Five Oregonians escape injury in Firestone tire incidents

The number of deaths linked to defective Firestone tires has risen to 88, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( reported Thursday. Only five of more than 1,400 complaints filed so far involve Oregon cases, and none of those are among the 88 deaths or more than 250 injuries reported nationwide from the high-speed tire tread separations or blowouts.

Firestone and Ford announced Aug. 9 that Firestone would recall more than 14 million tires with a safety-related defect that could cause the tread to separate from the tire, usually at high speeds or in hot weather. Most were original equipment on Ford vehicles, primarily the Ford Explorer, but they have been used as replacement tires on a wide variety of models, officials said.

Bridgestone/Firestone only began mailing recall notification letters to owners last weekend and will complete the process by Oct. 14, but millions of the tire owners haven’t waited for notices and have flooded dealers around the nation to get the tires replaced.

The recall covers all P235/75 R15 Firestone ATX and ATX II tires, from 1991 to the present, and all P235/75R15 Wilderness AT tires, from 1996 to the present, made at Firestone’s Decatur, Ill., plant. Firestone at present does not plan to recall about 5.6 million Wilderness tires manufactured at its two other plants, or other models of Wilderness tires. The company estimated that about 6.5 million of the tires covered by the recall are still on the road. A congressional hearing into the defective tires is set for next week.

The five Oregon incidents listed in the agency’s database occurred between Sept. 15 of last year and Aug. 3 of this year. The mileage on the tires ranged from 38,000 to 57,400 miles. Two involved Ford Explorers, one a 1994 and one a 1996 model, along with a 1997 Ford Ranger. The two other incidents did not have their car make/model listed. None are more specific in terms of location. (The full Firestone complaint database is available in spreadsheet form at the Web site, as is more details about the recall and a form to file a vehicle-owner complaint online.)

Four of five Oregon drivers avoid accidents

Only one of the five reported Oregon tire separations resulted in a crash, and in that case, no injuries were reported. Two involved tire blowouts and the tread separated from the tire body in four of the five incidents, according to the government database.

In one of the Oregon cases, both rear tires blew out while the unidentified vehicle was traveling at 60 mph. The ’94 Ford Explorer experienced tread separation at 70 mph, but the driver was able to avoid a crash. In the case of the ’96 Explorer, both front tires – not original equipment – separated while on the road, but no accident resulted. The ’97 Ranger experienced a blowout of the rear driver-side tire. Four of the five incidents involved Firestone Wilderness tires and the fifth involved ATX model tires.

The federal agency is continuing its investigation to be sure the scope of the recall is wide enough and that the remedy is adequate, officials said. Of the fatalities, 77 were reported directly to NHTSA and the agency learned of 11 others in reviewing Firestone’s submitted data. Firestone officials have asked that data regarding the fatalities and other claims be treated as confidential information, but the government has not yet ruled on the tire maker’s request.

Central Oregon Celebrity: KC Caldwell

This will be the first of what I hope becomes a regular part of An email interview with a local celebrity!

This interview is the first half of a two-halfer with Ron and KC from the morning show at The Twins. KC and Ron have been doing mornings at 98.3 since June of 1996. I’m not playing favorites, KC’s email just arrived first.

Samantha: What turned you on to being a DJ?
KC: I dressed up like a dodo bird with my girlfriend Mary to win concert tickets to see Journey on Z100 in Portland. In fact, I still have the photos!
We camped out on the door step to the radio station and got on the morning show! I had such a great time! I remember looking around the studio thinking that I could see myself doing radio for a living.

Samantha: How do you feel about Napster?
KC: We don’t really use it much on our morning show. We have another resource that we use on a daily basis.

Samantha: Is station ownership consolidation going to change radio in Central Oregon?
KC: Yes. I think it will be more competitive than ever and the airwaves will sound tight …more polished.

Samantha: Who decides what gets on the air each day?
KC: Together we pick topics…If the listeners latch on to it we go with it…sometimes we just chat.

Samantha: How are the ratings determined locally?
KC: By Arbitron (Ron explains this well)

Samantha: What time do you get up?
KC: Well, I hear the alarm go off at 4am. I hit the snooze button for 15 more minutes… at 4:15am I reset the clock to go off at 4:30am. Why do I do this? Creature of habit. I like the rush of panic to get me flying out of bed when I hear the alarm go off for the third time! My poor husband.

