Fire near La Pine nears control; crews head for other blazes

Four 20-member crews working on mopping up the 550-acre Newberry 2 Fire north of La Pine were shipped to new wildfires Monday, leaving 300 still on the lines.

Fire bosses still expect to declare the blaze controlled at 6 p.m. Tuesday, two days after crews contained the blaze within 6 1/2 miles of fire lines.

La Pine High School has been turned into an impromptu fire camp — a place for food, sleep and cleanup for the firefighters. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Several Oregon fires part of 4 million acre tally

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (http://www.nifc.gov/fireinfo/nfn.html#Oregon) the state’s biggest blaze was the 11,000-acre Kern Fire, 25 miles south of Vale, which neared containment Monday. The biggest trouble was being caused by the 8,900-acre Tamarack Creek Fire, 50 miles west of John Day, which threatened several ranches and commercial timber stands. The lightning-caused Slide Mountain Fire has blackened 400 acres in the Strawberry Wilderness Area of the Malheur National Forest, 10 miles south of Prairie City. National Guard helicopters are helping battle that fire.

About 4 million acres have gone up in smoke so far this summer in what authorities are calling the worst Western fire season in a half-century. All 11 Western states are reporting very high to extreme fire danger, with little if any change is expected in Oregon’s recent run of hot, dry weather for the next week to 10 days — and forecasters also predict a return of thunderstorms with dry lightning over much of the state later this week.

The fire near La Pine began Thursday afternoon, burning easterly about a mile south and parallel to Paulina Lake Road (also known as Road 21). It began within a mile of the Newberry Estates subdivision, but no structures were threatened and no evacuations were expected.

Blaze expanded on Awbrey Hall anniversary

Crews earlier had managed to complete a hose lay around the perimeter of the Newberry 2 Fire at 300 acres, but more accurate mapping led to the bigger size, said Terri Gates of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center. Paulina Lake Road was temporarily closed in three areas but reopened at 9 p.m. Friday, officials said.

The sound of engines could be heard over most of Central Oregon late Friday as two air tankers made round-robin runs until nightfall from Redmond Air Center to drop chemical retardant and slow the flames’ advance, Gates said. It was a memory-stirring sight and sound on the 10th anniversary of the Awbrey Hall Fire, which raced toward Bend the night of Aug. 4, 1990. That fire, later determined to be arson, destroyed 22 homes and caused an estimated $9 million in property damage, although a wind shift spared more of west and south Bend from destruction.

Cabins at lake not evacuated

The blaze apparently was human-caused, like the vast majority of this summer’s wildfires in the region, but the exact cause remained under investigation. Cabins at the lakes were not in danger and not vacuated, Gates said, but people staying there were being kept up to date on the status of the fire.

A Type II “overhead team” of fire bosses, based in Central Oregon, was dispatched to the wilderness fire on the Malheur National Forest in Eastern Oregon, so an Oregon Department of Forestry team was called in to oversee the Newberry 2 firefight, Gates said.

The Newberry 2 Fire broke out Thursday evening and sent a stream of brown smoke northward across the Bend-area skies.

The fire, reported at 5:14 p.m., burned in fairly dense lodgepole pine and brush. A second fire, about a quarter-acre in size, was reported five minutes later near Wickiup Junction but was quickly contained, dispatchers said.

Fire officials warned that current Central Oregon conditions are extreme and as dry as is normally seen in late August. They urged residents and visitors to be careful with fire and know regulations before striking a match.

Fire north of Prineville controlled

The new blazes erupted just as firefighters declared control of the 150-acre Coon Creek Fire, a stubborn blaze that burned on state-protected lands 16 miles north of Prineville. The blaze was reported Monday afternoon and contained by crews on Wednesday evening. Mop-up crews remain on that fire, the cause of which is under investigation.

Firefighters worked in heat and rugged terrain to dig lines around that blaze, which broke out on timberland owned by the Ochoco Lumber Co.

Update: Stiles says renewed endorsement shows ‘no confidence’ in sheriff

Deschutes County Sheriff Greg Brown has lost, by a resounding margin, a second vote on his employees’ endorsement of challenger Les Stiles, according to results announced late Thursday.

Unlike the first vote, taken in June, the revote was done by secret ballot, mailed to all 138 members of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Employees Association two weeks ago. All but 12 of those members returned ballots, and 89 employees – almost 71 percent – voted to stick with the endorsement of Stiles, while 37 others voted to overturn the endorsement — not voting to back Brown, but to stay neutral in the hotly contested race. In the initial DCSEA vote, 38 of the 47 members at the meeting voted to make the endorsement, followed later by a donation of about $2,700 to the Stiles campaign.

