Top 5 of 2005
In Jefferson County, the past year was one of politics, renewed prison plans, misappropriations, and preparations for a reinvigorated business community.
Among the top five stories for the year were two dealing with campaigns -- the races for County Commission, and Madras mayor, and the salary cap; the Madras prison getting back on track; the continuing parade of local embezzlement cases; and community revitalization taking off.
Local racesAlthough in the end, the challengers did not pose much of a challenge, Commissioner Bellamy of Culver faced Vern Bowers of Crooked River Ranch in a heated May 18 primary race, and Leona Ike of Warm Springs in the Nov. 2 general election. Madras Mayor Rick Allen faced Danny Beeson in the Nov. 2 election.
Bowers, who had managed the successful campaigns of Mary Zemke and Walt Ponsford when they ran for County Commission in 2002, ran on a platform that included a push for economic diversification, increased tourism, and value-added agriculture.
He called Bellamy a career politician, and said he would represent all the communities in the county, and "work for the majority."
Bellamy fired back that he had worked all his life and never collected unemployment or disability, a reference to the fact that Bowers remains on disability from his job with the Portland Police Bureau. Bowers was an officer from 1971 until 1987, when he went on disability for undisclosed reasons.
In campaign literature, Bowers said he had retired from the bureau after 25 years as a police officer, but the bureau's personnel department said that he was listed as on an extended leave of absence.
After recriminations on both sides, Bellamy beat Bowers by more than a two-to-one margin in the primary for the Republican nomination.
Following the May 18 victory over Bowers, Bellamy decided to make public his grievances against Zemke, whom he accused of lending her support to Bowers' candidacy with a letter sent out to individuals around the county. Bellamy said he spent many hours offering her counseling and guidance when she became a commissioner, and felt he was "stabbed in the back."
"You insulted my integrity and my honesty in your letter," he said. "My integrity and my honesty is the thing I'm most proud of when I present me as a candidate to the people of this county."
Zemke thanked him for his comments and told him he had "been great to work with." Since that time, the commission has had few disagreements.
Bellamy went on to face Ike, a Democrat and the first Native American woman to run for County Commission, in the November election. Ike, who ran a "word of mouth" campaign, was defeated by Bellamy by a vote of 2,570 to 4,918 overall, but won in Warm Springs, where she received 361 votes to Bellamy's 135.
On the city front, nearly as soon as Beeson announced that he was running for mayor against incumbent Rick Allen, his detractors produced police reports that showed he had been charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants and driving while suspended in two counties in California, and obtaining a controlled substance fraudulently in Crook County.
Beeson explained that the intoxicant was not alcohol, but codeine, which he had been dependent on in the 1990s, when the charges occurred.
As for the Crook County case, Beeson said he had used a false name to obtain the prescription drug Vicodin in September of 2000, because he could not obtain the drug under his own name. Beeson said he was no longer using the drug.
Allen defeated Beeson by 58 to 27 percent -- 845 to 388.
Salary capIn January of 2004, when the area was experiencing some of the heaviest snowfall in years, Vern Bowers and Caryll Rankin of Crooked River Ranch, and Ann Snyder of Ashwood, turned in petitions with 387 valid signatures to place a salary cap measure on the ballot.
The measure asked if county voters should cap the salaries of elected officials, department heads and administrators at $70,000 per year.
At the time, two county employees made over $70,000 per year: former County Administrator Mike Morgan, who made $82,054 per year; and District Attorney Peter Deuel, who made $75,692 per year -- much of which is paid by the state; and several department heads were approaching the cap.
Many thought that the measure was targeted at Morgan, who subsequently accepted the position of city administrator for Madras, at a salary of $85,000 per year.
The measure was supported by Bowers, who was running against Commissioner Bill Bellamy in the May primary, and Commissioner Mary Zemke, whose campaign was managed by Bowers. Bellamy and Walt Ponsford, whose campaign was also managed by Bowers, were strongly against the cap, fearing it would hamper county efforts to acquire and retain experienced, quality employees.
In spite of efforts by Ponsford and others to inform the voting public that the measure would face legal challenges, it passed by a margin of about 500 votes.
County Counsel Jacki Haggerty informed the commission that the measure was "clearly illegal," and simply answered a "philosophical question" posed to voters. The measure did not supply text for implementation of a measure.
On Aug. 25, after no one showed up to speak out for or against the measure, Zemke moved to continue with the county's current salary structure, take the initiative as an advisory vote, and thank voters. The motion passed unanimously.
Prison plans on againFolks in the county's business community were very excited by the Oregon Department of Correction's announcement in May that the design and construction contracts for the Madras prison would restart in August.
Max Williams, DOC director, told a large group of community members that the groundbreaking for a new, larger prison could take place as early as spring of 2005, if the Legislature agrees to fund the facility.
The minimum security portion of the facility would double from 432 beds, as originally projected, to 864 beds, which would be housed in a 185,000 square-foot building. The project, to be located off Ashwood Road (B Street), a few miles east of Madras, would be completed in October of 2006.
Construction of the 1,240-bed medium security prison would also begin in the spring, but it wouldn't be completed until October of 2007. That facility would add another 400,000 square feet to the prison's total.
In December, when Gov. Ted Kulongoski released his proposed budget for the 2005-2007 biennium, full funding for the Madras prison was included in the budget. That budget will be reviewed by the Legislature's budget committee sometime this month.
Oregon's rapidly expanding prison population has made increased prison funding a priority in the governor's budget. Prison populations are expected to increase from 12,778 in July 2004, to 14,279 in July of 2007.
The so-far unnamed Madras prison will be located on 453 acres east of Madras. The project was put on hold in September of 2002 -- one month before its scheduled groundbreaking -- due to a statewide budget crisis.
