Low snow, high hopes: Tourism businesses battle blues with upbeat message

February ended in snow-flurry fashion around Bend, closing out yet another drier than normal month in a mild, bedeviling winter. But amid the low-snowpack, summer-water worries, the folks at Mt. Bachelor and the rafting guides on the Deschutes are trying to get the word out, any way they can, to tourists and locals alike: Perception is not always reality, and things are not really all that bad.

Bend officially recorded just .59 of an inch of precipitation during the month, almost exactly half the 73-year average in weather records, but only a couple traces of snowfall, compared to 5.5 inches, on average.

Things did turn colder than earlier in the winter, dropping to 7 degrees on the 25th – a record low, by one degree, for that date – and down to 9 on the 26th, with lows in the teens on 10 other February days. But there were some more warm days as well, starting with a balmy 60-degree reading on the 1st and five days in the 50s as the month progressed; the month’s coldest high was a relatively balmy 31, on the 25th.

The snowpack in the Deschutes and Crooked river basins as February ended wasn’t all that great, with precipitation 30 percent below average and the key snow-water content 43 percent below normal, generally in line with other, low-snow regions of the state.

But with the bulk of winter over, state Deschutes Basin Watermaster Kyle Gorman can only hope for a cool, wet spring, to avert a water crunch later on, as things heat up. The situation had worsened a bit from a month ago, he said: “We made some ground at the end of January,” with significant snowfall.

Nevertheless, the area’s storage reservoirs were “still gaining” as of Friday, he said, with Wickiup 80 percent full, Crane Prairie at 70 percent and Crescent Lake at 51 percent. “It’s a little less than it was last year” at this time, Gorman said Friday. “Crescent Lake is about 3,000 acre-feet less than last year.”

“What we hope for now is a wet March, and to remain as cool as possible – as cool as March can be – so we can get some snowpack at the highest elevations and precipitation at the lowest elevations, to keep the farm ground at mid elevations wet – maybe even get some recharge for the groundwater system,” Gorman said.

“Then, in April, have it very cool, and if we’re lucky, moist, so it delays the need for irrigation water as far into the spring as possible,” he said. “At this point, we’re not going to make up ground and bring us up to normal. But if we can delay the start of the irrigation season, it’s like a double bonus: You’re gaining storage, because you’re not drawing on it, and it’s another day it’s going up.”

The irrigation season officially begins April 1 in the Deschutes Basin. “If it’s warm and dry, most of the districts will start up (water diversions and deliveries) in the first week of April,” he said. “But if we’re able to delay until the end of April, that’s three more weeks of storing water and not drawing down on (reservoirs), which really sustains that storage water through the latter part of the season.”

Good skiing, but slow biz at Bachelor

It was snowing on Mt. Bachelor (http://www.mtbachelor.com) Friday, with a base of 87 to 91 inches. But for whatever reason, 100 inches is “the magic mark” in the minds of many skiers, and it shows in a troubled skier-visit count this season, said resort spokesman Chris Johnston.

“The last couple weeks have been pretty good,” Johnston said, but he added, “I don’t know if we’ll make up for lost time. We’re competing against last season, when we had almost 510,000 visits. I know that’s not a record for us, but it’s close, and we’re competing against that perception” of a down year. And indeed, he said, the numbers are off “12 to 13 percent vs. last year.”

“The (snow) coverage is great” on the slopes, he said. “The snow itself is great. The last time I skied, Thursday, boy it was fun – it was like floating, a half-inch on top of the groomed” surface.

“For Central Oregonians, we’ve had the best of all worlds for the last month – cold on the mountain, clear days, a lot of fresh snow,” Johnston said. But when it gets to 50 degrees in town, “you can go out and mountain bike” instead. “We truly have everything folks want when they move here, and they don’t take advantage of it,” he said.

The resort has tried to offer something special just about every weekend, such as this weekend’s Winter Special Olympics.

“You do what you can do,” he said. “Hopefully, people take notice.” As for that snow-making gear the resort owners bought last year, Johnston said, “We put the stuff away in early December and it won’t be back out until next year.”

Hoodoo Ski Area near Santiam Pass (http://www.hoodoo.com) got four inches of blessed new snow on the eve of Saturday’s Winter Carnival, for a 41- to 44-inch base. The event was delayed from earlier in the month, when a warm-up forced closure of the ski area.

Rafting, fishing guides see bright side to low snow

Months before the peak time of year for Deschutes River rafting – but prime time for reservations – Sun Country Tours, in its 25th anniversary season, also is trying to battle the perception, due to drought talk in the media, that conditions will be poor.

“Lower than average precipitation improves many outdoor experiences,” a note sent recently to local tourism groups and lodging establishments said. “The vast majority of vacationers are families looking for outdoor activities. They don’t want white-knuckle, high-water rafting. They want moderate flows and the family-style adventure that this year’s river levels will provide.”

In addition, the firm said, “Fishing outfitters despise high, silty water. The crystal clear water of lower flows mean better fishing for their clients.”