It was the second big piece of bad news this week for Brown. On Monday, the sheriff and county commissioners reluctantly pulled a proposed law enforcement district off the Nov. 7 ballot, after Oregon Department of Revenue officials said the permanent funding measure’s split rural/urban property tax rate would be unconstitutional.

The reinforced endorsement of Brown’s challenger comes just five days before the two are scheduled to face off in their first debate, next Tuesday at noon before a Rotary meeting at The Riverhouse.

Brown had no public comment on the endorsement, in advance of the debate. But Stiles said the margin of the June 12 vote left “no doubt in my mind about the outcome of the vote this time.”

“It is clear there is an overwhelming majority of sheriff’s employees that have no confidence in the sheriff,” Stiles said. “I cannot think of any other interpretation the sheriff can place on this vote to downplay its importance. The vote and margin speaks for itself. Maybe we can now move on to the really important issues of leadership and trust that are critical in this race.”

District stall may require new levy

Since the law enforcement district cannot proceed, the county exects to put either another multi-year sheriff’s levy on the ballot in March or May of 2001, or seek the new permanent district at that time – and that’s only if the 2001 Oregon Legislature can make a legislative fix to pave the way. Either way, the deadline will be fast approaching next spring for a new funding source, as the sheriff’s department’s current 3-year levy expires on June 30 of next year.

“The Department of Revenue believes that an existing or proposed taxing district seeking oter approval for more than one permanent rate limit does so outside of the provisions of the (state) Constitution,” Rick Schack, supervisor of the Department of Revenue’s Finance, Education, Appeals and Tax Unit, said in a letter earlier this month to the sheriff’s department’s legal counsel, Sue Brewster.

Brown had intended to ask voters on Nov. 7 to approve a permanent law enforcement district with the same split tax rate as the current levy: $1.12 per $1,000 of assessed value in rural areas and 78 cents in the cities. The difference is the cost of rural deputy patrols, while city residents pay for the jail and other operations.

The state did lay out two other options the county could pursue, such as two different county districts, each with its own voter-approved rate limit. But Brown and the commissioners agreed Monday that such a vote could pose its own troubles – such as the passage of one district and voter defeat of the other. The county will look into the legality of a double-barreled measure that requires both to be approved.

The state’s other alternative would be to create one countywide district, with one tax rate, but promise voters that the lower amount would be levied in urban areas. County officials said the odds of passing such a “we promise to levy less than we can” vote would be slim, at best. And the Department of Revenue official said thtat option also would require new legislation, giving the district authority to impose differing tax rates.

The mess is part of the continuing fallout from the complexities of tax-limiting Measures 47 and 50. The sheriff’s last levy request — a legal, split-rate affair — was on the same ballot as Measure 50. That measure also resulted in a tax computation snafu that mistakenly levied a supposedly expired sheriff’s levy – then split those dollars among all other government and school entities in the county, except for the sheriff’s office.

District vote delay has some positives

Brown agreed Monday that a small positive aspect of the delayed vote will be to separate the funding measure, whatever form it ends up taking, from the contentious race he faces this fall against Stiles, a Bend police lieutenant.

The delay also removes the sheriff’s funding issue from what will be Oregon’s longest general election ballot since 1914, with 26 statewide initiatives qualified for the mail-in ballot.

Stiles, who has been in favor of the permanent sheriff’s funding district, joined his opponent in disappointment over the turn of events.

“I am sorry (Measures) 47/50 caused this mess,” Stiles said. “I have real heartburn with poorly thought out, knee-jerk ballot measures that tamper with our Constitution. This is the result, and the taxpayers continue to pay. The courts and attorneys will be busy again.”

Brewster said the state Department of Revenue would not stop the election – but if it were to proceed, it could stop the assessor from collecting the taxes.

Commissioner Dennis Luke asked state Rep. Ben Westlund, R-Bend, on Monday to seek a legislative counsel’s opinion on the Department of Revenue’s stance. If that opinion differs from the Department of Revenue’s views on the issues, Luke said, the agency then could ask for a ruling from the state attorney general’s office. The commissioner said the issue also likely would be raised with Gov. John Kitzhaber during a visit to Bend on Wednesday.

One added hurdle facing the later vote will be the need for a 50 percent turnout for passage – only the November general election escapes that requirement. But Commissioner Tom DeWolf noted that the turnout target can be easier to achieve with mail-in balloting – though by no means guaranteed.

