A look back at the top 10 stories of 2012
Ramona McCallister and Jason Chaney
During the past year, a variety of events seized the attention of people throughout the United States.
The 2012 election took center stage for much of the year as voters chose who would lead the nation as president for the next four years. Tragic shootings in public events shook the nation as people lost their lives to gunfire in a movie theater, an Oregon shopping mall, and a Connecticut elementary school. Also, as the year concludes, people remain uncertain whether the country will go over the fiscal cliff and face substantial tax increases.
A variety of events affected Crook County specifically in 2012. Now that the year has ended, we have compiled what we consider the top 10 events that most affected the community. If you feel that we left a story out that should have been included in the top-10 list, we encourage you to write a letter to the editor telling us what story you considered worthy and why you feel that way.
1. The first report of Apple purchasing a parcel of land from Crook County came out in February.
The warranty deed was filed at the Crook County Clerk’s office for $5.6 million, and started a chain of events that led to the breaking of ground at project Pillar, which is code-name for the Apple Data Center.
Apple Inc. applied for the construction plan on Aug. 9, with the time frame for the entire site to include a five-year build-out. The master plan included a large water system, which would benefit not only their water needs, but provide Prineville with much-needed infrastructure. It included two wells by the airport.
Apple filed a separate site plan for each portion of their construction. Included in the plans are two, 330,000-square foot buildings, a 20,000-square foot office area, and a 2,000-square foot security building. The construction site rests on 160 acres.
Apple intends to have the first structur up and running by the end of 2013. This will only be a portion of the total site plans. The design of Pillar’s new facility is quite different than the footprint for the Prineville Facebook Data Center. Construction began the first of September, and the construction will generate a substantial amount of fees for the Crook County building department. The City of Prineville received the first building permit fee check for $473,744 in October.
Work began on the first two Apple data center buildings in September.
2. During the past year, Crook County’s congressional representatives have worked on new legislation associated with Bowman Dam that would provide Prineville with 5,100 acre-feet of water and enable a hydroelectric power plant on the dam.
Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.) first drafted a bill that allocates the water in Prineville Reservoir and moves the federal Wild and Scenic boundary on Crooked River off of Bowman Dam a quarter mile downriver. That bill passed the House of Representatives and awaits action in the Senate.
Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced another bill later that year that included most of the provisions in Walden’s bill, but added some language that would satisfy fish habitat concerns. One change that allows the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to release and store Prineville Reservoir water for fish habitat drew local controversy amid concerns that the language could enable the BOR to drain the lake.
At this point, the Senate bill awaits action after receiving a hearing in the Natural Resource Committee. Because Congress chose to commit their recent lame duck session to the fiscal cliff, further work on either Bowman Dam bill will most likely resume in early 2013.
3. After three cases in less than three months, Crook County Health Department announced a meningococcal infection outbreak in early February.
The serotype C infection was vaccine-preventable, and in the weeks following, the Health Department vaccinated approximately 600 people. Bi-Mart administered another 200 vaccinations, and Clinic Pharmacy gave 400 to 500 doses. Shots-For-Tots, a clinic which was already scheduled, also provided more than 200 vaccinations to younger residents.
The inoculation guidelines were temporarily inclusive of nine months to 25 years of age, where prior to outbreak declaration, the state requirement for the health department was 11 through 25 years of age.
From March 2011, there were six cases of meningococcal disease in Crook County by February 2012; five of them type C in people less than 25 years of age. The fifth case was an infant in Crook County. Although meningococcal disease is not easily transmittable and is spread by respiratory droplets or by direct contact, the outbreak brought about a certain amount of panic among local residents.
Pharmacies reported lines of customers wrapping around the building, with 50 to 100 vaccinations per day. Crook County Health Department beefed up staff to streamline vaccinations and disperse information to concerned residents.
The demand began to taper off for the vaccinations by the last week of February. A definite link between the cases remained unknown.
4.In June, a local man was bitten by an infected cat and contracted the plague.
Paul Gaylord survived all three syndromes of the plague, and was the first person known to have done so. Bubonic, Pneumonic, and Septicemic plague are not different kinds of plague, but different syndromes that describe the complications that are associated with the plague. The same bacteria from a flea bite are involved.
His nurses called him “the miracle patient.”
