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2012 Top News Stories 

Central Oregon's biggest stories of 2012

1 - Ashton Eaton Wins Gold Central Oregon can now lay claim to the title of birthing the best athlete in the world. Ashton Eaton didn't come up privileged, and as his mother tearfully told the crowd of hundreds that came downtown to see her son this summer—he only succeeded through the love and support of the people in this community. So, as we watched our hometown boy hit on all cylinders in London, it wasn't just awe, it was pride.

2. OSU-Cascades It's the story of the year, for sure. Nailing down a four-year university in this town could change everything. Mostly, it ensures that the boom-and-bust cycle of Bend's economy smoothes out as we hitch our cart to a horse that'll be around for a long, long time.

3. Bridge Creek surface water improvement project Wowzer, did people get pissed about this one. From developers to business owners to environmentalists to the little ol' ratepayer, people did not like this project. It seemed like such a sure thing, too. Let's create the most expensive project in the history of the city, which will impact the most beloved creek in the area and cause monthly water rates to jump dramatically. Oh, and let's have the guys that will design the project tell us whether it's actually a good project. What could go wrong? Turns out a lot. And in the last election cycle the voters spoke. Loudly. They kicked out one of the projects stalwarts—Kathie Eckman, and elected three critics of the project's to fill vacancies on the council. Clinton, a staunch opposer of the project, was re-elected in a landslide.

4. Noise ordinance Boy those live music fans are noisy, and we mean in the political sense. Bumper stickers, visits to city council, Facebook pages and more—people opposed to the city's new noise ordinance have spoken. Too bad they didn't do that back when the city invited them to be part of crafting the new ordinance. But, anyhoo. The ordinance itself does seem to have some problems as a municipal court judge just pointed out recently when dismissing a noise ordinance violation citation that was slapped on The Horned Hand earlier this year. One of the major issues is fining people for exceeding a decibel level without actually checking the decibel level with a decibel level checker. Look for the law to be back on the city council's drawing board in 2013.

5. Sewers While this may have been under your radar, you should know that the sewer situation in this town is getting pretty stinky. At least one manhole has overflowed with sewage lately and development of business is almost totally hamstrung in certain sections of the city because there isn't enough sewage infrastructure to serve it. This year, the city created the equally unsexy sounding SIAG committee, which stands for Sewer Infrastructure Advisory Group, to help triage the near-dire situation. The 18-person (!) committee is charged with offering suggestions on what to fix first. While the topic of sewers isn't sexy, the city has proposed to spend $170 million upgrading them. That should get your attention, 'cause you're going to pay for it in your monthly bill.

6. United Senior Citizens of Bend v. Bend Park and Recreation District It's pretty hard to argue with a group of the elderly, especially when they make a good point. In this case, the United Senior Citizens of Bend say they put nearly $1 million into a new senior center, located on Reed Market Road. While their goal with the facility was broad, providing meal and health services to low-income seniors was a primary goal. The parks district, however, actually had to earn some income on the building in order to keep it open. So, it started targeting a younger more active senior who was willing to pay to play cards, billiards or for exercise classes. You see where this is going. Eventually, relations broke down and the seniors left. Now they want their money back. So far, parks has said—as gingerly as possible because, hey, this is a group of the elderly making a good point–no. Stay tuned to the Source for what happens next.

7. Pole Creek Fire By the time the fire was out in mid-October it had burned 27,000 acres southwest of Sisters, scarring one of the most beautiful recreation areas in the region. Lightning would ultimately be determined to be the cause of the blaze, which was spotted Sept. 9.

8. Mirror Pond The city of Bend and Bend Parks and Recreation District each pledged 100 large this year to educate the public on the siltation problem in the Deschutes River at Mirror Pond. (Read: We still don't know what to do.) A steering committee is responsible for guiding the effort to educate the public about options for dealing with this river health issue, which will occur again and again and again unless a long-term solution is found. (Read: dredging alone will not solve this problem.) On the campaign trail, several city council hopefuls said Mirror Pond was the No. 1 issue citizens raised. (Read: People expect a solution.)

9. Spat Between Central Oregon Visitors Association and Visit Bend Earlier this year, a long-simmering turf war between these two tourism-marketing agencies boiled over. The circumstances: Each group got behind a different major athletic event planned for the same summer weekend. COVA wanted Iron Man. Visit Bend wanted Leadman. Wasn't reasonable to have them both sooooo—simmer, simmer, boil! Eventually Leadman came to town, and the fallout created some significant ripples in the tourism industry, which is critical to Bend's economic success. Discussions over changing who got certain pots of tourism cash began to bubble up. Hoteliers even created their own new group to help them decide how to position themselves best in the aftermath of the spat.

10. Parks and Rec Bond An almost fully connected River Trail, new soccer fields, new parks in southeast Bend, a giant new park in north Bend, an ice rink and safe passage through the Colorado Dam: The $29 million bond measure passed in November will change the face of parks in Bend. Already they are seen as tops in the country. Will it have an economic impact? Will lives be saved? Whatever the outcome, it was an historical success for the district.

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