The sheriff noted that newcomers to the county frequently question why they must repeatedly vote on their key services, such as law enforcement – something the permanent district is designed to address. If a short-term levy is required, Brown said he’d prefer a 4-year funding measure, allowing for the district vote to occur in 2002. But he said he would prefer a “quick, clean” fix of the problem by the Legislature, allowing the vote on a permanent district sooner, rather than later.

Brown responds on endorsements, jail bed rentals

Brown also commented to bend.com on other issues raised by critics in recent weeks on the Web site and elsewhere:

–Brown explained that new advisory stickers, required by state statute, have been posted at sheriff’s office entrances to advise of recording equipment inside. But he said the new microphones were installed only in interview rooms, which are used for discussions among suspects, lawyers and investigators – his office is not “bugged,” as a critic surmised.

–Stiles also has won endorsements from organizations representing the county’s deputy district attorneys, Bend and Redmond police and fire employees, and Oregon State Police troopers, dispatchers and crime labs workers. Brown claimed many of those arose from arranged gatherings of Stiles supporters and that only one organization so far – the Central Oregon Builders Association – has made its endorsement (of Brown) after meeting with both candidates. He said more of his own endorsements will be announced as the formal campaign begins in September.

–The sheriff acknowledged that 10 of the 322 inmate beds in the adult jail and state-built work release center are rented to the state. He cited two reasons, one a program that has returning state prison inmates back in the community but housed at the jail for a transition program involving employment or other issues, rather than just “dumping them back here to commit more crimes.” He also said the revenues from the state rental of prison beds pays for four corrections deputies – and that without that added staffing, 30 other adult jail beds could not be used.

Happy ending: Missing Bend couple turn up safe

An anxious weekend ended happily for family members and authorities Monday when a missing elderly Bend couple was found safe and sound at a Yakima, Wash. motel.

The family of Willard B. Hollenbeck, 81, and his wife, Dorothy, 77, had notified police when the couple failed to check in Friday night from the Yakima motel. The couple had left Bend Friday morning enroute to Bellevue, Wash., to visit family members.

Oregon State Police Sgt. Eric Brown in Bend made telephone contact with the Hollenbecks at a Nendel’s Inn at Yakima, where they were staying. An alert motel clerk notified police upon recognizing the couple from media reports about the disappearance. The couple then called relieved family members.

The couple was to have spent Friday evening at Yakima’s Red Lion Inn Motel, then travel to Bellevue Saturday. Family members became alarmed after contacting the motel and being told the couple did not arrive. But a Yakima police officer contacted the motel Sunday night and confirmed through motel records that the couple indeed had stayed there Friday evening and checked out Saturday morning.

The Hollenbecks told police Monday that they did travel to Bellevue as planned but were unable to find the residence where they were headed. They were unable to contact family members and decided to drive back toward home, stopping in Yakima to rest.

The couple’s daughter, Linda Cohn of Portland, and other family members expressed their appreciation to police and the media for their assistance in locating the couple. An OSP pilot flew over Highway 97 on Sunday from Bend to Biggs Junction and didn’t locate their vehicle. They had last been seen when they stopped and had lunch around noon Friday at the Shaniko Motel along Highway 97.

Bend man arrested in sex abuse case

A 26-year-old Bend man was arrested after a brief chase Friday on multiple counts of first-degree sexual abuse involving two young children, police said.

Officers went to Justin Douglas Lampke’s residence on S. Highway 97 around 11:20 a.m. on a reported sex offense investigation, said police Lt. Les Stiles. Officers determined the suspect allegedly had sexually abused two boys, ages 6 and 7.

When officers tried to arrest Lampke, he fled on foot, Stiles said. A short foot pursit ended in Lampke being taken into custody. He was lodged at the Deschutes County Jail on the abuse charges, with bail set at $20,000.

Bend firm, Redmond utility blaze trail on 21st Century power source

It’s something most of us take for granted, as much as flipping on a light switch. But amid rising energy prices and demand, a fierce race is on toward a potentially lucrative finish line. The goal: making a 150-year-old technology – fuel cells – commercially feasible and bringing the world a much cleaner, quieter and more reliable way to produce electricity.

It may sound pie in the sky, like atomic power of decades past. But experts say fuel cells – which first entered the world’s collective consciousness 30 years ago, on manned spaceflights – are now becoming comparable in terms of cost and reliability to conventional power sources. And a Bend company has joined a Redmond-based public utility and the Bonneville Power Administration (http://www.bpa.gov) as trailblazers on the final stretch to what could well become a new world of fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly and easy to produce electric power.

