▶️ Severe volleyball referee shortage a big issue with season almost here

High school volleyball on the High Desert is in trouble.

“There is a huge shortage of officials,” said Ridgeview High School Athletic Director Randi Viggiano. “Whether that’s people leaving the profession, whether that is people leaving the area, but I believe we have 10 in all of Central Oregon.”

Only 10 officials for 17 schools in Central Oregon. With two officials needed for each game.

“To be honest, I don’t know how it is going to happen,” said Central Oregon Volleyball Commissioner Kelly Havig. “I put all the schedules in and a week from Tuesday on the first play date for regular matches, it came up that I needed 28 officials to fill the day. I have six.”

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Havig has been in discussion with the Oregon School Activities Association about the shortage — even making suggestions that coaches might need to ref junior varsity games.

“Hopefully, we can figure out a plan,” Havig said. “As it stands right now, I don’t have certified officials for are the requirements that OSAA has.”
Volleyball isn’t the only sport with a referee shortage, it’s all upcoming fall sports.

Viggiano says canceling games because of the shortage is a last resort. Rescheduling games, however is not only expected, but already happening.

“You will see some Friday night football games being played on Thursdays and Saturdays,” said Vigganio. “You know, moving soccer games to different dates just to spread out the officials.”

With all of the Bend and Redmond High Schools in the same conference (Mountain Valley) this season, officials have no breaks because even away games will still be in Central Oregon.

“You know they just have to cover more games,” said Viggiano. “Madras and Crook County are in the same conference. So, yeah it definitely puts a bigger strain.”

Viggiano encourages anyone who wants to help or to become an official to reach out to their local athletic directors.

▶️ 2nd Redmond Music & Arts Festival welcomes 20 local artists

At the High Desert Music Hall in Redmond, voices and instruments filled the air over the weekend. 

The 2nd annual Redmond Music and Arts festival ran Friday through Sunday. 

More than 20 local bands and artists were featured, along with up to 10 food and art vendors for visitors to enjoy.

Event organizers said there were far more people than last year, with crowds of more than 100 people appearing for some of the acts. 

They think the popularity was partially due to the free entry this year, which they decided on last minute. 

They wanted to make sure as many people as possible could enjoy the musical talent that Central Oregon has to offer. 

To learn more, visit the High Desert Music Hall website here

▶️ St. Charles says it overpaid workers $2 million, wants the money back

The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) has sent a cease and desist letter to St. Charles Health System on Friday after it was reported the hospital seeks to receive back payment from its employees. It all stems from the hacking of a payroll management provider that affected companies nationwide.

The letter alleges the demands by St. Charles for repayment by employees is illegal.

The workforce management company Kronos was hacked late last year. It forced the hospital to conduct its payroll method by hand.

Errors were made in the process, leading to underpaid and overpaid workers. St. Charles says the overpayment totals reach about $2 million. 

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St. Charles nurse Megan Bovi says she was handed a sticky note, without warning, detailing an amount of $2,900 that she owed. Bovi says there is no proof she was overpaid or how the amount was calculated.

“I’m not just going to take their word for it,” Bovi said. “I need evidence and why has this been rolled out so unprofessionally and disrespectfully and without tact?”

In a statement sent to Central Oregon Daily News, St. Charles spokesperson Lisa Goodman says the hospital believes employee time card entries show fewer hours than what employees are claiming to have worked.

ONA claims the Oregon Bureau of Labor Institute is clear on the issue.

“Paycheck deductions going to the employer to pay for an alleged ‘overpayment’ or loan are not for the employee’s benefit and are therefore unlawful,” the cease and desist letter reads.

Goodman responded to the letter on Friday.

“We strongly believe that we’ve complied with the law and with our contractual obligations in every respect as we’ve paid our employees and as we now look at how to make payroll corrections that are needed because of the ransomware attack on UKG,” Goodman said in an email.

Drug detection dog Ladybug joins Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team

Ladybug is on the job.

The Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team announced Bend Police drug detection K9 Ladybug and her handler, Detective Rob Pennock, are joining the team.

CODE says 10-year-old Ladybug “is highly trained at using her sense of smell to detect a variety of controlled substances, except marijuana. She will be a valuable tool to her teammates during our investigations all around Central Oregon.”

Reasons Ladybug was picked include her “unusually high play, prey, hunt and retrieve drives.” She was also selected based on her socialization, personality, size, and confidence in all environments such as elevated and slick surfaces, confined spaces, and inclement weather.   

Ladybug is a Belgian Malinois. Her favorite off-duty activities include hanging around a campfire and tummy scratches.

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▶️ Redmond Police want to hear from parents after child porn suspect arrested

A Redmond man has been arrested on charges related to possession and distribution of child pornography, Redmond Police announced Tuesday. They indicate he may have been around children in Central Oregon.