Samantha: Do people recognize your voice around town, in stores and such?
KC: Yes! Especially when I was doing a lot of Dave Holt Toyota commercials…My most embarrassing voice recognition moment was at Fred Meyer getting a prescription filled for a yeast infection that I got from taking antibiotics for strep throat. The area was packed with people and it seemed to get real quiet when the Pharmacist asked me if I had ever had a yeast infection before yada yada…oh geez…I turned to
leave the counter area and this woman asked me I was KC of KC and Ron Mornings. (Ack)

Samantha: It seems that more and more programming is coming via satellite. Are there less DJ jobs in Central Oregon than before?
KC: Not at the company I work for…

Samantha: Do you listen to the radio when you’re not working?
KC: Not really. I enjoy a variety of CD’s. For me… silence is golden. I enjoy talk radio on KBND. I also check out “To Every Man An Answer” (3-4pm)…I don’t know what station it’s on…

Samantha: Historically, rock band promoters would give money and drugs to station DJ’s in order to get more play time. Did that ever happen here?
KC: No

Samantha: Do you think the station formats in this area represent peoples
KC: For the most part…We don’t have a top 40 station in the market like Z100 in Portland.

Samantha: What are the most requested songs lately?
KC: Too many to list. We get a lot of requests for our morning show parody tunes.

Samantha: Do any Rock Stars have homes in Central Oregon?
KC: Yes

Thanks KC for the great answers and being the first Central Oregon celebrity to be interviewed for your buddies down at! Next we will hear from KC’s partner Ron Alvarez.
You can listen to KC and Ron mornings on 98.3 from 5:30 am till 10:00 am.
Their web site can be seen at

Big plans afoot for Drake Park aim to protect character of ‘crown jewel’

Drake Park, a 78-year-old swath of green often referred to as Bend’s “crown jewel,” is about to undergo its first major fix-up in 40 years. But first, the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District is giving the public a chance to see what it has in mind: a plan careful to improve the park without trying to change its special role as the community’s prime gathering spot.

The work will start this fall and extend for two years, in order to avoid scheduling problems with popular events ranging from summer concerts to fall cross-country races, said John Simpson, the district’s park and development director.

A master plan for the park projects will be displayed on Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. near the footbridge. Simpson and Norm Ziesmer of the district staff will be on hand to show the plan. Those interested also can receive a small copy of the master plan by calling 388-5435.

Public input about Drake Park’s future has been solicited through questionnaires, drop-in sessions at Bend’s Fourth of July celebrations the past two years, and at the district’s long-range planning sessions, held last spring.

“By and large, people want the park protected from the incredible use it receives, while maintaining its age-old character,” Simpson said. “What this means is the park will not be changed, other than addressing problems created by many more people using it than during the last century.”

Key projects include modernizing existing restrooms; replacing ill-fitting modern lighting with ones matching the park’s historic fixtures; new paver walkways where paths have been worn down to mud; enlarged flower planters; rock wall repairs; and installation of a water-conserving irrigation system. In another long-awaited step, the park’s historic, well-known “Big Wheel” logging wheel has been refurbished in recent years and will be reinstalled near its historic location.

“Based on the results we have had from our rehabilitation work at Harmon Park, across the river, we feel we can leave the park in a high-quality condition for 30 years or more,” Simpson said.

Feline distemper outbreak at Bend shelter forces cat quarantine

An outbreak of feline distemper has forced the Humane Society of Central Oregon to impose a 10-day quarantine and call a temporary halt to the adoption or receipt of any cats or kittens.

Jan Griffin, acting director of the Humane Society, said the outbreak of the disease at the shelter means a quarantine will be in place until at least Sept. 5th, barring any further cases. She said the shelter doesn’t want to expose any other cats to the virus, and testing for the disease is costly. Cats adopted out require a series of three inoculations.

Griffin stressed that the distemper problem relates only to cats at the shelter and that “we still have many wonderful dogs for adoption that are not affected,” as well as at least 10 puppies ready and waiting for new homes.

