concerns over a decision made last year to remove Culver from its little league district lines.

“That would also include the communities such as the Three Rivers community, which is going to be across the Cove Palisades, Lake Billy Chinook. It’s also going to be Camp Sherman and a few of those outlying communities as well. So, this is only incorporating 509J school districts. So, it’s not just Culver,” said Jefferson County Little League President William O’Daniel.

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He says the decision stemmed from having the city of Culver specifically have its own team. Culver kids make up 25% of players in Jefferson County, so all those athletes led to a lack of playing time for others on those teams.

O’Daniel also said there was a significant lack of volunteer and business support.

“That was a big basis for our decision,” O’Daniel said. “We couldn’t advocate for them anymore. We couldn’t feel like we were giving them a fair opportunity. So, we gave them the opportunity to come up with their own board and gave them an opportunity to come up with their own league.”

Culver residents could sign a waiver allowing Culver players to play in Jefferson County Little League or surrounding little league organizations such as Crook County and Redmond.

Close to a dozen people came to the meeting to voice their thoughts on the decision.

Even though the board voted back in November to make these changes, it still needs to go to the international little league to review, giving a short amount of time for the board to re-vote Culver into district lines.

“(To) get a better understanding and see if there’s something that we can do. If they don’t charter, if there’s a way that we can reincorporate them back in the Jefferson County Little League and see if that’s something that can be left on the table for our board to make a decision,” said O’Daniel.

The board met in executive session behind closed doors after the meeting. Details of what was discussed in that session are expected to be announced Wednesday.

Central Oregon schools getting $4.1 million from state Common School Fund

Central Oregon school districts will receive a combined $4.1 million after the announcement Tuesday of a record amount of funds available from the 2023 Common School Fund.

The Oregon Department of Public Lands says $72.2 million will be distributed statewide for K-12 schools.

Here are the distributions for Central Oregon:

  • Bend‐La Pine: $2,225,971
  • Redmond: $887,077
  • Crook County: $411,577
  • Jefferson County 509J: $352,921
  • Sisters: $139,706
  • Culver: $82,506

No surprise here. Portland — the state’s largest district — gets the most money at $6.4 million.

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The smallest distribution — $69 — goes to the Double O School District in Hines, located southwest of Burns.

The average 2023 distribution is approximately $367,000.

You can see the full, statewide list at this link.

The Department of State Lands says the Common School Fund has supported Oregon schools since statehood, when the federal government granted nearly 3.4 million acres “for the use of schools.” The State Land Board was established to oversee these school lands, which generate revenue for the Fund. 

▶️ How millions in grants may bring relief to High Desert childcare drought

Millions of dollars are available right now to help shrink the childcare shortage problem in Central Oregon. It’s through NeighborImpact’s Child Care Expansion Project.

They are grants helping to grant the wishes of more than 1,000 parents left with no help and, too often, no choice but to quit their job and stay home.

The effort is two-pronged — encourage more people to open up in-home daycares and help established childcare centers expand into bigger spaces. But it’s not going to happen without community collaboration.

RELATED: Grants, funds helping ease Central Oregon’s childcare crisis

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Samantha Andersen opened up Patient Bear Daycare Back in September, giving families in Redmond a resource that’s far too rare.

“It’s been great. I love it,” Samantha said.

The High Desert is dealing with a childcare drought. For every three kids who need a slot, only one is lucky enough to get it.

76% of Central Oregon employers noted a lack of childcare as either a high or moderate barrier to hiring. — Bend Chamber of Commerce survey


As a mom with two kids of her own and a degree in family and human services, Samantha knew she could be a part of the solution.

NeighborImpact’s Child Care Resources wing launched a pilot program back in 2021, helping prospective providers like Samantha break into the industry, giving them tools and money.

“I was asking for an open door and they showed up and gave me one,” Samantha said.

As a part of this trial run, Samantha was awarded a $5,000 grant to get going.

Millions of dollars available

The pilot’s success is part of the reason the state granted NeighborImpact millions more dollars to expand the project.

“A little bit more than $8.2 million,” Hannah Kuehl, the Associate Director of Grants Management for Child Care Resources, said. “We do think this will make a very large difference (with the 3-to-1 ratio).”

Hannah says that $8.2 million will translate to an additional 1,400 childcare spots over two to three years.

“We should see results pretty immediately,” Hannah said.

Here’s game plan: Offer education and money to encourage people like Samantha to open in-home care and help established centers expand to shorten wait lists all while trying to tackle the turnover problem.

We asked Samantha if this is something she’ll keep doing once her kids are grown.

“I think it’s something I really want to do, like it’s, it’s, I feel like I’ve been called to do it for a long time,” Samantha said.

Space needed, but hard to find

One of the biggest barriers is space, particularly commercial. There’s simply not enough of it.