Brian Zollman, 47, was booked on 16 counts of Encouraging Child Sexual Abuse — six in the 1st degree and 10 in the second degree, Redmond PD said.

Zollman was arraigned Wednesday, where it was learned he’s also charged with Encouraging Sexual Assault of an Animal.

The arrest comes after a four-month investigation. Police said a search warrant was served Tuesday.

“Based on information learned during this investigation, Mr. Zollman may have had access to children in Redmond, Oregon, and Bend, Oregon,” police said in a statement.

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Anyone whose child has been in contact with Zollman over the past year or has information in this case is asked to call Redmond Police at 541-693-6911 and reference RPD case #22-18415.

Redmond Police say National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and the Central Oregon Digital Forensic Laboratory assisted in the investigation.

Reports of child sexual exploitation can be made through Deschutes County Dispatch at 541-693-6911, or through NCMEC’s Cyber Tipline.

▶️ ‘Big responsibility’: An inside look into slowing wildfires with air tankers

As wildfire season continues, air tanker planes at the Redmond Air Tanker base are always on standby. 

Captain Jonas Doherty says this fire season has been slow, but that does not mean he’s not busy. He has been flying out and assisting firefighters on the ground.

“The idea is that we put retardant down ahead of the advancing flame, sometimes in front of houses that might be impacted by the fire,” said Doherty. 

The flames are first radioed in by a lookout on the ground and then the command center sends out a small plane to scope it out. 

“And then they tell us what they want and where they want the retardant,” said Doherty.

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After the air tankers are ordered to a fire, it is all hands on deck according to Brad Allen, the assistant base retardant manager. 

“When an order comes out, we’re ready to go and we load the planes and they take off and come back and we do it again,” said Allen. 

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The pumps Allen manages deliver 450 gallons of retardant per minute to the tankers. He says the planes are filled in six to seven minutes. 

“The two tanks are tied to each other and they drop at the same time,” said Doherty.

Air tanker captains are on standby every day, prepared to swoop in and help. 

“Pushing the button and delivering that retardant to the final place is a big responsibility and it’s a big honor,” said Doherty. “And so it’s super rewarding to get to do that.”

▶️ ‘It was gnar’: Another Central Oregon thunderstorm rolls through

Summer thunderstorms in Central Oregon are nothing new. But even ones like those that rolled through Tuesday can manage to grab your attention.

“It was pretty gnar,” said Paul Streichan, manager of Whappos at the Silvermon Food Truck Court.

“It was so loud that the whole building shook,” said Jenna Wazny, Manager of Avid Cider Company in Bend.

The storm didn’t just shake Avid Cider, it also flooded it. 

“The hail started pretty soon after that and then it flooded in here and that is where my focus was,” said Wazny.

RELATED: Your Central Oregon thunderstorm photos

Silvermoon’s Food Truck Court also felt the storm’s wrath. 

“We definitely lost power for a brief couple of seconds and my ears are still kinda ringing to be honest. We felt a little strange being in a metal box around all of this,” said Streichan.

In other areas, the damage was much more severe. Downed power lines blocked roads in La Pine near Quail Run Golf Course. 

And Central Oregon Fire Information reported 800 lighting strikes and 70 new fire starts Tuesday. A Red Flag or Fire Weather Warning was in place for Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties through the end of Tuesday due to the risk of lightning starting a fire.
One lightning strike Tuesday morning knocked out power to 34,000 Pacific Power customers.

Your Central Oregon thunderstorm photos

You’ve shared some amazing photos with Central Oregon Daily News of the thunderstorms that have been rolling through the region Monday and Tuesday. Here are but a few.

See latest on the forecast on the Central Oregon Daily News weather page.

And you can share your photos with us at weather@centraloregondaily.com.

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RELATED: ‘It was gnar’: Another Central Oregon thunderstorm rolls through

RELATED: 100 new fire starts, mostly small, in Central Oregon lightning storms

Lightning Aug. 8, 2022
(CREDIT: Samantha Riley)
Lightning Aug. 9, 2022
(CREDIT: Paul Lauer)
Lightning Aug. 9, 2022
(CREDIT: Catherine Graham)
Lighting Aug. 9. 2022
(Credit: Stephanie Stout)

Lightning Aug. 9, 2022


▶️ School supply price hikes burden families; local efforts in place to help

Parents are starting to check items off the back-to-school supply list as the start of the school year nears, but this year, clearing that list might mean emptying your wallet. 

The recent inflation means it’s the most expensive year for back-to-school shopping costs to date across the nation. 

In Central Oregon, some community members like Cole Graves are hoping to lighten the burden for families. The Redmond man is on his third year of running a backpack and school supply drive, made possible through community donations. 

“Last year we gave out about 85, this year we’re predicting to do over 100 backpacks, so it’s been a good transformation and a good growth over the past few years,” Graves said. 

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With the hike in prices, the need is greater than ever. 