Some of the country’s first everyday beneficiaries of fuel cell technology are Central Electric Cooperative (http://www.cec-co.com) employees taking a coffee break, booting an office computer or working up a sweat on exercise machines at CEC’s Redmond headquarters. Almost two months ago, Bend-based IdaTech (http://www.idatech.com) delivered to CEC the first of 110 fuel cell systems slated for sale to the BPA. The half-ton box, about the size of a CEC safe sitting nearby, is a third-generation “alpha” unit, with beta systems expected by late this year, said Dave Edlund, a former Bend Research employee who in 1996 cofounded Northwest Power Systems, later acquired by IdaCorp (Idaho Power) and renamed IdaTech.

Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert a fuel’s energy directly to electrical energy, according to the National Fuel Cell Research Center (http://www.nfcrc.uci.edu) . They operate much like continuous batteries when supplied with fuel to the negative electrode (methanol in the current IdaTech design, later most likely natural gas) and an oxidant (in other words, air) to the positive electrode. In traditional power generation, something is burned by combustion to produce heat, and that energy is converted to mechanical energy, such as with a turbine, which produces electricity. Fuel cells chemically combine the molecules of a fuel and oxidizer without burning.

Bend firm far from alone in fuel cell race

IdaTech’s fuell cell is a stack of plates, usually of graphite, with grooves cut into them. A fuel processor creates purified hydrogen that then enters the fuel cell, where it is combined with oxygen from the air to produce electricity, heat and pure water.The only other significant byproduct is carbon dioxide.

Much like other technological races, there are numerous competitors and more than one type of fuel cell being developed, for uses ranging from spacecraft, buses and vehicles to stationary power needs. IdaTech is using a method called “proton exchange method” in the devices it is building under a $3.5 million BPA contract, which includes a 50 percent cost-sharing arrangement with BPA customers. The current cost for such units is $50,000, but Edlund expects the first commercial systems to sell for $10,000 and prices to drop after that, as increased manufacturing brings more cost efficiency.

To Edlund and others working in the fuel cell race to market, the future of power is “distributed generation,” meaning electricity produced on-site, where needed, thus eliminating one of the biggest costs and inefficiencies of electricity – transmission lines. As a result, the power generated by a fuel cell – which has no moving parts — is free from voltage surges and sags, so prime potential markets are in the areas of backup, mobile and uninterruptible power for residential and commercial customers. An added benefit would be “net metering” – when generated power is unneeded, it can be sold and put into the traditional power grid, earning the customer some revenue or cost savings.

Co-op seeks out ‘cutting edge’

“We got right in line quick when we heard about it,” said Jim Crowell, CEC’s member services director with CEC, which clearly wants to leave behind the stereotype of sleepy, rural electric co-ops: “We want to be on the cutting age, and if we can get it from a manufacturer right down the street, so much the better.”

The first two months of operations haven’t been flawless – Crowell recalls walking in to see a little red light blinking and hearing a beep beep. But IdaTech, CEC and BPA are gaining valuable experience as they fine tune the design for future users. At the Redmond office, the fuel cell is providing power roughly equal to a typical home’s use, at about 8 cents a kilowatt-hour – close to the current cost of power in Bend, including 2 ½ cents in taxes. Could the fuel cell energy be taxed as well? “They haven’t figured out how — yet,” Edlund said, adding that the price of the power is likely to drop when natural gas is used as the fuel.

The first customers are likely to choose fuel cells for environmental benefits or as eager “early adopters,” said Mark Holden, CEC’s project manager and corporate information officer. It also is likely to prove attractive to rural residents or businesses facing costly power line extensions, or others seeking power practically immune to spikes and surges (unless there’s a direct lightning hit on the unit). The current version of the system runs on about 8 gallons of methanol a day, or $6.40 worth. And fuel cells make no noise – current units make less noise than a typical air conditioner, and it all comes from pumps and fans, not the power generation itself.

IdaTech currently employs about 50 people in Bend at its new offices in the Empire Corporate Park, a number that could swell to about 200 in the next two years as production ramps up. But the fuel cell factory, expected by mid-2001, is not likely to be built in bend, Edlund said, citing the area’s lack of a skilled labor force.

Fuel cells vastly improved from space days

Fuel cells have come a long way from the 30-year-old technology on spacecraft that cost millions of dollars and required liquid oxygen or hydrogen, Edlund said. But the prime time to make to happen is now, he said: “We have to move fast. We have competitors. We have a technology that’s very close to being ready for prime time.”