Then there’s the other flip side of lower snowpack: “Trails in the high country will be accessible earlier in the summer. … Get out these facts,” the tour guides said. “So far, we’ve seen below-average precipitation. That could easily change between now and summertime. In either case, we’re going to have a great summer.”

Sun Country founder Dennis Oliphant said, “We continually hear, all spring and summer long, `Less than normal levels, eh? So no rafting?’ probably 95 percent of our people are families. There’s really not that many high-adrenaline junkies.”

The reaction to the company’s heads-up has been positive, Oliphant said. “A lot of people said, `Thank God somebody is stepping forward, trying to make good of something.’ It’s not disastrous. We don’t even distinguish some years, in terms of water levels being high or low.”

D.A.: No charges filed in Bend man’s fatal shooting, beating

No criminal charges will be filed in the Dec. 29 death of a Bend man who suffered fatal gunshot and head injuries in a fight at a northeast Bend home, a case of apparent self-defense involving three roommates of a man the victim had come to see – with his own gun, Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan said Friday.

Francis Beecher Sullivan, 33, was fatally injured around 1:15 a.m. during an altercation at 1510 N.E. Bear Creek Rd., and later was pronounced dead at St. Charles Medical Center. An autopsy performed at the state medical Examiner’s Office in Portland determined that Sullivan had died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen and “blunt force trauma” to the head. The victim also had a non-fatal gunshot wound to the left shoulder.

In an unusual, four-page news release, Dugan said a grand jury had recommended that no criminal charges be filed in the man’s death, and laid out the detailed timeline of events leading to the fatal conflict.

“Oregon law provides that a person is justified using physical force … for self-defense or to defend a third person” believed to face “the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force,” the D.A. said. Also, Dugan said, “a person is justified using deadly physical force” if he or she “reasonably believes” the other person is using or threatening to use force against a person, or committing or attempting to commit a home burglary.

“Witnesses provided information which demonstrated an ongoing animosity between Jonathon Matthew Farago and Jeremy Casson … (who) employed Mr. Sullivan,” Dugan wrote. “The underlying cause of the animosity was Farago’s former girlfriend … Crystal Carnell, (who) had become the girlfriend of Mr. Casson.”

The district attorney said Farago “expressed his bitterness” to Casson “over a period of months,” and that several large rocks were thrown at Casson’s business in early December, during which the windshield of Sullivan’s vehicle was broken. Sullivan believed Farago was responsible for the damage “and was aware of the animosity” Farago had for Cason, Dugan said.

On Dec. 28, Sullivan, who lived at the Native Sun Apartments on Boyd Acres Road, contacted Jesse Cassidy in an effort to find Farago and was told Farago was in California. Sullivan made some threatening statements to Cassidy about Farago at the time, Dugan said.

After work, Sullivan, Casson and Zachary Holter left Casson’s business and went out for dinner and drinks. Around 9 p.m., Sullivan and Cason went to Holter’s residence, where they played pool and drank beer. Casson later returned to his business, where he lived in an upstairs apartment, and Sullivan and Holter left together,

Fatal visit wasn’t first of the night

Around 11 p.m., Holter took Sullivan to the home on Butler Market Road, where Farago was reported to live. He wasn’t home, but Farago’s three roommates were. Dugan said Sullivan entered the home, uninvited, and confronted the roommates, Cameron Carnell, Dereck Hillier and Graham Bianchi. He said Sullivan threatened and demanded to know where Farago was, and was told he was in California, then told to leave the home.

Moments later, Hillier called Farago, who had returned from California earlier that evening, to advise of Sullivan’s visit and to tell Farago that “this activity has to stop,” Dugan said. Cameron Carnell called Crystal Carnell and told her about Sullivan’s visit. She, in turn, called Casson to tell him what Sullivan was up to. That prompted a call from Casson to Holter, with a message for Sullivan: to “leave Farago alone,” Dugan said

Shortly before midnight, Farago called Sullivan on Holter’s cell phone, challenging Sullivan to a fight. Farago agreed to meet Sullivan at 27th Street and Neff Road, then called his roommates to tell them of the fight and ask that they back him up. Sullivan, however, didn’t show up at the appointed time and place. Hillier, Cameron Carnell and Bianchi stayed at their home and didn’t go to the fight location.

Around 12:45 a.m., McGuire and Sullivan left the Black Horse Saloon in Sullivan’s vehicle, McGuire drove Sullivan to his workplace, “The Proper Chopper,” and Sullivan went inside, disabling the alarm with an access code. Casson, asleep, didn’t hear Sullivan enter, get a handgun and ammunition, then return to his vehicle. Around 1 a.m., Sullivan called Holter and got directions to the Bear Creek residence.

McGuire parked near the home around 1:10 a.m. and waited while Sullivan went to the home, where Hillier was in his bedroom and Bianchi and Carnell were in the living room, all watching TV.

Carnell and Bianchi said they heard a loud rap at the living room window, like metal hitting glass, and a loud banging at the door. Carnell picked up his revolver and walked to the door, seeing Sullivan at the door, holding a pistol in one hand and a magazine for the gun in his other.