After Gaylord was bitten by his sick cat on June 2, 2012, he became extremely ill and was admitted to St. Charles Medical Center. He was on full life support for 24 days in intensive care, and was initially given a poor prognosis for recovery. He surprised doctors and nurses and was home in September.
Although he was weak, Gaylord began physical therapy upon returning to his sister’s home. He developed acral necrosis, which resulted in dry gangrene of his toes and fingers. He had to have all fingers, with the exception of half of his thumbs, amputated in September. He also lost all his toes up to the knuckle, and a portion of his right foot.
He continued to have a good outlook and make steady progress. His home was not inhabitable upon his return from the hospital, so the local Band of Brothers helped raise funds and labor to build a new home for Gaylord on the same building site.
The State Public Health Veterinarian and Epidemiologist Dr. Emilio DeBess, visited Prineville in July to survey the area near Gaylord’s residence to see what was going on with animals, pets, and rodents. He said they were not able to find anything out of the ordinary in the rodent population in the general area.
Communicable Disease Coordinator Karen Yeargain confirmed a second case of the plague in September, following positive blood work from the June incident. A woman was bitten at the same time as Gaylord, and began to display symptoms. The woman was put on antibiotics, and another critical case was deterred.
Gaylord has begun to heal from his surgeries and his ordeal, and will soon move into his new home. For the first time since that fateful day in June, he is free of bandages.
5. In August, St. Charles Health System and Pioneer Memorial Hospital initiated a joint process to conduct a feasibility study to look at viable options in building a community health center in Prineville.
The process to consider some viable options of building a new facility for the Prineville community was met with many community members in favor, and some in opposition. The initial recommendation for the facility included 12 to 16 points of care, and an estimated cost of $30 to $40 million. There would also be an office space that attached to the facility to accommodate 12 physicians. The footage would be approximately 69,000 square feet, in comparison to the current campus of 71,000 square feet.
As the two boards moved ahead with the process, they tried to be mindful and sensitive to the concerns of the health care community and the residents who have been invested in Prineville for decades. Local physicians were invited to come to one of the early meetings, and nine physicians were in attendance. Ronald Sproat, a local and long-tenured surgeon of Crook County, voiced concerns about the direction of the feasibility study.
Members of the board commented that the powerhouse of a medical facility in terms of medical staff and personnel in Bend could be leveraged to benefit the welfare of local residents. St. Charles Health System had a proposal to bring before the Pioneer Memorial Hospital Board in early December.
The next step included looking at where St. Charles Health System would locate a new campus in Prineville.
6. The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Crook County endured a turbulent year in 2012.
They began the year still working to resolve a financial issue regarding food and shelter funding from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Because of an expenditure discrepancy, the organization was left ineligible for the funding.
Then, in late August, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church evicted St. Vincent de Paul from the two buildings the organization was leasing for their food bank and main office. This came within a month of a scheduled leadership change.
NeighborImpact and members of Prineville’s faith-based community took over the food bank while St. Vincent de Paul spent the next two months remodeling their thrift store to house a main office and food bank while retaining space for the store.
In early November, St. Vincent de Paul reopened their food bank at their new location, one month after new leadership took over the organization. The former St. Vincent facilities were demolished a short time later.
Because they had focused primarily on securing a new food bank location, St. Vincent de Paul leadership have not yet resolved their FEMA issue, but plan to amend the situation in the coming year.
7. A facilities committee was formed early in the year to prioritize needed repairs to the Crook County School District, and the end result would be to get a bond ready for voters in May 2013.
Initially, there were two proposals brought forth by the committee. The first included repairs only to the current CCSD school structures, including Paulina and the Powell Butte Charter School. The tax liability came in at approximately $20 to $22 million over 15 years — or $1 per $1,000 assessed value.
The second proposal consisted of replacing Crooked River Elementary and Ochoco Elementary, and building a new school that would accommodate 600 or more students. The other school structures would still be repaired, and the tax threshold would be $15 million for repairs and $15 million for the new school. This scenario also raised the contract to 20 years, and slightly more on the overall tax liability — which was $1.20 per $1,000 assessed value.
A public forum was held in July, in which all scenarios were presented and questions were fielded from the community. In October, the Crook County School District contracted with the Nelson Report out of Salem to conduct a phone survey of registered voters on their perception of the CCSD and a potential $33 million bond measure proposal. The most basic question asked whether those surveyed would support a $33 million bond that replaced Ochoco Elementary School and Crooked River Elementary School with a new school costing $18 million, and allocated the remaining $15 million to other district-wide renovations.