When the prison is complete, it will be the third largest in the state after the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, and the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario.
Embezzlers aboundA rash of embezzlement cases in 2004 caused many in the community to wonder if the publicity encouraged copycat crime, or rather encouraged employers to scrutinize their finances.
For whatever reason, local courtrooms saw a continuing parade of alleged thieves -- all women -- facing charges, from January through December.
In January, Camie Coons, 39, former office manager for the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and secretary-treasurer for Jefferson County Little League, had the first of three pre-trial conference on charges that she took money from both groups.
Coons had pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Nov. 14, 2003, to charges that she had taken $48,729 from the chamber over the course of her four years of employment, and about $7,500 from Little League.
In July, in just one week, three other women who had no previous criminal history were also in court facing theft charges: Linda Rehwinkel, then 59, Michelle Ann Smock, then 33, and Melissa Kristine Reese, then 27.
Rehwinkel was sentenced to 90 days in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility and directed to pay restitution of $18,478.20 to her former employer, Madras Body & Glass.
Smock was charged with eight counts of first-degree theft for embezzling money from her former employer, Check Express. The thefts allegedly occurred between April 30, 2003, and July 6, 2004. She pleaded not guilty and will appear in court March 10 for a hearing to consider trial readiness. The trial is set to begin on March 14, at 9 a.m.
Reese was sentenced to 50 days in jail for taking money from a farm account belonging to her sister and brother-in-law. Much of the money was used to purchase a pickup, which she later turned over to her sister and brother-in-law. She was also directed to pay them restitution of $4,288.57, and Bank of America, another $1,162.46.
On Aug. 17, Coons changed her plea to guilty and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, and instructed to pay restitution of $48,729.28 to the chamber, and $7,500 to Little League.
Before Coons was scheduled to begin serving her sentence on Sept. 30, Gerry Riddle, the owner of G&M Flooring of Madras, found that she had been stealing from his business, also. Riddle had given Coons a second chance after her earlier thefts were discovered and she was fired from the chamber position.
Coons eventually pleaded guilty to the new charge, and was sentenced Nov. 12 to an additional 13 months -- this time at the state women's prison in Wilsonville. When she completes that sentence, she will be returned to Jefferson County to serve the previous 180-day sentence. She must also pay $1,800 in restitution to Riddle.
Former Culver City Recorder Jeralyn "Jeri" Jones submitted her resignation Nov. 29, after the annual budget audit report was presented to the Culver City Council in executive session, and the council placed Jones on administrative leave.
Auditor Candace Fronk told councilors Dec. 20, that Jones may have made up to $19,000 in unauthorized withdrawals from the city account, in addition to her regular salary.
Prior to the release of the audit information, the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) had been looking into charges that Jones misused the city's credit card and phone for personal transactions. That investigation is continuing.
Back in August of 2003, District Attorney Peter Deuel had asked the DOJ to investigate, since he works closely with Jones' husband, Sheriff Jack Jones.
Madras RevitalizationThe year 2004 was one in which the city of Madras and local businesses got serious about making Madras a more attractive community.
Beginning in January, in a community meeting, local citizens and consultants Doug Macy of Walker Macy, a landscape, architecture and urban design firm, and David Leland of Leland Consulting Group, real estate strategists, both of Portland, planned how the city could best use funds from the urban renewal district the city created in 2002.
Topping the wish list of many of the 70 or so people gathered for the meeting was a community swimming pool, movie theater, improved parks, and attractive, healthy downtown businesses.
Encouraged by the efforts of the Madras Aquatic Center (MAC) Committee, voters in the county approved an $8.1 million bond for construction of a pool facility, as well as an operating levy in the Nov. 2 election.
Plans for a movie theater have not yet materialized, but downtown revitalization is well under way. The first phase involves the renovation of three downtown business selected in the fall of 2003.
Madras Coffee Station was the first of the three to begin its remodel with the help of a grant and a low-interest loan from the Madras Redevelopment Commission. By December, that renovation was nearly complete. The World of Treasures and Art Adventure Gallery exterior renovations will begin in the spring.
An extensive, $15.8 million remodel and expansion of Madras High School, begun in April of 2003, was nearly completed in 2004, and the contractor, Kirby Nagelhout Construction of Bend, turned its attention to the former Buff Annex, which is being remodeled for younger students.
The expansion included the addition of 50,506 square feet at MHS, and 10,804 square feet at Buff. MHS will now have a total of 163,990 square feet, while Buff will have 37,182 square feet.
The two schools are expected to be finished in February.
Mountain View Hospital completed a remodel of the interior of the Madras Medical Group office across the street from the hospital in September of 2004. Physician offices were relocated, and exam rooms were added and redone, at a cost of about $300,000, according to Rick Nader, chief financial officer for Mountain View.
Other businesses that underwent remodels in 2005 included the Oscar's Building, which houses Mail Copies and More; and the dental offices of Dr. Wayne Schultz, Dr. Andrew Toms, and Dr. Owen Smith.
Raining Fresh Daisies, a scrapbooking store, Buttons and Bolts, a sewing and quilting store, Hatfield's Boutique, and small women's clothing store in Petals-N-Poseys, Aaron's, a furniture and appliance store, and Outdoor World on 97, a new outdoor furniture and appliance store next to Aaron's, all opened their doors in 2004.
Two new industrial areas also became available in 2004 -- the city-owned Jefferson Business Park on Cherry Lane, and the privately-owned Eagle Ridge Business Park, located just across U.S. Highway 26 from the city's business park.
"It's just a taste of what's to come," said Carol Parker, Madras Community Development Department director.