Carnell, his gun behind his back, opened the door, and Sullivan asked to see Farago. Carnell told him Farago wasn’t home, at which point Sullivan reportedly held up his gun and loaded the magazine, saying “words to the effect, `I’ve got mine, have you got yours?’” Carnell showed Sullivan his revolver as Sullivan pushed open the door and entered. “There is evidence that the door was pushed open with enough force to damage the wall,” Dugan said.

Hillier heard banging come from the front of the house and couldn’t see anyone inside. He heard Sullivan say “words to the effect of, `What have you got?’ and, `We’ve got a Mexican standoff.’” Hillier then heard a gunshot and Carnell yelling for help.

Struggle led roommates to grab baseball bats

Bianchi saw Sullivan enter the house, gun in hand, and saw Sullivan point the gun “at him or in his direction,” Dugan said, “then saw Carnell grab Sullivan’s hand which held the gun.” He witnessed a struggle and heard the gun go off, with a bullet piercing a wall not far from wear Bianchi was standing; he later told police he was nearly “killed by a bullet,” Dugan said.

Carnell began to struggle with Sullivan in the house. “He remembered shooting his weapon two or three times and yelling for help,” Dugan said. “As he was struggling, he was able to push Sullivan out onto the porch, and then into the front yard. The struggle ended when Sullivan was struck with a bat by Hillier.”

Bianchi said he grabbed a baseball bat from the hallway and tried to help Carnell, but the hallway and porch area was too confining to swing a bat, Dugan said. Bianchi was able to swing the bat after the struggle moved onto the front law, striking Sullivan several times on the back and legs.

Hillier, meanwhile, grabbed another baseball bat from a bedroom and also went to help Carnell, hearing him yell for help and saying, `He’s got a gun.” Hillier was able to swing the bad and struck Sullivan once in the back of the head, which ended the struggle.

Carnell was still holding onto and struggling with Sullivan over the gun, Dugan said. After Hillier struck Sullivan in the head, he let go of the gun and slumped to his knees in the front yard. Carnell went inside and put the guns in his bedroom, while Hillier went in and called 911. Bianchi spotted a police car in front of the house and yelled at the officers, throwing his bat at the patrol car to get their attention.

Melissa McGuire, waiting in the car for Sullivan, saw the three men in the front yard and heard what she described as gunshots. She saw the baseball bat thrown toward the car, landing in the street, then left the area. McGuire called Holter and told him Sullivan had a gun and was shooting it.

McGuire later drove back to the home and was stopped by an officer. Bianchi identified the vehicle as being present during the fight.

Dugan said Bianchi and Hillier told police they were reacting to Carnell’s calls for help and that they both knew Sullivan had a gun. Carnell told police he struggled with Sullivan because he feared he was going to be shot by him.

During a search of the home, cocaine was found in Bianchi’s bedroom. He later was indicted for drug possession. McGuire was charged with burglary and unlawful use of a weapon “as an aider and abetter to the action of Francis Sullivan,” Dugan said.

“It appears from the investigation that Cameron Carnell, Dereck Hillier and Graham Bianchi acted with justification under Oregon law,” the district attorney concluded.

DA announces no indictment in Francis Beecher Sullivan case

District Attorney Michael T. Dugan announced today that his office would file no criminal charges relating to the cause and manner of death of Francis Beecher Sullivan.

Mr. Sullivan, dob 6-29-69, was injured during an altercation at 1510 NE Bear Creek on December 29, 2002 at approximately 1:15 a.m. He was later pronounced deceased at St. Charles Hospital. Members of the Bend City Police investigated the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Sullivan. The Officer in charge of the investigation was Detective Mike Tabor.

Witnesses provided information which demonstrated an ongoing animosity between a Mr. Jonathon Matthew Farago and Jeremy Casson. The underlying cause of the animosity was Farago’s former girlfriend. Farago’s former girlfriend, Crystal Carnell, had become the girlfriend of Mr. Casson. Mr. Farago expressed his bitterness to Mr. Casson over a period of months. In early December several large rocks were thrown at the business operated by Mr. Casson. Mr. Casson employed Mr. Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan’s vehicle windshield was broken as a result of the rock-throwing incident.
Francis Sullivan believed that Mr. Farago was responsible for the damage to his vehicle and was aware of the animosity Mr. Farago had for Mr. Casson.

The following timeline is a record of the events leading to the fatal conflict:
On December 28, 2002 Francis Sullivan contacted Jesse Cassidy in an effort to find Jonathon Farago. Cassidy informed Sullivan that Farago was in California. Sullivan made some threatening statements to Cassidy about Farago. Sullivan returned to his place of employment.

At the close of the workday, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Casson and Mr. Zachary Holter left Casson’s business and went out for dinner and drinks at Fiddy’s Pour House and Stars Cabaret. At approximately 9:00 p.m. Sullivan and Casson went to Holter’s residence where they played pool and drank beer. Between 10:00p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Mr. Casson returned to his business, where he also resided in an upstairs apartment. Sullivan and Holter left together.