State Internet panel wrestles with ‘new economy’ issues at Bend hearing

The issues were weighty but the turnout was sparse Friday as only two of the 15 members of the Oregon Internet Commission held a field hearing in Bend – and only a half-dozen people showed up to talk or testify.

The 1999 Legislature created the 15-member panel ( to examine policies and make proposals to lawmakers that are aimed at ensuring that Internet commerce grows and prospers while delivering social and economic benefits to citizens, government and business. Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed 11 members, while the state Senate and House each appointed two of its members to the commission.

None of the commission members live east of the Cascades – another form of the “Digital Divide” – but Sen. Rick Metsger (a former KOIN-TV sports reporter, at right in the photo above) and Patrick Allen, state regional development officer for Clackamas and Hood River counties, traveled to Bend for the hearing, accompanied by panel administrator Tom Bahrman. They noted that Nancy Tait, executive vice president of Bear Creek Corp. in Medford, has well represented rural issues from Southwest Oregon’s perspective.

Much of the work so far has been done in subcommittees on issues such as education and the workforce, electronic government and business and legal infrastructure behind the “new economy.” Allen said the draft recommendations, to be posted on the Web in coming weeks, should spur more discussion and interest in what the commission has been up to.

“The governor charged us with insuring that no Oregonian is left behind” as the Internet transforms how we live, work and play, Allen said – “that all Oregonians have a fair chance.” Allen said the panel likely will recommend that the Legislature “accept as a state policy change the prevision of universal access” to the Internet. Then the questions become one of technology, funding, markets and timing.

Much of the discussion focused on Central Oregon’s relative lack of high-speed data bandwidth, in a needed redundant fashion. While computer data is usually the focus of such scrutiny, an April cut in the only fiber optic line linking the Portland area to Central Oregon also knocked out long-distance phone service for several hours – and that has an economic impact in many ways. Similar outages have played havoc with economically crucial phone and data service elsewhere in the state.

COTel seeks regionwide role, not just Bend

Andrew Spreadborough, coordinator of the Central Oregon Telecommunications Task Force, said while much of the focus is on Bend, COTel wants to ensure that all of the region, from La Pine to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, has adequate onramps to the information superhighway. “Recently, the Warm Springs tribe has expressed a real interest in planning for community,” in terms of the Internet and telecommunications, he said.

With the rapid rate of technological changes, Allen said the panel wants to make sure it’s recommendations aren’t so specific that they are not useful in just a few months, nor so broad that the report joins others gathering dust on shelves around the state.

“We’ve actually shied away from recommending specific implementation tools,” he said. “The technology changes so much.”

Crook County Commissioner Jerry Crafton suggested that perhaps the state could help make Internet access happen the way the electric cooperatives wired the region decades ago. Metsger said the US West/Qwest commitment through Senate Bill 622 to spend $70 million over the next four years on infrastructure improvements, primarily in rural areas, is a step in that direction.

“We don’t talk about access in Portland, because the market provides enough people and demand to make it (happen),” Allen said. “I know that in John Day, you’re never going to get a market solution.” The question Allen posed is when and whether cities in the middle of that range, such as Bend, will reach the “threshold” or critical mass needed for the private sector to solve the problem, or if government will have to help here, too.

“Bend is one of the hotbeds of broadband,” Allen said, noting a new fiber optic line crossing through the area to the south. “The problem is, there’s no ‘onramps’ to take advantage of it.”

Locals fear new state network could stymie efforts

John Pelley, an account executive with , noted that his firm now has 35 customers for its new wireless infrastructure, served on a line-of-sight basis from atop Awbrey Butte. He said the topography is right for such services, with little foliage and a high spot to beam data from. But firms such as the one that has a data “pipeline” running near Bend are wholesalers of such networks and need local retailers who can take advantage of the data services.

One way to gain another “digital onramp” is through what’s known as “aggregating demand” – bundling up enough customers to make it worth an access provider’s while to reach out to an area. Spreadborough expressed concern that the new State of Oregon Enterprise Network, known as SOENet, could siphon off enough customers from the public sector to make demand aggregation unfeasible. One solution could be for the state to allow private entities to tap into that network as well, he said. Spreadborough also noted that the Bonneville Power Administrations new fiber optic line through the community could be another opportunity to add to available bandwidfth.

