2014 in Central Oregon

School construction, Mirror Pond, Cover Oregon loom large

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich


Published Jan 1, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Jan 2, 2014 at 04:25PM

Last year brought big college plans to the High Desert, legal battles over Bend’s water, slivers of economic hope and plenty of health care hiccups.

This year promises more changes.

Oregon State University-Cascades Campus hopes to start construction on its new Bend campus this spring. Plans for a new Bend ice rink and pavilion are moving forward. Central Oregon’s housing market looks to build off its best year since before the recession. And 2014 means elections, lots of them.

Read on for a look at major issues ahead for Central Oregon in 2014.

Elections

From county offices to the U.S. Senate, many key elected positions are up for grabs this year.

Two Deschutes County commissioners — Tony DeBone and Tammy Baney — will have to win re-election in November if they want to serve beyond January 2015. Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty faces an election challenge from attorney and former Bend city councilor John Hummel.

Crook County Commissioner Seth Crawford’s term is up this year, as is Sheriff Jim Hensley’s. Both have filed for re-election, according to the Crook County Clerk’s Office.

Two Jefferson County commissioners — Mike Ahern and John Hatfield — are up for election, as well as Sheriff Jim Adkins.

Ahern is the only one to have filed re-election paperwork at this point, according to the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office.

At the state level, Gov. John Kitzhaber has announced plans to run for re-election in November.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., faces a re-election campaign for the first time since taking office in 2009. State Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, is among the Republicans trying to unseat Merkley in November.

Mirror Pond

It’s the Bend issue that just won’t die. City councilors have debated what to do about silt build-up in Bend’s iconic Mirror Pond for years: Dredge the pond to maintain its appearance, or restore the stretch of the Deschutes River into a more free-flowing waterway.

The debate took on new urgency this fall, starting with the October discovery of a leak in the dam that makes the pond. Officials with Pacifi­Corp, which owns the dam, have said the dam isn’t likely to be economical for much longer.

City leaders have assembled a Mirror Pond committee, made up of Bend Park & Recreation District officials, city councilors and community members, to come up with a long-term solution for the silt issue.

But no concrete decisions have been made, and the discussions are all but certain to continue well into 2014.

OSU-Cascades and other schools

Oregon State University made 2013 a banner year for higher education in Central Oregon.

After lining up $16 million from the state in July, OSU laid out its plan to expand Bend’s Oregon State University-Cascades Campus into a four-year campus.

The school will be open for new freshmen in fall 2015. But plenty of work looms ahead in 2014 to meet that deadline. Construction crews will be busy this year converting a pumice mine off Southwest Century Drive into a 56-acre campus and getting ready to build classrooms and student housing.

Several other school-related projects are in various development phases. Central Oregon Community College wants to build a 330-bed dormitory in time for fall 2015 and is working to complete a $8.3 million Technology and Education Center in Redmond by next fall.

Bend-La Pine Schools is set to build new elementary and middle schools in the coming years.

Development projects and local economy

It’s more than just education fueling a building boom. Several major housing, hotel and recreation projects are in the pipeline as well.

A 114-room Hampton Inn and Suites hotel is under construction in Bend’s Old Mill District, and is set to open next summer.

Nearby, a 90-room Marriott hotel could be coming to the former Brooks-Scanlon crane shed property, off Industrial Way.

A rebounding real estate market pushed housing inventory to some of the lowest levels on record around Bend. Developers responded with three major apartment proposals.

Sage Springs, a 104-unit complex off Boyd Acres Road, could be done next month.

A pair of even larger proposals entered the planning process last summer. A Washington state development company is considering a 241-unit complex made of several buildings, near Reed Market and Brosterhous roads.

And a separate developer filed planning documents for a 144-unit complex in southeast Bend, made up of 15 separate buildings.

Meanwhile, the Bend Park & Recreation District is planning a new ice skating rink and recreation pavilion off Simpson Avenue, using funds from a bond passed by voters in 2012.

Cover Oregon

The Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces opened for business in October. And while some states have successfully registered thousands of new customers online, Oregon’s marketplace rollout has arguably been the worst of any nationwide.

Cover Oregon’s website still isn’t working. A team of temporary staffers is processing applications by hand in an effort to keep thousands of Oregonians from losing their health insurance this month.

With the deadline to purchase insurance pushed back to Jan. 6, many would-be customers still don’t know if they’re covered. On Tuesday, Cover Oregon’s computer servers were down for several hours, and employees were telling customers to call back later.

Cover Oregon’s ongoing technical problems figure to be a major issue in Central Oregon and around the state in the early months of 2014.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original version, the public entity building the ice skating rink and recreation pavilion in Bend was misidentified. The Bulletin regrets the error.