At approximately 11:00 p.m. Holter took Sullivan to 1510 Bear Creek, where Farago was reported to reside. Farago was not at the residence, but Farago’s three roommates were home. Sullivan entered the residence-uninvited and confronted Cameron Carnell, Dereck Hillier and Graham Bianchi. Sullivan threatened and demanded to know where Farago was. Carnell, Hillier and Bianchi tell Sullivan that Farago is in California and tell Sullivan to leave the residence. Sullivan left with Holter and drove to the Black Horse Saloon. Sullivan met his girlfriend, Melissa McGuire at the Black Horse Saloon.

At approximately 11:10 pm, Dereck Hillier telephoned Farago who had returned from California earlier that evening and advised Farago of Sullivan’s behavior. Hillier tells Farago that this activity has to stop.

At approximately 11:15 pm Cameron Carnell telephones Crystal Carnell and tells her about Sullivan’s appearance at his residence. Cameron tells Crystal that this activity must stop.

At approximately 11:30 pm Crystal Carnell telephoned Jeremy Casson and told Casson about Sullivan’s activity.

At approximately 11:40 pm, Casson telephoned Holter and told him to pass a message to Sullivan, “leave Farago alone.” Casson spoke with Sullivan and told him to “leave Farago alone.”

At approximately 11:55pm. Farago telephoned Sullivan on Holter’s cell phone and challenged Sullivan to a fight. Farago agreed to meet Sullivan at 27th Street and Neff Road. Farago telephoned his roommates and told them he was going to fight Sullivan at midnight and asked that they back him up. Farago was with Jesse Cassidy at that time. Sullivan did not show up at the appointed time and place for the fight.

Hillier, Carnell and Bianchi stayed at their residence and did not go to the fight location.

At approximately 12:15 am on December 29, 2002 Zachary Holter left the Black Horse Saloon and went to Shari’s Restaurant, he left Sullivan with McGuire.

At approximately 12:45 a.m. McGuire and Sullivan left the Black Horse Saloon in Sullivan’s vehicle. McGuire drove Sullivan to his place of employment, The Proper Chopper and Sullivan entered the business. Sullivan had the alarm access code and he disabled the alarm. Jeremy Casson was sleeping and did not hear Sullivan entering the business. Sullivan obtained a handgun and magazine and returned to the vehicle.
At approximately 12:55p.m. Sullivan and McGuire began driving to 1510 Bear Creek.
Approximately 1:00 am, Sullivan telephoned Holter and received directions to the residence located at 1510 Bear Creek.

At approximately 1:10 am. McGuire parked the vehicle near the residence and waited while Sullivan went to the house. At this time, Dereck Hillier was in his bedroom watching television, Graham Bianchi and Cameron Carnell were in the living room watching television.

Carnell and Bianchi heard a loud rap at the living room window. The rap sounded like metal hitting glass, they heard a loud banging at the door. Carnell picked up his revolver and walked to the door. Carnell observed Sullivan at the door holding a pistol in his right hand and a magazine for the gun in his left hand.

Carnell had his gun behind his back. Carnell open the door and Sullivan asked to see Farago. Carnell told Sullivan that Farago was not home. Sullivan held up his gun and loaded the magazine, stating words to the effect, “I’ve got mine, have you got yours?” Carnell showed Sullivan his revolver as Sullivan entered the residence, pushing open the door. There is evidence that the door was pushed open with enough force to damage the wall.

Hillier heard banging coming from the front of the house. He could not see anyone outside. Hillier then heard Sullivan say words to the effect of “what have you got” and “we’ve got a Mexican standoff.” Next, Hillier heard a gunshot and Carnell yelling for help.

Bianchi observed Sullivan enter the house with a gun in his hand. He observed Sullivan pointing the gun at him or in his directions and then saw Carnell grab Sullivan’s hand which held the gun. He saw Sullivan and Carnell struggling and saw and heard a gun go off. A bullet went through a wall not far from where Bianchi was standing. Bianchi told the police that he was nearly “killed by a bullet.”

Carnell began to struggle with Sullivan while inside the house. He remembered shooting his weapons two or three times and yelling for help. As he was struggling, he was able to push Sullivan out onto the porch and then into the front yard. The struggle ended when Sullivan was struck with a bat by Hillier.

Bianchi grabbed a baseball bat from the hallway and tried to assist Carnell, but the hallway and porch area was too confining to swing a bat. Bianchi was able to swing the bat after the struggle moved onto the front lawn. Bianchi was able to strike Sullivan several times on the back and on the legs.

Hillier grabbed a baseball bat from a bedroom and went to help Carnell. He heard Carnell yelling for help and saying, “He’s got a gun.” Hillier was able to swing the bat and did strike Sullivan once in the back of the head with the bat. After he struck Sullivan, the struggle ended.

Carnell was still holding onto and struggling with Sullivan over the gun. After Hillier struck Sullivan in the head, Sullivan let go of the gun and slumped to his knees in the front yard. Carnell went inside and put the guns in his bedroom.

Hillier went inside and called 911 emergency.

Bianchi observed a police car in front of the house. He yelled at police and threw his baseball bat at the police car in an effort the get the police officer’s attention.