The commission members noted that even urban areas have their access problems. “I live in Welches (near Mount Hood) and I can’t get voice mail,” Metsger said. Allen noted that the Clackamas Industrial area southwest of Portland also has had problems meeting its data needs. “It’s amazing how not far out of downtown Portland you are going to have access issues,” he said.

Dick Markwood, dean and director of the University Center at Central Oregon Community College, said the site has been a long-time user of Oregon Ed-Net, the precursor to the new SOENet project. “It’s going to be a major improvement, as soon as we figure out how it works,” he said.

Metsger said the commission, which goes out of existence Dec. 31, has strived to make sure it doesn’t bite off more than it can chew – avoiding, for example, taxation issues that will be resolved more at the federal level.

Pelley urged the state to work on creating a “project management team” of some sort, to better coordinate fragmented efforts to help the Internet economy succeed. “I think a lot of the infrastructure is here,” he said. “You just have a lot of little lose ends you need to tie up.” Allen agreed, saying the business infrastructure working group intends to recommend efforts to resolve that fragmented approach.

Recommending that the Legislature establish a state goal of universal access is one thing, he said. “The difficulty is determining the appropriate government role,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, you’re going to come up with things that the private sector cannot do. That’s where the political difficulty comes. If you buy into the front end, you need to buy into the back end.”

School levy message will be simple: Smaller classes help young readers

The Bend-La Pine School District will try to sell a simple message – smaller classes will help little kids learn to read – as they put a “local option tax” on the Nov. 7 mail-in ballot, already crowded with a record deluge of statewide initiatives and everything from a presidential race to a Bend transportation levy.

The seven-member school board voted unanimously this week to send a proposal to voters that would add 50 new teachers to the district’s 750-teacher ranks in the fall of 2001. Under a complicated formula required by tax-limiting Measures 50 and 47, the local measure would raise at least $3 million a year for five years and cost up to $150 a year for the owner of a $150,000 home. But taxes for each property owner would vary, since the state tax lids separated assessed values from “real market” values.

The district ( is expecting to enroll 13,000 students this fall — up more than one-third, or 3,300 students over the past decade — and projections indicate the schools will add almost 300 new students each year for the foreseeable future.

At present, most first- to third-grade classes in Bend-La Pine have 23 to 25 students, Assistant Superintendent Al Frickey said Thursday. “It doesn’t sound huge, but it’s on the upper end of what makes good sense – especially for the mix of kids that exist today. Because we integrate at-risk kids and disabled kids into the regular program.” Frickey said it’s expected that at least 35 of the additional teachers would be added in those first three grades, reducing class size by about four kids per classroom.

District vows: New teachers aren’t temporary

Like most short-term tax levies, critics will be quick to ask what happens to those added teachers after five years. Since Oregon’s new property tax system allows growth to boost government and school budgets, Frickey said none of them would be let go, but instead be absorbed into the regular school district budget. The district already fills 50 to 75 teacher openings each year, as dozens retire or move elsewhere.

Others might question where the added teachers will teach, if all the school classrooms are now full. The district is opening the new High Lakes Elementary and Sky View Middle School this fall, and Summit High will open on Bend’s west side next year. Many will teach in those buildings, but with overcrowding expected in several elementary schools, more modular classrooms (like the temporary ones recently parked at Mountain View High School) are likely to be needed, pending remodeling or other new schools.

That begs the other key question: When will the school district be back again, asking voters for more buildings to house more students and more teachers? It won’t be long, Frickey acknowledged.

“This (fall’s levy) is going to meet an immediate need,” he said. “Very likely, we’ll be back before the electorate, I’d say in two to three years maximum,” for more money to build more new schools. “How many schools, we don’t know yet,” Frickey added.

Public call for smaller classes led to levy

Lots of factors weigh in to what the district has proposed and how voters are likely to greet the latest in what promises to be a series of school district requests. For example, Frickey said, “If we try to open Summit High School and we do so with existing teachers, we’re going to have to cut back on some course offerings.” Then there’s the universal reluctance to pay more property taxes and the almost as universal frustration over a local growth rate that seems unstoppable and even out of control.