“There’s been a significant price change, obviously. It seems like everything in America went up $5,” he said. “So you take into account that same notebook that they called 25 cents, now costs 75 cents, or that same backpack that cost $15 now costs $30.” 

Graves uses the monetary donations from the community through his Facebook page and uses them to purchase supplies from “everywhere”, including Amazon, Target, and Walmart. 

This year, the distribution will take place at an event in Sam Johnson Park on Aug. 27 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., where all families from all school districts are welcome. 

“I mean, imagine a family of three having to buy kids school supplies,” he said. “That same budget that you had two years ago would not suffice now, whether that be for backpacks or school supplies.”

Research from the National Retail Federation shows that families are needing to spend 40.6% more on back to school spending and 35.5% more on back to college spending than they did in 2019.

Courtesy: National Retail Federation

Family Access Network also seeks to alleviate the problem locally, on a much broader scale. 

Each school in Bend-La Pine Schools, the Sisters School District, Redmond School District, Crook County School District and Jefferson County 509J School district has a FAN advocate in place to help with crucial student needs, including school supplies. 

Bend-La Pine Schools supplies most basic necessities for students, but connects a student with FAN for personal items like backpacks and water bottles. 

“Last school year we did help over 1,500 students have access to school supplies,” said Jen Enna, FAN’s Donor Relations, Events and Marketing Coordinator. “I think it’s more important this year with increase in price of school supplies, letting families know that our advocates are there and help and have these items for these students for the first day of school.”

FAN collects school supply donations through their community partner businesses, who run supply drives and deliver the items to FAN headquarters before the start of the school year. They also have an Amazon wish list that folks can contribute to. 

Enna said their offices were already filling up from the donations they have already received. 

“We’re still four weeks out from the start of the school year, but anyone who is struggling, know that they can connect with their advocate at the start of the year and we could help give the supplies that they need,” she said. 

More information about individual advocates and donations can be found on the FAN website

Graves said the backpack drive has become very personal to him. 

“It’s very important to me because I don’t want a child to not have the bare necessities when they go to school this year, whether it be a pencil, backpack, or even a piece of paper,” he said. “That’s why I took this challenge on, is to help as many as I possibly can.”

▶️ Remote Oregon wildfire cameras become key to finding new smokes quickly

When it comes to wildfires, finding them fast can mean the difference between a 25-acre blaze and a fire that burns for weeks.

Part of the job of finding those fires before they get too big falls on spotters perched in fire lookout towers. But technology is also helping to spot new smokes.

At the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Redmond detection center, staff watch over the landscape with cameras that are mounted atop towers on high points around the state.

“All fires are verified by a human heartbeat, a human person that looks at them,” said Jamie Paul, ODF’s camera coordinator for the state.

No, cameras aren’t new. They’ve been in use in other parts of the state for over a decade. The Douglas Forest Protection Association in Southwest Oregon was an early adopter.

“And when we saw how effective it was for them, the Southwest Oregon District was the next to pick them up,” said Paul.

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Wildfire lookout camera

The cameras have spread like — well — wildfire.

“It came down to funding and it was kind of proof of concept. And so we needed to build the infrastructure,” said Paul.

The legislature helped fund an expansion through a senate bill in 2021.

“These cameras statewide catch 25% of the fires at initial detection,” said Paul.

“Where our cameras are more remote, a lot of times, they’re our first detection just because there’s not as many eyes out in the forest or the lands that ODF protects,” said Guy Chamness, the center’s assistant manager. 

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Wildfire lookout cameras

These remote smoke detectors can do more than just watch.

“You can go back to use the cameras to try to pinpoint when the fire actually started,” said Chamness.

“It can go straight to mobile devices or tablets in an engine or aircraft,” said Paul. 

“It’s absolutely critical and very helpful to our firefighters to have an extra set of eyes,” said Ben Duda, Prineville and Sisters Unit Forester.

Some fear the digital devices will replace the analog.

“No, no not at all. I think it’s going to augment and dial that in. There’s still lookouts in the forest that we coordinate with,” said Duda.

Wildfire Lookout cameras

That includes an ODF-staffed lookout on Henkle Butte northeast of Sisters.

But over the years, the agency has placed cameras on decommissioned lookout sites. While there are a lot of bells and whistles, it doesn’t have a Siri or Alexa to sound the alarm.

“It’s the human being, the heart beat, that makes the decisions about an alert,” said Paul. 

The detection specialist can watch up to a dozen cameras with software cycling through a 360-degree view.

Fire managers call them another tool in the toolbox.

“One fire can go over $1 million so quickly, so the work these folks do here in the detection center is really really important,” said Paul.

With extreme drought conditions around much of the state, more of these will hopefully save more land and lives from wildfire.

ODF will continue to build out their network of cameras around the central and eastern parts of the state. They opened a detection center in La Grande that will monitor those digital eyes in the sky over Northeast Oregon.