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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roll On Deschutes

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 9:40 PM

Paddlers will be out in force tonight as the Park District hosts an open house comment period on its proposed whitewater play area/spillway redesign at Colorado Avenue. The long overdue project is still in the planning phases and citizens still have an opportunity to shape the final product, but the project already incorporates many important recreational and safety elements that the entire community should get behind, including safe passage for floaters, a whitewater play area and fish passage through an open, free-flowing channel, as well as protection of existing gravel and spawning beds below the dam.

The park district hasn't yet lined up funding for the $1 million plus project, the vast majority of which is needed to raise the height of the bridge to allow modifications to the historic spillway, which once served as a key part of the mill operations, creating a large virtually slackwater storage area. Thanks to the active paddling community, however, planners are optimistic that project can be funded with the help of the paddlers, who are preparing to launch a capital campaign once the district has settled on an alternative.

In the meantime, you can weigh on the project and toast the effort of the local paddlers who have pushed the project for years. Paddlers will be meeting down at the new park and rec offices at 5:30 to lobby for the project and then repairing to the Blacksmith for pints and paddling videos. Bonus points to anyone that shows up in a wetsuit. 


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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bend Holds Back On Parking Fees After Businesses Revolt

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 6:15 AM

After receiving a petition from incensed business owners, city officials decided to put a parking fee increase on hold until they have more time to discuss the plan with downtown stakeholders.

City council officials were scheduled to discuss a staff proposal to do away with the free two-hours of parking currently offered in both the north and south Mirror pond lots, but yanked the item from the agenda after roughly two dozen business owners and managers signed a petition that was submitted to the city through the Bend Chamber of Commerce.

City Manager Erik King said he wanted to postpone further discussion on the issue until the city has more time to dialogue with the impacted business, some of whom had said they felt blindsided by the sudden decision to do away with the two hours of free parking in the Mirror Pond lots adjacent to Drake Park. While the city would have maintained the existing program of free on-street park on Bond and Wall, many business owners felt that now was the wrong time to start charging for overflow parking - even at the modest rate of $1 per hour.

One manager that I spoke with who had several years of experience serving on downtown related issues for the city and downtown association said that business is so slow right now that parking is not a problem for patrons. The source suggested the city wait until spring, giving downtown business owners some time to adjust.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the story isn't the outcome, but rather the fact that a large group of business owners revolted against a strategy that had already been publicly endorsed by the Downtown Bend Business Association. The fact that they went around their own board and funneled the petition through the chamber, as city manager Erik King indicated at the meeting, only adds to the plotline. Could it be that the Downtowners board after recently convincing the city to extend a special tax to all downtown property owners to fund the organization is finding itself in the city's pocket, politically speaking?

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Homeless Man Held In Double Murder Pt. 2

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 11:31 PM


This is a quick follow-up to the previous story about last night’s arrest of a homeless man who is accused of killing two other men yesterday at a homeless camp north of Bend.

I just came back from the arraignment hearing where the suspect Jason Michael Centrone appeared via video camera to hear the charges against him. The appearance didn’t shed a lot of light on the crime, one of several that have occurred in the last two years in and around Bend’s homeless camps, Judge Edward Perkins read the names of the victims. According to the complaint, Centrone is accused of stabbing to death Greg Spikerman and David Wade.

In addition to aggravated murder charges, Centrone faces two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. The suspect, who appeared on camera in a short-sleeved navy jail shirt wearing shoulder length brown hair, said little during his initial appearances other than to answer Perkins prompts.

The judge ordered Centrone, whom the sheriff’s office had initially referred to as a transient, held without bail. His next court appearance is set for Oct. 24. In the meantime the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office is executing search warrants on Centrone, whom DA Mike Dugan said was set to be transported to the St. Charles for blood and tissue sampling, as well as the homeless camp where the crime is alleged to have taken place.

Interviewed earlier in the day, Dugan said he wasn’t at liberty to say if the suspect and the victims knew each other before the incident or any of the other circumstances around the alleged crime.

Asked about the violence around the camps, Dugan said he hadn’t noticed an up-tick in criminal activity in recent months, though he could point to a shooting and a sexual assault that were prosecuted through his office.

“What  sticks out I suppose is the aggravated cases. Here we have a murder. We’ve had assaults; we had a sexual offense. Those things grab headlines. We still have not had anything different than the occasional shoplifting and trespassing. Those are small crimes that you don’t write about,” Dugan said.

Asked whether law enforcement authorities might take a more aggressive approach to the camps, Dugan said he wasn’t sure who would take the lead on that given that the camps are spread out between public and private land. In this case his office was still trying to determine the landowner where the crime is alleged to have taken place. In addition, he isn’t sure whether a crackdown is the answer to the transient camps.