But the bottom line remains the same: Testing has shown and the public has demanded that early readers get the help they need, because after that, it’s too late. School officials say the public interviews during the process of hiring Dr. Doug Nelson as new superintendent this year showed a strong citizen demand to do something about class sizes.

“We want to make sure every kid capable of reading at a third-grade level is doing so by the end of the third grade,” Frickey said.

Following are the complete drafts of material the school district has prepared for explaining the tax measure to voters:

November 2000
Bend – La Pine Schools
Local Option Ballot Measure
Quick Facts


The Bend-La Pine School Board, in partnership with the community, has developed a local option tax measure that proposes to add teaching staff to schools beginning in the 2001-2002 school year. This measure is intended to reduce class size in elementary schools and provide for a more comprehensive curriculum at middle and high schools.


Existing state funding levels for education have limited efforts by Bend-La Pine Schools to reduce class size. School district enrollment has grown by approximately 3,300 students or 34.4% since 1990. At the same time, the district has added 175 teachers, yet class size has remained essentially unchanged. According to state and local projections, district growth will continue at a rate of approximately 300 new students each year. The local option measure is proposed to fund additional teachers to meet growth needs and reduce class size.


The local option measure will be on the November 7, 2000 ballot. This is a mail-in election. Ballots will be mailed beginning October 20, 2000 and are due at the County Clerk’s office no later than 8:00 p.m. on election day. To be eligible to vote you must be registered by October 17, 2000. Registration materials are available at the County Clerk’s office and the School District Superintendent’s office.

How Much……………………………………………………………………

This local option measure is expected to raise at least $3 million each year for five years and cost property taxpayers a maximum of $1 per $1,000 of property value. The local option may raise an additional $3 million during the five years on new property developments. That amounts to an estimated cost of $12.50 per month (or $150 per year) on a $150,000 home. Taxes for each property owner will depend on the difference between the real market value and assessed value of each property. A calculation sheet for your use is contained in this handout.

This material is pending review by the Office of the Secretary of State

2000 Bend-La Pine School Local Option Tax Measure

What will the measure buy?
The proceeds of the local option tax measure will be used to hire additional teaching staff to reduce class size in elementary schools and provide for a more comprehensive curriculum at middle and high schools.

When will the teachers be hired?
The local option measure would provide additional teaching staff beginning in the fall of 2001.

Why did the School Board propose this measure?
Existing state funding levels for education have limited efforts by Bend-La Pine Schools to reduce class size. School district enrollment has grown by approximately 3,300 students or 34.4% since 1990. According to state and local projections, district growth will continue at a rate of almost 300 new students each year. The local option measure will fund additional teachers to meet growth needs and reduce class size.

Why reduce class size at elementary schools?
Research indicates children in smaller classes gain in student achievement as compared to children in larger classes.

How much will the local option tax measure cost?
The tax measure will cost up to $1 per $1,000 of property value. The exact tax on each property will depend on the difference between assessed value and real market value. In no case will it exceed the $1 per thousand rate.

How long will the local option tax be in effect?
This measure is a five year levy which would begin in the 2001-2002 tax year.

When is the election?
The election is a mail-in ballot scheduled for November 7, 2000. Ballots are due into the County Clerk’s office by 8:00 p.m. on that date.

Why is all this growth happening in Bend-La Pine, and why can’t the district stop it or slow it down?
As a school district, we cannot stop development. It is the policy of the Bend-La Pine School District to anticipate and respond to growth in enrollment.

Are we going to quit growing soon? If so, why build new buildings?
Incoming kindergarten classes continue to increase and the number of births in Deschutes County continues to rise. The District’s enrollment is expected to grow 17% in the next five (5) years, approximately a 1,400 student gain.

Is there room for the new teachers?
This fall the district opened High Lakes Elementary and Sky View Middle School. Next fall, Summit High School will open. These new facilities can provide classrooms for many of the proposed teachers. Overcrowding is anticipated in several elementary schools, so some new teachers may be housed in modulars and/or other temporary facilities.

Bend-La Pine School District
Local Option Tax Estimation

Use this worksheet to estimate your share of the Local Option levy you would have paid had this tax been in place for the 1999-2000 tax year.

