The Deschutes County Fairgrounds is looking to expand into one of the biggest fairgrounds complexes in the nation, but first a land exchange between local and state entities must occur.
“It would give us the largest property of its type in the nation and the opportunity to come up with a full master plan for what the rest of the full build-out of the campus will look like and give us these opportunities to meet needs that we aren’t currently able to utilize,” said Deschutes County Fairgrounds Director Geoff Hinds.
The exchange would add 140 acres to the already 320-acre property.
“Once that’s done, we’ll go into a master planning phase and figure out what we would build next and what that price tag might look like and where the funding would come for that,” said Hindz.
The land is on the south side of the fairgrounds across from the RV park.
Something the fairgrounds is hoping to improve on by adding more camping spots, especially for 4-H and FFA members during the fair.
“We just don’t own that property yet, and, you know, one of those things that we would certainly put into the master plan is the ability to house those members during the best five days of summer and then figure out what we would do with that space for the rest of the year,” Hinds said.
Hinds says the expansion would also include a new south side entry, which would mean better access for people coming from Bend and other areas to the south.
Planners are looking for community input to help with further developments.
“Sports fields, sports complex, is certainly one we hear a lot about, but just a tremendous other amounts of items on the table,” Hinds said. “It would give us the opportunity to explore those and figure out what’s the best utilization long term.”
Spring break marks the unofficial start of travel season and it looks to be a busy one. With an average of 30 flights a day, Redmond Airport is already busy with people getting a head start on Oregon spring break.
“Everything was good. Flew into Salt Lake. The airport there is still under construction. It’s kind of precarious there but the connection happened and here we are, ready to rage,” said Cory, flying in from Tucson.
The airlines are flying larger planes to Redmond that carry more passengers. Each arrival and departure brings more people who are trying to park, check in, get through security or claim their baggage at the same time.
“3:00 a.m-7:00 a.m. is our peak time of the day,” said Jayde Hawkins, Redmond Airport Security Manager. “We are also seeing a big increase at night. Some of the inbound groups at night, again, larger groups of folks coming off the flight at the same time so a lot of activity in the terminal, on the curb and in the parking lots.”
According to AAA, spring break booking levels are up 20% to 60% over last year and at or above levels seen in 2019, before the pandemic.
“40% of U.S. adults who are traveling over spring break are taking a multi generational vacation. So you’ve got the kids, the parents and the grandparents. During COVID many folks had limited interaction with loved ones so it makes sense they are trying to make up for lost time,” said Marie Dodds with AAA Oregon-Idaho.
Redmond Airport’s standing recommendation to arrive two hours before a flight departs seems like good advice, especially during spring break.
COCC says “Planned demos include a look at the automotive program’s Tesla and its advanced driver-assistance system, and experiential discovery in carpentry and metal fabrication, among other sessions, with students rotating through a set of stations. Materials and information about the college’s veterinary tech program will also be shared. Attendees will tour the campus and enjoy a free lunch, with coordination partnership from the High Desert Education Service District.”
This is the campus’ first time time offering the CTE preview day, but they hope to make it an annual event that shows high school students what programs they have to offer.
For years, inmates booked at the Deschutes County Jail who are addicted to drugs or alcohol have been left to detox in their cells, only to be released back to the neighborhoods, friends and dealers that got them there in the first place. And the cycle continues.
Inmates could take advantage of voluntary counseling. But for most, the goal is finding the next hit.
Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson and his staff are implementing a plan to treat the inmate’s addiction first. So, for the first time ever, they leave with a clear mind and a network of services to keep them from ever coming back.
It’s paid for with funds from Oregon Measure 110, aimed at channeling hundreds of millions of dollars of marijuana tax revenues into drug treatment and harm reduction programs.
Khristine Fodor is a 35-year old mother of two. She’s a methamphetamine and fentanyl addict.
She is now also a felon.
“I stole a car and I got my first felony from it. And put on probation,” said Khristine.
She was released from jail 72 days after losing her kids, her job and her home. What she still has is a drug dealer and friends who are still using. The odds say Khristine will die of an overdose within a week or be right back in jail in a few days.
The Deschutes County Jail is also a second home for Shawnda Jennings. She too is a recovering addict, spending decades chasing her next hit of meth or heroin.
“I’ve been where they’re sitting. I know everything that they’re feeling. The loneliness, them being scared,” said Shawnda.
Today, she spends her time guiding inmates like Khristine out of the nightmare of addiction as a peer outreach specialist for Ideal Option drug treatment center in Bend.
She is the partner Sheriff Nelson was looking for to turn previous inmate outreach on its head.
For decades, the drug assistance offered in places like this consisted of therapy and mental health counseling if you could find it. And then, if you didn’t die of an overdose first, medication to curb the need for your drug of choice. Most inmates just don’t have that kind of time. They need help kicking their addiction immediately.
Enter Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), where killing their cravings is the first order of business, not the last.
