▶️ Caterers, event planners bustling with the return of holiday parties

Holiday parties are making a comeback a year after most people and businesses kept gatherings small due to concerns about COVID.

Central Oregon Daily News spoke with caterers and event organizers about the resurgence of holiday parties.

“This is our December calendar. These two weeks are all holiday parties.”

Cerstin Cheatham and her staff at Bleu Bite are catering dozens of events the next two weeks.

“Just solid holiday parties. Saturday is multiple events. That’s six to eight parties every day. Same with Friday. Sundays are a little bit slower,” Cheatham said.

Demand for Bleu Bite’s Catering services is more than double what it was last December.

It’s also above pre-pandemic levels.

“Definitely better. We are probably up from 2019 about 15%. We do usually grow about 10% a year so it’s a little bit more than that,” she said.

“It’s been a strong holiday season thus far,” said Carrie Ramoz, Tetherow marketing manager.

Several local companies have held or scheduled holiday parties in Tetherow’s event center.

“With these nice doors we have that open, especially with the nice weather we’ve been having, a lot of parties have been indoor-outdoor hybrid,” Ramoz said. “They’ll do s’mores or whiskey by the fire. They’ll enjoy the view. That’s been a nice option to offer them.”

Events in other popular spots like Bend Park and Recreation’s Aspen Hall and Hollinshead Barn are running about half of pre-pandemic levels, but demand is rising.

“The parties we are seeing this year, the companies that are able to come together, they are tending to go a little bigger than they did before. They are looking to celebrate their teams,” said Ramoz.

Holiday party goers still need to wear masks indoors, except when they are eating or drinking, and maintain social distance.

But the tradition of gathering to celebrate the holidays appears to be coming back strong.

▶️ 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.

▶️ Beloved Bend Little League leader remembered for passion, kindness

Sam Palermo, a former president and umpire for Bend North Little League, an avid San Francisco Giants fan, and friend, left behind a legacy of hard work and kindness.

“I loved what he stood for. I loved how he made me feel like family, how he encouraged us all to treat each other like a family,” said Shelley Scarborough the Fundraising Chair for Bend North Little League.

“He was just like a grandfather amongst 12 or 13 grandchildren,” said Steve Mora a Former Coach for Bend North Little League.

Palermo passed almost two weeks ago, leaving an impact on those he spent time with enjoying the game of baseball.

Whether he was keeping score, helping beautify the fields, or taking kids on rides in his golf cart, Palermo did his best to do whatever Bend North Little League needed to succeed.

“Sam never shied away from taking on responsibility and he was really great at encouraging others to help out,” Scarborough said.

After volunteering for the league while his grandson played, Palermo quickly became the BNLL’s president.

Palermo was a pillar of support for when the League’s 12-year-old team reached the Little League World Series in 2016.

Steve Mora was one of the coaches for that team and said Palermo would do just about anything for the team without hesitation.

He shared a story about Palermo securing a cage for batting practice and getting the kids pizza during the tournament.

Palermo even approved of the bronze plaque memorializing the Little League World Series team, which you see when you enter BNLL’s field.

“And he was always about doing whatever he could to make sure that the players and the team had success,” Mora said.

Even after his grandson grew out of the league, Palermo continued to serve as an umpire and volunteer.

“We’re all so thankful for the time we were able to spend with Sam. We’re so thankful for what he brought Bend North Little League, and I think, from here on out, we’re all just trying to do better and be better just like Sam encouraged us to do,” Scarborough said.

In a message from the league about Palermo’s passing, Sam’s lively personality and passion for the game were praised. 

“Thank you, Sam, you have been an inspiration for so many of us.  We wish you Godspeed on your new journey and know you are smiling down on us from the great diamond in the sky.”

Smiling down on the league and all the hard work that will never be forgotten.

In lieu of flowers, Sam’s family encourages people to donate to Little League International and Bend North Little League to continue his legacy of giving back and encouraging kids to get out there and play some ball.

Shop with a Cop program gears up for the holidays; donations accepted

Planning and preparations are underway for the 2021 Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Shop with a Cop program.

Shop with a Cop is a joint venture between local law enforcement agencies throughout Central Oregon, local Walmart stores, and McDonald’s.

The primary focus is to help make the holidays a little brighter for less-fortunate families, and provide an opportunity for children to engage in positive police interaction.This year, Shop with a Cop will be similar to 2020. Last year our volunteers shopped for 75 school-aged children and their families.

Law enforcement then made deliveries to their houses dropping off the gifts and McDonalds meal vouchers.

Although it is not how we envision Shop with a Cop to take place, we are grateful that we are still able to make this event happen.

Gifts are often essential items such as; shoes, clothing, personal hygiene items, household items and other needed supplies.

The program also assists children and families throughout the year with basic needs during emergencies.Shop with a Cop is completely funded by donations from our community. Many businesses, organizations, and individual citizens give money to the program.

No tax dollars are spent on this program. In addition to shopping for the students, Shop with a Cop also partners with Walmart to help provide a Christmas meal for some families.  We apply 100% of community donations to this local program.Participating students are referred primarily by a community based advocacy group that works directly with school-aged children at most schools throughout Deschutes County.