“We’re working with real estate agents, we’re working with county commissioners, we’re trying to find space for these providers and we would encourage the community to support this,” Hannah said.

Sharon Richardson, the director of Sprouts Montessori in Bend, knows that barrier intimately. She’s been searching for a commercial space to combine her three in-home locations since 2019. It’s been like a needle in a haystack. 

Even when a potential site does pop up, she’s getting passed over — over and over.

“I don’t, at this time, have those funds to go and find the facility, that $100,000 in reserves that these commercial landlords are wanting and then to put all that money towards all the renovation,” Sharon said.


Hannah says part of the grant is helping educate childcare providers about loans. If someone finds a place, they can use the NeighborImpact grant money to help pay for it. But they have to go through the application process, get accepted and complete the educational components.

For Sharon, as a full-time daycare director and single mother, she’s feeling defeated. She is opting out of this grant because she’s tired of finding an option and then getting turned down.

But what’s possible with her expansion is significant.

“I have eight people on staff and with these same eight people I could easily expand if I had the space — double my capacity,” Sharon said.

‘Desperate for care’

There are 200 people on Sharon’s wait list.

“People call me every single day. Some people call me as soon as they find out they’re pregnant,” Sharon said.

The three most-prominent obstacles for families getting childcare in Central Oregon are the costs, wait lists and lack of options for infants and toddlers. — Early Learning Hub


Both Sharon and Samantha say the most severe shortage is with the smallest babies.

“There are so many families who are just desperate for care” Sharon said.

A single caretaker can only have two kids under age two at one time.

“I’ve turned away and like try to wait list at least like four or five. It’s mostly because they have infants,” said Samantha.


New parents with no options.

“We don’t have enough persons in the industry,” Hannah said.

That’s what this grant effort is trying to change. $5,000 to $500,000 available to water places similar to Sprouts and help end the drought.

The childcare desert doesn’t just impact Central Oregon families, it’s having a direct impact on the economy.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study found states, on average, miss out on $1 billion of economic activity a year because of childcare shortages.

And it plays a huge role in staffing. That same study found 58% of parents left the workforce because they couldn’t get the care they needed.

▶️Pacific Power electric mobility grant includes e-bike vouchers for low-income

Electric vehicles might be the future, but they’re pretty costly — especially for low-income households. That’s why Pacific Power decided to make them more accessible in Central Oregon. 

It’s part of a $2 million electric vehicle grant spread across 18 Oregon towns. 

Local organizations like 350 Deschutes, Kor Community Land Trust and Central Oregon Community College will receive either e-bikes or charging stations. 

The City of Bend is also getting vouchers for 110 low-income households to purchase e-bikes. 

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“We live in a place in Oregon where a substantial chunk of emissions and greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. So the more that we can help people move to electric vehicles, the less pollution is out in the environment,” said Brandon Zero, Pacific Power spokesman.

Pacific Power tells us Central Oregon was a key location as it’s geographically in the middle of their outreach area. 

Here are more details on the Central Oregon grants.

  • Grass Valley Country Market (Sherman County). Funds will be used to add two or four DC fast chargers (dual port) at this popular community gathering spot and travelers’ stop, in a rural area with no other charging options within 30 miles. 
  • 350 Deschutes (multiple locations). Funds will be used to create an equitable EV charging and EV car share plan for Central Oregon that specifically involves underserved, rural, and urban decision makers, including black, Tribal and Hispanic communities — the first plan of its kind in Oregon
  • City of Bend. In an effort modeled on the City of Corvallis’ successful e-bike voucher program, the grant will be used to fund 110 vouchers for low-income residents in Bend to purchase an e-bike. 
  • KOR Community Land Trust (Bend). Funds will provide 17 e-bikes and training for low-income home buyers in communities that the land trust is building in Bend, who otherwise may not have access to e-mobility options. 
  • Central Oregon Community College. Funds will be used to install chargers and to purchase four used EVs for fleet and educational purposes at the Bend and Prineville campuses. Chargers will be available to students, staff and the public. 
  • City of Prineville. In an area with only one other public charger within a 20-mile radius, funds will be used to install one or two DC fast chargers near downtown, in a highly visible and accessible location for residents and travelers. 
  • Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (Bend). Funds will be used to purchase one Ford F-150 Lightning EV, which will be used to deliver programs to underserved communities in central Oregon and incorporated into conservation education. 

▶️ Jefferson County gets $200,000 grant to make sidewalks, crosswalks safer

Jefferson County is receiving $200,000 as part of a nationwide safe roads grant.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $800 million will go toward hundreds of projects across the country. 

Seven of those grants are going to communities in Oregon. 

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The money for Jefferson County is to create a safety action plan to re-design sidewalks and crosswalks, hopefully reducing the number of accidents on the road. 

You can see where more of the money is going nationwide in the document below.