An overwhelming 60 percent favored the bond, with 28 percent opposed, and 12 percent who were unsure. At the November board meeting, chairman of the CCSD facilities committee John Sundell made a presentation to the school board and a recommendation for the board to move forward with the bond, with the amount to be precisely defined by January. He also said the committee favored the recommendation to build a new school to replace Crooked River Elementary and Ochoco Elementary.
A political action committee was organized in December to start on activities to market the bond for the May election.
8. In September, Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe broached the idea of exploring the implementation of a Prineville business license. Her comments prompted further discussion on the subject and ultimately led to a Prineville City Council workshop to consider the pros and cons of a business license.
The workshop drew more than 40 business owners and residents who asked questions and expressed concerns about the potential license.
Local law enforcement and fire department leaders said the license requirement would help them improve upon their business listings so they can contact business owners when a burglary alarm is tripped or a fire breaks out.
For the most part, City Councilors simply wanted the business contact information, but they also discussed whether or not the City could use the information to aid businesses as they come to Prineville or even help them market their company.
The City did not make any decisions regarding implementation of a business license, and they intend to hold additional meetings in 2013 to discuss the matter further.
9. In early November, news broke regarding a Prineville resident that was suing Jefferson County, Crook County, and City of Prineville law enforcement personnel for police brutality and torture.
Curtis Hooper sued the multiple entities for more than $5 million in association with multiple incidents in May 2011. After an acquaintance of Hooper’s called 911 saying that the suspect had attempted suicide and overdosed on medication, Prineville police officers arrived on scene. Facing a reportedly combative Hooper, the officers fought off the subject and then later tased him before taking him to Pioneer Memorial Hospital for medical treatment.
During his time in the emergency room, Hooper reportedly kicked one member of the hospital staff and pinched another one causing a bruise. His behavior prompted police to employ different control tactics, one of which involved an officer bending Hooper’s finger back.
Video of the control tactic was aired on a Bend TV station along with brief comments from Hooper and his attorney. Since City and County officials had been advised not to discuss the case because it is pending litigation, they could not refute the comments or provide their side of the story. However, a more than 30-page incident report filed by the Prineville Police Department offered a much different account of what happened during the arrest and subsequent hospital visit.
Following the media attention the incident received, local residents staged a protest in downtown Prineville in which more than 30 picketers held signs supporting Hooper and opposing local police.
Hooper is seeking a jury trial, but so far, no court date has been set.
10. In 2012, multiple long-time leaders in the Crook County community retired.
Crook County government said goodbye to assessor Tom Green after 38 years of service. The County will appoint his replacement in early 2013.
After 20 years with the City of Prineville Public Works Department, Superintendent Jerry Brummer stepped down in June. He was replaced by Heppner, Ore. transplant Brian Harmon, who resigned in the fall. Public Works employee Pat Goehring has since taken over as interim superintendent and the City will likely fill the position early this year.
Two prominent Crook County Fire and Rescue (CCFR) leaders also retired in June. Fire Chief Bob Schnoor, who spent 37 years with CCFR, and Deputy Chief Jim Dean, who joined the department in 1989, both stepped down after lengthy careers.
Following an extensive search to replace Schnoor, CCFR Division Chief Matt Smith was chosen to succeed him. CCFR Fire Marshal Casey Kump took over as Deputy Fire Chief and still remains the Fire Marshal.
The Crook County School District (CCSD) learned in 2012 that three of their leaders will retire. Ochoco Elementary School Principal Tim Gleeson announced in April that he would not return for the 2012-13 school year. Backed by 40 years of experience in education, Gleeson held the principal position for one year. Dave Robinson filled the vacated position at the start of the current school year.
In September, Dennis Kostelecky announced his retirement after 17 years as CCSD Curriculum Director. He will take over as Head of Schools for Insight Charter School in fall of 2013. During the 2012-13 school year, he will split time between that position and the curriculum director job he is leaving.
Two months later, in November, Crook County High School Principal Rocky Miner announced his retirement following the conclusion of the 2012-13 school year. He took over the position in 2009 after serving as Crook County Middle School Principal for nine years. The school district has not yet chosen a replacement for Miner, but will likely do so before the 2012-13 school year concludes.