Melissa McGuire was waiting in the car for Sullivan. She observed the three “boys” in the front yard and heard what she described as gunshots. She observed the police car drive by and saw the baseball bat thrown toward the car, landing in the street. She then left the area. McGuire then called Holter and told Holter that Sullivan had a gun and was shooting it.

McGuire later drove back to the residence and was stopped by a Bend police officer. The vehicle was identified by Graham Bianchi as having been present during the altercation.
Members of the Bend Police Department responded to the scene within minutes of the 911 call.

Bianchi and Hillier both told the police that they were reacting to Carnell’s calls for help and they both knew that Sullivan had a gun. Carnell told the police that he struggled with Sullivan because he believed he was going to be shot by Sullivan.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s office determined that the cause of death of Francis Sullivan was “gunshot wound of abdomen and blunt force trauma of head.” Sullivan received two gun shot wounds, a fatal wound to the abdomen and a non-fatal wound to the left shoulder.

During a search of 1510 Bear Creek, cocaine was found in the bedroom occupied by Graham Bianchi. He has been indicted for possession of a controlled substance.

Melissa McGuire was charged with burglary and unlawful use of a weapon as an aider and abettor to the action of Francis Sullivan.

Oregon law provides that conduct which would otherwise constitute on offense is justifiable and not criminal when it is required or authorized by law. Oregon Law provides that a person is justified in using physical force upon another person for self defense or to defend a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force, and the person may use that degree of force which the person reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose.

Furthermore, a person is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person when the person reasonably believes that the other person is committing or attempting to commit a felony involving the use or threatened imminent use of physical force against a person; or committing or attempting to commit a burglary in a dwelling.

It appears from the investigation that Cameron Carnell, Dereck Hillier and Graham Bianchi acted with justification under Oregon law. The Deschutes County Grand Jury recommends that no criminal charges be filed regarding the manner and cause of death of Francis Sullivan.

Agreement reached on 2001-03 budget rebalance

House and Senate legislative leaders announced today
that they have reached agreement on a plan to rebalance the 2001-03
Biennium while ensuring critical human service and public safety
services will continue for the remainder of the Biennium.
“Make no mistake about the significance of the fact that
Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate members, worked together to
make this happen-ensuring our kids, our seniors, and vulnerable
Oregonians received critical assistance,” said Senate President Peter
Courtney. “I feel very good about how this Legislature has come
together to provide for the health and safety of the people of Oregon.”
“While there are no easy solutions to balancing the
remainder of this biennium, this plan meets our need to balance the
budget while restoring help to those Oregonians who lives would
otherwise be in jeopardy such as the mentally ill, senior citizens in
nursing homes and the medically needy,” said House Speaker Karen Minnis.
“At the same time, it restores the 40 state trooper positions included
in the governor’s budget for next biennium and restores 40 state crime
lab positions.”
“This agreement is the result of compromise,” said Senate
Republican Leader Bev Clarno. “While it is not a silver bullet, it does
ensure the continuation of essential services to Oregon’s most
vulnerable citizens and the restoration of important public safety
positions.”
“This plan is an emergency measure that gets us to July 1,”
House Democratic Leader Deborah Kafoury said. “We still face the
challenge of dealing with these issues in the coming two-year budget
period. Still before us is the longer-term challenge of helping
schools, putting Oregonians to work and caring for vulnerable citizens.”
To meet the March revenue forecast shortfall of $244.5
million for the remainder of the 01-03 Biennium, include a $225 million
reserve in case of a further shortfall in May, and buy-back some human
service and public safety program cuts, the rebalance plan uses $112
million from the Education Stability Fund, $300 million from Tobacco
Revenue Bonds and $53.2 million from other state funds for a total of
$465.2 million. A further $37.6 in revenue sources would be triggered in
May if a shortfall were to exceed $225 million.
The rebalance plan restores $33.51 million in human service
and public safety programs including assistance for nursing homes, the
medically needy, prescription drugs under the Oregon Health Plan,
community mental health services for children, 40 state police patrol
positions and 40 state police forensic positions.

Oregon’s unemployment rate rises to 7.5 % in Jan.