Edlund calls distributed power generation “the wave of the future” and compares it to the technology of cell phones. In fact, Motorola recently reported (http://www.motorola.com/ies/ESG/3spotlight.html) that it is examining fuel cell technology for customers growing portable energy demands, envisioning batteries that recharge in 2 or 3 seconds – call it a “fuel cell phone,” perhaps.

In the meantime, amid shifts toward electricity deregulation, new “green power” options and debates over fish vs. power generation, Edlund said, “There’s a tremendous amount of education of the public that needs to be done” about fuel cells and the promise that they hold.

Interest, emotions run high on controversial Elk Meadow project

The city of Bend’s first public meeting on a proposal to develop the city’s largest remaining piece of undeveloped property close to the Deschutes River made one thing perfectly clear:

It’ll take a bigger room to hold all of the opponents likely to show up at an Aug. 17 hearing to call either for outright denial or major changes to the 157-acre Brookswood Meadows “planned unit development.”

More than 100 people, most sporting bright green “Save Elk Meadow” buttons, showed up at the city’s Public Works Building Thursday night for an open house designed to present information about the project, which includes about 361 home lots of 6,000 to 16,000 square feet, about 260 time-share units and more than 40 acres of open space. A hearings officer will take testimony at the same location on Aug,. 17 at 7 p.m.; city planners will release their staff report and recommendations about a week before that.

Developer Dave Sturdevant, who just bought a home on Awbrey Butte, joined his associates in answering questions about the proposal at one of several stations set up around the room. Others dealt with subjects as the impacts on schools, parks and open space, zoning, emergency services and wildlife.

City planning chief: ‘We’re not advocates’

The initial comments and questions will play a role in what the city planners recommend, said Deborah McMahon, development services director. “We are not advocates for the developer,” McMahon insisted before her staff explained how the land-use review process works, and how members of the public can be involved most effectively. “It’s his (the developer’s) burden to prove he meets the criteria,” said planner James Lewis – and the opponents’ job to show that he doesn’t.

The city also seeks comments from other agencies as it prepares a recommendation. Bend Fire Marshal Gary Marshall, for example, said his agency is recommending that another access be added to the project, perhaps to Buck Canyon Road to the south, since both roads into the development as proposed connect with Brookswood Boulevard.

The developers are asking the city for approval of a change from low-density to standard-density residential zoning, as Bend’s 20-year land use plan indicates the parcel eventually would be developed. They are proposing a planned unit development, or PUD, in order to have more density on some areas and leave a 22-acre open space meadow, with ponds and a creek bed, as well as a 3-acre neighborhood park, public sidewalks and trails and other natural areas close to the river and a unique lava dome on the southwest corner of the property, which abuts Brookswood Boulevard on the east. The third request, and one targeted by many foes, is for an area of “convenience commercial” retail use on the southeast corner, abutting Brookswood – something developers say the city wants in the area, to reduce car trips.

Neighbor: ‘Leave something alone, for once’

The arguments by foes include ones familiar to most large development proposals – more traffic, crowded schools and loss of quality of life – and others more unique to the site, where elk are frequently spotted. The opponents already have created a forum at bend.com, “Destruction of Elk Meadow,” and their own Web site – http://saveelkmeadow.com . Among other concerns, they note the state requires cities to protect significant wildlife habitat. They also are asking for a chance to organize an effort to buy the property from owner Stosh Thompson as a permanent natural park and wildlife sanctuary.

But the most crucial point of all may have came more than 20 years ago, when the land was included in Bend’s “urban growth boundary,” long before last year’s annexation of the area into the city. While some neighbors want to affect what is built, a great many would rather see the area stay just as it is.

“That’s basically what I’m saying – less is better,” said Tim Boyd, who lives in nearby Deschutes River Woods – a large rural development that predates Oregon’s land use laws. “Everywhere we look, we are being bombarded by new development. Go east (of town) to build – that’s great. But this is the Deschutes River we’re talking about.”

Collin Tanner, who lives next to the meadow, said simply, “To me, it’s like – leave it alone. Leave something alone for once.” Would Tanner contribute, say, $100 to a fund to buy the land and prevent its development? Yes, he said: “If I knew it wouldn’t happen.”

Developer: ‘This isn’t El Capitan’

Sturdevant, who also has developed Bend’s Sawyer Reach and Westbrook Meadows projects, pointed to an aerial photo and noted that no lots will be within 300 feet of the river. “Our goal is, you can be coming down the river and not see any houses,” he said. He also promised similar homeowner limits, known as creeds, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) as exist at his other Bend developments.