Additional students are referred via the Central Oregon Partnership for Youth (COPY) program, which provides positive mentoring for children of incarcerated parents.. Shop with a Cop is overseen and coordinated by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, however, its continued success stems from the participation of deputies from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, officers and deputies from agencies throughout Central Oregon, the Oregon State Police, and law enforcement from the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Shop with a Cop has also been overwhelmingly successful in past years because of the outstanding generosity, in the form of monetary support, from local citizens and businesses. Volunteer support for the program has always been a critical part of the program’s success as well.For businesses and citizens who would like to make a monetary contribution towards this year’s program, donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the main Sheriff’s Office in Bend, or at the Sheriff’s Office’s substations in La Pine and Sisters. Checks, made out to “DCSO SWAC”, can also be mailed to:Deschutes County Sheriff’s OfficeAttn: Shop with a Cop Program63333 West Highway 20Bend, OR 97703We again would like to thank the many Central Oregon businesses and community members that make Shop with a Cop possible…together, we CAN again make a big difference in the lives of many individuals and families!

▶️ Health officials expect continued surge in COVID vaccination numbers

Between a new variant and kids becoming eligible, various local vaccination clinics are seeing the same kind of interest and pressure.

The Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center had hundreds come through its drive-thru vaccine clinic Tuesday, the first day of operation, and many more on Wednesday.

“Four hundred fifty four doses were provided to the community and that included primarily booster doses,” Morgan Emerson, Deschutes County Public Health said. “About 375 booster doses were given out, and the rest were of mix of first doses, second doses, and pediatric vaccines.”

That is not the only bustling location.

▶️ Long lines, eager participants welcome new vaccine clinic at fairgrounds

 

Five hundred more people showed up to a clinic at Larkspur Community Center Tuesday, and the Deschutes Public Library in downtown Bend has been consistently busy giving booster doses.

“Here at the Bend Library we’ve given up to 400 doses,” Crystal Sully, Deschutes County Public Health COVID-19 vaccine operations supervisor said. “That’s a lot of vaccinations over the course of four hours.”

Sully says each new week tends to be the biggest week yet at pop-up clinics and crowds will likely continue.

“Because of the numbers we have in Deschutes County of people who want that boost dose and the lack of a true mass vaccination site,” Sully said. “I’m expecting the crowds through December and into January.”

The drive-thru clinic at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond is open Monday through Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.

The clinic at Larkspur Community Center in Bend is open every Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m.

The clinic at the Deschutes Public Library in downtown Bend is open every Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m.

▶️ 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.

 

▶️ Local doctor and former nurse battling HIV reflect on World AIDS Day

Wednesday marked World AIDS Day across the globe – 40 years since the CDC officially reported the first cases.

The theme for this year’s anniversary: End inequalities. End AIDS.

Today, nearly 38 million people worldwide have HIV and nearly a quarter of them don’t have access to care.

Closer to home, there are about 8,000 people in Oregon that have been diagnosed with HIV.

Tonight we hear from a local doctor fighting the virus and a former nurse who was treating AIDS in the 80s, and contracted HIV himself in 1985.

 

 

Increased emergency SNAP benefits continue in December

(Salem) – Most Oregonians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will receive emergency allotments in December.

The federal government has approved emergency allotments every month since March 2020.

This gives SNAP recipients additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In December, approximately 391,000 SNAP households will receive approximately $62 million in extra food benefits in addition to their regular SNAP benefits.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide emergency benefits to most SNAP households in Oregon,” said Dan Haun, director of the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Self-Sufficiency Program. “We also know that many Oregonians are still struggling to meet their basic needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we encourage them to contact our partners at 211 and the Oregon Food Bank for support during this difficult time.”

Emergency allotments will be available on Dec. 11 for current SNAP households.

New SNAP households will receive the emergency allotments Dec. 30 or Jan. 4.

SNAP recipients do not have to take any action to receive these supplemental benefits as they will be issued directly on their EBT cards.

More information about emergency allotments is available at https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/ASSISTANCE/FOOD-BENEFITS/Pages/About-SNAP.aspx.

Questions about your SNAP benefits should be directed to the ONE Customer Service Center at 1-800-699-9075.

If you are a SNAP household and your income or the number of people in your household has changed, it could impact your benefits. It is important to make sure ODHS has the most up-to-date information.

You can report any changes to your income or household in many ways:

  • Online at: ONE.Oregon.gov
  • By mail at: ONE Customer Service Center, PO Box 14015, Salem, OR 97309
  • By fax at: 503-378-5628
  • By phone at: 1-800-699-9075 or TTY 711

Resources to help meet basic needs

Administered by ODHS, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to approximately 1 million eligible, low-income families and individuals in Oregon, including many older adults and people with disabilities.

Oregonians in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP, child care, cash assistance and Medicaid. Learn more at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits. For local resources in your area, such as food or shelter, please call 2-1-1 or reach out to the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) at 1-855-ORE-ADRC or 1-855-673-2372.

▶️ 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.