Oregon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent in January from a
revised 7.3 percent in December. Newly revised figures for last year show that in
the first part of 2002, Oregon’s unemployment rate trended downward from a high of
8.4 percent in January. From May through December, Oregon’s unemployment rate
stayed between 7.2 and 7.4 percent, which is close to last month’s 7.5 percent.
In addition to the January 2003 unemployment figures, the Employment Department is
releasing revised labor force data for 2001 and 2002. Overall, these revised data
paint much the same picture as the preliminary information released during the past
year. Oregon’s unemployment rate peaked early in 2002 and has since declined.
Employment losses seemed to end early in 2002, but the state’s economy has been
unable to sustain any kind of significant employment growth during the past 10
months.
“Today’s numbers reinforce the general economic assessment that prevailed throughout
most of 2002,” according to Graham Slater, the Employment Department’s Administrator
for Workforce and Economic Research. “It still looks like unemployment peaked and
job losses subsided early in 2002. But the pace of recovery, especially in terms of
new jobs being added, is painfully slow. After some hopeful months in the spring of
2002, job gains petered out, and Oregon ended the year at essentially the same
employment level where it started.”
In January, payroll employment dropped by 33,500 from December. This job decline
was close to the normal seasonal trend, as the January employment level is typically
the low point for the year.
One positive sign for Oregon’s economy was the 10,100-job increase in the 12 months
ending in January. However, this gain was modest at less than a one-percent
increase.
Several industries contributed to the job gains since January 2002. Certain
construction industries boosted employment levels as low mortgage interest rates
spurred demand for housing. Building finishing contractors added 1,600 jobs in the
12 months ending in January 2003, a 16 percent gain. Similarly, residential
building construction was up 900 jobs and
building equipment contractors added 1,900 jobs. Another industry related to the
housing sector-building material and garden supply stores-was a top performer in the
past 12 months, adding 1,800 jobs in that time.
Hospitals employment has grown steadily and rapidly in Oregon over the past three
years. The industry gained 2,600 jobs, or six percent, over the past 12 months.
Over the past year, full-service restaurants has grown at about the same pace as
hospitals, up 2,800 jobs or six percent in that time. Federal government employment
grew by 1,300 jobs in the past 12 months as hundreds of airport security workers
were included in the federal payrolls in the latter half of 2002. Rounding out the
list of major industries that have grown by four percent or more is employment
services, which grew by 1,300 jobs or four percent in that time.
On the down side, many industries experienced net job losses in the 12-month period
ending January 2003. Nonresidential building construction has been hurt by reduced
demand for commercial projects and has cut its employment by 1,500 jobs or 16
percent during that time. Primary metals manufacturing has been hit with energy
price increases and the downturn in industrial demand, resulting in a loss of 1,000
jobs or 11 percent since January 2002.
In addition to those mentioned above, several industries suffered employment
declines of between five and 10 percent in the 12 months ending January 2003. Each
of the following industries posted job declines of between 400 and 2,800 jobs over
this time: computer and electronic product manufacturing; telecommunications;
warehousing and storage; arts, entertainment, and recreation; and architectural and
engineering services.
This press release marks the introduction of the North American Industry
Classification System (NAICS) for reporting Oregon’s monthly employment data. NAICS
changes the way industries are categorized. Those interested in more detail
regarding conversion to the new industry classification along with conversion
factors for specific industries can find out more at http://www.census.gov/NAICS.
The Employment Department will release Oregon’s statewide unemployment rate and
employment survey data for February 2003 on Friday, March 21st.

Humane Society Thrift Store to hold Mardi Gras sale

The Humane Society of Central Oregon Thrift Store, located at 500 NE
Greenwood, Bend, will be having it’s annual Mardi Gras sale on Tuesday, March 4th. Everything in the store will be 1/2 price. Customers will find a wide
range of high quality items for sale ranging from clothing and books, to
housewares, linens, and furniture, as well as many interesting and thought
provoking miscellaneous items! Our creative staff will be wearing costumes
derived entirely from Thrift Store donations, so come join the fun and
support a great cause. 100% of profit from the Thrift Store go directly to
supporting the mission of the Humane Society of Central Oregon and the
animals of our community. Store hours are Monday – Friday 9am-6pm and
Saturday 9am – 5pm.

‘No silver bullet’: Lawmakers’ deal averts, reverses some cuts, adds others

SALEM – Many cuts already made still will happen – county courthouses will shut down on Fridays this spring, for example — and some new cuts are added. But House and Senate legislative leaders said the $500 million 2001-03 budget rebalancing package announced Friday will restore some critical programs and keep things from getting worse, by borrowing a large sum to cover a still-growing revenue shortfall.

Senate President Peter Courtney stressed the bipartisan nature of the deal: “Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate members, worked together to make this happen, ensuring our kids, our seniors and vulnerable Oregonians receive critical assistance,” he said. “I feel very good about how this Legislature has come together to provide for the health and safety of the people of Oregon.”

Senate Republican Leader Bev Clarno of Redmond said compromise was key, in the face of a new, much worse than expected $244.5 million revenue-gap forecast that leaked out ahead of Friday’s official pronouncement.

“While (the deal) is not a silver bullet, it does ensure the continuation of essential services to Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens and the restoration of important public safety positions,” Clarno said.

The deal, which caucuses of both parties have signed off on, restores $33.51 million in human service and public safety programs, including aid for nursing homes, the medically needy, prescription drugs under the Oregon Health Plan, community mental health services for children, and 80 Oregon State Police positions, half in patrol duties (which Gov. Ted Kulongoski already proposed restoring in his ’03-05 budget) and half in forensics (state crime lab) positions.

The rebalance plan uses $112 from the state’s Education Stability Fund, borrows $300 million against future tobacco settlement revenues, and scours $53.2 million from other state funds, for a total of $465 million, producing a $225 million reserve in case of a further shortfall in the May revenue forecast, as economists warn is likely. Another $37.6 million in revenue sources, such as cities’ and counties’ share of cigarette tax revenue and video lottery proceeds, would be triggered if the May shortfall tops $225 million.