“Once we can get them on an effective medication for them to be stabilized, start thinking about what they want to do, so that they’re not making decisions based on their cravings, their sickness, and all of those things that are not letting their brains process what a meaningful life can be, we’re gonna start that process,” said Deschutes County Sheriff’s Captain Michael Shults.
And that process has to start before they walk out the door.
“You have that small window. I mean, either they’re going to get help … they’re gonna go to their dope guy or they’re gonna get help. So, being able to help that person within the first 24 hours is huge,” said Shawnda.
For addicts like Khristine, the new approach means new hope.
“If I didn’t have that, the chance of relapse would probably be a lot higher because my mentality on my body can’t fight that addiction on its own right now,” said Khristine.
She found that out a few months ago when she overdosed on fentanyl just days after serving a previous jail sentence. A friend was carrying narcan. She would survive this time.
“Probably 90% of the individuals that come into our jail have an addiction issue, a mental health issue or a medical issue or a combination of all of the above,” said Nelson.
The MAT program is where sheriff nelson feels his Measure 110 money is best spent.
“To help them overcome their addiction challenge which is most likely leading them to a life of crime or driving the wedge between them and their family members and support structure,” said Nelson. “So, if they have access to medication assisted treatment and that helps them overcome their addiction, so that they’re not in the criminal justice system anymore, that’s a win.”
And not just a win for them. Every inmate at the jail eventually gets released and then becomes your neighbor, the clerk at your favorite store, filling your car with gas, the parent of a student in your child’s class. No one is isolated from this problem.
However, isolation from their past is key to the success of these addicts. And that includes partnering with those who can provide job assistance and even temporary housing. Turning points and other groups are equal partners in this effort.
“The data shows that they are arrested at a significantly lower rate, they maintain their court appearances, they use the ER medical services less and they show up for court and they don’t come back,” said Shults.
The National Institutes of Health confirms that in states from Washington to Rhode Island, up to 70% of the inmates on the MAT program broke their addictions and never returned to jail.
Khristine is starting over: Looking for acceptance, hoping others can understand the struggle, forgive the deeds and open their minds.
“I’m engaging in the community. I’m doing what I need to do. I’m seeing a psychologist. I’m taking steps toward my sobriety and my mental health and again, that’s all stuff that I got through jail,” said Khristine. “You can’t judge a book by its cover. And, if you believe in second chances, we are living proof of second chances.”
Every single inmate fighting addiction is now offered a shot at the MAT program and at a normal life before they leave.
“Does it mean they’re gonna take it when they walk out those doors? But at least we can be there to offer it to them,” said Shawnda.
Khristine took that offer and is now working on a job, permanent housing and proving she can be a good mother to her 4-month old and 2-year-old children.
MAT is funded by the taxes raised through cannabis sales, and while Sheriff Nelson disagrees with much of what Measure 110 allows, the fact that it pays for the mat program is an important consolation.
Local companies are stepping up after hearing the news that nine workers at the Treager Grills wood pellet plant in Redmond are losing their jobs in a few days.
“For these people, I’d just like to see them land somewhere where they have a family-wage job with good quality benefits so they don’t have to worry about it at the end of the day,” plant manager Rich Evans told us Tuesday.
Since then, Central Oregon Daily News is told that at least four local companies have expressed interest in hiring those workers who have skills in heavy equipment operation, production, distribution and management.
Not long after we posted the Treager Grills story on our Facebook page, Mill Power Inc. in Prineville posted a comment encouraging the workers to apply, saying “We have several openings and are looking for great people!”
The Redmond Traeger plant will officially shut down on March 31.
A $200 million funding package focused on creating housing and resources for the unhoused passed through the state senate Tuesday night. Now it will go to Governor Tina Kotek’s desk to be signed.
“This package is going to be very helpful in the near term for people who are at risk of becoming homeless and it will be helpful in the long term as the dollars result in new indoor shelter beds created,” said Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang.
The tri-county area is expecting $14 million to address housing needs here.
“Since the bulk of the population of the tri-county region is in Deschutes County, most of that $14 million will come here,” said Chang.
The main goals of the money are to increase shelter capacity, rental assistance and ramp up housing production.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, tells us one of the main reasons he voted “yes.”
“Homeless youth has been a big issue that I’ve wanted to try to help on and so there’s a significant portion of funding in there for homeless youth,” said Knopp.
“The package didn’t have everything in it that it needed, but more importantly we need a housing package this session,” he added.
“This is a down payment on the work that we are going to do in the session, and it’s early in the session and that’s why I am so proud we had both sides of the aisle coming together to work on this and I absolutely agree that we have to build more affordable housing,” said Rep. Emerson Levy, D-Bend, a sponsor of the bill.
While Commissioner Chang said he is grateful for this state support, he does have worries.
“I am concerned that we will continue to need things like managed camps and outdoor shelter and safe parking and this program, this package, does not address those outdoor shelters,” said Chang.
The funds will be delivered to a regional coordination group made up of local governments, nonprofits and other organizations. It will then be used to support projects across the tri-county area.