2004: A look back at the year's top stories
From a new school superintendent being hired to the completion of the Millican Road project, it was a busy year for news here in Prineville and Crook County.
This is a look at some of the top news stories to come to Crook County for 2004.
1) In June, the Millican Road project was finished. In a short ceremony in June, Crook County officials, Sen. Ron Wyden, and others paid tribute to those politicians and others who made the road a reality. The new route will also mean a shorter driving time for major freight haulers.
"A lot of people made the road a reality," said Crook County Judge Scott Cooper. "Without the support of Sen. Wyden and Rep. (Greg) Walden, we would never have had the ability to construct anything."
"Without their local staffs' efforts, especially David Blair and Colby Marshall, the project would have been dead," Cooper said. "There were lots of times when the temptation was to just quit, but the county court (Judge Cooper, Commissioner Mike Mohan and Commissioner Mike McCabe, and former Commissioner Jerry Crafton) pressed ahead despite the odds."
2) Steve Swisher was hired in June as the new superintendent when Gary Peterson took the job of superintendent with the Redmond School District in July.
"I think that we as a community were very fortunate to find someone of his caliber in the time frame that we're working with," said Crook County School Board Chairman Steve Caraway.
Swisher, who as superintendent at the Brookings-Harbor School District before moving to central Oregon, is making $91,415 a year in his new job. There were six applicants for the Crook County job. In a previous interview, Caraway said Swisher "seemed to have an understanding of the demographics of small communities" and that Swisher had been heavily involved in small towns over the years. Swisher also served as superintendent for the Sisters School District previously.
3) Work has continued throughout the year on the new wastewater treatment plant for the city. To compensate for recent commercial and residential growth, City of Prineville officials are planning a sewage treatment plant expansion. City Manager Robb Corbett said the plant is not yet at capacity, but is close. The idea is to serve the community's needs for 20 years.
"It's an extension of the current lagoon system that's out there," Corbett said in a previous interview. The city has bought property to the north and northwest of the existing sewage lagoons, north of the Les Schwab Tire Company property. The Williams Farm, one of several parcels, is in an exclusive farm use (EFU-2) zone and was outside the city's urban growth boundary. Thus, a conditional use permit was necessary for locating the treatment lagoons on the farm. Also necessary was a planning permit for storage and irrigation of the effluent.
4) In other Crook County news, a National Guard unit is headed to the county. Both the Crook County Court and the Prineville City Council had written letters to Governor Ted Kulongoski expressing their desire that National Guard units that currently use the Redmond Armory move to the now vacated Oregon Youth Correctional Facility located on the bluff west of Prineville. State, city and county officials communicated with each other in a steady stream of correspondence about the Oregon Youth Correctional Facility and its future.
"Although closing the OYA facility in Prineville was a difficult decision, it is good to see that there is potential to make use of the facility in a way that benefits both the people of Oregon and those of Prineville and Crook County," Kulongoski wrote in his letter. "There is no doubt that if this endeavor is successful, the people of Crook County will find a valuable new community member in the Guard. Aside from the economic benefits from an Armory, the Guard itself takes pride in supporting the communities where it is located."
"The Guard contributes over $2 million annually to the Main Street economy," said County Judge Scott Cooper. "Guardsmen who visit for annual training purchase everything from meals to gas to hotel rooms to groceries and sun block. The 2002 training that Crook County hosted was an experiment in how much impact a facility like this might have. It was an unqualified success."
The proximity of the OYA facility to the Crook County Airport gives hope that the Guard will bring additional air traffic and associated fuel sales to Prineville and will help out with the construction of infrastructure there.
5) In June, word came out that members of the G Troop of the 82nd Cavalry, of the Oregon National Guard, had received word to mobilize for duty in Iraq. G Troop includes some Crook County residents.
"These soldiers will be ordered to active duty initially for not more than one year," said State Deputy Public Affairs Officer Kay Fristad. According to her, the troops officially mobilized June 28. She said official mobilization orders for the 3rd Battalion, 116 Cavalry (Armor) headquartered with units in Hermiston, The Dalles, Baker City, Pendleton and Ontario, and been received at Joint Forces Headquarters in Salem. This order also includes G Troop, 82nd Cavalry from Redmond and a Woodburn detachment.
"This mobilization will affect approximately 400 soldiers from 3-116 and another 150 from G Troop," Fristad added.
6) In major planning news, Brooks Resources purchased the Hudspeth Ranch for residential and mixed use development. Brooks Resources Corporation, based in Bend, announced in June that it has 1,106 acres of land in Prineville, known locally as the Hudspeth Ranch. The land has been owned by the Hudspeth family since its acquisition by lumberman John Hudspeth more than 50 years ago. Judy Campbell, a public relations consultant who owns Campbell Consulting Group Inc. out of Bend, said the project will be next to Pahlisch Homes.
"We think Prineville is a great community, with wonderful growth potential," said Kirk Schueler, president of Brooks Resources. "We hope that our new development will appeal to current residents of Prineville as well as to those coming to Prineville in the future."
This fall, Brooks Resources met with city and county officials as well as with the press and members of the public in several meetings to outline plans and hear concerns and comments about the project. Citizens have expressed concerns about the 2,500-unit project's impact on traffic, sewer, water and wetlands.
7) In what is believed will be a major boon to the look and feel of downtown Prineville, city officials and others attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the new city hall this fall. City officials are planning a new city hall to replace the aging, 1950s current structure. The police department will move from its current location into the old city hall.
8) In February came the news that Ochoco Lumber Mill was not going to reopen. The hope that the plant, which had been closed since 2001, would re-open with the changes in forest management legislation were put to rest with the announcement that the equipment at the Ochoco Lumber Mill was going to be sold at an auction. The auction was held in late March, and the sawmill, rollers and stock were just a few items that were on the auction block. Although the Ochoco Lumber Mill ceased to exist, Bruce Daucsavage said that Ochoco Lumber Company is continuing operations at its other plants and will keep its corporate headquarters here in Prineville.
Ochoco Lumber Mill had been in operation since 1932 and has supported thousands of families through good jobs and both the city and county through taxes.
9) In July came the news that American Pine Products was sold to Woodgrain Millwork. Woodgrain Millwork purchased the American Pine Products manufacturing facility from Huttig Building Products.
"The acquisition of the American Pine business allows Woodgrain Millwork to continue to dominate the market for wood mouldings," said Kelly Dame, executive vice president of Woodgrain, which is based out of Fruitland, Idaho. "We are pleased to bring the facility and its talented workforce into the Woodgrain network of manufacturing facilities."
General manager Steve Forrester of American Pine said the selling was a decision of Woodgrain.
"They wanted this facility," Forrester said in a previous interview. He said although "we've had good success and good profits here, we are not core to Huttig."
Huttig is based out of St. Louis, Mo., and is the parent company of American Pine. Forrester said most of the employees will stay at the Prineville location.
Woodgrain has locations throughout the United States and in South America and he said "American Pine fits their (Woodgrain) operation well."
"So it was a strategic move on both Huttig's and Woodgrain's parts," Forrester said. Woodgrain Millwork is a leading producer of mouldings and windows, and is the largest manufacturer of interior pine doors in the United States. With seven divisions and more than 24 manufacturing and warehouse facilities in the United States, Brazil and Chile, the company serves markets throughout North America.
10) In November, voters approved a transient room tax for the county. The tax will just apply to hotels, motels and other lodgings outside the Prineville city limits. About 70 percent of the funds raised will go toward promoting tourism in Crook County. The balance will go towards county operations in the general fund.