The announcement and budget rebalance plan details can be found on the legislative Website at http://www.leg.state.or.us/press_releases/home.htm .

And so, 6,000 elderly and disabled who had been notified that they would lose their state aid April 1, won’t. But an earlier, first wave of cuts won’t be reversed. And the plan doesn’t head off many Oregon Health Plan benefit cuts that begin Saturday.

There’s also a new round of cuts in the package, totaling $15.28 million – including eliminating funding for the rest of the biennium, ending June 30, for several state commissions that deal with Asian, Hispanic, black and women’s affairs, as well as the state Arts and Film and Video commissions.

“We’re whackin’ a bunch of stuff,” said Charles Deister, communications director for House Speaker Karen Minnis, noting that the commissions’ 4-month eliminations represent less than $100,000 of the total.

“We (Republicans) have been arguing for years that we could shut most of these commissions down, and nobody would notice anyway,” Deister said. “We think it’s a great place to start saving money.”

The rest of the cuts come from programs such as natural resources, the Department of Environmental Quality and human services, although Deister said, “We found some ways to take them where they are not going to come from the needy of the needy.”

Lawmakers hope to avoid taking more local dollars

“This plan is an emergency measure that gets us to July 1,” said House Democratic Leader Deborah Kafoury. “We still face the challenge of dealing with these issues in the coming 2-year budget period. Still before us is the longer-term challenge of helping schools, putting Oregonians to work and caring for vulnerable citizens.”

About $125 million of the package’s potential revenue would come from the Department of Human Services’ ending balance (reserve funds), but the $37 million in additional cuts is something legislators hope to avoid, Dieseter said.

“We really don’t want to have to grab that money – it kicks (the problem) down to the local level,” Deister said. “But if it comes down to a choice of keeping granny alive in the nursing home and taking the cities’ tobacco money, we’ll take the tobacco money.”

House Speaker Karen Minnis said, “This plan meets our need to balance the budget while restoring help to those Oregonians whose lives would otherwise be in jeopardy, such as the mentally ill, senior citizens in nursing homes and the medically needy.”

Clarno, interviewed on her way to the GOP’s annual Dorchester Conference in Seaside on Friday, said top lawmakers “probably met five times with the governor” on Thursday, hammering out details of the package.

“We have to borrow a lot of money” to make it work, she said, but the package “addresses the most vulnerable citizens,” and also includes about $950,000 for indigent defense.

“It just means being able to have identified funds, enough between now and July 1, to be able to prosecute criminals,” Clarno said. “They will have to do that on a Monday to Thursday timeline,” due to the courts’ Friday shutdowns.

“But the majority of the funding in this package is to help seniors and disabled who are threatened with life-threatening issues, from being displaced from disabled facilities,” the senator said.

Clarno recalled that when she learned the new shortfall figure – which earlier had been estimated at $90 million, $100 million tops – “I lost my breath. It was like I was punched in the stomach.”

“It’s been real gloom and doom ever since we came into the session. It’s like a family situation, where one day there’s bad news, and the next day more bad news, and the next day there’s more bad news. You find yourself saying, `Gosh, when is this ever going to end?’”

“(Income tax) collections are down, business corporate taxes are down – the only thing that’s sort of staying solid is the lottery,” Clarno said.

Clarno urges more cuts, privatizing

Clarno has had her own targeted list of desired cuts, some for many years, such as her recommendation to privatize the state’s motor pool. But she said, “Out of 90 people, you have to get a majority of people who will vote to make cuts.” And some of the local cuts facing Central Oregon pain Clarno quite a bit.

“I don’t like many of these cuts either, but some people refuse to cut anything,” she said. “I don’t like losing practically all funding for (Deschutes County’s Community) Youth Investment Program, or the Commission on Children and Families. I know they reach out to local communities, help children and families in need.”

But if the package passes as expected in coming days, and talk turns to the ’03-05 budget, Clarno still wishes that lawmakers would start “looking at everything, and say, `Is this something we should absolutely be doing in government? If not, get rid of it, or privatize it.’”

Clarno said the state holds property worth $15 million at the three motor pool locations in Portland, Salem and Eugene – “land that never pays any taxes,” but would if the operation was put in private hands.

The Senate GOP leader said she also has included privatizing the Oregon Liquor Control Commission on her list, as well as the Department of Motor Vehicles. “In the state of Washington, you get your license renewed and pick up your tags at the Sears store. There’s a lot of things that other states do that we could be doing.”

“That’s why I hate sessions every two years,” rather than annual ones, Clarno said. “You run out of time you could spend looking at good stuff to cut. Now we start developing the ’03-05 budget, which we should be doing already.”

Since the caucuses have signed off on the deal, “we expect broad, bipartisan votes” for the package, Deister said, pointing out that the package “does more restoration than we originally were going to do” – more than double the $15.5 million “emergency care package” proposed last month by Minnis and House Majority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend.

“I think everybody’s agreed on when we start serious discussions about ’03-05, those $33 million in programs we’re buying back, we want to make sure those continue and don’t stop in July,” Deister said.