Sturdevant said the audience members who came up to speak with him were “very courteous” and asked “good questions.” Asked about their concerns over wildlife habitat, Sturdevant said, “This isn’t El Capitan. There’s no food for ’em and the cover is gone. The Awbrey Hall Fire burned most of the trees off this area.” Shown a photo off the opponents’ Web site (above) of an elk herd, taken in March, Sturdevant said, “The reality is, the elk come in and move out with the weather.”

“It’s really about people who would like to take a break from growth,” the developer said, adding the traditional critical label for opponents: “Not in my backyard.” “They don’t want any growth,” he said, noting that his proposal is for at most 500 dwelling units over a 10-year period, in an area where city land-use plans could allow up to 1,100 homes. “If they (opponents) owned this land, they’d be doing the same thing,” Sturdevant said. “This is a nice place to live. People are coming.”

Sturdevant also said he doesn’t expect to share the fate of fellow developer Jim Clabaugh, whose much-criticized plans for homes next to Shevlin Park were denied by a city hearings officer who found an inadequate road network on Bend’s Westside. “Everything has capacity, and I’m contributing additional capacity,” Sturdevant said. He noted that nearby Elk Meadow Elementary School has had slightly declining enrollment the past year or two.

Tumalo man arrested after shots fired in domestic dispute

TUMALO — A 42-year-old Tumalo man was arrested Wednesday night on attempted murder and other charges after allegedly assaulting his wife and firing several gunshots as she fled their home, authorities said.

Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said Stephan Jerome Haddix was taken into custody without incident after deputies arrived around 7 p.m. He was lodged in the county jail on charges of attempted murder, reckless endangering, unlawful use of a weapon, menacing, fourth-degree assault (due to minor children witnesses), pointing a firearm at another and discharging a weapon across a highway.

Deputies were dispatched to a home on Tumalo Reservoir Road on a report of a domestic dispute with shots fired. Responding officers determined Haddix had assaulted his 36-year-old wife and fired several rounds from a handgun as she fled the residence, said Deputy Kevin Dizney.

Gravel piled on parkway offramp sends car flying; driver moved to Portland hospital

A 28-year-old Bend woman whose car hit a gravel pile left partly on a Bend Parkway offramp, launching it on a 300-foot flight and rollover, was moved Thursday to Portland’s Emanuel Hospital as police investigated who left the material there and why.

Shemaine A. Carvalho suffered serious injuries to her left hand and arm, which apparently were outside of her vehicle during and perhaps before the accident, officials said. St. Charles Medical Center spokesman Todd Sprague said the woman underwent extensive surgery on her left hand Wednesday in Bend and likely faces more surgery or treatment in Portland.

Officers said Carvalho was exiting the southbound parkway at Butler Market Road shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday when the accident took place. About 40 feet down the offramp, her car struck the pile of gravel, which had been dumped along the right edge of the road but extended about 5 ½ feet into the travel lane, said police Lt. Jerry Stone. There were no warning signs or cones to warn motorists of the gravel, Stone added.

Carvalho’s car was launched into the air when it hit the gravel pile, flying 20 to 30 feet before coming down on the driver’s side front corner of the vehicle, police said. It then slid along on the driver’s side, continued rolling onto the roof, then onto the passenger side of the vehicle before tipping back onto its roof as it slid to a stop. Accident investigators believe speed was a factor in the crash, as the vehicle traveled about 275 feet between the point where it first touched back down on the driver’s side and where it finally came to rest, Stone said.

Police said the gravel apparently had been dumped by the offramp in anticipation of the placement of a sign, but Oregon Department of Transportation spokeswoman Laurie Gould said the agency was “not planning to put a sign out there” and that its crews were not involved. Police Capt. Bob Wittwer said Thursday it appeared an R.L. Coats Construction crew had deposited the gravel, but company officials declined to comment on the report. No citations had been issued as of Thursday while the accident remained under investigation.

County, city weigh proposed resort’s bridge, road plans

Deschutes County and the city of Bend are seeking more specifics before deciding whether to back a planned destination resort’s request to limit its role in solving Bend’s Westside traffic problems.

County commissioners held a hearing Wednesday on a preliminary draft of an agreement between the county, city and Cascade Highlands Limited Partnership, which owns about 1,300 acres just west of Bend and north of Century Drive, near the Broken Top and First on the Hill subdivisions.

The resort property owners are part of a West Bend Traffic Consortium that is proposing a number of traffic improvements in order to allow their developments to proceed. But Cascade Highlands wants to limit its involvement to a $500,000 non-refundable contribution to a controversial planned bridge over the Deschutes River – the so-called “southern crossing.” It does have other road plans, however, such as a new collector road between Century Drive and Skyliner Road.