“I don’t know that that’s necessarily our job,” Dugan said. “My job is to prosecute people who violate the law.

“The Forest Service gets all upset when people squat on their property but that’s a federal offense. But do we want to spend a lot of money to prosecute people who trespass in the second degree?” Dugan asked.

“The other thing is there are agencies in town actively seeking to help those homeless,” Dugan said, ticking off the names of a number of non-profits like Shepherd’s House and Bethlehem Inn.

“We don’t have to go out and do the old railroad thing, hitting the hobos with the batons. It just doesn’t seem to be what we should be doing,” he said.



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Homeless Man Held In Double Murder Case

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 5:33 PM

The Deschutes County Sheriff's has arrested a Bend homeless man as a suspect in an alleged double murder at a homeless camp north of Bend.

Here's a copy of the press release that just came out this morning.

Deschutes County Sheriff's Office

63333 Highway 20 West

Bend, Oregon 97701

(541) 388-6655


Aggravated Murder

South Highway 97 and Baker Rd.

By: Sheriff Larry Blanton

Arrested: Jason Michael Centrone, 37 year old transient

Charge: Aggravated Murder

The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office is currently conducting an investigation into the deaths of two victims whose bodies were discovered by Sheriff's Deputies in a wooded area near Highway 97 and Baker Rd. at about 11:00 pm on October 13th. Preliminary investigation has led Detectives to investigate the deaths as homicides. A suspect is in custody, and Detectives believe there is no further danger to the community.

Centrone was initially contacted in front of the Bend Wal-Mart store, at about 8:30 pm, and arrested by Bend Police Officers, without incident, for Criminal Trespass II, and was lodged in the Deschutes County Jail. Information developed by the arresting officer and Sheriff's Deputies led to the discovery of the deceased victims in a transient camp. After the bodies were discovered Centrone was interviewed by Sheriff's Deputies and arrested for Aggravated Murder.

Centrone was lodged in the Deschutes County Jail on 2 counts of Aggravated Murder as well as the original Criminal Trespass charge.

The victims have not yet been positively identified. Detectives will continue to investigate this case throughout the day. No further information is being released at this time. The Deschutes County District Attorney's Office is involved in the investigation and any further information or press releases will be released by the DA's Office.

Expect this news to set of a wave of hand-wringing over the largely unregulated transient camps that have proliferated around Deschutes County over the past few years. While the camps are nothing new, most reports indicate that there are more of them as the unemployment rate has risen into the double digits. As the homeless population has grown, so have the instances of violence and criminal activity in the camps. I can think of a couple of instances off the top of my head, including one recent sodomy case at one of the camps involving a middle age homeless men and a juvenile living in a camp.

With limited social services and housing opportunities for the homeless, there are no easy answers to the homeless camps around town. But when the criminal activity in the camps turns to murder, it's time to start asking the questions.

Addendum: Here's Mr. Centrone's mugshot, which the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office has provided.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Local Non-Profits Represent in Oregon Business Ranking

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 10:19 PM


Local non-profits made a strong showing in a new ranking of the best charitable and other not-for profit organizations in Oregon. Deschutes Public Library cracked the Top 10 in a list of the state’s larger organizations (75 or more employees), weighing in at number five in a list that was otherwise heavily dominated by Portland non-profits that was recently compiled Oregon Business magazine. Other local non-profits were well represented in the categories listing smaller organizations.

The Growing Tree Children’s Center, an eastside Bend pre-school that was founded with the help of the Healy family, ranked number 11 on the list of medium sized organizations (25-74 employees).

(Full disclosure here, I have two children at the school and serve on the board of directors…So when I say it’s the greatest pre-school ever, I know what I’m talking about…)

Others singled out for praise in the medium-sized category were Central Oregon Resources for Independent Living (CORIL), a group that advocates and assists seniors and the disabled who want to live outside of managed care facilities, and the Kids Center, a child abuse prevention and counseling center.

Several of Bend’s smaller non-profits were also recognized, including the battered women’s support system and shelter, Saving Grace, and the Deschutes River Conservancy, a collaborative environmental group aimed at restoring flows and habitat on upper and middle Deschutes river.

The list, which was published in Oregon Business October issue, is a companion to the magazine’s well read and respected annual listing of 100 Best companies to work for in Oregon.  

The recognition is no doubt welcome news for non-profits, both locally and statewide, many of which have seen their endowments reduced and charitable donations dip amidst the prolonged recession. The fact that half a dozen non-profits were singled out for praise by Oregon Business should be seen as a testament to the good work being done by folks who do some of the most important jobs in our community, safeguarding our natural resources, culture, children and seniors. A big congratulation to all the winners and a thank you for all the work they, their employees and volunteers do on behalf of our community. Keep up the good work.

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