After several years of lobbying, Bend veterans finally got their wish for a new veteran's center in Central Oregon. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. was in town last week to christen the new center that opened on NE Forbes Road. The center will offer counseling and referral services to veterans and their families. It replaces an existing, but temporary center, that opened a year ago in downtown Bend. Previously, veterans had to travel to Salem to access similar services.
On the topic of Bend servicemen, a Bend soldier whose father is losing his Bend home to foreclosure, was in the news again this past week when the pair's story was featured in the LA Times. Times reporter Kim Murphy traveled to Bend to interview Tim Collette, a contractor who fell behind on his mortgage and faces the prospect of losing the home that he shares with his son, a U.S. soldier serving in Basra. Collette is fighting to save his home and his story has been featured locally and nationally, including by left-wing pundit and documentarian Michael Moore. Murphy profiled Collette in conjunction with his son Aaron's return home for a temporary leave. Collette had asked the bank to allow him to remain in his home during his son's visit and the lender J.P. Morgan, which recently scheduled Collette's house for auction, agreed. However, the bank has refused to modify Collette's loan, even though he has returned to work and is ready to make payments. Instead, the bank has insisted that Collette make $9,000 in missed payments, or allow the bank to take over the loan on the home, which Collette bought with a $125,000 down payment.
Another close call at the Colorado spillway is prompting more discussion about the future of the mill-era dam. Last Thursday, a father and his two daughters were trapped after their inflatable raft slipped under the spillway, which sits in the middle of the popular town float from Farewell Bend Park to Drake Park. There are multiple signs on the river advising floaters to exit the river and portage around the hazard, which sits just above McKay Park at Colorado Avenue. However, the trio, which was visiting from Oregon City, told police that they were caught off guard by the speed of the water.
The floaters spent roughly 15 minutes clinging to a pylon just above the spillway before Deschutes County Search and Rescue workers were able to fish them from the river. The incident is the second this year involving a rafter unwittingly entering the spillway area and one of several that have called into question the safety of the 100-year-old dam. Old Mill developer Bill Smith, who owns the spillway told the Bulletin that he thinks the spillway is "dangerous," pointing out that it was never designed to accommodate recreational floaters. The Bend Park and Recreation District and the nonprofit Bend Paddle Trail Alliance have worked with Smith on a plan to reconstruct the dam. Under the proposal the dam would be rebuilt with a free running passage for tubers and a whitewater play area for boaters downstream of the bridge. However, the district and its partners are still trying to secure funding for the estimated $1.7 million project.
Bend's westside liquor store will be getting new digs, according to owner Georgio Roccasalva who told the Bulletin that he plans to move his store into a 2,000 square foot space across Century Drive from Ray's where he currently resides. The west Bend liquor store was one of the first of its kind in the state, allowing shoppers to purchase groceries, beer and liquor under one roof. Roccasalva said he plans to expand the inventory, offering a broader chioces of spirits when the new location opens, likely in December.
After drawing fire from disability advocates, the Bend Farmer's Market announced this week that it is moving from the grassy knoll in Drake Park to the adjacent Mirror Pond parking lot this week, a move that should make access easier for those with limited mobility.
While the new, paved venue will no doubt be much warmer than the previous grassy spot located just a few feet away, it should appease the concerns voiced by the Central Oregon Coalition for Access. The COCA complained that the grassy surface at Drake Park was an impediment for those using walkers and wheelchairs.
"The market is about helping all of our community access good, healthy food. This move will allow the market to continue for the season and make it more accessible to all customers," said Bend Farmer's Market Board member Therese Madrigal.
Bend Farmer's Market Manager Katrina Wiest said the Farmer's Market will only take up about two-thirds of the Mirror Pond lot and that 30 parking spots will remain available, 12 of which are ADA accessible. There will also be representatives on hand to help alleviate any potential traffic snafus.
The board is exploring other options for next season since the city is expected to lose revenue from parking during the hours the Farmer's Market is open. However, just how much money the city would lose is unclear, since the city still offers drivers two hours of free parking in the lot.