Dike Dame, representing owners of Cascade Highlands and the related Broken Top entities, told commissioners their resort plans are still in the conceptual stage. The draft documents “maximum density” lists 367 homes, 243 multi-family dwellings, 128 condominiums, 40,000 square feet of retail space, a 350-room resort hotel, 250-room conference hotel and 18-hole golf course. That resort “buildout” was used in a traffic study to determine the amount of road trips generated by the proposal. Dame said the resort would be built on 700 to 800 acres, with much of the rest of the area developed a10-acre lots in Bend’s “urban area reserve.”

The resort backers said they have no problems with the county’s insistence that the agreement in no way limit what the county (or Oregon’s Department of Transportation) could require outside the city limits – improvements to Skyliner Road along the development, for example.

In return for the bridge contribution, the county is being asked to “vest” – not change – its development standards that affect the parcel for seven years.

Commissioner Linda Swearingen and her colleagues made clear that the city is in the driver’s seat, in terms of when and whether the proposed “development agreement” is adopted. City staff already has been through nine months of discussions and revisions of the proposal. Bruce White, county deputy legal counsel, has listed 17 proposed changes that the resort planners said can be accommodated.

Critics call for caution

The county commissioners continued their hearing until late August, when the city council also will again take up the Westside traffic agreement.

Anne Wheeler of Friends of Bend said the 550-member group has taken no position yet on the resort proposal but called it “a little premature” to limit Cascade Highlands’ financial contribution to the Westside traffic issues, when the project as of yet has no “conceptual master plan.” She said the new bridge – which her group opposes – may see its costs rise, once an environmental assessment is done and designs completed.

Wheeler said the resort, for example, could have to pay a share of an eventual overpass at Mount Washington and Century Drive. But Deobrah McMahon, city development services director, said studies have shown that a roundabout, eventually of two lanes, should handle the traffic generated by the resort and other area growth. “We don’t see the need for an overpass,” she said.

Lawyer Paul Dewey of the Sisters Forest Planning Committee said a proposal to allow any hotels to be up to 50 feet (roughly five stories) tall improperly asks for a land-use variance in a development agreement. Sisters resident Howard Paine, of the Alliance for Responsible Land Use in Deschutes County (ARLUDeCo) drew a cry of surprise from Commissioner Tom DeWolf by stating that each new home in Bend generates an average of close to 10 new vehicle trips a day.

Bend courtroom drama: Victim’s emotional testimony leads to 44-year sentence

A 34-year-old Bend woman told a packed courtroom in a strong, clear voice Wednesday morning how she struggled to escape from a burglar who broke into her home, then assaulted and threatened to kill her before she kicked out and dived through a window.

Michelle Hart, an athletic trainer, kept her composure as she recounted the attack that took place in the early hours of April 1 at a home on NW Portland Avenue, and told of the crime’s devastating impact on her life. Hart later fought back tears in the courtroom’s front row as Deschutes County Circuit Judge Alta Brady imposed a maximum sentence of more than 44 years in prison upon 36-year-old transient Robert Lee Emery Jr. who had pleaded guilty last month to kidnap, robbery, attempted rape, burglary and assault charges.

Brady praised the woman for her bravery, strength and presence of mind during the attack. “I hope that you can find some consolation,” she said, in the fact “that there will be no more victims” – a comment that drew a brief smile from Hart.

Later Wednesday, Emery was back in court for an initial appearance on newly filed charges of robbery, kidnap and theft in a pair of knifepoint holdups of Redmond businesses earlier this year. He broke those cases with a recent jailhouse letter to District Attorney Michael Dugan, confessing to the crimes.

Emery had been released on parole in California just last December after serving seven years in a similar, 1992 home break-in and robbery, that time assaulting an older woman. Defense attorney Brendon Alexander, pleading for sex-offender treatment for his client, noted that the heavily-tattooed Emery had spent much of his youth and two-thirds of his adult life behind bars.

‘Things like this don’t happen in Bend’

With dozens of friends, neighbors and supporters looking on, Hart used notes written on index cards and an occasional sip of water as she told of coming home from a goodbye gathering that Friday night to the house she shared with two female roommates, one of whom has a 4-year-old daughter. The others were not home when she went to bed, making sure the doors were locked and the front and back porch lights were on. She went to bed early because she was scheduled to be an instructor at a triathlon camp the next day.

Awakened by her dogs barking around 11 p.m., Hart figured it was a roommate returning home, but woke up again a half-hour later when she noticed the kitchen light was on and loud reggae music was playing from a roommate’s bedroom. She also noticed the door to her bedroom was open and decided to use the bathroom, where she saw the medicine cabinet was open and some items had been removed.