Determine the Local Option “tax gap” on your property

Calculate the Measure 5 tax on your property

1. Enter the Real Market Value of your property
(“RMV” Total) from your property tax statement ________________

2. Multiply the amount on Line 1 by $5.00 ________________

3. Divide the amount on Line 2 by 1,000
This represents your Measure 5 tax limit ________________

Calculate the Measure 50 tax on your property

4. Enter the Assessed Value of your property
(“TAV Total) from your tax statement ________________

5. Multiply the amount on Line 4 by $5.48 ________________

6. Divide the amount on Line 5 by 1,000
This represents your Measure 50 tax ________________

7. Subtract the amount on Line 6 from the amount
On Line 3. If the amount is zero or less, enter -0-.
This represents the Local Option “tax gap” for your
Property. ________________

Apply the Local Option rate to your property’s value

8. Enter the Assessed Value of your property
(“TAV” Total) from line 4 above ________________

9. Multiply the amount on Line 8 by $1.00 ________________

10. Divide the amount on Line 9 by 1,000. This represents
the Local Option Tax on your property. ________________

Determine the amount you would pay for the Local Option
11. Compare Line 7 with Line 10. Enter the smaller amount.
This is the amount you would pay for one year of the Local
Option levy using 1999 values. ________________

NOTE: The property values you use for this worksheet will be from your 1999 property tax statement and the tax rates have been rounded. Because property values change for 2000 and tax rates are carried to the 7th decimal place, the actual Local Option Tax may be different.

Source: Deschutes County Assessor’s Office – 6/19/00

Late-summer snow helps finish off Hash Rock wildfire

PRINEVILLE – Rain and even some snow made a big difference over the holiday weekend for firefighters working to snuff remaining hot spots on the 18,500-acre Hash Rock Complex Fire, officials said Monday.

About a half-inch of rain fell in the area Sunday morning, with more rain Sunday afternoon. In addition, a quarter- to half-inch of snow was on the ground Sunday morning on one part of the fire.

“Firefighters have worked very hard in wet and cold conditions the last two days to put out all of the smoldering fuel close to the fire line,” said John Jackson, incident commander. “In face, they are have done so well that the Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team will be turning the fire back over to the Ochoco National Forest on Tuesday.”

Fire crews are still working on mopping up and monitoring the blaze and completing rehabilitation of interior fire lines. As their work is done, more of the 1,100 firefighters and support personnel who were on hand at the peak of the fire last week will be demobilized, officials said.

Some road and area closures were lifted in the fire area on Saturday. In addition, the forest has temporarily lifted campfire restrictions, though they will be back in place starting Wednesday. Further information on closures or the permits can be obtained from the forest office at (541) 416-6500 or by visiting their office on Highway 26, east of Prineville.

While dozens of fires continue to burn in other states, the cool, wet weather has helped improve the situation in the Northwest, at least fow now.

The last big blaze, the 90,000-acre Eastside Complex of 11 fires in Northeastern Oregon, was 95 percent contained by Sunday night. The Hash Rock Fire burned no structures, but four outbuildings were destroyed by the Eastside Complex fires, officials said. The Hash Rock Fire cost almost $4 million to contain, while the price tag on the Eastside Complex has hit $4.6 million.

Bend man held on assault, other charges after pickup crash near Millican

MILLICAN — A 27-year-old Bend man was arrested on assault, drunken driving and other charges in connection with an accident on a Forest Service road near Millican that sent another Bend man to St.Charles Medical Center Tuesday night.

Deschutes County 911 got a broken-up cellular phone call around 9:45 p.m. reporting an injury vehicle accident off Highway 20 East. Sheriff’s deputies searched the area for about a half-hour before locating a severely damaged pickup truck about 60 feet off Forest Service Road 23 near Milepost 8.

The passenger, Lyndon Lee Moore, 28, of Bend, had what appeared to be a severe head injury, said Deputy Troy Gotchy, and Air Life of Oregon was activated to land on Highway 20 East and transport Moore to the Bend hospital. But hospital spokesman Todd Sprague said Wednesday it turned out the injury was not serious, and Moore was treated and release.

Deputies said the driver, Cameron Boni, of 1510 NW West Hills Ave., was visibly intoxicated at the scene. He was lodged at the county jail on charges including second-degree assault, driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and providing false information to a police officer. Bail was set at $70,000.