Oregon not borrowing as much as some states

There are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers, “who are not thrilled about this at all,” the House speaker’s spokesman said. “But there’s just no good options left at this point. We don’t want to go raise taxes. I think the people were pretty loud on that in January,” when Measure 28 was soundly defeated.

Still, things could be worse, in some respects – and are, in other states that have gone down the borrowing road in even more risky fashion, according to Deister.

“The way the state of Oregon approaches bonding is much more responsible than a lot of other states,” he said. “Treasurer (Randall) Edwards has done a good job of putting together a responsible package that will be paid off quickly – a very aggressive schedule, within eight to 10 years.”

The budget-balancing plan “takes total borrowing against the tobacco settlement to $450 million,” including $100 million done in last year’s special sessions. But Deister said, “We’re still at about half of what we could potentially borrow. There are states out there bonding the whole darn thing, for 30 years.”

“There are some of our own caucus members who would like to see more cuts – we wish we could do more,” Deister said. “But when 85 percent of the general fund is education, human services and public safety, and those are the three things that already have been cut enough – or too much – that leaves only 15 percent of the general fund” to look at.

NW team managing part of Columbia Shuttle recovery effort

Crews managed by a Pacific Northwest team assisting the Space Shuttle Columbia recovery effort finished searching their first two-mile square grid and combed through half of a second grid on Monday. Work was suspended Tuesday, however, because of ice and sub-freezing temperatures.
The Pacific Northwest National Incident Management Team 2 from Oregon and Washington, led by Incident Commander Mike Lohrey, is managing some 960 searchers from an Incident Command Post in Corsicana, Texas, about 45 miles south of Dallas. The team is of one of 16 national incident management teams nationwide, and is comprised of 45 U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fire Service employees from Oregon, Washington and northern California.
The Corsicana crews began searching for Shuttle materials on Sunday. They are one of four teams in eastern Texas looking for parts from the Columbia, which exploded Feb. 1.
Nearly 1,200 personnel are on site at the Corsicana command post, including 48 20-person crews from states including Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Texas. About 250 people are supporting the search effort at Corsicana.
Searchers include 31 Forest Service crews, nine from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, four from the Bureau of Land Management and three state crews. Working side by side with the crews are 110 personnel from the Environmental Protection Agency, 40 from NASA, four from FEMA, and six from the National Park Service.
Additional search crews continue to arrive and will be trained to assist crews already in place. Local property owners have been extremely cooperative, as most of the search takes place on private land.

Fire district announces completion of training complex improvements

The Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District #2 (DCRFPD #2) announces the completion of a new classroom building and other site improvements at its training complex The improvements are located on highway 20 across from the Mountain View Mall and behind the north fire station.
The new 2,800 foot education building consists of three offices and a large classroom area. Capable of seating up to people, the large classroom can be divided into two smaller rooms. Training will be enhanced by enabling the teaching of large groups or multiple smaller groups in single sessions. Classroom work, can be combined with hands-on training at the nearby asphalt pad and training tower completed in 2001.
Also part of the new project was a draft station designed to test pumps. The draft station will help the fire department meet DEQ restrictions on the use of natural water sources for testing pumps. The draft station is essentially a large 70,000 gallon concrete reservoir. When empty it can be used for teaching confined space rescue. The asphalt pad surrounding the training tower was expanded when the draft station was built. The pad and tower are designed to provide a large safe area for practicing emergency responses and hands-on driving instruction of large vehicles.
Two other buildings that are part of the training area upgrades have also been completed. One building will be used for storing training props while a large metal building will provide additional storage for the entire department .
In addition to the improvements at the training complex, a new east fire station is being constructed at the corner of Neff and Hamby to replace the outdated old station. That building is scheduled for completion this spring. After fire department operations have been transferred to the new building the old station will be returned to Bend Park and Recreation for use in maintaining their facilities.
The DCRFPD #2 built all of the buildings using its own capital improvement funds and Oregon Bond Bank proceeds. The Oregon Bond Bank are monies obtained by the State of Oregon through the sale of bonds by the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department. The new facilities will be leased to the Bend Fire Department and the lease payments will help offset debt service payments.
For more information contact DCRFPD #2 Administrative Manager, Tom Fay, at 318-0459

Motor’s smoke prompts Redmond school evacuation

At approximately 11:25 a.m. Evergreen staff members reported smoke in the library.
As a precaution, the building was
evacuated and the fire department dispatched. It was determined that an electrical
motor in one of the library heaters
shorted out generating smoke in the area. With the assistance of the fire
department, the smoke was cleared with fans.
Students and staff followed fire drill procedures and were safely evacuated from the
building. Once the fire department
determined it safe to re-enter the building, students were moved to the gym,
cafeteria and playground for lunch and recess.
At 12:30 p.m. students returned to their normal class schedule.
Today’s incident validates why schools practice routine emergency evacuation drills.
Students and staff handled the
situation in an exemplary manner. If you have concerns about today’s events, please
contact the school office at 923-4865 or
the district office at 923-5437.