“Something strange is going on,” Hart thought before Emery busted in the bathroom door. “He looked ridiculous,” she recalled, with something that “looked like a dirty diaper” covering part of his face. She still thought it might have been a friend joking, but soon learned it wasn’t as she was backed up into the bathtub. The burglary held her head to look at his knife and she “told him I would cooperate,” but was trying to recognize the voice, thinking she must know him.

“Things like this don’t happen in Bend, by complete strangers,” Hart recalled thinking, before enormity hit her. “The fear is indescribable – I can’t put into words how I felt.” But she still thought it might be just a burglary, so she didn’t fight at first. “My possessions are not something worth my life,” the woman told the judge.

‘Don’t think I won’t kill you’

But things turned from bad to worse when the intruder led her by kinifepoint to her roommate’s ransacked bedroom and threw her face down on the bed, putting a blindfold over her mouth and nose. With her face in the bed, Hart said, “I’m claustrophobic and couldn’t breathe.” He then used one of the roommate’s work ties to tie his victim’s hands behind her back and told her, “Don’t think I won’t kill you. You know I will kill you.”

Hart still thought he might grab some goods and run, until he began to touch her and she got the blindfold off to see his intention was rape. “He picked me up and threw me down and I smacked my head on the dresser,” she recalled, adding, “He’s obviously not a Boy Scout but I got my arm loose. … He put his hand over my mouth and tried to suffocate me. I panicked and went limp, stopped struggling.” But she bit his finger, which prompted her attacker to move back and gave her “a clear shot at the window.” She knew it was double-paned and she’d have to give it quite a kick, but if she didn’t, “I would be dead.” She tumbled out the window and ran to a neighbor’s home, shrieking “a sound I never thought could come out of my body.”

Now, Hart said, she’s afraid to go to the bathroom alone, and often has her boyfriend accompany her – at home or away. “I can’t leave my windows open at night,” she said. “I can’t sleep,” and has nightmares when her eyes do close. She used to love running with her dogs and bike rides by herself, but no longer feels safe doing those typical activities. She has two locks on her bedroom door — “one is not enough.”

She can be sitting watching a movie, even a comedy, and look down to find herself trembling, shaking.

Victim tells of ‘death of innocence’

“There’s been a death of innocence for me, for my family and friends,” Hart said. “I thought people were inherently good. It will be a long time before I can trust people again. I feel like I just experienced a woman’s worst nightmare.”

Hart urged Brady to impose the maximum consecutive sentences on the various charges, noting that her attacker had ample opportunity to rob the house and flee – for example, when she was in the bathroom. “I believe he knew exactly what he was doing,” she said, noting he had to use a ladder to break in through a closed kitchen window.

“If I can leave here and now I’m the last woman to be victimized by this man, it will give me what I need to go on with my healing,” Hart said. “If I have to live with this for the rest of my life, the least he can do is live with it for 30 or so years of his.”

In asking that the woman’s two roommates not also be allowed to speak, Alexander acknowledged that Hart had given the most “eloquent” testimony he’d heard from any victim in 13 years as a defense attorney. But Brady denied his request and the roommates talked of how the attack also had robbed them and a 4-year-old girl living there of their sense of security and trust. One urged those in the audience to get to know and check on their neighbors and to call 911 if they see anything suspicious.

Judge calls attacker ‘thief of the worst kind’

The judge also gave Emery a chance to speak, but he declined. Alexander made no effort to minimize what his client did. “Anthropologically speaking, he’s been out of the tribe for so long, he doesn’t know how to be a member of any society,” he said, calling Emery “a raging methamphetamine addict.” While community safety is utmost, Alexander pleaded for “some kind of counseling” for Emery and berated state lawmakers for cutting funds to sex offender treatment programs. “Our society is capable of more than punishment,” he said. “We must do both. … I’m not saying we failed him. We fail ourselves.”

Judge Brady said she was imposing consecutive sentences on each of the five main charges because, “When you live in this community, you are a predator … you are a terrorist. You are a thief of the worst kind – you take away our sense of safety.” She said she had no doubt that worse would have happened to the woman – even death – had she not managed to free herself and flee. Brady ordered that Emery be ineligible for any reduction in sentence or work release programs and noted he would be close to 80 if and when he leaves prison.

As onlookers filed out of the courtroom, many stopped to thank and hug Hart, who said she felt Brady had done well by handing down the lengthy sentence: “I feel like justice is served.” District Attorney Michael Dugan praised the woman for her crucial role: “She’s a very strong and brave person.”