The accident remains under investigation, but Gotchy said alcohol and speed were factors in the crash.

Bend mother’s ‘mind-boggling’ anguish: One son dead, other charged with murder

It’s a horrible, even inconceivable thought: A mother being told not only that one of her sons was shot to death, but that his brother stands accused of murder.

“It’s hardly comprehensible,” Gladys May Steinlicht, a Central Oregon native and widow of long-time Bend builder Ernie Steinlicht, told “It’s a mind-boggling thing – one dead, the other in jail.”

A family member called police to John Michael Steinlicht’s home in the 1300 block of Northwest Lexington Avenue around 6:15 Tuesday evening on a report of a possible deceased person. There they found the body of the 44-year-old man, dead of an apparent gunshot wound.

About two hours later, Mark Ernie Steinlicht, 50, was taken into custody without incident at his home at 63945 Tyler Road in Tumalo. He was lodged in the Deschutes County Jail on a first-degree murder charge and held in lieu of $20,000 bail, pending an initial court appearance Wednesday. Police Sgt. Bob Carpenter said other charges may be filed in the case, the first reported murder case of the year in Bend.

Gladys May Steinlicht said the two boys both were adopted as babies, six years apart. At the time of the incident, she said, the victim’s wife, Diane, had gone to Ashland with their daughter, who was starting college.

The grieving mother said her late husband, who died 15 years ago, built the Bend River Mall as his last project and also built several schools and numerous commercial buildings around the area. She also said that her own mother, now 102, lives at Bend Villa Court and was notified of the tragic turn of events, so she wouldn’t learn from a news report or fellow resident.

‘A lot of waste, a lot of heartache’

Steinlicht said she and her late husband also had “a (natural) daughter the hard way,” who also lives in the area and spent much of the horrible night at her side, until she told her to go home. A police chaplain also visited for a time and was “great,” she added.

The suspect’s and victim’s mother, struggling for words to say, indicated that her adopted sons had not gotten along well. “I think this has been pending for a while,” she said. “We know what’s been going on. It’s too bad. A lot of waste, a lot of heartache for all involved.”

Squirrelly problem: Little critter sparks brushfire

Squirrelly winds can give firefighters grief, but once in a while, squirrels can be the actual cause of a fire. And like the more numerous cases when they cause power blackouts, the little nut-gatherers usually don’t live through the experience.

A gray squirrel was determined to be the cause of a fire that burned about one-tenth of an acre of bitterbrush on Rickard Road near Arnold Market Road in Bend around 1:30 Monday afternoon. A nearby resident pretty much had the blaze out with a garden hose before firefighters arrived.

According to the report from Capt. Scott Wyman, the hair and flesh of a gray squirrel shorted the electrical transformer on a power pole and produced a spark. That arc caused a fire in the grass below, though the incident did not cause a power outage, said fire Inspector Susie Lovisco.

“It’s too bad the poor little furry critters have to suffer” when they climb onto the wrong places, Lovisco said Tuesday.

And the tragic squirrel tail – er, tale – is far from unique. On July 3rd of last year, a squirrel sneaked into an El Cerrito, Calif., substation and short-circuited a transformer bank, triggering a power outage that left 38,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers without power for more than an hour.

In southern Illinois, one utility official called squirrels and other wildlife their No. 1 cause of outages.

Getting squirrels to flee not easy

“They get on top of the transformer, which is metal, and maybe their tail touches the ground and – kablooey, it goes,” said Archie Versman of Central Illinois Public Service. The firm installed squirrel-proof bushings beneath transformers, carrying a light electrical charge to deter the squirrels. Another firm has tried traps, poison and ultrasonic devices, to little success.

According to a story on the American News Service, squirrels lead the pack in power outages, ahead of falling tree limbs and lightning. (Others say weather is still the biggest blackout culprit.)

In 1995, a commuter train in New York was stranded for hours on an elevated track while workers fixed power lines that exploded due to squirrel activity. The University of Alabama had a problem with squirrels knocking out power to its mainframe computer center. And in Georgia, a squirrel was blamed for causing over $1 million in damage to a power substation.

As the squirrels themselves might say: “Nuts, isn’t it?”